Conversations Take A Turn For The Serious

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Conversations Take A Turn For The Serious
Buying real estate forces Audrey to internally face some questions.

Hoo boy, things have been a little heavy around the old Ference-Smith house of late. See, I've come into some money. Which is awesome. But it has changed the conversation about buying an apartment from, "I'd really love to buy someday when we've saved enough for a down payment" to, "OK, now, what's this whole mortgage thing again?"

Which is a little scary. I mean, I do want to buy an apartment. Like a lot. After this spring's getting kicked out of our place debacle, I look forward to living somewhere that I am in control of. And unlike many of my friends, the commitment of home buying doesn't seem scary to me.

I guess because we can't afford to borrow a lot—our mortgage payments wouldn't be much more than we pay in rent—so it's not like we'd take on some huge financial burden. And if we wanted to live somewhere else for a while, we'd just rent it out. The New York rental market being what it is, I don't think we'd be "tied down" just by owning a place.

It's just that, well, I didn't think this time would come so quickly. Frank and I have been saving money, but since I'm a nonprofit employee by day and a writer by night, and he's a copyeditor by day and a writer by night, we are not exactly big earners. I sort of figured it would take us a good five or so years to save a meager 10% down payment.

And now suddenly we (well, technically I) have 20% ready to go. Which again: yay! But also: holy shit! Because there is a lot of stuff to figure out when you are thinking about buying an apartment with someone. Obviously, there's a lot to learn about the process, which is pretty overwhelming at first: lenders, points, property tax, first time home buyer programs, closing costs, inspections, timing the market, all the mazillions of things renters never think about. Those things are learnable, though scary.

Second, there are the sorts of preliminary decisions you have to make as relatively non-rich people buying property in a relatively expensive area. Basically, deciding what compromises you are willing to make. Is it better to buy a small crappy apartment in a fancy area? A great place in a farther away area? A neighborhood that is much less cool but close to an area we like versus an area that is clearly going to be cool in a few years but harder to get out of?

And discussions of those questions, the"what do have to have, what can we live without" discussions, are the ones that lead into really deep waters. Because suddenly we need to talk about stuff like whether or not my assumption that we'll be a childless couple is shared (no, it turns out.) How sure both parties are that we're in it for the long haul (pretty sure, to my surprise.) What kind of contract we'd need to get drawn up for this thing, whether we'd just share it all 50/50 or work out some kind of weird plan where I own more shares of the house because I'm paying the down payment. And from there, how exactly we're thinking of finances and sharing in a larger sense these days.

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