5 reasons I bought a house

Art lovingly stolen from Brit Miller because it came up high on search. She's a great Philly-based artist. Buy this. Link below post.

For all the reasons that home ownership among young people is declining (declining marriage numbers, shortening work and location tenures), there is a lot of coverage challenging it being an American virtue.

Like any major investment, home ownership isn’t for everyone, but, with the bias of being a proud homeowner myself, I was moved to add more perspective to Slate’s recent piece showing that if only because of increasing rent prices, buying a home makes perfect sense now.

  1. Home ownership is a cost saver — Though that big down-payment makes it hard to believe, even beyond the mortgage interest write-off on your taxes, by paying into an asset, rather than rent, you’re building equity.  Additionally, moving comes with new costs. You can travel and even, in the end, rent out (responsibly!) your home, but always have a meaningful asset.
  2. Home ownership can be a safety net — Like my friend Jen Miller told Marketplace, I didn’t overreach. I bought a small Philadelphia rowhome in a modest neighborhood, refinanced twice to a 3.5 percent, 15-year mortgage and now rent out the back bedroom to a friend (I am determined to get out debt and never saw home ownership as something to avoid because of it). With relatively low property taxes, no matter what hard times I fall on, I could have a place to live for the rest of my life. Though it’s far off, I do sometimes think of the value of having a mortgage-less home when I am struggling, out of work or retired on a fixed-income.
  3. Home ownership is a learning experience — There are other ways to dive deeply into maintenance, mortgages, loans, taxes, refinances and more, but I’m not sure of many more effective or challenges ways to do that. Though I was a few years into my professional career, the home ownership process has made me better understand the world, or at least a small slice of it.
  4. Connect with a community — Personally, I value deep ties with the place I live. By putting money where your heart is, there are few more effective ways to show your neighbors that you’re in it for the long haul and are betting that this is a place worth living. Specific to my neighborhood and my city (with a long history of home ownership), I believe in its upward trajectory, so it was the right decision. Also, as a side effect, it feels good to be a small part of building and bettering that place you live. It has transformed my view of where I live.
  5. Home ownership doesn’t determine where you live for the rest of your life — There is an understandable fear that making such a large purchase will mean you can never leave ever again. It is true that home ownership is better for those who understand where and who they want to be in the future, and it is true that the past few years have left people in trouble with fat mortgages they can’t pay off with their home’s declining value, but the mistakes of the past can make us smarter today. With low interest rates, now is the time to buy smartly and, if the time comes for you to move on, it can perhaps be an investment property or something to sell. Even a small loss can come with lessons and the realization that thinking about the cost of rent, perhaps you didn’t make out so badly.

Art by Brit Miller here.

Welcome to Fishtown

A crazy thing happened on Dec. 2. I closed on my first home, quite an end to a decade of transition from childhood to adulthood. Something worthy enough to update a bit on.

I’m in the heart of the Fishtown neighborhood of the riverward section of Philadelphia, once a place exclusively for working-class (white) families that has the hipster and artistic communities now that often lead to gentrifying. It’s two El stops, a 15-minute bicycle ride or a 40-minute walk from Old City, full of Dietz and Watson delis, modest rowhomes and pickup trucks with ladders. Now I’m there, too.

Continue reading Welcome to Fishtown

I'm buying a house and looking for help


Update August 31 @ 2:24 p.m.: I was pre-approved but for far less than expected, just $100,000, though I do have some savings that I could put to a larger down-payment. That said, some of my priorities have to be changed. Broadly speaking, I’m looking for a home that is selling at or not far beyond $100,000, is livable but could use real work. Some of my specific interests, though, are below.

Sometime next week, I’m told, I’ll be pre-approved for an FHA-backed mortgage through PNC Bank.

I hope to write about the process here a bit, particularly from the take of a self-employed young person, so it has relevance.

But to start,I’m beginning a more serious hunt for real estate in Philadelphia — a likely, but not certain decision to buy my first home in the 215.

I don’t have an agent. On the advice of a friend who plans to take the real estate exam next month, I’m starting by sharing what I want in that purchase and looking a bit on my own using powerful Web searches.

If I pick a neighborhood on which I am certain and come across an agent I trust who has some experience in that ‘hood, perhaps that’s someone who could represent me.

I’m a young, pre-approved first-time home buyer who is currently renting month-to-month and serious about for what I’m looking. I’m told I’m someone an agent might like to work with. While my pre-approval limit hasn’t yet been fed my way, it will likely be below $200,000, though I’ll be bargain hunting for something well below that.

Below, I share just what it is I want and will take any help or advice I can get.

Continue reading I'm buying a house and looking for help