Buyer’s Remorse?

Buyer’s remorsea feeling of regret or guilt after you have bought something you no longer want.

~ Macmillan Dictionary

Dionne: Dude, what’s wrong. You suffering from buyers remorse or something?

Cher: God, no! Nothing like that.

~ Clueless

We bought a townhouse in Reseda, California, just outside of Los Angeles, in 2010. The previous owner kept it very tidy, with classy and simple furnishings. So when we visited the house for the first time, we thought- “This is delightful! Sure, it’s not in the best neighborhood, but look how pretty! And we’ve been looking for such a long time, let’s just buy something already!”

Our very first night was Saturday night. As we lay in bed in our brand new house, filled with boxes, and our 3-month old sleeping across the hall, we heard it: our neighbors. We lived amongst a lively bunch who enjoyed staying up late, socializing, and keeping their small children up till all hours. While that was great for them, it wasn’t so much for us. But most importantly, we lived very close to the gate to the gated community that opened and closed every time a car needed to come in or out. Turns out, that gate was very, very noisy. On that Saturday night, we lay in bed, listening to the gate and all our friendly neighbors, and we thought, “Uh oh.”

This is not a happy thought.

My father, who is very wise, once said to me “There are no mistakes in real estate.” It’s quite possible I’m remembering this quote wrong, however. Maybe he said something like “There are no fatal mistakes in real estate,” or “There are no hot dogs in real estate.” But whatever it was, I feel it is somewhat true. Three years later, we sold that house and made $50K on it. Not too bad.

What if you search and search for a house, find something that’s pretty good, move into it, and then start having real estate envy? You look around and see all the houses you could’ve bought? Or you realize you really needed to live within walking distance to town, or you realized you actually needed six bathrooms, or that- what?? There’s no linen closet? Are you f*cking kidding me?? What have we done??

Worst case scenario, you wait a year, or two, and trade it in for a new one. Chances are, you’re not going to lose money on it (hey, how many times do massive housing crises happen in a century anyway, right?)

Our little house in Dobbs Ferry was practically perfect for us when we bought it. Sure, we could’ve used a little more room, and maybe another bathroom, or two. But it was just the four of us, and we wanted to live close to downtown Dobbs Ferry, with a flat backyard, and at least three bedrooms, so viola! But now we are a family of five, and that one bathroom thing is getting a wee bit, um, annoying. While this is not a case of buyer’s remorse, it is, more politely put, a change in our needs earlier than we expected.

How do you make sure you don’t make the wrong decision and buy the wrong house? How do you make sure you’re marrying the right man? Both questions, equally difficult to guarantee an answer. But just as in wedlock, we find something that checks the necessary boxes, brings us joy, and feels like home.

And if it doesn’t work out, you can always get a divorce.

Happy hunting!

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Compare Westchester Towns!

Here’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time: a comparison of Westchester towns. Using a few different resources, I compared as many towns as I could in terms of education of its residents, home prices, graduation rates, diversity, and train time to Grand Central. Happy hunting!

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Is Owning a Home WORTH IT?

Our house, circa June

Our house, circa January

Our house, circa January

Our house, circa February

Our house, circa February

While cleaning up ten gallons of water from my basement floor the other day, caused by a clog in our plumbing’s main line, with the help of my friend’s innocent husband, he said something I thought was interesting. He’s a guy in finance, who owns a house twice the size of ours, and makes plenty of money to spend, and he said, “Owning a home isn’t worth it. You’d save money if you spent your life renting.”

He might be right.

I like owning a home. It makes me feel like I’m putting money away (even if I might not be.) I also like that I can do ANYTHING to the house without someone’s approval (though if it’s the exterior, I need permission from the town, but whatever.) And you know what else likes owning my own home? My ego. My ego likes it a lot.

So let’s talk numbers…

A house our size, for rent, in Dobbs Ferry, NY, can go for $3,300-4,300/month.

A house our size, owned, in our town, can go for over $2,100/month in mortgage payments, plus $1,300/month in property taxes = $3,400/month. And all you have to do is put a little over $100,000 for the downpayment, right?

It would be that “easy” if nothing ever ever went wrong with your house. The two inches of water I was standing in in our basement cost us $220 of a visit from the plumber. Last month, we paid the plumber $850 to make repairs on our plumbing. And in December? $440. And FYI, when we bought the house “nothing was wrong with the plumbing”, so it’s not like this was something we accounted for.

"The Money Pit" - aka Tom Hanks' most awesome role ever

“The Money Pit”, and one of Tom Hanks’ best moments ever

All kidding aside, our house is certainly not a money pit. But is money falling through the cracks? A little.

We had a meeting with a contractor a few days ago to discuss all the awesome upgrades we can make to our new lovely little house. He had great ideas, all of which I was completely salivating over. Our house came with an unfinished basement and unfinished second floor. What’s an unfinished second floor, you ask? Picture an attic, with real stairs leading up, and a ceiling even higher than the one in your living room, and that’s an unfinished second floor. We want to make the upstairs an awesome master bedroom with master bath, walk-in closet, sitting area, and small office. We want to make the basement cozy and fun with a guest room and bathroom. We want to make the kitchen look goooood, and make a more open floor plan in the living room. We also neeeed to rebuild the deck, as it’s about to fall down, and the roof needs to be extended as rain and snow water is dripping off our roof and straight down into our doorways and into our basement (Mmmm… mold.) So there are gorgeous things we want to do, and simply necessary things we want to do, equalling a total of $250,000. Good thing I planted that money tree last summer! Too bad all this effing snow destroyed it.

Money tree

Needless to say, we won’t be doing all the renovations just yet.

So what if we just decided to do the necessary exterior stuff / deck and maybe the upstairs? Okay, so that’s only $150,000. But to take a line of credit from the bank for that amount? That would be $750/month in payments. And I was wondering what I was going to do with that extra $750/month that’s just been lying around!

Does it sound like I’m complaining? Yes. Am I actually complaining? No. I think I’m just doing it for effect. We feel very blessed to have what we have. Our house works. It’s small, and getting smaller, but it was built well, and it’s keeping a sturdy, though short, 10yr old roof above our heads. I’m aching to build our master bedroom with en suite upstairs, and I’m itching to move the girls into a larger room, and I wouldn’t mind having more than one bathroom for all of us. After all the visits from Douglas, the plumber (I swear, this guy is getting a Christmas card next year)… and after the $14,500 we’re spending on property taxes this year… I’m still glad we own the place. Why? Because eventually, we’ll be able to build the fantasy home the contractor told us about. Eventually, we’ll be able to sell it and automatically have the downpayment to buy an even better house. And of course…

My ego loves it.