I have now turned in all the documentation to lender #1, so that pre-approval should be well underway. I am wondering, however, whether the fact that my dh does not have two full years of steady work history will undermine our qualification. We can just about afford it on my salary (but not quite), and we have a decent savings cushion, but I don't know how the lender will view these matters. I also paid the $50 and sent the pre-approval application to lender #2. I got an instant but somewhat low-detail disclosure of expenses, which came to $10,000 instead of $12,000. If I don't get a more detailed one later, I guess I can call and ask for a breakdown for my bargaining purposes.
Meanwhile, I have started to entertain doubts about the house. My dh's current contract will be up by the end of 2010. The company really likes him and it seems likely they would put him on a different project (maybe even one closer to the house!), but there are no guarantees. He's also applying for really exciting-sounding open positions at the agency he was with - those jobs would be really near my work, something he'd really enjoy doing, and permanent. I hope, hope that he gets one. But I know that in the current political climate, the odds are not good at all. (And my dh is hardly conservative by my standards! I've had to speak to him several times about comments he's made...)
So while I'm excited for the potential job change (and don't really mind the uncertainty - this is how we've been doing things for a while), I am suddenly panicked about what will happen if he's not working for a period. My salary is just shy of being enough for all of our monthly expenses. That means the house wouldn't prevent me from going part-time later, but both of us have to be working at least some! And I worry. I also worry about the increased expense. We're saving a lot every month now, and it's funny how fast I got used to it. That amount will almost halve after we buy the house. Will that be enough??? And what about the repairs that need doing? I figured that for 1-2 years, we could spend $500-1000 a month and get all the remodeling done. Some months would be light, with just paint, or a piece of furniture or two; others we'd combine, if we needed to replace a furnace or something. So for a day or so I panicked. Then I remembered that I'd been over-paying in income tax all year and still don't know what our refund will be (if it's nothing, that will be a big adjustment, but I've an idea it might be substantial). Of course, if we want that homebuyer tax credit, we have to buy the house before we find out what the refund will look like.
Which is another point. This is the last year we'll be eligible for the tax credit, I suspect, even if they extend it. So that motivates me to buy now. On the other hand, once you buy, you've bought. There doesn't seem to be any fast turnover available in this market (and that house really does need remodeling). But I've gotten comfortable with our current expenses. I just don't know how I feel about increasing our house payment by 50%, plus property taxes. (I've done some more looking into the tax assessment thing, and I think it can be lowered, but not as fast as I might like. However, the assessment was already lowered for this year, so at least the up-front payment will be lower than I thought!) Is this what everyone goes through when they buy? Is this just part of the transition to being an adult - taking on greater expenses, but also owning a home of your own? Is this how it works, and I'm just being a baby?
So, anyway, to make matters yet more complicated, I was browsing through available real estate (yes, again. Yes, I know we're considering buying the tan house, but our realtors just sent us another listing - that's way too far from the city, so I said no - but that means that they wouldn't be horrified if I suggested visiting something else, right?). And I found another house for sale. It's not in the magical town where the tan house is. It is, however, substantially closer to the city. Extremely close. And right near all the major area highways. And though further from a metro stop than the tan house, since it's closer-in, it's near about five metro stops rather than one. It's right off a big street, so there's bus lines very nearby. Instead of being less than 2 miles from the one nearby (and pretty good) Catholic church, it's about 3-4 miles from six of them. (That's actually not what I want - I want it to be four blocks from a nice neighborhood parish.) Unfortunately none of these parishes is immediately near a metro right off the bus line, whereby I could hop on the bus, go to Mass, and metro to work...
Oh, yes, also, the more salient specs. It has a yard, but about half the size of that at the tan house (7500sf). It's cute and has a whole porch, which my dh will love. It's 3BR 1ba, instead of 4BR 1.5ba. More to the point, it looks to be a lot smaller on the inside - but with no interior photos, I just don't know. Oh, and the kicker: it's on as a short sale, for $200k less than the tan house. Not even kidding. The gap in final selling price will be smaller, because short sales require bank approval on price, and the tan house is overpriced and will sell for less than they're asking. But still, more than $150k difference, I bet. That's huge, right? Lots of money to remodel. In a really nice DC suburb. And, like I said, cute:
It meets my strict criteria because it has two floors, a yard, is in the Victorian style, appears to have an attic (see that window?), has a basement (walk-out, says the ad), and has a driveway (as far as I can tell). These are requirements for me because in the small town where I grew up, only items with such features were actually houses (OK, so the Victorian part wasn't a strict requirement in my hometown). I understand that city people have other concepts, like "row houses" and "condos," but I do not understand them. Anyway, though, it looks small. I mean, granted, there's only two of us. But some of the cute Victorian houses I've seen literally do not have room in the living room for a couch. (One had a love seat; another had a couch at an angle across the room, blocking a doorway.) Part of my housing dilemma is that it's all wrapped up in my substitute vocation; I have to have enough space to put up people for the night, and have family stay (3BR is probably enough for that, especially if the attic can be finished), and have friends want to come over. For that last, the house has to be close to the city (this house is winning), and have a decent amount of space to hang out (I suspect the tan house is winning by leagues there).
Also, the tan house is in a town that will be magical at Christmas. I can't ignore that. (Though I haven't seen this town, except in aerial photographs.)
I have a lot of opinions. I rarely encounter a decision on which I don't have a clear opinion. Why am I twisting myself into a mess over this house question? WHAT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER?!