The Slow Descent Into Madness: Phase 2

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve almost completely lost my mind. I’ve, at the very least, confirmed my pathway to madness.

Today, I met with a realtor.

I may have mused to you before about how I should probably buy some real estate some time in the near future, seeing as how the interest rates are stupidly low and the housing prices are lower than they’ve been since I had mall bangs. And I need to secure my financial future and make a solid investment that will supplement my paltry 401(k) and IRA, which have suffered, if not losses, then anemic growth in the four years since I opened said IRA. I have no illusions about home ownership vis-a-vis that of my parents’ generation: I fully expect that mine will not be a generation that profits nearly as much from its dealings in land and structure. No, unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg (who’s a few years behind me), mine is the generation whose screwedness in all things financial resembles a small monument in size. The baby boomers sucked everything up and dumped a bunch of debt and market shenanigans in our laps and now we’ll never retire, have Social Security or reap the reward of living in the wealthiest nation with the best opportunities of a once-in-a-lifetime global growth and trade boom at its zenith.

But congrats to those of you who will. I don’t begrudge you that one bit. Unless you’re responsible for my generation’s impending destitution. In which case: This is a stickup.

Alright, so anyway, since market volatility has the world freaked out and the low interest rates have my mattress doing a better job of generating appreciable savings APY than my banks (and lately there ain’t been much appreciation going on… hey-oh!)  it still seems as though real estate is the last best hope of creating some growth in the old portfolio.

So why is it crazy for me to start looking?

Well, I don’t really know what my job will be in a month/season/year.

You see, I don’t particularly like where I work right now, and it’s only getting tougher. And this isn’t about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, here. This isn’t about self-actualization. This is about the company and management treating people really, really poorly, among other, more corporately colossal clusterf—s of legal and financial weight. As regular readers may recall, I’ve been looking for a job. There is the possibility of returning to my old job, but I don’t know that the odds are tremendous because I think they want to promote someone from within, pay him less than I’d need and then hire to fill his spot on the cheap. And I’m constantly worried about losing the job I have. And I don’t want to get stuck in it, either.

But there comes a time in every woman’s life when she has to be a grownup, and those anti-anxiety meds I’ve been on for two weeks are kicking in, so I’m feeling a little adventurous. Or at least less like I’m going to die from hyperactive nervousness.

Market instability, professional uncertainty, mild mental illness. This is a great combination for homebuying, no?

I’ve been surfing the market via the Google Machine for a few years now, trying to note trends in prices and areas that spark my interest. I also have the advantage of having parents who have bought ten properties and sold seven in their lives. They kind of know the game and they like it when I ask them things. Then again, if I had done what my father wanted me to do four years ago, I’d have bought on an interest-only loan and would now probably be using my hands to paddle down a creek that smells not unlike feces.

So there’s that to consider.

In my searchings, I have found several houses I really liked, and the market is finally coming around to my way of thinking vis-a-vis how much money (and will to live) it wants to suck from me. I’m lucky that I know my city pretty darn well, so I can look at a zip code or a main road and know whether it’s a good, bad or borderline area. The other day I found a listing that I adored. It was a borderline area. My voice teacher lives four blocks away in a good part; a couple blocks east of the house gets dodgy. With gentrification, it has the potential to be a moneymaker in a shorter time than other places. The asking price was great and the seller was willing to bring as much as $17,000 to the table to unload the property. That part made me fairly sure there’s a body walled up in there somewhere, but I’d be silly not to be interested in the house. After all, it had three bedrooms, inlaid and hardwood floors, a good kitchen, good bathrooms and a full finished basement. Plus an attached garage, over which I nearly passed out with excitement, because having an attached garage in most parts of my city is like having your own unicorn. And I’ve always wanted a unicorn.

Being the curious and safety-conscious person that I am, I drove by the house semi-slowly yesterday after my voice lesson. There’s a school directly across the street, which is good for safety and maybe not so good for noise. The house looked, from my brief observation, well cared-for and tidy outside. I went back last night after work to see what goes on after 11pm. All was quiet. A woman was outside walking her dog. Wow, I thought. Exactly what I’d like to be able to do. Today I went back by again. And you know what I saw that I missed the first two times somehow?

Two boarded-up houses, three and four doors down.


Oh well.

