Also shouting out to Dala because marriage is about communication and all of that new-age, hippy bullshit. Love you, baby.
Tomorrow Dala and I will be going to look at a house. It’s the first house we’ve decided to look at in a while and the only reason we’re going to look at this one in particular is because on paper, it looks like a very good deal. It’s a small house in a relatively safe part of the city, with a driveway big enough to fit both our cars, a backyard that can easily be fenced in for the dog, and for what it is, it’s very affordable. I’m not comfortable talking numbers, but let’s just say financially speaking, our ability to pay it off is a very safe bet. Now, we’re not getting our hopes up too much, because we’ve been house hunting for about three or four or five years now and let’s just say this isn’t an easy thing to do. This one though, has me hopeful.
So on to the neighborhood. Ignoring the fact that the road the house is on is basically an alley with a name on it, it’s a “pretty nice neighborhood.” About a quarter of the houses on it, including the one we’re looking at, look very well maintained. The lawns are mowed, the hedges are trimmed, the windows are clean, the paint looks less than ten years old. They’re cute, little things. Half of the houses aren’t in too bad of a shape. The lawns are a bit neglected, the hedges could have been trimmed sometime during Obama’s first term, maybe the owners could do without a full set of patio furniture on the front lawn, but hey, no one is perfect. The last quarter of the houses though, have given us pause. It would probably be a safe bet to say that these particular houses have more contents on their lawns than inside the houses themselves, not to mention the state of the lawns themselves. Which, I mean, it’s their property and if they’re good neighbors it probably doesn’t matter. What’s more, if we were out in the country, we wouldn’t give these kinds of places a second thought. That’s what I kept thinking to myself until I saw that the house diagonally across the street from ours has to late ‘90s, early 2000s waverunners, sitting right next to the curb, decrepit and bleached from years of neglect as they lay out in the sun. Then all of the sudden, the neighborhood suddenly felt very rough to me, and Dala got the same vibes.
Here’s the thing. When Dala first met me, I was living in a rough neighborhood and I got by just fine. Yeah, you had to keep the doors locked all of the time. Yeah, if you were having a party you had to actually go through the house from time to time to see that the people that were there were ones you actually knew, because your neighbors would seem to think that any party you threw was just open to the public. Yeah, the guy straight across from me was a really rough character and on paper there’s a good chance you’d write him off completely, but once you got to know him you saw that he was actually pretty cool. I mean, hell, he once shoveled my driveway when we had a snowstorm because I didn’t get home from work until well after the sun had gone down and he always kept an eye out to make sure no one was skulking around our yard. All in all though, it was fine.
When Dala and I got our first apartment together, once again, very similar kind of neighborhood. I think the cops were in the area on a weekly basis to deal with arguing spouses, loud music, break-ins, etc. Hell, one time we got a free truck show as the neighbors across the way would line the fronts of their trucks up bumper to bumper and then throttle to see which truck would get shoved back. We never thought anything of it. It was fine.
Our second apartment together? Once again, similar kind of neighborhood, this time in the city. This place though, we weren’t fine with. The apartment itself was okay, probably a little overpriced for what it is. The neighbor across the hall was a cool guy, old, had some cats, a few problems with being flighty and that could have been the old age or it could have been the painkillers but we weren’t gonna fault him for either. We’d trade dinners a few times. Some stories. He once called me one time when we moved out to show me his new Buick. The neighbors underneath though? Bad drug problem. I don’t want to disparage them, because I know things are hard, but when your lady is alternating between crying, laughing, and screaming her head off for hours on end, sometimes multiple nights in a row, it suddenly makes your place very scary and feel very unsafe. We never completely moved into that place, keeping most of our books, electronics, and valuables in storage. Once the lease was up, we noped the fuck out of there. I think though, if it wasn’t for them, things would have been different.
Where we live now is great. It’s a suburb with small town feel, large backyard for the dog, plenty of space for car parking, zero complaints about noise or crime or neighborly shenanigans. We’re suffocating here though, due to not being able to have a place that’s ours, where we can have all of our furniture out, all of our books out, can take naps at 2 o’clock in the afternoon without being woken up by the roommates. We wouldn’t mind a neighborhood like this of our own, but if we’re being honest, we could never afford it, even if we lucked out and stretched our budget.
So back to this neighborhood. We’ve been down this road before and have been fine. The majority of my friends live in neighborhoods like this and they’ve been fine. Half the houses we’ve seen aren’t in great neighborhoods, but they’re not much worse than this one, and we’ve left them open to consideration. Once again, if this was out in the country and this was our neighbor, we wouldn’t think twice about this. In fact, I’ve brought up these houses with a few coworkers and family members and they seem to think it’s a perfectly normal thing for people to do. So what is it, about junk in the yard and years of neglect, that makes what is most likely a perfectly good neighborhood feel unsettling? Are we worrying over something real or are we worrying over something imagined?
The waverunners are their son's. He's off at college, and about to graduate. So yeah, they have been sitting for a while. But he's going to be moving to (insert coastal city here) when he graduates, and going to take them back.
Now how do you feel about the street?
See, waverunners and things like that don't bother me, because they are transient. House sells? Boom. Gone.
But the STREET itself?
You said it was basically a glorified alley with a street sign at the end. That tells me that this may not be a city-maintained street, and that you and the neighbors may need to pony up the $5k/house to repave it... every once in a while.
When was it last repaved? Who paid for it?
Did Mr. and Mrs. Waverunner pitch in? Did they own the house when the last repaving was done? (This will tell you far more about their financial position. Any homeowner with a modicum of sense can get a loan for $5k. But if they own a house on the street and can't pitch in their part to repave... they are the Problem House.)
I'm with KB on the "Don't Buy Now" bandwagon.
Trump is a fucking disaster. He's mercurial. Capricious. Undisciplined. And doesn't give a shit about anyone but himself.
The US economy does not like uncertainty, and reacts poorly to anyone that rocks the boat too much. Institutional investors are holding their breath to see how bad it gets with Trump, but it's pretty clear at this point that things are not going to get better, economy-wise.
(Today he started - kind of - a trade war with Canada over the lumber that is primarily used to build houses in the US. What happens to home building/renovations when the prices of lumber go up 20%? Right. Lots of construction workers out of work. And plumbers. And kitchen installers. And... shock to the housing market, which is already teetering at the high end.)
If I could find a groovy downtown condo for a great price, I'd buy it now, and live in it for 5 years, and save every single penny I could. Then, after Trump has failed himself out of office and the market tanks, take that nice little nest egg you have built up, and go buy a house.
And rent out/AirBnB the condo.
BAM. Now you are paying your mortgage with your rental income, and you own TWO properties as the market recovers in a post-Brexit, post-Trump era of sober realism and a return to focusing on the fundamentals.