Tuesday, April 22, 2014

House Hunting

by Meghann on April 22, 2014

Did I forget to mention we’re house hunting? Oh yeah. We are.  The truth is, it’s been a pretty slow process so far.

We “officially” decided we were ready to move back in December. Derek purchased our current place back when we were first dating and, truthfully, I’ve never thought of it as “ours.” It’s always been “his” place that I moved into three years ago and it’s no secret that I’ve been ready to find somewhere new since day one.

The townhouse/condo/attached home (I never really found the proper word to describe it) served its purpose while we lived here, but it’s time to move on. The simple fact is:

  1. We’re not a DIY couple. Our current place requires a lot of work and we just don’t have the energy/desire to make the improvements. One of the requirements for the new place is that it must be move-in ready. We’d like a flipped house after it’s already been flipped.
  2. We’ve outgrown the space. We’re pretty much bursting from the seams in our tiny two bedroom space and need more room. We’re not parents yet, but we are planning to have 2-3 kids in the near future and would like a four bedroom house to accommodate them.
  3. We’re done with our homeowner’s association. I won’t go into too much detail, but we are not happy with our current HOA and a recent special assessment was really the last straw. We’re looking exclusively at places with moderate HOA fees and involvement.  If there’s a gate or a community pool, we’re out.
  4. We need a yard. A REAL yard, with a fence, where I can let Maddie out and let her roam free. Or somewhere we can let future kids run around and let them burn off some energy.
  5. We need a bigger kitchen. Our current kitchen is tiny and cramped. The fact that the washer and dryer are both in there (yes, our washer and dryer are IN the kitchen) doesn’t help. You can’t open the dryer and the fridge at the same time, which has oddly become a big problem when I’m trying to cook and Derek’s doing laundry (yes, it’s a problem we’ve experienced enough to become frustrated over it).

I could probably go on and on, but the bottom line is that it’s time to move. We’ve been scrimping and saving the past couple of years and we’re finally at a place where we feel comfortable putting a decent down payment on a house that we can see ourselves in for the next 10 years.

Like I said above, house hunting has been a slow process and we’re okay taking our time. When we first decided we were ready to move, we truthfully had no idea where to start. Where should we live? What can we afford? How many rooms? What are we willing to budge and not budge on?

We want to stay in Tampa proper. It’s crazy how much cheaper (and bigger!) houses become when you start looking on the outskirts of town, but the idea of being so far from friends (and longer commutes) does not appeal to me. I’d rather invest a little more upfront, have a little bit smaller of a house, and stay in Tampa proper.

After reviewing our current finances with a fine tooth comb (and speaking with a financial advisor), we’ve finally reached a budget that we’re both comfortable with. Obviously, we’d always prefer to spend under budget, but I’m not going to buy a house just because “it’s so cheap.” Quality over quantity. We’ve also been preapproved on a mortgage within that budget.

We originally started looking at three bedroom houses, but after speaking to a family who were expecting their second child and in the process of selling because they had outgrown their current place, we decided to focus only on four bedroom properties.  We don’t want to move again in 3-4 years, we want to stay for at least 10-15 years ideally.

The more places we look at, the more we’re discovering what’s important and what’s not important to us. A large kitchen and master bathroom are huge priorities. We’ve also recently discovered that a large backyard is important. We found our dream house last Wednesday. Everything was perfect – perfect! – except the backyard. It was a beautiful backyard, but it wasn’t a great backyard for kids. We opted not to put an offer on the house because we couldn’t see ourselves settling on an impractical backyard, especially when a small backyard is one of the reasons why we’re leaving our current place.

I can’t guarantee we’ll find our dream house tomorrow, next week, or even next month, but we are definitely heading in the right direction.  It’s another first adventure for us as a married couple. I can’t wait to find us a place that’s “our” home and I’m just excited to taking the journey together.

Any advice for a first time house hunter?

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