Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Where You Live on the Monopoly Board

Yesterday we got good news:  the appraisal on our new house came back where we need it to be.  So, I think we've cleared most of the hurdles in terms of securing financing.  I'm hesitant, still, to write too much about the house buying process at this point, but later I plan to write some reflective posts.

Last night my sister called to congratulate us.  As we were coming to the close of the phone conversation, she warned us that my 7 year old nephew has discovered the game of Monopoly and that he'd want to play the next time we see him.

Last year it was Uno, this year Monopoly.  I've written before about childhood games and the life lessons they impart; this post is my favorite on the topic.

My sister said that they planned a Monopoly tournament later in the evening.  I said, "Remember the basics.  Buy cheap properties.  Avoid Boardwalk."  And then I laughed.  I said, "I don't know that we're following that rule in our current house purchase."

My spouse said, "We're not buying Boardwalk.  Maybe Atlantic Avenue--one of those yellow properties."

We haven't bought property since 1999.  Maybe that's why it feels like we're making a leap onto the priciest side of the Monopoly board.  I remind myself that if we bought our current house, it would be for more than we paid in 1999. 

As I've said before, our first 2 houses were bought through the VA Repo program (probably not its official name).  House #1 cost $33,000 in 1993, and House #2 cost $30,000 in the same year.  So now, in my head, I think that a house should cost somewhere in that price range.

I'll wait a minute while you finish laughing.  I'll also note that I paid $9 for my first concert ticket back in the early 80's, and thus current ticket prices seem astronomical to me.

So, yes, although our mortgage-to-be will feel like we've moved to the properties you find just before you pass Go, we could have gone much, much higher.  Well, we could have gone much, much higher if we could subsist on air alone, if our cars could be fueled by air.

I'm trying not to think about the properties we could have gotten for much cheaper, just a few years ago, if we had had the resources during the great real estate crash.  But we didn't.  We were involved in our own real estate debacle, the condo that we couldn't sell, the microcosm of the national real estate market, as I wrote about in this blog post.

I'm trying hard not to worry about the future.  We've run the numbers, we've calibrated possible budgets, we've looked at various investments and thought about what makes the most sense.  But the last decade has taught us that we can only control so much.

The other day I was noticing that when I was younger, I didn't suffer such angst and introspection when we bought houses.  I assumed that our prospects would be ever brighter.  I didn't worry that we'd be careening towards bankruptcy if our circumstances changed.  It never occurred to me that they could change for the disastrous.

I had bought the American narrative, that a house secures one's future.  For many of us, it continues to be true.

My spouse once worked with a blue collar guy as they installed fish tanks.  But the working class guy had begun to carve out a different future as he bought properties to rent to others.  He said, "People will always need a place to live."  That approach still makes sense to me.

I still think it's wise to buy a house if one is committed to living in the area for awhile.  I still think it's wise to buy a house in a neighborhood that looks like it will grow in value, even if it's not wise to stake your entire financial future on that appreciation.

And now, it's time to think about getting ready for work.  While part of me wants to start packing, I know it's still too early.  No need to take vacation time for those tasks yet.

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