What We're Looking For in Our Next House
Buying a Home, Home Ownership, Homemaking

What We’re Looking For in Our Next House

All photos in post taken by Britta Brown Photography at our old house as part of The Front Porch Project

In case you’re not currently looking for a change of home yourself, lemme just summarize the whole process as being ABSOLUTELY CRAAAAZY right now. Utah has one of the hottest housing markets right now in the country, and prices are sky high, mostly thanks to a major housing shortage in the state.

To catch you up to speed, we just recently sold our home and moved in with my folks, and we’re currently in the process of figuring out our next move with housing. (The original reason behind our move was that the company my husband works for is relocating the business three hours south, and we’ve decided to follow the company for now.)

We don’t have a definite timeline for moving yet (because the business is still figuring out the final pieces of the puzzle), but we’re guessing that we’re going to need to relocate to the south location in three or four months.

My husband and I have been married for over 9 years, and in that time, we’ve lived in two apartments and one house together before we moved to our current (temporary) housing situation. While I don’t mind living in an apartment, I overall definitely prefer living in a house, especially now that we have kids.

However, due to a volatile housing market and the uncertainty of our future in general, we’ve had to come up with more than one option, and honestly?

I have no idea which way this is going to go.

For now, these are the options we’ve narrowed it down to:

  1. Renting an apartment/house for 6-12 months
  2. Buying a fixer-upper or smaller/less expensive home and selling in 2-3 years (hopefully at a profit)
  3. Finding a “forever” home of sorts with a big yard and enough space for our family to grow up in

I’ll break down each option below.

Option 1: Renting

Pros of Renting

  • The biggest advantage to renting right now is that it would give the market time to (hopefully) calm down in a year or so. Pretty much everyone around here agrees that this housing market is not sustainable, and it’s only a matter of time before something has to give. We would hate to buy a house when the market was at its highest, only to be upside down on our mortgage in a year or two.
  • Another pro of renting is that it would give us an easier “out” in case we discover that we really don’t like living in this new area. The company is moving to a town and county that we overall know very little about and that’s much more rural than where we’ve lived before (and that’s also further away from both of our families than we’d like to be), so renting would give us options in case we end up hating it or finding that it’s not a good fit for our family for whatever reason.
  • The housing shortage means that there are VERY few options down in our desired area right now—only about 8-10 houses at any given time, usually half of which are out of our price range. Renting would buy us more time to find a house that we actually really like instead of being forced to settle for something that’s just okay. Renting would also mean that we lived close by any house that did come up on the market, whereas now, we’re forced to make the 2+ hour drive there and back (so, 4 hours total) anytime we want to look at anything.
  • Renting saves us money on a month-to-month basis. A three-bedroom apartment down in our desired area is usually around $950 a month, which is cheaper than the $1200 mortgage we were paying at our old house (and which we’d almost surely at least be paying for a new mortgage). Also, renting means that the landlord would be in charge of any fixes or repairs or problems, which is usually a positive thing for us (unless our landlord was terrible, which we’ve dealt with before).

Cons of Renting

  • Just like with single-family homes, places to rent are very limited. The ideal situation would be for us to be able to find a home for rent so that we could have a yard for the kids to play in and not have to share any walls/ceilings with neighbors, but there aren’t many of those currently available.
  • Most places we’d want to rent require at least a 12-month lease, which would mean that if we decided we liked living down there a lot and happened to find a home we loved before the lease was up, we’d have to pay a penalty to get out of it.
  • The town that the business is moving to is a college town, which means that a lot of the places for rent are close to or cater to students, who tend to have a very different lifestyle/bedtime/overall hours than does our young family.
  • We currently own chickens and would dearly love to keep them with us, but it will be challenging (to say the least) to find a home for rent that would allow us to keep a massive chicken coop and ten chickens in the yard.
  • If we end up deciding we want to stay in the area long-term, we will miss out on all those months that we could have been paying towards something that we could actually own someday.
  • Gardening is something we’re becoming more and more passionate about, and having an apartment would likely mean that we were confined to container gardening only, whereas even renting a home might confine us to the same thing, or at least would prevent us from doing long-term yard planning like raised beds, planting fruit trees, etc.
  • Few apartment complexes have good green spaces right outside the door, so we would have to likely travel somewhere in order to go to a place where the kids could play outside, which means they would probably get outside significantly less than they do now (when I can just send them in the backyard to entertain themselves, at least with the older two).
  • Even if we can find a 3-bedroom place, most rentals tend to be small, which could be challenging—it would mean we would likely need to rent a storage unit and that we might all get even more stir crazy than we already are with the pandemic having no end in sight.

Things We’re (Ideally) Looking for in a Rental:

  • 3 Bedrooms
  • 1.5+ Bathrooms (ideally two full bathrooms with one of them being a master bathroom)
  • A house with a yard (ideally fenced) with room for our chickens
  • Located 15 minutes or less from Matt’s work
  • Located in a residential area with other families rather than by student housing units

