To Buy or Not to Buy – That is the Question!

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My current place.

I’m running around today exploring my options for housing in the future. I’ve been noodling moving when my lease is up in October, but I’m not really sure what I want to do. I love the area I live in now, but I pay about $200 more a month for housing than I’d like to spend. I want to have a little extra to put into savings or a travel fund. I’m just not a big ‘house’ person, but I do like to live in an area that is conducive to my lifestyle. And it’s fun to think about what I might want for the next few years.

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What I do best…

My first decision is buying vs. renting. I know that people always say that buying is the obvious decision, but it’s really not. In this day and age, there is no guarantee that equity will build. Plus, there is a lot of upkeep on homes. The first spring I was in my house in Memphis, I had to replace the AC unit. Luckily, I worked for a company where I could borrow from my 401K, and that’s how I did it. It was just an expense that I had to eat early on. And, then there was the expense of the yard. As a single person, I can’t work full-time, do yardwork, keep up the inside of the house AND have a life. It got to be such an expense to pay people to help me with yardwork. I often longed for my steady $850 month rent in the duplex down the street. I can’t tell you what a relief it was when I signed on the dotted line to sell my house in August of 2013. I didn’t really realize how heavy that financial burden was until it was gone.

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Of course, with buying, I get to benefit from the tax break which gives me a little more income to pocket. And, I can generally get a place that I like or make it one that I like. I’ll never be able to afford something in my neighborhood, so I’ll have to live in a less desirable place. But, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be desirable at all. I’m thinking that I would buy a condo if I buy. That way, I don’t have to take care of the yard and the exterior. Yes, I have a maintenance fee, but they seem pretty reasonable here in Baton Rouge. I’d only have to take care of the inside of my abode. The financial burden and workload is much less on a condo. I’ve lived in several throughout my life, and I loved them.

With renting, I would lessen the financial burden considerably, and I would give myself more time to decide if I want to stay in Baton Rouge for the long-term. In addition, it would be less money upfront. I’d still have some costs with pet deposits and moving expenses, but it would be considerably less than buying. And, of course, there would be no unexpected repair bills. I’d have a budget, and it would stay pretty clean. I could spend my money on something else. Plus, I would have more freedom to move about the country if I chose.

chart Cost of Owning vs renting

Today I visited a couple of apartment complexes in town. I forgot how apartment complexes feel. Ugh … I just don’t know if I can go there. One of the managers said she gets lots of people who come in and say they haven’t lived in an apartment since they were young. I guess people in their 50s have to live in apartments for all kinds of reasons, and maybe some just choose to downsize. But, it would certainly be an adjustment. Unless I ran into something that was pretty special, I think an apartment complex is out. I’m sure I could find something better if I moved farther out of town, but then I have gas costs to contend with and the loss of precious minutes in my day to a commute.

I’m in downtown Baton Rouge right now at PJ’s coffeehouse. I drove through Spanish Town, an eclectic little neighborhood similar to my Midtown Memphis neighborhood except on a much smaller scale. I went in to a neighborhood grocery store that had a pianist playing. I could feel myself being a part of that area.  I talked with the young man at the counter, and he told me it was really expensive to rent in Spanish Town. He said you end up paying high-priced rent for a run down house with a window unit. I called about a little wooden house that had a sign out front, and the lady said she wanted $1800 month. He said this area is unique, and there is nothing like it in Baton Rouge. That’s why it’s so high. I guess that area is definitely out.

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My friend Alisa, who is also going to be my realtor, has been sending me listings via email. I’m not ready to pull the trigger yet, but I want to keep an eye on what’s available here. I texted her today and told her I thought I was going to buy and wanted to start looking at some things. As soon as I sent it, I started panicking. What if the state government runs out of money for higher ed and cans my ass after I buy a house? What if a great job opportunity comes up somewhere else, and I want to take it? What if … what if … what if…. I texted her back and said I was still noodling it. She said it’s better to buy if I can commit to three years in one place. Too bad that’s the one thing I CAN’T answer!! My ENFPness has such a hard time with commitment! That being said, she told me to relax and be at peace. It’s great advice. I think I’ll just keep exploring and looking for answers. Maybe I’ll stay where I am and get a part-time job for the extra money. Maybe a great rental will drop in my lap in the next few months. Maybe I’ll decide to trust God with my job security instead of Bobby Jindal and go for buying my own place again. At any rate, I’m putting it out into the Universe. I’m exploring. If I don’t feel an obvious draw, I’ll stick with the status quo. It’s kind of nice to be in a place where I’m not in a rush.

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