Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Look what I found!

I found myself browsing a flea market in Dover, Delaware this past weekend when I stumbled upon this:

Remember the Anthropologie Stormy Seas necklace?  I joined the Cult of Anthro about a year too late to buy this in stores, and I always coveted it on others.  I found similar necklaces, but always sort of wanted the original.

Now, $5 (and quite a few years) later, here we are, together at last.

Serendipitous finds like this are a big part of the reason I love flea markets!  (The other reason:  totally bizarre and quirky treasures.  See, e.g., here.)  Have you ever had something like this happen, where you found a long-awaited object second-hand?  Do tell!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Biggest Sale Haul Yet!

Have I told you all yet about how much I love the city of Baltimore?

Well, I absolutely adore it.  Baltimore is homey, quirky, and completely lives up to its nickname of "Charm City."  Baltimore has utterly charmed me thus far.  In fact, I'm hoping to start blogging more about some of the fantastic activities this city has to offer.  I believe this is a city on the rise, for sure.

I love Baltimore so much, that I bought this:

AHHHH!!!  I'm a homeowner!!

There are a bunch of reasons I decided to plunge into homeownership in Baltimore.  First, the real estate market here is pretty good for buyers.  The city has hit its stride but it hasn't quite boomed yet, so real estate generally moves relatively slowly and there are decent deals to be had.  (Plus, interest rates are still extremely low, and those low rates won't last forever.)  Second, the rental market has far outpaced the buying market; you pay substantially more in rent than you would to buy the same house.  Third, I signed a four-year commitment letter with my job, and I'm getting loan repayment assistance from my law school (given to people who take a public interest or government law job and earn below a certain threshold) that is 100% forgiven after five years...so I'm likely going to be in Baltimore for a while.  Plus, I figured if I bought a place in a neighborhood with a strong rental market, I wouldn't be forced to sell whenever I moved; I could just keep the house as an investment property and rent it out to cover my mortgage and expenses.

I started looking at houses in May, before I moved here.  I looked at about 25 houses and I actually put an offer in on this house (how freaking beautiful is that place???), but when the sellers countered for $1500 higher than my offer, I suddenly got cold feet and backed out.  I can't explain why it didn't feel right to buy that house...my parents did not seem particularly enthusiastic about pitching in for a down payment, and there were multiple buyers for the relatively-new-on-the-market house, which made me feel nervous and pressured.  And perhaps on some level I was concerned about buying before I even knew if I would like living in Baltimore.

In the end, I'm glad I didn't buy back in May.  It helped a TON to live here for a few months, get to know the neighborhoods, and get a better sense for where I like to hang out.  I realized in the time I lived in Fed Hill that I loved being close to the harbor, but wanted to be in a neighborhood with a population my own age.  (Fed Hill is fantastic but the average age there is approximately 23.)

When my Fed Hill landlords informed me that they were selling the house I'd been renting a room in and that we'd all have to leave, it seemed like as good of a time as any to resume the housing search!  I had two months before I needed to move out of my old house, so I figured I'd look at real estate for a month, and if I didn't find anything I loved I would just rent again.  I decided to focus on houses with two to three bedrooms, and at a price point that would allow me to cover at least 75% of my mortgage with rental income.  I figured a house of this size would lower my expenses and would give me room to grow if I started a family and we ended up staying in the city.  (The middle schools in the city aren't great, but the elementary school in the neighborhood I ended up buying in is pretty decent and would probably be fine (and would delay the inevitable move out to the better school districts of the suburbs).)

I looked at more than thirty houses in October.  I found a lot of very cool, great houses that seemed promising.  But the moment I walked into the house I ended up buying, I immediately felt a warm, cozy, homey feeling.  It wasn't perfect, and I wasn't blind to the things that weren't perfect about it (I would have loved an open kitchen with different finishes --- like that first house --- or a full bathroom for each bedroom (my house is a 3/2.5)), but I still loved it.  The neighborhood is awesome, the neighbors are chill, and the rental market is strong due to the proximity to Hopkins.  On the whole, it was perfect for me given my price point.  PLUS, the house had been on the market for more than 100 days,* meaning no pressure to bid high to beat out competition!  I was swooning.** 

* I'm not sure why it was on the market for so long --- although in Baltimore 100+ days on the market is not that unusual --- but I think it was because the owners accepted an offer on it after a few weeks, and three days later (without any kind of home inspection) the buyers got cold feet and pulled out.  The house was relisted and essentially became a "back on the market" house.  Often BOM houses face a stigma from new buyers that hurts their market value.

** An indicator of how well my excellent real estate agent got to know me and my taste:  We walked into my house, I immediately oozed, "Oooh, I love it..." and my agent said, "Wait until you hear how long it's been on the market and you'll love it even more."  Srsly, he was great.

The period from contract to purchase was stressful, filled with multiple unnecessary dramas and last-minute crises.  But with the help of a fantastic real estate agent and very supportive parents, we were able to get to closing on time!  I also got the maximum seller cash contribution allowed, so not only did I get a pretty decent deal, but the purchase price on record is higher than the final price I paid (because of the seller contribution), which will hopefully be good for increasing property values in the neighborhood.  Of course, the seller contribution is on record, too, but to the extent that the sale price is a more visible/accessible measure of property values than final sale price, that's gotta be good for property values.

I've already found roommates for the other two bedrooms, and my rental income will almost completely cover my mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance.  This will help me put more money away for loans/savings/home repairs!

I'm still in the process of moving in and decorating, and I have one reasonably big redesign project on the immediate horizon (a contractor is coming in to add a wall and a door to the master suite --- right now, it's not closed off at all so it lacks privacy).  I'll post photos once things get more settled!  I couldn't be happier with the place.  Sometimes I look around the house and feel so overwhelmed with love for my surroundings.  It's my HOME.

So, there you have it!  Do any homeowners read my blog?  What was your buying experience like?  Are you glad you bought?  Any tips or tricks for me?  What websites do I need to know about?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On Lacking the Words

All:  I feel that I can't return to my regularly-scheduled programming without addressing the events of the "Black Lives Matter" movement, and I can't fully address the "Black Lives Matter" movement on social media.  So I've been stuck for a few weeks here, since telling you about my latest sale haul seems ridiculous in light of the social issues that have developed over the last month or so. 

I'm going to keep blogging, but I wanted to put at least something up here indicating that I realize fun events in Baltimore, shopping, and just going about my life sort of mean nothing compared to these more important issues.

I just want you to know that I know.
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