Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Home & Community

I've started to think more about owning a house lately.  I'm kind of starting to itch for a space that is "ours", and weighing the relative merits of buying a house in the city versus moving out to the county.  The pros and cons seem pretty obvious: the pros are that city living is awesome, and the cons are that the school system leaves something to be desired once you get past elementary school.

There are other pros and cons of staying in the city.  Pros include being within walking distance of our jobs, only needing to own one car, tons of local dining options, a mall, and easy biking distance to an amazing farmer's market and a couple grocery stores.  Cons include that we could lose a ton of money, houses in Baltimore are sorta weird, we could end up with a mortgage we can't afford, our neighborhood could go downhill, parking is sometimes a pain, property taxes are outrageous, and we would have to move.  It's easier to stay put.  (Yes, we will probably move eventually.)

Essentially, it comes down to a few key questions:

  • Are we ever going to move out to the county?
  • Is that going to be before our children go to middle school?  
If we want to stay in the city for another ten years, then buying a house seems like a no-brainer.  If we want to move out of the city before we have children in two or three years, then continuing to rent is a no-brainer.  But the in-between, where we might stay in the city for another 2-5 years is where it gets sticky.  I do not feel "ready" to leave the city yet, but I don't know whether I will feel ready in a year, or three years, or never.  I know that my walking commute has made my life absolutely fantastic, and I don't want to give that up, but there is a strong possibility that I will outgrow my job in a few years - which means that  it might be good to continue renting and being flexible.  But, since I have a job I like, I could hold out for a job that is at one of my preferred places of employment, all of which are in the city.  Not to mention, my husband works in the city and will for the foreseeable future.  

I think the biggest problem here is that I'm scared of the unknown.  All of the things on my "cons" list are things that could happen.  All of the things on my pros list are things that we know are advantages of living in the city.  I am a big believer that I don't know how I will feel about doing certain things with children until I have children, but I am terrified by then that it will be too late.  I talk to a lot of parents who bought a house in a crappy school district and say, "if only we had known".  The long-term commitment horrifies me.  What if we get stuck, absolutely stuck, with a house that has major issues and our neighborhood starts to go downhill?  

Can anyone see anything I haven't considered about staying versus going? Did you make this decision as well?  How did you make it?  What can you tell me to help me get over my long-term fears?


  1. Oh my gosh, we are going through a very similar thing right now (except for the part where we already own). We've owned our house for two years and so we're definitely going to be here at least another two. The tricky part is, what's after that?

    I sort of think there's this in between space where you can live in the city with kids when they're still in single digits. But I know there are also people who plan to raise their children in the city, and kudos to those folks. I don't know yet whether I am one of them.

    I will say, however, that sometimes I find myself browsing property listings in the county and I feel extremely frustrated that I could buy a house in say, Catonsville, for the same price as our rowhome in Baltimore, and have an extra bedroom, a yard and off-street parking (and less property taxes to boot!)

    It is so expensive sometimes and very tough to pay that monthly mortgage payment (which just increased again!)

  2. Have you looked at in-between options like just outside of the city. I live in a pretty expensive town (though not as expensive as you) and we bought a house in the city limits, but fairly far north. We aren't "suburban" people, but we needed more than 1000 sq. ft. to raise our future family. We did seriously consider buying a 950 sq. ft. house (2 br, 1.5 ba) but now that we have a kid on the way, I'm glad we bought a place 10 minutes north of that with an extra 600 sq ft. Of course, had we gone another 10-15 north we could have gotten another 500-600 sq. ft., but that was too far out there for us.

    I think you can find a happy medium if you're willing to be flexible with your requirements.

  3. The only thing I would warn against is stay away from condo's. I got super-super-super burned by buying one and your neighbors have too much influence in the value of your place (specially when you end up with renters as neighbors). I can give more details by email, but if you buy anything, get a house or a townhouse.