Where to live, Part 2

I’m replying here partly so more of the people that commented can see it :) I so appreciate all the thoughtful comments and help on this. And not least the voice of my brother, who in the years since we were kids has grown up into a more practical person than I probably ever was! I’ll start by saying that everyone who commented was so right, in their own ways.

My online friends who’ve been with me through many life changes, know how important those trees are to me. They’ve asked me to give it a second look before buying a property without them, and so I am. I’m spending a lot of time right now looking out the window and appreciating what I have. I’ve also gone online to redo the searches in a different way, looking for properties with views and trees that are not way out in the sticks. There are actually some, so I’ve asked my realtor to look at those while I’m on vacation to see if they’re livable and meet my other needs. I will spend a month or two doing “due diligence” on this issue to make sure I am not prematurely giving up on having more nature around me, even close in. In this price range it’s possible I can’t have that, but you never know.

Brad makes some great points too. A lot of the stress in this place is the traffic, the long drives to anywhere, the fact that you never know if it’s going to be 5 minutes or 40 minutes just to get to the freeway. Oh, and in case I needed more incentive to move, did I mention they’re tearing up the main street between me and the freeway for the next YEAR?? Sigh… Hopefully I could sell the house before that starts.

And even though the backyard is nice, the overall area is not – stripmalls and developments, and it weighs on me. There is NOTHING around here in the way of culture, restaurants, arts, fun shopping, places to hang out. Consequently, I spend all my time at home, and I’m feeling isolated in spite of making my home beautiful. I have made ONE (1) friend in this area, whom I coincidentally met at a scientific conference. It’s true that one of the hardest things about leaving this place is all the work I’ve put into it – and all the work Terry put into it (which adds family guilt to the mix, though at least he didn’t do it for free). It probably took me six months to identify and release that issue, and it still pops up from time to time.

Yes, I’d love to be able to walk and take public transit more. That is definitely on my list of what I hope to find. And have somewhere interesting to walk and take transit to, which anywhere near/in Olympia would be the case. I’d like to live in a university-left-leaning-green sort of area rather than military-suburban (I can do without the sounds of artillery here). As far as the noise, it still does and always will bother me, I suspect. But the green-built townhouse has very good noise proofing and I don’t think I’d be worried about it there. And any kind of reasonably quiet neighborhood would be OK (though I always worry about big barking dogs). I have gotten slightly more tolerant to noise living here, getting used to the kids and the dog and the revved up cars.

And I do think that part of my evolution in thinking about what to do reflects a renewed commitment to the work I am doing and the new business I am starting, and earning a good strong living for at least another 5-10 years. I guess at some point I realized I was at the peak of my earning power and I should not lightly give that up. Later I can go out and live in a cabin in the woods or Costa Rica. There’s plenty of time in life to do all kinds of things. Part of this decision also had to do with getting online and discovering that it would be possible to reduce my expenses, find a place I wanted to live, and stay in the US.

So – it’s all about trade-offs. It’s worth analyzing just why this house isn’t working for me, which will help inform what I should look for. It’s also worth, as I have been reminded, looking at what I do like about this house, to try to get as much of that as possible. It wouldn’t be smart to trade off one set of things I don’t like for another, just to be different. So, the pros and cons:

Good stuff I’d like to keep:

– Forest, deck, stream, pond in the back yard, etc. I’d settle for anything natural to look out the window at. I also miss the fruit trees of Seattle, and notice that Olympia also seems to have a lot of those. It’s interesting to note that if you look out my front window, the neighborhood is pretty soulless suburbia; quite a contrast to the back. I’d like to live somewhere with more character.

– New house, everything works and looks clean. Not a fixer. This is not negotiable, as I am not a handy-person. It doesn’t have to be a new house, but it has to be updated and remodeled. Even less yardwork, housework, and maintenance is probably a good thing as I am falling behind here.

– Broadband is a must for my business. Now that I’ve decided not to live miles from anywhere, I can probably get that without any difficulty.

– Open floor plan with character (rounded corners, angles, etc.). I do not like feeling closed into small rooms – especially important when reducing square footage. High ceilings and a loft would be great.

Things I want to change:

– This house is too big and too expensive. It’s beautiful inside, and I love the colors I’ve chosen for it, but there’s one extra living room, one extra bedroom, and one extra bathroom. As a single person with no guaranteed retirement, I really need to reduce my expenses as dramatically as possible, especially while I’m earning a lot of money that could go into my retirement fund. I am targeting a 1/2 reduction in mortgage and monthly utilities (part of this will be accomplished through a larger down-payment in tandem with lower house price). I estimate this could save about $10K a year.

– Live in a neighborhood or near a city that I like, with culture, restaurants, arts, activities, parks, scenery, and places to go and hang out. Preferably Olympia.

– Live where I can walk and take mass transit to many places I want to go. Also closer to the freeway and at least one of my major clients.

– Live in a neighborhood with character – either an older established neighborhood in/near the city, or an interesting development like the greenbuilt one.

– I wouldn’t mind being somewhere where I could more easily have a walk-in business (for mediation). Many properties seem to have outbuildings, large garages, or separate areas that could work for that with a bit of remodeling. I’d also like to be somewhere people want to live in case I want house-sitters or renters for when I travel or have a facilitation job in another area. With a cheaper mortgage and better location, the chance of being able to rent or house-sit greatly improves.

So there are a few thoughts about trade-offs. I have pretty much ruled out long commutes and rural areas (speaking of barking dogs, noise, logging trucks…), and I’ve decided I don’t like suburbia much. So that leaves the city, or the edges of the city at least, or a town :) We’ll just see what I can afford… I did apply for my bank loan online yesterday ;D it kind of cracks me up that it can be done that way now. Things sure have changed since my first home-buying experience 18 years ago!

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4 thoughts on “Where to live, Part 2

  1. joanna says:

    I can really empathize with your process and your search. I think you know I’m also downsizing and moving away from a rural area that I love into town (although I did manage to find a place with big gorgeous trees). We are most definitely making trade-offs, trade-offs that will help our lives to work better. Seems like we can’t have it all, we just have to make choices about what’s the most important to us at different times in our lives. The greenbuilt community sounds very intriguing to me; I would imagine you’d have a fair amount in common with your neighbors there — the kind of people who would be attracted to living in a green development. I wish you the best of luck as you make your choice!

  2. Brad says:

    The best thing you can do for yourself once you figure out your tradeoffs and turn it into a checklist of “wants” and “dislikes” is to communicate this to realtors in the areas you want to live.

    We got our dream home exactly that way, getting a map and drawing on it the areas we were willing to live, and the kind of house we wanted and price range.

    It took 6 months before she found a place and it was not one we would have ever looked at on our own (it was out of our price range, but had tenant space up to code that made the mortgage affordable and had a problem with the deck that let us negotiate downpayment and points into our range).

  3. Hmm. good point. My realtor knows me pretty well as she helped me buy this house, but maybe I’ll forward this blog onto her in case she wants to read it!

  4. Lynn Rhone says:

    I read your blog (including the posts on your trip) and it is all very good reading! It helps me, as your Realtor, too. I am taking it all into consideration, and thinking outside the box some too, to help you find the “as close to perfect” home as we can.

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