Friday, December 11, 2009

Homeowners at Last!

Until the end of the year, you can buy Ghost Notes, Songs from Memory or Stuck Outside of Phoenix at my website for only $5!

On Friday, Kel and I picked up the keys to our new home.

It's in Milwaukie, Oregon, just southeast of Portland, and it's the first home we've purchased since April 22, 1998, when we bought one in Phoenix, Arizona, back in the days I played in the Refreshments.

Actually, I played in the Refreshments for only a couple of more weeks after that date. On April 23rd, the band called a meeting where it was decided everyone would take three months off to think about what they wanted from their future in the Refreshments, or if they wanted a future in the Refreshments. We played one last gig at Hayden Square in Tempe, and a couple of weeks later I decided I'd had enough of life in the Refreshments.

So, there Kel and I were, with a new house in Phoenix and no idea how to pay for it.

After some soul-searching, we decided to move to San Francisco, where I would go to school and she would work in publishing. We'd rent out the Phoenix house, enlist a friend as a property manager, and hopefully wouldn't have trouble finding good tenants and keeping up with the mortgage.

In San Francisco, from 1999-2002, Kel and I worked and went to school at night. We had a couple of tenants at the house in Phoenix--one good, one not-so-good--and made it to 2003 without having to reach into our own pockets to pay the mortgage.

Renting that house worked out well enough us, but it caused a lot of anxiety. What if the tenants tore the place up, or didn't pay? Worse, what if it sat dormant for months at a time? There was a lot of shoulder shrugging and leaving things to fate.

In 2003, we moved from San Francisco to Ashland, Oregon, where I wrote and Kel worked to become the independent artist she is today. When our second tenant backed out of the Phoenix house, we decided it was time to sell, and we sold quickly for a modest profit.

We worked diligently for three years, and in late 2006, we decided we were ready to buy in Portland, where we'd always dreamed of living. We got a realtor, a list of properties, and headed to the city ready to make a deal.

We quickly found our expectations dashed when property was way too expensive for our budget, and no one wanted to haggle. We bid on one place, which was in a town we really didn't want to live in, over an hour from downtown Portland, and quickly realized our plan was going nowhere. Home prices were too high for us, and everyone was enjoying seeing their homes double in value. We were left out.

So we went back to Ashland, wondering what to do next. It took a year, but eventually we decided to move to Chicago.

Drastic? Probably. We had family close by in Illinois, much of Kel's work was in the central time zone, and, we figured, property had to be cheaper in the Midwest. We packed up a moving truck with all of our things and drove across the country in December, hoping to rent for a year and perhaps buy if all went well.

All didn't go well. The move didn't really help either of our careers, and in general property was no cheaper in Chicago than in Portland. I love Chicago, as anybody who's ever watched me watch a Cubs game knows, but it's an expensive town, and the winters aren't worth the expense for us. After a year, we packed up another moving truck and drove again across the frozen tundra to get back to Portland, the place our hearts had never left.

In Portland, we waited until May and started once again looking for a home to buy. The climate had changed dramatically with the Great Recession and the bursting of the real estate bubble, so we hoped some of that would work in our favor.

We looked at houses all summer and fall. We bid on nine total--short sales and foreclosures and all the rest--trying to stay within the budget we'd set for ourselves three years previously. We had every experience in the book, from getting outbid, to owners raising the asking price of the home after we bid, to banks raising the asking price of the home after we bid, to banks removing the home from the market in the middle of the bidding process. Very stressful. No fun. I almost had to write a letter.

Finally, we came to an agreement with the seller of a house in Milwaukie. We had a miniscule 12 days to close, but the hoops were jumped through without too much trouble, and we now have the keys in our hands.

The house is over 2,000 square feet, plenty big for both a home and home-studio, 20 minutes from downtown Portland, and we stayed within our budget to get it. We couldn't be happier with our decision.

For those of you who have been in the housing market for a long time, take heart. There were many times in the last few years when we doubted the system, and wondered if we would ever close a deal. Prices are still coming down, and could continue to do so. It worked out for us, and it can for you, too.

Now, we get to pack and move again. Hooray!

I mean, ugh.

Yours in laying down the law,


Buy Ghost Notes, the novel or brand new audio book.

Buy Songs from Memory, the album

Buy Stuck Outside of Phoenix, the novel

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.