But I met with the realtor, Hottie McHousehunter, to get the ball rolling on my education, at the very least. He apparently “specializes” in first-time homebuying, including finance options and ways of getting around mortgage insurance if you can’t do 20% down. I might, but then I’d be broke, so it’s not a bad thing to investigate. He walked me through the basics of the process like I’m a five-year-old, which is exactly what I need. And I was relieved to realize that I do kind of know some stuff, although I was disappointed to confirm that, as it has every day of my life since I’m in fourth grade, my brain shuts down and my vision gets all swimmy when people talk to me about finance and number-examples.

But that shouldn’t be a problem at all.

At least if I don’t like the house I’m looking at, I’ll still like something I see. Hottie McHousehunter is going to be nice to work with.


15 thoughts on “The Slow Descent Into Madness: Phase 2

  1. Good for you, singlecell! I did the buy my own house thing last year, and it has been great, though it has taken longer than I thought not to be “house-poor”. It IS a good investment, especially in a progressively gentirfying area. Have no fear of the boarded up houses. You should at least go see the inside of the place. And BTW, I’m in the same boat as you on the job stuff these days, but I’m happy to have a house where the mortgage is less than the rent on my last living quarters.

    • That’s really the thing, isn’t it? I figure if I can find a house that will cost me the same as or less than what I pay in rent, well… you have to pay for the roof over your head no matter what job you have, so you might as well get something out of it, too. That’s where it’s just the fear of job loss that’s a problem. But I do have seniority, so maybe I just suck it up and stick it out for a while as opposed to taking another job that I like more but is less secure. As for the boarded up houses, well… if family can’t visit without raising an eyebrow, I can’t buy. I don’t need my mother calling me every morning to make sure I wasn’t murdered in my bed or something.

  2. Man- it’s awful when you are not happy in the work place…I hope you find something fulfilling. I also wish you luck house hunting. I think it is definitely good that you spotted those boarded up homes! I love your writing style- cerebral and funny. I want a Hottie McHoushunter.

    • I try most of the time to see the positives: I really like most of the people I work with; I laugh every day; I don’t just shill a product or push paper around; I’m actually using my college degree. Those are real blessings that a lot of people don’t have. The problem is that after awhile you start to see that you’ve deluded yourself with your positive thinking and missed some big red signs. But that’s alright – I’m still better off than a lot of people.

      As for Hottie McHousehunter: I had him first. He’s too young for me but, like real estate you can’t have, it’s still fun to look!

  3. It’s the right decision; things are improving slowly, and you should take advantage of the low costs and interest rates. Go FHA if you’re worried about the downpayment; it’s something ridiculous, like three percent down. If you want to talk madness, wait until it’s time to *sell* your house — ugh. Which gives me an idea — since you’re feeling adventurous, you should come to Raleigh, and buy mine!

    Good luck; it gets better.

    • Where you movin’ to? Fortunately (so far) the downpayment isn’t too much of an issue. I’ve been saving for a looong time. I’d like to avoid an FHA since that requires mortgage insurance regardless of the percentage of the sale price you put down. Thanks for the encouragement… I’d just love to have 110% certainty that I won’t lose my job a week after I close – whenever that will be!

      • Movin’ all of five miles away, to Knightdale. I’m glad you didn’t know, because that might mean I haven’t entirely flooded my FB profile with building updates. Good luck with the decision; I know it can be stressful. Wouldn’t we all love to have that same 110% certainty? 😉

  4. I’ll tell you what. We’ve got this nice little place in Anaheim Hills we might want to unload. Our kids are driving us crazy and we need to downsize to pull out some equity, then disappear into some little town where they can’t find us.

    I think eventually, real estate will be a good investment again. I’d like to tell you that if you help elect Romney, it will happen faster but I don’t believe politicians have any understanding of economics. It’s a force of nature.

    Oh, we also have a little place we bought in Arizona that’s worth maybe 60% of what we paid for it so I’m rooting for a recovery, too. Do you like really hot? Seriously, I agree with Dan … it’s a good time if you can do it … and having a good realtor makes it a lot easier. Good luck.

    • Sorry Bud – I can’t help you. I hate heat (even when it’s dry) and I need lots more green than Arizona offers. SoCal might be better but not for this East Coast girl. 🙂 And I agree that the economy is its own entity – presidents really can’t control it much. I don’t have much problem with the steady improvement we’ve seen over the last two years. It’s slow, but Americans live for instant gratification and not everything works that way.

  5. I just wanted to leave a comment to show how much I appreciated your use of the term “mall bangs”. Hilarious. Also, good luck in your realtor adventures – that stuff doesn’t just make my head swim – it puts me under.

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