David rolls his eyes at me because I am on a perpetual house hunt. I love house hunting shows on TV, like House Hunters on HGTV, though it’s hard to see them anymore since we cancelled the cable. I also have two RSS feeds set up for house searches on Trulia, one for Charlottesville and one for Richmond. I’ve thought about whether or not I should be a real estate agent, but I have no interest in any part but finding houses I like. I don’t care about helping strangers find their perfect house or doing all that paperwork and running around town to meet people at odd hours and on weekends. It’s a hobby my husband has a hard time understanding; he absolutely hates searching for a place to live. He was so stressed out when we were looking for our first apartment together – which we then bought when it was turned to condos and is where we still live – that I think he would have moved into a hole in the ground if it would have saved him the trouble of apartment searching.
We’ve lived in our condo for 5 years now. And it’s serviceable; there’s a lot I love about it. It’s very close to work for both of us. We have super-easy access to a beautiful trail by a river. We can walk to a grocery store, a liquor store, a Dollar Tree, two Chinese restaurants, a great gourmet sandwich shop and bakery…all sorts of things. Our neighbors are friendly. Because we’re on the top floor of a busy complex, we feel fairly safe from break-ins (a thief would be VERY brave to break into our place and then carry crap down all those stairs into a busy parking lot). We get lots and lots and lots of sun – all of our windows face either to the east or to the south. It’s an interesting floorplan, one that we both liked a lot when we first saw it, almost 1200 square feet with a laundry room and two bedrooms with two bathrooms that shut off into little suites, a living room and dining room that are separate but with open passage between them, and a little kitchen and balcony.
There are also things that I don’t like about it, things that get more annoying with every passing day. We’re outgrowing this place. You’d think it would be plenty of room for two people and a dog, but it’s not big enough for our books. While we love our neighbors, we can still hear them, sometimes quite loudly and at inconvenient times, and they can hear us, meaning David can’t play Rock Band at 1:00 am on a Saturday night as he frequently wants to do. It’s annoying to carry the groceries and walk the dog up a minimum of 2 flights of stairs (it’s 3 flights on the side closest to our door), and I’d love to have a fenced in back yard where I could just let the dog out the back door to hang out and do his business. There is no recycling pickup here, so we collect all of our recycling in the house and on the balcony and about once every other month haul it all down all the stairs and drive it to the recycling center (we’re about 200 feet over the line in the county, and the city has curbside pickup if we could find a house there we could afford). If we ever decided to have a child, we have no room for one here. And while I love the natural sunlight, this place gets HOT in the summer – it’s the top floor (heat rises) and we get full sunlight, and our AC unit is the cheap-o one the developer installed for an apartment building, so when it’s hot outside, it can get to be 80 degrees or more in our condo even with the air on full-blast all the time and the blinds and curtains all closed. We don’t have room here for any more furniture, and I have antiques that I love and want from my grandparents that are languishing back in my hometown because we have nowhere to put them. And finally, I don’t have my own space here. The 2nd bedroom is largely David’s room, filled with his comics and his computer and his stuff. The rest of the house is our space together. I don’t have a room of my own here.
So I hunt houses. And I find plenty that I love, that suit my wants and are in what I think is a reasonable price range. I find far more in Richmond than Charlottesville, probably because it’s a bigger market with a lower cost of living, but our jobs (mine in particular) tie us to Charlottesville. We can’t buy a house right now anyway because we couldn’t raise the down payment. Our condo is probably worth the same as or possibly less than what we owe on it, so even presuming we could sell it, it’s not likely we could expect to get any money out of it. We own a house in my hometown, but we’re renting it to my sister right now while she finishes school. I wish she could afford to buy it from us; that would be the best of all worlds because she and my niece would be right next to my parents AND then we’d have down payment money and be able to move. Maybe when she finishes school and gets a job, but for now, that’s out of the question. So we wait. And I hunt. At least I’ll be prepared with what I’m looking for and how much we can afford when the time comes.