Should I buy the house I'm living in?

I've been renting this cottage for 10 years and now I have the chance to purchase it.

By Cary Tennis
Published June 10, 2005 7:46PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I am a 38-year-old, single freelance writer who has never owned a home. I'm self-employed with a decent but not completely consistent income. However, I have great credit, no debt and some money saved up for a down payment.

Right now I am renting a very small cottage on a body of water, and have for 10 years. I now have an option to buy. Being a writer type I've enjoyed the Thoreau-like feeling, especially in the quiet winters. On one side is a lovely marsh, and on one side is a big river. I enjoy the nature and peace here, particularly on those days when neighbors are at work and I am working at home. Bald eagles and osprey fly over, and I can canoe and swim and watch the river change color by the hour.

As you can see, I'm a privacy hound. But before living here, I was raised in the suburbs (which have since revolted me) and then lived in a mid-size city (about a 45 minute drive from here) for 10 years. I still go there to socialize, as well as driving all over a 90-mile radius to visit friends, and I get the occasional friend visiting here. The neighbors are decent folk and we get along fine, though most are too "redneck" in their attitudes for us to really bond. Not that I came here to bond.

My trouble is, I want to finally buy something but I don't know where I belong! I didn't miss the energy of the city when I first moved out here, or for a long time. But within a few years of going the freelance route and leaving my job there, I began to miss it. I can always drive to see people, but there is an undeniable social isolation. I enjoy being close to restaurants, coffee shops, theater and rockin' museums. Yet when I lived in the city, I desperately craved nature and solitude! Now I'm confused because I want conflicting things. And I can't afford both! Did I mention I ain't rich!

What's making it more complicated is that my landlord is planning to sell this place soon, and I am going to be offered it first. Most friends/advisors recommend snatching this place up if I can afford to. They remind me that it will be a great investment, and that I can sell someday and get my money back, and then some. Other people keep wondering if I'm really happy as a single person living outside of the urban mix. I guess I wonder too.

I don't want to walk away from a rare opportunity to buy property just because I'm getting a case of real estate commitment-phobia. If only I could live down a long drive, isolated in my woods, but still be able to walk to a great coffee shop!

Oh, and with a boyfriend.


Dear Hermit/Cosmopolite,

My advice is to buy it. Just buy it. You can decide later what to do with it. And you may even find a boyfriend.

I don't know what else to say. OK, how about this: You're 38. You're a single female freelance writer. Do you realize how lucky you are? Of course you do. That's not the point. You're trying to find a way to feel comfortable with this. I would say that in buying real estate your comfort is not your only guide. It's too much money to feel comfortable with. That's no reason not to do it. Take the leap. If the only other option is continuing to rent, it's clearly the better option. And if you're thinking you should buy, but not here, well, unless you're sure you want to live somewhere else, and know you can afford it, I would take this place. You can always move later.

Um, what else can I say? OK, some advice: Do look around your immediate area to make sure you're actually getting a good deal. And do have the place looked at by an inspector or a knowledgeable contractor. Because once you buy it, you'll be responsible for doing whatever work needs to be done -- work that you may not have paid attention to when it was the landlord's problem.

Other than that, what can I say? Well, sometimes I hate my neighborhood and wish I lived somewhere else. But sometimes I hate everything -- except the stars at night. And that's probably because I don't look up there very often. If I did, they'd get on my nerves too.

So no matter which way you look at it, all I can think of to say is, Buy it! This is the perfect opportunity to go through the process of buying a house in a rather painless fashion, and you don't even have to move.

It's a no-brainer. Buy the damn house.

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