I’m not sure when I entered the get-off-my-lawn stage of aging, but I’m definitely there. I’ve never owned a lawn, but five years ago my apartment backed up to a grassy drainage area that kids liked to play in. Loudly. While I was trying to work from my home office. It was like living on a playground. I never yelled at those kids to get off my lawn but I thought it very hard in their general direction.
Five years later and I’m sitting in my home office at 1:00am and I can hear the bass beats from the music playing in the apartment across the hall. I cannot envision an age at which I would’ve thought it was ok to play loud music at one o’clock in the morning on a weeknight, but maybe when you’re young you’re stupid like that, oblivious that other people exist and they don’t want to hear your mad beatz.
All of which is to say I am now that cranky lady across the hall who left a voicemail for the rental manager complaining about your ass. It was me! I confess! And I really don’t care because obviously you don’t either. The funny thing is that I’m perfectly ok being that lady. I will age with grace, and part of that aging process is coming to a point where you start screaming at kids to get off your lawn without regret. I am there. I have reached that point. I just don’t have a lawn.
That said, maybe I should finally get one. I like that renting gives me the freedom from a lot of responsibilities. When the air conditioning broke three times this summer I didn’t have to call the AC repairman or pay him. I don’t have to mow the grass or pay property taxes. I like that if I want to go when the lease runs out I just go, and I don’t have to deal with selling a house. But as much as I like renting, I’ve realized I might hate other people more. And the only solution seems to be buying a house. Only I have no idea how much that would cost or if I have enough for a down payment or if I could even afford to buy something in the Chapel Hill area even though my credit score is CRAZY high (we’re talking 800’s) or if I’d end up next to a frat house, though I did live next to a frat house in Crawfordsville, Indiana when I was a kid and the Lambda Chi’s were very well behaved and bought lots of girl scout cookies and held one hell of an Easter Egg hunt.
Of course, there’s nothing like a subwoofer at 1:10 in the morning to get you to start Googling and at least entertain the possibility. I suppose that’s the first step.
How about the best of both worlds? Rent a house. You get the privacy of a house, but still have the freedom to leave if your neighbors turn out to have been raised by wolves. You have to mow the lawn and keep track of trash day, but you don’t have to pay property tax or pay to fix big issues like a leaky roof. If you aren’t ready to buy, but hate most of the people you find in apartments, try renting a house.
@Teresa – I was going to say that too. You can rent a house if you want.
The downside if renting, of course, is that you pay all the money and at the end of it have no asset. If you buy a house, you pay twice as much money each month and at the end you owe the bank more money than you started with and you have a house that is that much older and run down and you have to take care of it yourself. But a valuable asset. And a lawn to warn people off.
I despise renting. Couldn’t wait to buy a house. Any house has to be better than renting. But that said, we bought a house in the VERY hot California market, and that turned out to be a mistake. Houses would get listed and sold quickly (like hours or a day at the most). We had made multiple offers and lost each of them, so we ended up seeing a new listing and filling out the paperwork that our Realtor brought with her. Seeing a house for 30 minutes and making an offer? Not doing that again. It was structurally sound – passed the home inspection fine. But when we moved in it was as if we were living in an entirely different neighborhood than the one we saw for that 30 minutes, and it turns out we DID NOT fit in.
We saw the house on a weekend at like 10am, when neighbors were out and about, and yeah it was quiet. Seemed nice – there was a park right up the street.
But when we moved in it turned out during the week the street was always FULL of parked cars, so many that we couldn’t really invite guests to our house, and the neighbors were obnoxious. Like parties three houses away that vibrated the pictures on our walls.
What we learned is that its is incredibly important to visit the property multiple times. If we had done that we would have seen the parking situation, and heard some of the parties that were going on on weekends.
So my advice is to visit a bunch of different open houses (on your own, without a realtor) on the weekends, and get a feel for the neighborhood. Are the houses too close together? What are the back yards like? too small? Hey, it’s a quick way to discard neighborhoods and drill down to what you like/don’t like/can live with.
Also look at the activity levels. Are people out walking dogs/kids? That’s probably a good sign (fairly safe neighborhood). Visit again during what would be a morning and/or evening rush hour. Are there too many cars picking up dropping off kids? It might turn out there’s a school nearby and you want to avoid living on specific streets.
