Friday, September 09, 2005

To Buy or Not to Buy - part 2

My last post focused on the financial aspect (mostly) of the decision to buy the Seattle condo. This post focuses on the other pros and cons. But before I go there I should explain how I picked this condo in particular.

Since my decision to buy a home I have viewed 2 houses and 4 condos, 3 of which were in the downtown area. I have looked at listings of over 60 houses/townhomes/condos all told. Every condo I found was at least $300k or more, even going up to a $1 million, and these are only 800-1100 sq ft units. House prices are better but I didn't find anything nice under $360k. And by nice I mean safe neighborhood, well-maintained with low ongoing cost of maintenance and reasonably well connected. The most attractively priced house I found was an 850 sq ft townhouse in a quiet street off an expressway for $367k. The nearest grocery store was 2 miles away and there was nothing, not even a newspaper stand, within walking distance. It was in a great school district, had a yard and a nice 2-car tandem garage (yard and garage are not included in the house sq footage) but since I don't have kids and only 1 car those didn't seem like good enough reasons to go for it.

Then I heard about this condo through a coworker. It's 950 sq ft. 1 bedroom, 1 den, 1 & 1/2 bathroom, hardwood floors, high ceilings and an overhead loft big enough to tuck away a lifetime of junk or serve as an alternate sleeping area. All this is blueprint of course but it sounds nice and I get to pick the layout, the colors, the faucets and the wood finish. Plus, it's in the heart of downtown and similar condos there are valued currently at around $500k or more so it's a good price.

Pros:

  1. I can decorate the walls with impunity
  2. I can get a pet that is bigger than a goldfish without having to pay a monthly "pet fee"
  3. No guest restrictions (other than my own)
  4. I can start enjoying the tax breaks that my landlord is now kindly enjoying on my behalf
  5. More space. I can turn the den into a home office and start a second career or maybe turn the overhead loft space into a makeshift guestroom. Maybe I can put down some hay a la Heidi
  6. Great view of the Sound (don't knock it, it keeps me out of therapy)
  7. Good price for a Seattle condo with similar specs
  8. And of course, building equity instead of sinking money on rent

Cons:

  1. Too permanent. What if I want to become a trapeze-girl and join the travelling circus?
  2. No nice people at the other end of an emergency line to come fix my faucet or change the light bulbs in the dark scary corridor. I will either have to fix things myself or pay someone to do it
  3. High monthly cost. Variable monthly cost. No nice low fixed number to live by anymore which could take some getting used to
  4. The hassle of selling or renting if I decide to move. Potential financial loss if I move within the next 3 years
  5. Downpayment...ouch
  6. Hasn't been built yet which means I am still paying rent for the next 18 months and many things can happen between now & then
  7. And finally, I have no one to fall back on financially. On the contrary, I have people depending on me. If I can't make mortgage payments for whatever reason I could lose everything and that'd affect not just me but my family.

Continue reading: To Buy or Not to Buy - Part 3

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