It seemed like a good day to look at open houses. After being back in America for six months we decided to see what it would take to achieve the American dream of owning a home. I had been reviewing the housing market, and I knew we couldn’t afford much more than a house condemned and ready for demolition. So, why would we torture ourselves and our kids by looking at open houses? I blame my childhood.
When my brothers and I were younger some Sunday afternoons my mom would take us to look at open houses. It was just a fun time for us. We would argue over which room would be ours, and annoy the Realtor who wanted to sell the house, but could tell by our greenish-yellow Ford Pinto Station Wagon parked in the front that we really weren’t in the market. It was fun to dream a bit and then we would go back to our home that my dad had kept together with large amounts of duct tape (it stayed together until my mom sold it–now it’s a day care center).
So, it was Sunday afternoon and all the little “open house” signs were beckoning us to take a peak at how the other half lives. We didn’t look at large houses–we were looking at moderate homes–1500 square feet at the biggest, small yard, decent neighborhood. We don’t want a big house–we want a small house that doesn’t cause too much damage to the environment (if you want to start learning about environmental stuff, check out the Green Times blog). However, we were just torturing ourselves.
After looking at five homes, I was ready to buy a Winnebago. I got a great laugh reading a billboard on the highway. It mentioned homes that were for sale in the low $1,000,000. How could you put the word low next to $1,000,000 and not notice the irony? There is nothing low about $1,000,000 even if you compare it to the high $1,000,000. Once you are talking about that kind of money, does it really matter anymore? We are talking about a million dollars for a place to put your stuff. It really puts things in perspective when you consider that half the world lives on less than $2 a day. Spending only a half of a million dollars on a home doesn’t seem right when you think about that fact.
I don’t know if I can go look at any more open houses. The second to the last house about did me in. I was looking at a 1300 square foot home with shag chartreuse carpet selling for the mid-$600,000. An average-size cosmetic fixer-upper for over a half a million dollars. Is it just me, or is something wrong with this? I have to pay that much money and then pay to change all of the horrible flooring, get the sparkly popcorn off of the ceiling, fix the windows, sliding glass doors, remodel the kitchen and bathrooms so that the house looks like it wasn’t stuck in the 70’s? Or maybe it would be easier to just pretend we are the Brady Bunch and say groovy and hang up beads in the doorways. I think, if the house is stuck in the 70’s then the price should be also!
In Spain, just about everyone owned their house. I think Spain has the largest number of home owners than any other country. Of course, this is changing now with the high real estate prices. But, is it always wise to buy? I have a confession, I enjoy watching the Suze Orman show. My favorite part is when people call in to ask if they can afford to buy something. Many times people ask if they can afford a house or tell a sad story about a house that has cost them too much. Honestly, it makes me feel better to hear how worse off people are because of the lies they hear, like: you should always buy rather than rent. It isn’t always wiser to buy than to rent, is it? Especially, when you are in a place like California and your husband has just started a new career. It’s hard though, because you keep hearing that voice saying, I want the American dream, I want to buy my own house…
I put our figures in one of those should-you-rent-or-buy calculators and guess what? If we bought a house and then sold it within 5 years, buying would cost us over $15,000 more than renting. So maybe the American dream can become a nightmare? Is it a wonder so many Californians are packing up and moving to Nevada, Oregon and Arizona? Does the great California weather warrant such a high price for real estate?