So, when you narrow down some neighborhoods go ahead and see houses with a Realtor, then when you like a house (before you make an offer) come back at a different times. Park down the street and take a walk. Listen to the sounds. Visit right before school would begin, and see if there’s a different kind of traffic. Once you find something you like and like the activity, then make an offer. And make sure you get your home inspection.
Also, don’t necessarily rule out a property with an HOA, but if you’re considering it you need to look at the HOA’s meeting minutes for at least the past year. I did this, and I was specifically looking to see what issues were raised at the meetings. The “worst” thing I found was the HOA board authorizing the manager people to tow someone’s boat, which the guy had deliberately parked on top of his water meter to prevent the HOA from turning off his water due to non-payment of bills. (I figured we could live with that sort of management.)
With our current house (husband’s job moved us to Texas), we visited and drove by the house for more than a week before we put in our offer, and we have been here 3 years and it is a wonderful neighborhood. So different than our last one.
It helps that our neighbors love us because it turns out we bought the drug dealer’s house. We don’t do that, so there’s no longer a parade of cars coming through to buy from the guy (seriously it was like he was a drive through – he would stand on the street and cars would roll down their window and do the transaction). There’s also no thugs breaking in to his house to reclaim their “property” and/or money from the drug dealer, so the neighbors love that too.
I care less about the house-buying part than about the embracing the cranky old lady part. I am “old,” (maybe even without the quotes — OMG) and still think about how I ended up with all these strong opinions about rudeness, etc. You go, girl!
I always wanted to buy a house, and bought my first one at 27 with my boyfriend and then my second at 30 when I was single as we had broken up. I love it, and can’t imagine renting again. Buy smart, meaning get what you want but ddon’t stretch yourself. Also, what others said about the neighborhood is true. Very important. Also, look into grants. I was able to take a couple first time home buyers classes on a couple Saturdays and this qualified me (along with income restrictions) for a grant based on my home location. It covered my entire down payment and closing costs. Pretty amazing.
People in houses own subwoofers too, just saying. And even if you vet the neighborhood before you buy, other owners come and go, so there’s always the possibility of a$$ holes moving in later. I’ve owned my home for years, and put up with a (bad) garage band across the street, and a guy who sang (double-bad) amplified karaoke nearly every afternoon for a few years, along with the occasional super loud weekend party, and late night drunk neighbors loud-talking outside my bedroom window (from their patio). So unless you get a home with some acreage, you’ll always have some noise issues in any normal suburban neighborhood, and there won’t be an apartment manager to complain to.
Dagny Kight says
I’m now 54 and I find I have to figure out how to talk about stuff that those young people do. Sometimes I resort to using the word “Millennials.”
Take my advice and don’t buy or rent a home with a shared private drive. I have become that old lady on more occasions that I want to be.
Happy house hunting!
Since we ARE the youngest people in our building, I don’t have much to worry about there. But I have my old lady feelings when I see kids and have no idea what they are wearing…
boy do I ever know how a neighbourhood can change. In the last 5 years I went from quiet kind old neighbours to 2 younger neighbours who don’t mow their lawns, both have piece of crap boats & rvs that they park on their lawns (or should I say partly on my lawn) big howling dogs and bratty kids. So what you see is not necessarily what will eventually be just a few years later. I have never seen such disrespect and I have no idea of its my issue or theirs. Maybe I’m not as tolerant as I approach 50 haha.
As others said, owning can have its own pains. But it can also be very rewarding, as well.
Tips – make a very specific list about what you will compromise on and what you won’t. I was buying in a hot market and figured that I could compromise on things that I’d previously prioritized highly. I figured that I’d be selling again within a few years … well, it didn’t work out that way. I wish I’d been patient and waited for what I wanted.
And I grew up around frat houses too – they can be great neighbors. 🙂
I loved owning my own home for the past 10 years despite some annoying neighbors and an increasingly annoying HOA.
But my employer relocated me across the country and my nice house has now been on the market for 6 months and after 3 open houses no one has even looked at it. At this point I would be happy to get what I paid for it 10 years ago. I’m renting in the new state (2x more than my mortgage for a house half the size) and paying insurance in both places and taxes on the old place. It isn’t fun.
Since you freelance your job might not force you to move but if something else does then you can’t just pick up and leave owned property the way you can when you rent.