Monday, August 27, 2012

The Home-Buying Dilemma

Luke and I are only about 3 weeks into our great home search, in which we're finally planning to throw down the banner of renting and start building equity in our first purchased home.  It just began, and we're kind of stressed out about it.  Don't get me wrong -- I absolutely LOVE looking at houses and the idea of buying and upgrading our place is super exciting, but we're having some mixed thoughts on where and what to buy. The thing about San Diego, is that it's HUGE.  It's very much sprawled out, being 372 square miles.  This means that from area to area, you'll get a much different experience.

Our favorite areas:

Hillcrest & Mission Hills (92103) - There are hardly any single family homes here for sale, and the ones that are are going for $351 per square foot.  Keep in mind those prices include condos, which we're not interested in. Single family homes are much higher (Starting around $500,000).

North Park (92104) - Small homes, and the nicer area (Morley Field) is some of the most expensive real estate in San Diego proper. $310 per square foot but that value is brought down by condos.

University Heights (92116) - Another favorite of ours.  Small craftsman houses, little parking available.  $334 per square foot.

 Our budget is interesting, because we're trying to only consider one of our incomes in how much we can afford for our mortgage.  The reason for this is that some time I'm going to be out of work for having a baby and raising him/her through kindergarten at least.   And San Diego doesn't have that many jobs in the game industry, so we have to be cautious.  We don't want to end up in a house that requires us to both have full time jobs.  Right now on our current salaries, we could afford a $650,000 place.  But we are limited to a budget of $425,000 if we just take one of our incomes and our 5% down payment.  That means we can't really be in those areas we want, unless we get an 800 square foot house with only 1 bathroom and a tiny yard.

The areas we're looking in:

Clairemont (92111 & 92117).  These range from $250- $283 per square foot, giving us the ability to afford a 1400 square foot house with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths and a yard.  Convenient to freeways, but very hit or miss with the neighborhoods.  Not ideal.

Serra Mesa (92123) - This is an ideal location because it's very close to different freeways.  As a community though, it's not really what we're looking for.  Like Clairemont, it's hit or miss and kind of run down.  At $243 per square foot, the price is great.

Mira Mesa (92126) - This is where we rent now.  We don't really want to live here.  The location isn't awful, but it's a 40 minute drive from my ranch.  It's kind of run down and there are a LOT of rental properties.  But at a price per square foot of $229, we can absolutely get a lot for the money.

Poway (92064) - It's a long way away from the things we like to do, very far from the ranch, and not exactly the culture we want our future child to grow up in.  On the flip side, $258 per square foot, great school district, lots of horse ranches.

Our must-haves:
  • Must be within a 25 minute drive to Del Mar to Luke's work
  • Must be within 30 minutes to Tami's ranch in the Tijuana River Valley (preferably)
  • Must have some kind of backyard space (which rules out condos and 99% of townhomes here)
  • 2 bathrooms (or room to put another one in)
  • Safe neighborhood, not next to an apartment complex
  • Ideally at least 1200 square feet
  • Dedicated parking for two cars.
Other factors:
  • Turn-key.  It doesn't have to be.  If we can get a place for $399,000, we wouldn't mind the sweat equity to make it ours.
  • Pool.  We'd love to have one, and we're willing to live in one of our less-desired neighborhoods if we get one.
The thing about the neighborhood is that we are completely enamored with the uptown neighborhoods (Hillcrest, North Park, University Heights, Mission Hills, Normal Heights, Kensington) and that is our ideal place to live.  We want to be close to the restaurants, the culture, the events, the shops.  I am pretty clear about wanting to raise 'future baby' up in a diverse neighborhood where gay and trans people are walking down the street without a second glance.  It's very important to me.

Option 1: Buy a bigger house in a neighborhood we don't really love (Clairemont, Serra Mesa, Linda Vista, Poway, Mira Mesa), hoping that at some point we could afford a larger home in one of those uptown neighborhoods.

Option 2: Buy a smaller house in the neighborhood that we do love (Uptown) hoping that at some point we could afford to upgrade to a larger home in the same neighborhood.

With Option 1: We'd have a large yard, maybe a pool, more interior space.  We'd have to drive further to immerse ourselves in the neighborhoods that we love, which means we wouldn't end up doing it often.  We wouldn't love our neighborhood, but it would likely be "fine" and safe. With Option 2, we'd be sacrificing a lot to get into the neighborhoods that we love.  We'd get very little yard space, a smaller, older house, and probably little parking.  On the positive, the house would have older charm/character, would be easily rentable and resellable because of the desirable neighborhoods, and our quality of life would be better because we'd be surrounded by the culture and life that we enjoy.

 Argh.  What do we do?  Decisions, decisions.


No comments:

Post a Comment