I have the issue of housing running round and round in my brain. Let's untangle the strands:
--One reason I have housing on the brain is because of the Oklahoma tornado. A colleague at work did a lot of clucking about houses that didn't even have a basement or a storm shelter, even though most structures were built on land that wouldn't support a cellar. I've heard other people talk about shoddy construction. But honestly, most structures don't stand a chance against an F5 tornado. And do you really want to spend that kind of money to protect against something that won't likely happen?
--Another reason I have housing on the brain is that we're looking to move to a different neighborhood. We need a chunk of cash, which means liquidating some assets to transfer them into real estate.
--Those of you living in other parts of the country may think we've lost our minds. But the housing market here is heating up. Not my neighborhood, alas. But the neighborhood where we want to live? Well, here's an example.
--I've been perusing real estate online, and I recognized one house as one I had seen months ago. I assumed it had been sold. Yet here it was again. It seemed offered at a much higher price to me. I did some investigating and sure enough. Earlier in the year it had been listed at $375,000. Now it's listed at $425,000. You could argue that the sellers are stupid--they couldn't get $375,000, and now they're looking for $50,000 more? But to me, it shows people's expectations.
--Like I said, I've been considering assets. I can't imagine ever getting a better interest rate than I can get right now. We're trying to figure how far we should stretch.
--Part of me wonders if we should stretch further. I still dream of land in the country, something communal, in the not-too-distant future. Now would be the time to buy. Actually, 4 years ago would have been the time to buy, but my finances were less secure then. Me and the rest of the nation. I think about communal choices as I grow older, as my friends grow older.
--I'm not the only one. I listened to this story yesterday on NPR, about aging Baby Boomer women who have decided to live together. It made me miss my own communal days. They may come again. The story concludes this way: "So if you're a boomer and you liked that group house you shared in college or just after, good for you. The United States is one of the few developed nations that have no organized public policy for providing long-term care — so group living may be in your future as well as your past."
--I was listening to this story as I drove in flooded streets in the neighborhood in which we'd like to live. Some streets were high and dry; some were impassable. I'm not sure what accounts for that, but it's good to know.
--I think of my parents who moved around a lot. Their housing search was much easier in some ways. They went on a house hunting trip and looked at the 4-8 houses available in the school district in which they wanted to live. They chose the one which seemed best.
--I think my hesitation around housing is rooted in their experiences. Some purchases seemed disastrously wrong in hindsight. Like the house on a steep hill in Charlottesville: wonderful in the summer, difficult in ice and snow.
--And so I drive the streets, looking for something to let me know that a house should be marked off the list or that it's a fabulous choice. I forget the basic message of housing: every choice has charms, and every choice contains some element that will drive me barking mad. I can love the neighbors, but they could move away.
--All we can do is make the choice which seems best right now. And if we need to make different choices in the coming years, we will.
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