Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Allow Me a Long Moment

I think it's pretty safe to say that everyone has ups and downs. Downs really suck.

A little less than a month ago, my mother and I drove by a modular community that I had known about. We found they had several houses for sale, and were able to talk to a lady in the office for some more information. She gave me the card of the person in charge of sales, who wouldn't be back in until Monday. I caller her on the 17th, got some more information and set up a time to look at the house I had fallen in love with. I called her back the next day having to cancel that time because I didn't have enough saved up for a down payment. It was extremely disappointing.

The day before Christmas Eve, my mother told me that we could find some money to supplement my down payment (by cashing in some savings bonds and selling some stocks) and that they would loan me the rest. Happy day! I called the sales lady again and had to leave a message. She got back with me, and we re-scheduled the showing of the house.

My mother came with me to help with the questions I needed to ask. As it turned out, I can't afford that house I wanted. With the required down payment plus the length of the loans they provide plus the ground rent, I just didn't make enough money. However, she did have another house. It was about the same size (as in square feet) as the first one, but two bedrooms instead of three, and it wasn't on a corner lot, but it was on a road where they were not going to build across from it. This house was an eviction and was undergoing a lot of renovations, but we were able to look at it.

There was no carpet, that was going to be replaced. The counter tops were a hideous lavender. While I like lavender, it doesn't belong next to oak cabinets in a kitchen, and those were getting replaced, I even got to see the new counter tops she had picked out. There was a broken window that was going to be fixed. The whole house had new paint on the walls, and the vinyl tile was going to be replaced too. The porch was sporting completely new wood, and there was a nice little stand of trees across the way.

These houses have a lot of windows; as much as my parents' two story, 4 bedroom place. It was very bright and open. The front door opens into the living and dining room. The kitchen, with a ton of counter space and a breakfast area (with a sliding glass door onto the front porch), was off to the right. Down the main hall is a utility hallway and side door, full bath (with tub), the master bedroom with its own full bath (with tub) and the second bedroom. The rooms were quite a good size.

It's true that these houses go down in value; they're treated more like a car than realty. But that also means this used house costs a good $20,000 less than the new one I was first looking at. It was hard not to love this house too. The sales lady thought they could bring the price down for me a little and might be able to extend the term of the loan to put it more in my range. She said she'd call me in a few weeks when the repairs are done so we can get to seriously crunching numbers. For a while, everything looked peachy.

Sunday morning, my mother said she spoke to my aunt, who's mother in law used to live in a mobile and was able to list all the disadvantages of it. It was heartbreaking to hear my mother, who had previously been supportive of me, saying everything she could to discourage me. I spent the hour she was at church crying in my room. Then went to brunch and pretended nothing was wrong.

It is not that I did not listen to my mother and hear her suggestions; she's convinced that houses in my price range have to be out there somewhere. She wasn't listening when I told her I've looked. I've searched, and I've googled, and nothing that even comes close to what I can afford is available in this area. Not even apartments, that would cost me all of what I take home every month except a couple hundred bucks. That's not an acceptable ratio. Still, having heard my mother and her concerns, I searched some more yesterday morning when I should have been working. I searched in towns further out from the city and closer in. I found two apartment places I could actually afford; one was cockroach and bed-bug infested, and one was in an area heavy with crime (according to tenant feedback). Either of those situations are currently unnecessary compromises, and therefore not viable. I was desolate again. Not only did my mother no longer believe I was making a good decision for me, she also didn't believe what I had just proven; there really is nothing else.

Then I talked to my coworker and friend, Pat, who has one of these homes. He did not deny about the potential resale value of his house, but he's also like me: has been searching for a place to call his own for years. He makes more money than I do, and even he couldn't find anything else. He also reminded me that what works for one person may not work for the next. And that it's hard for someone with a two-income household to understand what one income has to deal with, even though she knows very well how much I make. Pat said, "go for it, you have to do what's right for you." Another of my coworkers said she was dreaming about visiting me in my house. The two ladies who often join me for lunch thought that some of my mother's objections were stemming from the fact that it means her youngest child was leaving (albeit, not far). This was some of my suspicion as well. She was terribly worried when I made my first trip to Idaho in 2006, and she told everyone but me about it. It started to feel like this was much the same thing.

