I never knew that looking for a house would be as stressful as it's been so far. My assumption has always been that getting the financing figured out would be the hard part, but that ended up being a total piece of cake. It's the finding of the house that's the problem.
The inventory of available homes in this area is at an all time low, especially decent homes within our price range. We've set ourselves a limit of what we're willing to spend and it's a good bit below what we can actually afford to do. The plan is to put down a large enough down payment (somewhere between 30-40%) that we'll immediately have equity in the house, we won't have to pay private mortgage insurance, and we'll be able to afford the payments on a short (15 year) loan. We'll also be getting a better interest rate with a 15 year mortgage.
All that comes with a downside, though. We'll be saving money, especially over the long term, but it's hard to find something good when your cap is modest. Everything we see that manages to check off all of our wants and needs is anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 above what we've decided to spend. We've visited three houses so far that are right at our limit, price wise, and all three made my heart sink a little when I saw them. One was in a great neighborhood, but it was as bland as could be, just a little brick box with small rooms, few windows, and new but cheap updates done to the bathrooms and kitchens with everything (tiles, paint, cabinets) all neutral ugly shades of gray and beige. It did have a big nice backyard, though, and a wired workshop with heat and air conditioning that would make a great dog house. So it wasn't all bad. But it wasn't right, either.
Then there was the house that looked so promising! It was tucked away in a nice older neighborhood with a live oak in the front yard, a porch and deck out back, nice hardwood floors, a big backyard for the dogs, and on and on.....but the pictures were better than the reality. The floors really were nice, but the appliances and cabinets in the kitchen were worn out, and the screened porch was actually kind of shabby, and the deck out back was all but falling down and would have to be dealt with. And this house was a tiny bit above our budget, anyway. Had it been as awesome in person as it looked in pictures, it might be worth a trifling extra $5000 or so to have it, but it was shabby and needed a lot of repairs.
The third house we've seen was the biggest disappointment. It showed up on the realty sites Friday afternoon and looked perfect for us. It was in a small community less than 10 miles outside downtown Florence, and was beautifully updated. It's a roomy 2400 sq. feet but with only two big bedrooms and two bathrooms. It has a long, wide front porch with a carport underneath one side, a large lot with a privacy fence around it, new roof, new gleaming floors and appliances, new windows...and altogether very nice. It was exactly what we're looking to spend, and we hoped that the only thing wrong with it was being a little bit out of town (as well as having only 2 bedrooms). Well, we drove out there yesterday, and we were so let down to see what the problem was....the location. The property is surrounded by tiny little falling down trailer houses. It looks like a really low income country trailer park on two sides. Hence the privacy fence, I suppose. Please don't think I'm being a snob, our concern is more for our personal safety (and the safety of our property when we're away all day at work) than the appearance of the area. The house that's for sale looked even better than in the pictures, by the way. It seemed well kept and gleaming in the sunlight, the yard was neatly maintained, and the road beside it leads to a small creek which would be a great place to walk our dogs. It's obvious, though, that the location is the only reason we can afford the house in the first place. I'm still not totally sure what to think about this one, but I don't think it's the one, either.
I'm beginning to be afraid that nothing that fits our budget is going to work out, and I hate the thought of going over what we decided upon. And already I've found myself getting irritable with my husband over minor disagreements in what we're hoping for and what compromises we're going to be willing to make. We rarely argue and so I know when I get irritable enough to burst at him (and the feeling is mutual, I'm sure) I know it has more to do with our stress levels than anything else. That's when it's time to take a break from talking about the house hunt, even though we're both thinking about it all the time.
I'm trying to have faith that the right home is out there for us, and when we find it it will be something we can afford. It's hard to be patient, though.