and now for something completely different, but not

It’s almost midnight and I’m sitting here staring at the screen instead of packing, as I should be.

No, we’re not going away. We’re planning on moving, maybe, well definitely, but we just don’t yet know where.

Last year in another midnight ramble, I mentioned that we would probably have to move from our little spot of paradise within the year, and how hard it would be to leave this place.

Even with the economic slump, the San Francisco Bay Area housing market is still atrocious, compared to just about anywhere else in the country except for Manhattan and a few other cities. Until now we had been priced out at every turn over the past 20 years or so since the first boom. At first we weren’t ready to buy. Then we took turns in graduate school and began new careers, M slowly building a small business and me taking a prestigious but low-paying fellowship. We realized with the type of work we do — public interest and people-oriented rather than necessarily profit-minded — we would struggle to remain here in the beloved bay and own our dream home while raising a family. Yet we also realized that our situation was the result of conscious decisions we had made.

Four years ago, before we moved to the home we’re in now, we made another decision to continue renting rather than trying to buy, so we could focus our attention and resources on building our family. It was still the height of the market and the right decision. Most importantly, it enabled us to try IVF and pursue adoption. Now, it enables us to both work and stay home with our daughter with minimal assistance (about 8 hours/week), which is really important to us.

Yet we are home-oriented people, and we still want to own our own. When we moved to the home we’re in now, we specifically chose the area with a long term plan and children in mind. We even tried to buy this place, but our landlords had little incentive to sell, and we couldn’t agree on terms. Then last year, they said we’d probably have to move this year due to a personal family matter. They have been pretty wonderful and agreed to give us as much notice as possible. But the writing was on the wall. We would have to move again at some point, maybe soon.

I should say that we really don’t like moving. We’ve been here nearly 4 years and we lived in our last home for almost 15 years, with cheap rent. (I don’t add it up anymore; it was a necessity. Hey, residents in NYC rent for life too!) But aside from moving being a pain, and expensive (and now with a toddler, even more fun!), we want freedom and control. Plus with a child we need to settle in somewhere, especially before she starts school. Besides, now that we’re in our 40s, the window to assume a 30-year mortgage is slowly closing.

With the housing market sliding and interest rates at a record low last year, we started looking again to buy. It became clear that we couldn’t really afford where we live now, unless we wanted a two room (“cozy”) cottage or a complete fixer (“bring your toolbox!”). So we set our sights on a small town in the next county over, further from the city and M’s practice but a wonderful community with young families, good schools, a walkable downtown, and some culture.

While I would really miss our close connection to nature (e.g., trails across the street, redwoods minutes away, a creek out back, etc.), as well as the most awesome babysitter who allows me to work from home two mornings a week, we both find ourselves excited by the possibility of such a big move.

And yet. The uncertainty. It seems all too familiar.

We are still waiting to hear whether we will be able to buy a small quirky home in a great neighborhood that we are eager to make our own. There are a number of factors, mainly the bank refuses to negotiate even though issues needing attention were uncovered during inspections. More importantly, interest rates have been rising. Since we were approved at a set rate, we would also have to buy points to get our loan. (Honestly it is amazing we were approved at all under the new regulations since despite a decent income and excellent credit, we have my law school debt and both work reduced hours.) Normally buying points would be fine, but for the repairs we need to do up front. Hence the first issue re: negotiation. And waiting. And not knowing.

This has been going on for months. We are now nearing the home stretch. Either it will happen in the next few weeks or it won’t. If the rates keep rising, we may very well be priced out again. Or we may have to consider something else altogether.

One day we’re hopeful and the next day we’re not. While I’m not comparing buying a home to trying to build our family, the uncertainty and lack of control over our situation does resonate. We have been here before — i.e., encountering forces beyond our control, not knowing if or when it will happen, concerns about our finances, about our future, etc. — though under far more significant and highly charged circumstances.

With all my nervous energy I’ve started packing boxes, which then makes it real, even though it isn’t yet. I’ve created crazy spreadsheets outlining various scenarios and expenses. And I’ve been eating chocolate.

I’ve tweeted some of my more anxious moments over the past few weeks. This week was “sometimes the not knowing is worse than the knowing.” After some bad news today that the bank didn’t want to budge, I’m still not sure if that is entirely true. Because sometimes knowing sucks pretty hard too.

We made one last counter and now we’re trying to decide  ifwe could do it anyway or have to walk away. And so we wait some more…

~ by luna on January 29, 2011.

10 Responses to “and now for something completely different, but not”

  1. I abide with you in the uncertainty. I’m sorry the bank wouldn’t budge – yes, it does suck. Stick with it, there has to be a way. I loved your home – I’m not digging your landlords – they should have made made you a lease to purchase deal. Greedy, that’s all I can say. You guys just need a break.

  2. I do think moving and trying to find a place to live, et al is a very similar stress to family building. We had both at the same time, and perhaps I mentally mixed up to the two at times. But where you live is part of feeling settled. And not having your family come together is very unsettling and not knowing where you’ll be is very unsettling. You can’t get comfortable with either — comfortable with life — because it’s constantly in the forefront of your mind. And it affects decisions. So, my heart is with you. And I hope it all falls into place soon.

  3. We’re also maybe moving, though under very different circumstances, and part of the maybe for us is that we may be trapped in this house until someone wants to buy it. And, we have tremendous uncertainty and waiting in a different area right now, possibly related to moving and possibly not. All of which is to say, I totally get the turmoil you’re in. These are good problems to be having, but they still can keep you up at night.

    The good news is that wherever the three of you are, that’s home.

  4. Transitions are always so hard. Wishing you the house of your dreams.

  5. I hope that some budging has begun. It’s hard to be in between.

    I like Baby Smiling’s sentiment.

    Sending you good house juju.

  6. Waiting sucks. I hope you get some good news soon and that the house will be yours. And yes, banks who won’t negotiate suck too.

  7. Oh my goodness, I hate moving. Just reading this stresses me out. Wishing you much l luck and peace in this decision and time of transition.

  8. Moving is such a pain, and I can only imagine the stress of buying a home. I hope you hear good news soon!

    Also – I’ve awarded you a blog award (or three?). If you feel like participating the details are over on my page.

  9. […] 20+ years as renters, we’re finally buying a home. It’s all happening, right now. After four months of waiting to hear whether we would be able to buy this house, we signed the papers today. We close in two […]

  10. […] us, the year began with a lot of uncertainty, after being given notice that we would have to move. While we had grown accustomed to living in limbo — through […]

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