Last night, I finished reading a book that has been spiritually moving for me. The end of it refreshed my outlook, and the teachings therein sparked a little bit of hope. I spoke with my mother about her concerns, and about what I had learned from Pat about the kind of place I was looking at. I told her about the crap-apartments I was able to find, and how the cheapest home listings were twice what I could cover. I reminded her that I'm not looking for a house that I can sell in a few years and make money, I'm looking for a place to live. She remembered that a friend of hers lives in a mobile community in Annapolis, and decided to send her an e-mail for her opinion and tips on questions that we'd need to ask. She wants me to look at one other apartment complex, which I will do today. And then we spoke some about the furniture that my grandmother and her friend are willing to give me, and what DVDs I'd have to not take with me.

I don't know if this means she's on the boat with me again. I do know that she doesn't want to see me make a bad choice, and that was most of her motivation. But maybe she can see the good side of the thing too. What I have learned is that any idea is hard to carry out without the support of the people who matter.

Down days will come again. They always do, but we can let them be and move past them. And I will know by the end of the month if I can actually buy that house.


Fox said...

Good Luck

Anonymous said...

Question--does the mortgage cover just the house, or the property as well? Property doesn't tend to depreciate, but I know in PA even once you pay off your mortgage, you have to continue to pay property taxes every year. Don't know what the rules are in your neck of the woods, but you may want to check it out.
I think you should do what makes you happy--life is too short. I'm on mortgage #3 now, and though I've loved all the houses I've lived in, I never made a damn penny on any of them (last house we sold, I lost most of my down payment b/c the market was so bad). But you know, I was happy living in each one, made each one a home, and they suited me and my family for the time I had to live there.
If you plan on living in a modular home for a long, long time, I wouldn't worry so much about the resale value. Once you pay it off, if you decide to sell it, it won't matter the selling price. You're still young--even if you take out a 30 year mortgage plan, you will only be in your 50s when it gets paid off, right? And if you want to sell at that point, I'm sure you'd be able to find a young single person or a family starting out.
At any rate, I think paying a monthly rate for something that is YOURS is much nicer than paying rent for someone else. Plus, there are tax benefits.
It sounds like you've done your homework regarding your other options, and nothing else will fit. If this will make you happy, go for it! Laurel

Fyrecreek said...

Laurel, you're wonderful.

The mortgage payment would not cover the land. With modulars, you actually don't buy the land, you lease it. It would be a separate payment for that lease. But, that payment includes snow removal, trash pick-up, and water and sewer. Since I wouldn't be buying the land, I would only have to pay taxes on the house (which is treated more like a car), and I'd be paying the land lease forever.

I think you're right about the resale value thing. I don't intend to buy even a modular and move out in ten or so years, I expect to buy and to stay. Unless my life situation changes in some unexpected way, this is probably what's going to happen. So, even if I lose money by having to sell my house for less than what I paid, I'd still be making something because I probably won't owe any on it at that point.

This kind of place is the best of both the buying and renting worlds, I think. I'd be buying the house, therefore not sinking money into nothing, but renting the land, which brings the initial costs down. And, I've been asking around and it looks like the cost of the land rent doesn't change (unlike an apartment rent that could go up). I'll ask that for sure when the lady calls me back.

I'm just waiting for that call.

Anonymous said...

I hope it all works out for you!
Around here, land is cheap, so quite a few people buy the land and get a modular to put on it, and they seem quite happy about the arrangement. For you, even though you rent the land, at least you don't have to worry about the maintenance--snow removal, trash pick up, water and sewer is nice to have all covered in one payment. And if you did own the land, you'd likely have to pay taxes on it anyway for the rest of your life even after you pay off your mortgage, so might as well just rent the property and let someone else worry about the upkeep.

Sounds like you really need a place of your own. Whether you buy a regular house, rent an apartment, or go through with the modular, there will always be risks. And it sounds to me like you have thought through everything carefully; I'm sure you will make the right decision. Blessings! Laurel