This weekend we dedicated our two precious family days to house hunting – which for us thus far has been both exciting and disappointing. I can only imagine this is the case for many people this day and age with an over inflated real estate market and what feels like unstable and unpredictable economy. It seems like once upon a time people could buy a home and feel like it was a good investment, hence the saying “Safe as houses”. People could assume that they buy a house for x dollars and over time inflation would guarantee a good return in 20 years. Where as now we could spend our lives paying off a mortgage only to have ‘banked’ the original (over inflated) 85% mortgaged buying price + accumulated interest costs when it comes time to sell, thus not actually making any real profit. This and the fact that most people end up putting more money into their homes through insurance, maintenance, renovations, and additions. There are of course exceptions in this current scenario – some people get financial help from their Families, and others with specific skills, buy something that they can renovate themselves, or some make a wonderful discovery of a ‘hot spot’ before it is hot. Sadly the facts for us is that we fall into the category of grandeur expectations – where we actually expect to find a home that we can afford, that looks good and not in need or repairs, that we can manage to pay off and above mortgage, insurance and updates, actually make money from! Good luck to us right – Especially while looking in commutable distance to NYC. And so the search begins, or should I say resumes, as we have looked constantly for 3 years, visiting many open houses with a nightly ritual of panning Trulia and Zillow for gold.
We have now turned our sights to New Jersey after feeling like we were not finding the options we wanted in New York (stay tuned for that post!). Montclair, New Jersey was recommended by a work colleague to Cam, and actually offers less of a commuting distance to Manhattan than from where we are in Brooklyn. So off we went to Montclair – house hunting, with kids in tow. The Girls do really well looking at houses with us, and for this we are grateful. With a few food stops – which is a good way to get to know a place, and some flower garden play they seem to have a great day out. Cam and I on the other hand are continually faced with our reality – of wanting more than we can afford, or buying a place that is inhabitable, or settling for mediocre and at best average – which will be fine if we can reach a happy place about this, but for now, it still feels a tad depressing.
Looking for a home brings up a lot of questions about who you are and what is important to you. Do we need a yard? Can we be happy in just an apartment in the city? Do the Girls have to go to a school that has grass and trees? Should I start working so we have another income? How could we possibly ever put the Children in daycare and after school care? Can we live in a dump for 5 years while we save to renovate it? Can we live with cheap ugly renovations that someone else has done? And the big one…should we go back to Australia? The questions go on and we are trying to be optimistic, and realistic, and have faith that we will find a place to call our own, a place to raise our Girls and a special little house to make into home sweet home.
We intend to keep looking at Montclair – as it really looks like a nice place to live – if we decide to move out of the city. (Do we really want to move out of the city?) We will continue to look at houses on-line and make lists of places to see in person. Some of which (photos below) we actually can’t afford, some we can afford, but don’t want to live in (photos below). All round our day trip there was very pleasant, we drove through beautiful neighbourhoods, we met friends for dinner and we did a little shopping – Montcliar has great shopping! But on the drive back to the city (in a big storm) we were all glad to be back in New York, and we were not so sure we want to leave it after all…it is so hard to leave New York City. We just have to wait and see how it unfolds. I can hear myself chanting the mantra “Enjoy the journey….enjoy the journey”, and keep telling myself it is a special time being at a point of choice and discovery, and that we will find the place that fits.