Monday, March 10, 2014

Planning for our "forever home"

We've been in our house for under a year, and we've already started to discuss plans for our "forever home". And I've come to the realization that this "forever home" thing is probably going to be pretty difficult.

We never planned on living in our first house forever. When we first started looking for a house, our budget was pretty slim for the area (relatively speaking), and we assumed that we'd either have to buy a townhouse in a less than desirable area, or a single family home that needed a LOT of work. And we were fine with that. Also, when we first started looking, I was pretty set on buying a brand new property (almost certainly a townhouse, as a new single family home definitely wasn't in our budget). I didn't really have any idea what my taste was back then; I just wanted everything to be shiny and new. Even when we first toured what is now our house, I still wasn't convinced that buying an old house would be a great idea. Now that I have more of a sense of what my style is, I keep thinking about how lucky I am that we stumbled across this house. I absolutely would not be as happy now with a cookie-cutter builder grade home. However, the amount of sheer luck we had with finding what, design-wise, is very close to my dream house, is going to make it a hell of a lot harder when we go to buy our next house.

When we originally decided to buy this house, there were a couple of major renovations that we planned to do, namely making the sitting room off of our master bedroom into a second full bath. We had discussed the fact that the house only has one and a half bathrooms as being a deal-breaker, and ultimately we decided that we'd be able to live with it, as long as we had the intention of adding a second full bath down the line. Since moving in, though, we've been thinking that it might not make sense, financially, to spend the pretty major amount of money that adding a completely new bathroom will require, while adding little to no extra equity to the house. It's unlikely that anything we do will add to the value of our home very much, due to concerns with over-improving for the neighborhood, and the fact that the house is only partially detached (our house is unique in that it was built in the 1920's in the Victorian style, but was built to be two separate units. This is pretty much unheard of, at least in our area. It's not a townhouse, but is also not technically a single family home).

So, once we decided that we can probably live with mostly cosmetic updates to this house for the duration of our stay here, we've started talking about what we want in our "forever house". We've come to an agreement that the next house we buy should be the house we plan to stay in for the foreseeable future - to raise our potential family and grow old in (or at least until after we retire). We decided it wouldn't make sense to keep moving, regardless of our future income situation, so we decided that the next house we buy needs to be where we want to stay, neighborhood-wise, and that we could just make adjustments to the house itself to make it into our "dream house". That said, we don't plan on leaving here any time soon (we just moved in!), but I think that it's good that we've come to an agreement about the future. There are a couple of things that disqualify this house as our "forever house" - the fact that it's not a single family is the biggest one, much as we adore our neighbors (it's more because we know WE'RE annoying to live next to, and don't want to have to worry about that), and the neighborhood is the other major one. I genuinely love our neighborhood, and our street particularly is beautiful and relatively quiet (even with 495 right below it), but we're right on the edge of some dicey neighborhoods, which I'd be less comfortable with with children. I've decided I want to stay in the same area - North Wilmington - but move to a slightly less urban part of it. A couple less major points are the number of bedrooms (I'd like to have four ideally, in the unlikely chance that we end up having more than one kid), and the lack of a liveable basement and lack of garage. The lack of a second full bath doesn't count, because if we planned on staying here we could change that.

So, that brings me to our dilemma. Usually when someone buys a "starter home", they make a bunch of compromises, both style-wise and practicality-wise, so when they eventually become financially secure enough to buy their "forever house", or at least their next house, it's a big upgrade. We, on the other hand, got unbelievably lucky with our "starter home", and had to make hardly any compromises according to our current needs and wants. Our house is nicer than the homes that either of us grew up in, and has both a TON of unique character built in AND a bunch of upgrades (such as granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and lofted ceilings on our totally renovated third floor). And it wasn't out of our price range by any means. It's going to be really difficult to find a house that I like as much as this one, even if you raise our budget by over a hundred thousand dollars. Of course, we're going to try to get a deal on our next house so that we can leave room for major renovation, and everything we do will be 100% our style (for example, our kitchen - while beautiful - isn't totally my style, and to completely gut it and re-do it would be preposterous), but I can't imagine finding a house with as much character as this one. I'm already dreading our next house-hunt, and it's years away. Hopefully this house will present issues down the road that will make me want to leave. (Just kidding.) (Kind of).

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