It's amazing how much you can see in the daylight that electric light doesn't show. I know first-time home buyers are super-prone to being freaked out by minor (or moderate) cosmetic issues that should not dictate their decisions. But it's just hard not to notice when something will require work you may, or may not, be competent to do.
Some observations that might resonate with anyone who has a freakish total recall of all my room redos for the tan house: the family room/library (with the knotty wood walls), first of all, does not have raw wood crown molding. It has white wood crown molding with a dark-wood-colored faux finish. OK, I can paint that white. Oh, but some of the molding is actually just slats aligned to look like the other molding (which elsewhere in the room really is molding). Um. OK, replace those. And you know those boards that form the walls? They're really thin. Maybe 3/8" - very flimsy. They haven't been treated with anything (I was right about them being raw wood), and so they've become very dry. Behind the wood stove, one panel even developed a foot-long crack. The owners immediately and diligently fixed this - with packing tape. No, not joking. So at this point, I'm thinking, rip off the boards, install drywall, and paint. Paint the crown molding (and the baseboard heaters, which also have a wood-look faux finish!). Put real crown molding where there's fake now. Rip off the flimsy wood strips that form the current latticework ceiling and maybe put in a real coffered ceiling on the same pattern?
After my husband saw how much needed to be done, his enthusiasm for the house dropped quite a bit. His favorite house, which is nearby, now has a price dropped to $20k less than the asking price for the tan house, and is decorated magnificently throughout (albeit not to my taste), but is also a rather longer commute for me, has a tiny yard, and is not in as nice a neighborhood, and definitely has a less useful layout, suddenly looks like a much nicer option to him. I don't know. I can't really see us living in that house. I need to keep thinking.
I was thinking that we should figure out what each of these houses is likely to sell for. And then what the more serious repairs to the tan house are likely to cost (the basement has a water problem, so that would have to be addressed). If the tan house is as good or better a price after those numbers, then we need to know how much all the cosmetic repairs would really cost. Two rooms need hardwood floors and the kitchen needs tile; we don't know whether the upstairs (all of it) has hardwood under the wall-to-wall carpeting, so that might be another thing. I intend to paint every room, and wallpaper the dining room (and a little wallpaper for the bedrooms). See above for the family room. Plus maybe built-in bookshelves someday (though that's no emergency). And we'll ultimately want to do something with the upstairs porch. I think the real cost of those things could be, well, I have no idea. If it would be $50k (before we even started major remodeling, which I don't really plan on much of), then it's a bad idea. If it would be $5k, that's very different.
Plus, you know, they're both big houses. I'd have to keep them clean. And in my head, I see the family coming over for Christmas, or a house full of friends - that's what I see every time I picture living in the tan house. I never picture coming home to an evening of cleaning a four-bedroom house. I don't spend a lot of time picturing my longer commute. I think it would be around an hour each way (it's now about 45 minutes in the morning and 35 in the afternoon). That sounds manageable, I think, but to be honest, I'm already exhausted all the time. Given how little energy I have, a merely full-time job is a big drain already. I sincerely believe that the home update projects will make me really happy and I'll have the energy to do them (especially if we have the finances to get the materials we need and professional help where appropriate). But how much energy will I have left over to wash dishes and do laundry?
One of the things I look forward to is working just part-time. Twenty hours a week sounds like something I could do with energy and still invest in hobbies, exercise, the community. All the things I want to do. But I'm not sure I even have the option of working half time. And assuming I could do so and merely halve my salary, well, I mean, if that were possible, obviously it would put us in a worse financial position to increase our housing costs over renting! I think we could still make all our payments and everything, but obviously renting is cheaper.
Am I being irrational, in general? I want to own a home. And I want to go, eventually, certainly not this year, to working part-time. Those are sort of emotional things I want, and I suppose they fit in some way into my attempts to mold my childless life.
On the other hand, this is a really good time to buy a house - prices and interest rates are both low. We're thinking we'll be in the area a while (ten years? Five? Twenty?), so it makes sense to buy. It actually would be good for us to have a little bit more space. While we like the house we're renting, we could use a real guest bedroom, we need more room for books, and we notice how nice it would be to have a room big enough for dancing or a table that seats more than four (six in a pinch) more often than I'd have expected. (Wow, those sound like pretty lame reasons compared to "even if they share, the kids need two more bedrooms.")
It also seems rational to want, eventually, to work part-time. I'm not planning to check out while my income is still really needed. But my dh's income should increase over the years (it's OK now), and we don't have college tuition to save for. And not every man has a wife with appreciable earning power - in some sense, my salary is a luxury. It's not crazy to want to work less than full-time (eventually) and own a home...is it?
And this purchase would be calculated on the idea that I can work if I need to. If we actually got pregnant (God forbid!), it might not be a matter of working until the finances worked out. What if I put myself in the position of having to put a child in daycare because we couldn't afford our mortgage otherwise? (I suppose a lot of our other expenses might drop if we were home with a baby.) And what if my husband loses his job? His employment situation has been volatile since we've been married. It isn't really his fault, but if we were on just one salary, even for a brief period, the mortgage would really pinch.
I know I have cold feet. I wanted a house - I want a house - or do I want the idea of a house?
(And on an only apparently unrelated note - is there anything I can take without a prescription that will boost my energy levels? That would cut out quite a few of my concerns right away.)