Saturday, August 09, 2008

Our new home

Before I start, I want to say that I wrote a lovely entry about the new house yesterday afternoon on my work computer, and IE crashed when it was about 90% finished. God knows why blogger didn't autosave as usual, but all my writing was lost! I was so disgusted at having wasted all that time that I couldn't face rewriting the entry. Hence the delay in posting the details.

Anyhoo. . . MM and I signed a contract on a new home on Thursday night. The house is a builder "spec" home that is already mostly constructed. It is located less than 20 minutes from my office (crucial!) and about 5-7 minutes from the neighborhood we had seen and liked the previous weekend.

We went out to this new subdivision--which is nearly completed; people are already living in many of the homes--and looked through the six spec homes (three different floorplans) that were available in our price range. Of the six, three homes had the floorplan we chose which, though it is the smallest in terms of square footage, we liked the best. Here's what it looks like:

I love the great room and the openness of the floorplan in general. I don't care much for a separate living room/family room because I feel that the "formal" living room ends up being wasted space. (I feel the same way about a separate dining room.) The second and third bedrooms in this floorplan are not very large, but the master bedroom is a good size. Considering how little we will use the other bedrooms, I'm not much bothered by their size.

All of the other three homes available were on lots that MM would not consider because they were near some high-voltage power lines. Not only does MM consider these power lines an eyesore, some people think they cause cancer (, and MM is an admitted hypochondriac. To use his words about one of the homes (which was on a larger-than-average lot): "If we move in here, I'll drop 60 lbs and go completely bald the first year we live here." Nice.

For my part, I didn't care for the floorplans of the other three homes: one was basically the same floorplan we have now, but with a fourth (superfluous) bedroom tacked onto the front of the house. I would've been more interested in paying extra to get more square footage if the extra space had been put into making the common areas or the bedrooms larger, rather than adding another room that we don't need and likely wouldn't use much.

The other two homes had a floorplan where the door from the garage brought you into the house through the hallway where the bedrooms were located. I knew that if we bought one of those homes, this design flaw would annoy me every single day when I arrived home with my arms full of crap. So I ended up being glad that MM ruled out all these homes as choices.

We considered all three of the houses that have our floorplan, and we very nearly went with one that had the most upgrades and larger, darker tile. When we went back for one last look at it before deciding, as MM stood in the master bedroom to see if it was quiet enough for him, I went out into the backyard again and heard a small dog yapping. I called MM out, and he looked over the wall and saw a Chihuahua. Both of us hate living near small, yappy dogs (or "yappers," as MM's mom calls them).

We both know that any of our future neighbors could end up owning (or later acquiring) a yapper, but we knew FOR SURE that these neighbors had one. Because the Chihuahua lived at the house between two of the available homes, we went with the third house. (In addition to being yapper-free, it was slightly farther down the street and a little quieter in general.)

Because the house is so far along in the construction process, we are not getting to pick any of the flooring, paint, countertops, lighting fixtures, etc., but all are upgraded from the basics which the builder puts into these homes. The color scheme is very neutral and very much to our taste and fits in well with the "decorating vision" we have for our home. (I had to put that in quotes because neither MM nor I is much of a decorator.) The kitchen has beautiful granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. We will get to pick our landscaping, front and back, and the cost of both is included in the price of the home. . . as are window blinds; a garage door opener; and the range, microwave, and dishwasher.

What ultimately settled us on this new home vs. the pre-owned homes we had seen and considered
in the other nearby neighborhood we liked was this: we simply got more home than we could have purchased there for even $50K more. We ended up spending well under what we can afford, and that gives me a lot of peace of mind: I hate the idea of being even slightly over-extended financially just to have a nice house.

It's an unfortunate fact for people trying to sell their homes that the builders can offer huge incentives to move the homes they build. Because this is a spec home in a community that is near completion, we ended saving $65K off the original price of this house--and that doesn't even include the free upgrades or landscaping! And I am only 3-5 minutes farther from work than I would've been if we had purchased a pre-owned home a few miles away. (We are even in the same school district as the other, established neighborhood.)

Another thing I like about the community in which we purchased is that our house is priced in lower part of the mid-range: there are many more expensive homes and only a few less expensive than ours. I like that. I don't like the idea of living in a neighborhood where my house is one of the most expensive.

MM has had his heart set on putting a pool in our backyard, and this is also included in our price. However, when he met with the pool designer today, he learned that a pool would (as we had feared) take up our entire backyard. Neither he nor I want that--that was one of our specific complaints about a few of the pre-owned homes we saw--so instead he has opted to go with an in-ground spa which will take up less than half the backyard. I've not yet seen the plans, but I trust that it will be very nice and add something to our backyard. Because a pool was so important to MM, I had to let this be his choice. . . but honestly, I will probably get more enjoyment out of the spa than a pool myself.

I'm excited about the new house: I've already ordered change-of-address cards for us and am planning on hosting a house-warming party once the spa and landscaping are complete. This will be the first home I've ever owned, and I've never lived in a new house before!

At the same time, my excitement is slightly tinged with anxiety. (Don't misunderstand me: the good feelings definitely outweigh any apprehension.) Buying a home is a big step financially for any person. I would have some anxiety about that aspect even if I were buying a place on my own.

Buying a home with MM also represents a big step in our relationship. In some ways, this home purchase is a bigger commitment to each other than marriage. . . or, at least, it is a commitment that could prove harder to get out of. In Arizona, an uncontested, no-fault divorce takes 60 days and costs only court filing fees if you do it yourself. If we decided to split within the next two years and had to re-sell this house--and we would have to sell, because neither of us could afford it alone--we would likely lose quite a bit of money. . . assuming we could even find a buyer. (Yes, I think about these things: I can't help it, I'm a lawyer!)

Anyway. . . we have both considered this possible downside and are going ahead regardless. I think that's a good sign. ;-)

As we began filling out the paperwork for the house purchase, a huge monsoon storm hit and continued for hours. We later saw on the news that over 2 inches of rain fell in some areas and that it was the largest monsoon storm in the Phoenix area since 1999. I hope that's also a good omen!

MM is moving all his stuff out of his townhome today--his closing is on the 15th--and putting it into storage until our house is ready. A friend is helping him, and he was adamant that he didn't need me to help, too. Is it terrible of me that I was totally willing NOT to insist? LOL

Our house is scheduled to be ready on September 9th, so barring any significant and unforeseen delays, we should be living there before the end of September. Hooray!