If you do that, it won’t help your resale value.
Those are ten words of advice you shouldn’t heed if you buy a house with the purpose of making it your home.
Back in 2008, I decided to make the plunge back into homeownership just as the market paralysis from the mortgage collapse triggered by liar loans started thawing.
My price range was $200,000 tops.
I looked at 14 homes. A third of them were built in the 1970s. They were typical tract with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and averaged about 1,600 square feet. They ranged from $110,000 to $160,000.
Yes, they were all foreclosures or short sales. They had issues and needed TLC. One of the previous owners of the $110,000 house apparently had access to free cement. Half of the front yard was concrete and almost all of the backyard except for a swimming pool that had looked like it had been riddled with cracks and edging uplifted during a 9.0 Richter Scale earthquake.
Most of the rest were older than I was at the time and had been through the foreclosure ringer. Angry people who lied on their loans extracted revenge for their reckless decision and trashed more than a few of the houses on their way out. The homeless, druggies, straight-up vandals, or teens/young adults partying also added to the destruction.
There was even one home built in 1917 on a 1,100-square foot lot that looked more like a converted store front that reeked with cat urine. That could have been mine for $110,000.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the well-kept patio home that I did like that was built in the 1970s and was in top shape. It was a short sale listed for $145,900 which was $30,000 more than a kissing cousin down the street sold for a month earlier. I offered $130,000 and the San Jose investor laughed at my agent.
Long story short, he called back almost two months later — and a week before I was moving into the house I ended up buying, He wanted to know if I was still interested and he’d sell it to me for what he actually owned which was $119,000.
February 2008 was indeed a strange time in the Central Valley resale market as it was everywhere in the country.
I ended up buying the house that’s my home now for $189,000.
More than a few people offered their unsolicited advice.
Topping the list were those convinced prices were going to tank more which is why they opted to keep renting.
Overall prices in resale homes did continue to drop. But in February 2008 the housing market had aligned perfectly with the local median household income. It meant with a readily available FHA mortgage with 3.5 percent down a buyer with the median local income would only need to spend 25 percent of their monthly income to buy a median-priced Valley home.
One particular person that wanted to eventually buy instead of rent was adamant only a sucker would buy before the market hit bottom. The problem with that is you don’t know the market has hit bottom until after it has started to significantly recover.
He did end up buying eventually but ended up getting less house than he wanted for more money.
More than a few people expressed their view I was making the wrong buy as I could have bought a newer one — the home I’m now in was built in 1953.
They also pointed out I could have gotten a lot more house for the dollar.
I bought a 988-square-foot home with two bedrooms and one bathroom.
Then there was my favorite advice.
The house I was buying wouldn’t maximize what I would get when I went to resale it.
The list of reasons they gave included only having one bathroom and only having two bedrooms, the lack of central heat or air, and the fact there is no attic as the celling was the underside of the slightly pitched flat-top roof.
A few years later when I did some remodeling a few people pointed out I wouldn’t retrieve the nearly $12,000 I spent on a redo of my one and only bathroom that consists of 44 square feet. For the record that is less closet space than in the master bedroom of a typical new Manteca tract home.
They zeroed in on my replacement sink which is at the prefect height for someone who is 5-foot-11 to shave standing up without having to bend down to the basin.
In their defense, they were 5-foot-7 and couldn’t reach the sink given it was a glass bowl placed on top of a 45-inch-high vanity I had Perez & Son Cabinets custom make. But then again, I wasn’t remodeling the bathroom for them or for the resale value, but so I could maximize my enjoyment of a house I’m plunking down $1,400 a month between mortgage payments, taxes, and insurance to be my home.
What prompted all of this was being awaken to the sound of rain pelting the roof top early Thursday morning. It’s a soothing sound that can’t be replicated in light rainfall in an air-tight bedroom with an attic above.
It is such a wake-up call I was hoping to have on a dreary day in a house that I intended to make my home.
The size and feel of the 988 square feet given an open feel with the removal of all closet, cupboard, and room doors except for the bathroom one I replaced with a fluted class door along with ample windows including an oversized that is almost floor-to-ceiling in the living room makes it airy while still being cozy.
Given I’ve never liked cutting lawns nor do I feel the desire to pay someone $30 a week to so do, my front lawn was history within a few years. It is now covered mostly with ferns and other shade loving plants under the canopy of two large trees.
My backyard is actually my dogs’ territory. I took out the grass years ago and planting two large trees — a California pepper tree that never loses its leaves and a sycamore — along with 10 other trees and larger bushes to create a protected canopy.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was also driven by a desire to minimize watering as there was no in-ground lawn sprinklers.
The end result is my front yard looks like a jungle while the backyard looks like a cross between the moon and an off-road vehicle area that is heavily shaded. It is thanks to the dogs rough housing, running around and doing what dogs love to do — dig holes.
None of this was driven by a desire to be different.
It was because I wanted the house I’m buying to be my home.
I realize no one can predict the future, but my intention in nine years when the 15-year mortgage I switched to in 2016 vis paid off is to stay put.
Worrying about the resale value of a house you’re buying is treating it as an investment and not a home.
Granted, you have to be financially responsible. And certainly, buying a house to virtually flatten your housing costs as opposed to rents that have always escalated is part of being financially astute.
That said doing everything to maximize your return on a house even when it doesn’t make it the home you want to live in is akin to residing in a stock portfolio.