To buy a home or not to buy a home? That is the question.
Actually, it’s no longer a question – I need to buy a home. Now. Yesterday. Last year.
I bought my first place in 2003. A simple 1,144 sf, 2bed/2bath condo in West LA/Santa Monica. It was a great value in a safe, urban, walk-to-everything location. I was single back then, so 1,144 square feet was more than enough room to accommodate my bachelor life. But today, I am no longer Fan Solo, but Fan Daddy-O, equipped with a wife and 2 fun baby girls. What was once a spacious and relaxing urban retreat is now a converted playground that just happens to have a kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping facilities. It’s time to move. Now. Yesterday. Into something bigger (than my current Chinese-Korean, estrogen-heavy, Toy’s-R-Us sardine can that I call home).
So what do we need? Well…a house with more space, a backyard, in a safer neighborhood, and within a good public school district (kindergarten through high school). That’s what what we need.
But what do we want? Well, that’s a different story. We want a 3,800+ sf, green home of tomorrow, a large, low-maintenance backyard with a small pool, in an exceptionally safe neighborhood, within close walking distance of grocery stores, banks, parks, etc., a close/convenient commute to work, and all within a GREAT public school district. That’s what we want. A tall order, I know…
So for the past 3 years, my wife and I have been looking. Very, very hard. If anything, this house hunting process has evolved way beyond just a “need/want for more space” and much more into a journey between two people with differing dreams, preferences, and opinions trying to come to a holistic lifestyle consensus. At the start, there was very little, agreed upon overlap between us. But after 3 years of open houses, deep discussions, occasional (big) fights, and hours upon hours of need/want sifting, our overlap is much greater. Or, more simply put, how we see our future together is much more in alignment. It kind of looks like a Venn diagram of what we can agree upon, what’s really possible, what’s truly affordable, what’s most responsible for our kids, and what will make us happiest as a couple and as a family. It’s not perfect by any means. What I want is not in 100% overlap of what she wants. And that can spark tensions and the occasional (big) fights. Fights that I usually cannot win…mainly because Korean girls hit so hard and with such deadly stealth.
It’s interesting how much your needs/wants can change in such a short period of time. Just a few years ago, when I was single, I wanted to live in a steel and concrete loft in Venice, next door to Harvey Keitel, where I could literally park my ride IN my living room. Suburbia was the equivalent to Alcatraz and the tract home communities that populate them, cell blocks for the living dead and uninspired. My needs/wants were exclusive only to me, so my choices were singular and without conflict. But things change. Today, I have to incorporate and integrate the needs/wants of 3 other people into the life mix and somehow come up with a solution that creates the best, overall level of practicality and happiness. So no loft, no sports car, no naked Harvey Keitel playing the piano, no steel, no concrete, no big DJ parties in my living room for me anymore. No. Suburbia here I come. And I actually WANT it. (Well, I needed it first. Then I learned to want it. Kind of like an arranged marriage to an ugly spouse.)
So have we bought/got/rented a house? Not yet. But we’re getting closer (hopefully). I’ll keep you posted on our progress. But…
Just so you don’t think we’re suffering from some sort of “not being able to make any choices” disfunction, here are a few of the things that have come to light in our 3 year, house-hunting, husband-bruising journey. Let’s call them our “non-negotiables.” They are…
1) This house must be it. Meaning, if we never move again, this house has to have all the qualities we need and most of the qualities we want. No regrets.
2) Home has to be extremely close to work. Just like you don’t put baby in the corner, you don’t make a Korean wife commute.
3) Home must be in an EXCELLENT public school district, not just a good one. The high cost of private schooling should be a choice, not an only option.
4) Live in a community where we don’t have to drive on weekends. We want to able to walk to everything – grocery stores, banks, parks, restaurants, etc. Barefoot weekends sans automobile would be so cool.
So there it is. Our “non negotiables.” Or, perhaps more accurately put, our “top 4 wants that have become needs.” Now the trick is making it all happen, right? And a trick it will be indeed…
Too bad we don’t live in areas like Austin, Texas or Phoenix, Arizona, or Orlando, Florida where such combinations come more naturally hand in hand. In Los Angeles the zinger to our “non-negotiable” list is the need/want for excellent public schools. Pull that out of the equation and we have a good number of affordable options (barely). Place “Excellent Public Schools” back into the equation above and the home prices skyrocket and the geographical, Los Angeles options shrink really, really fast.
Just pay for private school you cheap bastard! I know, it’s probably what you’re thinking. I’m thinking it too. All the time. Just know, in my general neighborhood, private school from kindergarten and up starts at about $3,000 per month. Yeah. Rather steep. That’s $36,000 per year per child for 13 years. All that’s before college. That’s $468,000 just to get one child through private K – 12. And that’s only tuition. There’s still donations, cost of books, field trips to the zoo, etc. It all adds up real quick. Tack on college? What if you have 2 kids? Or 3? Or… OK, I’ll stop here (for now). I’ll save the Daddy Fan finances for another time. But you get the point – a home in an excellent public school district can save you ALOT of money.
You now have my permission to relax your sphincter and breathe. One step at a time, right?
Anyway, gotta run. My wife and I have to rush off to yet another open house to see if all our needs and most of our wants can fit within yet another set of four walls and a roof. Hopefully we’ll find something soon. And hopefully, it won’t take another 3 years. Haha!
Daddy Fan out