Monday, July 26, 2010

Buying Real Estate

     My wife and I sold our fixed up home that we had owned for 13 years back in June of '07. Since that time we have been looking at real estate, mostly in New Mexico, but also just about anywhere we have been in this country and Mexico. It is always fun to speculate how we would like to live in different places. We rarely pass up an open house put on by realtors. In the years before we have bought and sold 2 homes without a realtor and 1 home with a realtor all told.

     That certainly doesn't make us experts on real estate but I have come up with a number of observations on the process and to be an alternative builder or owner builder at some point one needs to acquire real estate. As a result I am starting a label on " buying real estate " and will be adding posts to that as time goes on.

      We currently have a realtor in Silver City and Albuquerque, New Mexico and have looked on our own in other areas as well. But we have 3 problems. First, we can not decide where we want to live. Big problem because in the new economy the ability to sell a home is severely hindered for the first time in my life. No longer can we assume that when we want to move again we will be able to sell our house. And there is no clear indication when that will change back to the way it was in the "good old days" when we just figured that we could easily sell our homes for a good price.

     Second, prices are continuing to fall and many economists think we will continue to see significant losses in real estate values well into next year and after that who knows. Who wants to buy real estate only to watch the value drop? We have huge economic problems facing us. This also refers to problem number one in that we are unsure what our needs will be in the new economy. Will we need to be where we can find jobs and can we afford fuel for traveling in the future if we lived in a small town or rural area?

     Lastly, that perfect piece of real estate at the right price just hasn't jumped out at us and our priorities keep changing. This also refers to problems one and two. All of this is becoming a dilemma for us as we sort out these three problems.

     Where To Look

     When thinking about where to look it seems to be obvious that one should have a list of priorities about what they expect to have. For us a coop or natural foods store is important as well as an alternative community. A university is a big plus but not necessarily a deal breaker. For others jobs may be #1.

     From there things get a bit tricky. Do we need an airport or maybe certain big box stores? Our image of ourselves is that we can do without such things but what if they are an hour away? Or two? Is that okay? Do we need public transportation and what if the price of fuel goes over $5 a gallon? Since WWII our lifestyle choices have been pretty predictable and we could plan out years into the future. That seems to not be the case now.

     What about an internet connection? That seems pretty important to me now. When we were buying our last two houses back in the 90's we didn't even think about most of these things. Then it was jobs but they were plentiful then so we really didn't worry about that.

      Now that I am in my late 50's and our next plan will last maybe ten years do I want to plan for hospitals and healthcare? A 30 year old will have completely different criteria and really doesn't have to worry so much as he or she has plenty of time and if they do not get it right the first time there is always the next time.

     I hope that sharing how we are approaching this helps others with the search for real estate. It is a very personal thing and each person will have a different take on it. Next time I get back to this topic I will write about whether to build from scratch or remodel; then on line real estate sites, how to find a realtor, and what to look for in a house.