Option 2: Buying a Fixer-Upper or Smaller/Less Expensive Home

Pros of Buying a Fixer-Upper/ Less Expensive Home

  • At the right price point, this option could also *possibly* save money on a month-to-month basis, and we would hope that it would (eventually) gain us money in the long-term. Buying a place that cost less than our last place would allow us to cash flow most of the home improvements, at least if we were able to find a place that needed basic cosmetic updates rather than structural fixes.
  • We’ve been getting more into house and yard projects lately and want to learn more building/construction/remodeling skills, so a fixer upper would definitely force a timeline for us to start working on that.
  • It’s probably thanks to the fact that I’m a total HGTV addict, but I LOVE a good house transformation. It would be beyond satisfying if we were able to really make over a house.
  • Buying a smaller/less expensive home (so, something that was around 1600 square feet or less and under $200K) would force us to part with (yet) more of our stuff, which is something I’m constantly working on. It would also be easier to clean and maintain, compared to a larger place.
  • Buying a house with some kind of yard would allow us to keep our chickens (bonus if it’s already fenced!). It would also allow us to continue on with our gardening and yard projects/skills.
  • Owning a home is much more motivating to me when it comes to sprucing things up and making improvements. If we were to rent, I’d be hard-pressed to take the time to hang up artwork in all the rooms or even fully unpack all of our things, whereas buying a home, we would plan to stay for at least two years (so as to avoid the capital gains tax on the future sale of it), so I would really put forward all my efforts into making it “ours.”
  • Since we would know that this wasn’t our “forever” home, we would be able to buy without worrying too much about everything being “perfect” for our family. Being a recovering perfectionist, this is actually a pretty freeing idea for me.

Cons of Buying a Fixer-Upper or Smaller/Less Expensive Home

  • Obviously, buying a fixer upper could be a huge financial risk, especially because we might end up buying a money pit. We would definitely be doing a ton of research about a house before purchasing and trying to find one that was just “dated” and not “dilapidated,” but we could still run into trouble. In the long run, we could break even or even lose money when it was time to get out.
  • Just like with any house purchase, there’s the risk of what would happen if we ended up hating the new area and wanted to go elsewhere. Not only would we have to worry about selling the house and moving (again), but we would also have to worry about paying capital gains tax on any profit we happened to make on our home if it had been less than two years OR we would lose money because we were upside down on the mortgage or had sunk more money into updates than we’d get back.
  • Even fixer uppers are (relatively) expensive at the moment. If/When the housing market finally cools off, we could be upside down even WITH doing any improvements and be forced to stay in a house that’s either too small for us or just not a good fit for a lot longer than planned.
  • If we went right into buying a house rather than renting to get to know the area first, we might accidentally buy a house in a neighborhood or location that’s not a good fit for us, just because we wouldn’t be familiar with the area.

Things We’re Looking for in a Fixer-Upper or Lower-Cost House:

  • 3+ bedrooms
  • 1.5+ bathrooms
  • A yard that can house the coop (ideally fenced in)
  • A sticker price of less than $200K (ideally something significantly less, like in the $150K range, though that’s super hard to find and not have it to be a total junk heap)
  • A house that would only need cosmetic fixes and general sprucing up in order to be sold later for a profit
  • A house that’s at least 1300+ square feet
  • A location that’s within 15 minutes of Matt’s work

Option 3: Buying Our “Ideal” Home

I hesitate to say “forever” home here, just because we have no idea if we’re going to be down in this area for the next twelve months or the next 50 years. However, having owned a home already, we DO have a much better idea of what kind of features we would love in a home that we were going to stay in for a long time, whether or not it’s something we stay in “forever” or not. Basically, we would be purchasing this kind of home with the understanding that we would at least be planning on staying there for the foreseeable future (unlike with a rental or with buying a fixer upper, where the plan would always be to stay there only temporarily).

Pros of Buying Our Ideal Home

  • We would be getting a house with ample space and yard for us to comfortable grow as a family without any worries about running out of space in the future or “needing” to move for house-related reasons
  • Since we would be planning on staying there long-term, we would be highly motivated to really make the space “ours,” which would include doing things with long-term benefits like making the house more energy efficient, planting fruit trees, etc.
  • We would be able to really put down roots in the community and neighborhood and would be more motivated from the get-go to be very social
  • We wouldn’t have to worry (as much) about having to uproot our children from their schools, friends, etc. in a few years
  • We would be able to see if some of our dreams are really what we want (like owning more animals, running a backyard flower farm, etc.)
  • We would be in a house that we would likely love from the get-go

Cons of Buying Our Ideal Home

  • Cost is obviously a big factor in this one—chances are slim that we would be able to find our ideal home without going pretty much to the top end of our budget, which is always going to be risky, especially in such uncertain economic times as these
  • The chances of our ideal home coming up in our price range right now are almost zero. With so few houses coming up on the market period, it is pretty unlikely that if by some miracle our house did come up that we would even get it, just because anything like that tends to get multiple offers within 24 hours and incite bidding wars.
  • Once again, if we were to find that we disliked the area, any house purchase would probably set us up for losing money unless we were able to hold out for at least two years AND if the market doesn’t dip too much.

Things We’re Looking For in Our Ideal Home

  • 4+ Bedrooms
  • 2-3 Bathrooms, with a Master Bathroom
  • A decent-sized, well-laid-out kitchen with plenty of storage
  • A two-car garage
  • A large yard (we would LOVE at least 2+ acres, but even 0.5+ acre would be awesome)
  • Either an open layout or plenty of space in the living/dining room area to entertain
  • A room or bonus space to use as a toy room/family room
  • 2000+ square feet
  • Plenty of storage
  • Air conditioning (so many houses down in this area don’t have this!)
  • We’re fine if it’s dated or if the yard needs some cleaning up, but we don’t want anything that really must have major work to make it livable

As you can tell, we’ve thought about it a lot, and we’re not really sure what’s going to happen over the next few months—a lot will just depend on timing and on what comes up on the market.

Here’s the real question: What would YOU do? Any advice?

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