should we rent or should we buy now?

to rent or to buy

This is not our house (or car).

to rent or to buy

But, it’s true.  The great house hunt of 2013 has commenced.  What?  You haven’t heard of it?

You can follow more details of the journey over at our Facebook page.  I’ve been snapping all kinds of pics of our new location and some of the ups and downs of the house hunt journey. #thisisgoingtobeinteresting

And we’ve found this house that we’re really interested in.  It’s a total fixer upper in the historic district of Old Town Key West. Everyone that comes to look at it (yes, we’ve already had people over, more on that in a minute) love the location … and the lot. It’s a house in the historic district that has green space.  That’s a rarity, and works for us on many levels …

“after all this travel the least you can do is provide me with a yard.” – Marley

The house is close to everything but not right in the middle of anything.  There are 3 houses on the same street that have been recently, beautifully renovated and there’s another in process.

They’re just not recreating old homes on this little island and the idea of getting into ownership here really excites us.  And makes us nervous.

As for all of the people we’ve had over … they’re contractors and architects and historic rule maker people.  We’re trying to find out what we’ll be allowed to do to the house and about how much it will cost.  For one, this shed has got to go … and that pump to the left of it … that’s on top of an extra large cistern (used for water collection in the good ol’ days).
to rent or to buy

And we haven’t even put in an offer.

I know, it sounds like a lot of leg work for something we really don’t have any vested interest in.  And I’m pretty sure our realtor is convinced that he’s not going to see a dime from us.  I’m not exactly sure when his mood shifted … if it was after the 5th or the 6th time he met me at the house.  ;)

But, do you know the feeling, the one when you just can’t get something out of your head?

I don’t know if you’re a renter or a buyer?  We’re buyers.  We just prefer to own.  It just feels right to us.  But I know many people much prefer to rent, don’t want the added responsibilities that come with owning.  Especially when they know they’re going to be moving again in a few years.

It’s true.  We know we’re not going to be here forever.  Like we’re 100% sure that we will move on from Key West.  So why buy?

I ask myself that question every move, and we chose not to buy in Curacao, but here’s where we are right now.
to rent or to buy

1) Renting feels like throwing money away.  Granted, we are about to sell a house in MD for most likely less than we bought it, which also equals throwing money away.  But the value we got from that experience of improving, tweaking and making the most of that house for our use during the time we were there makes up for that loss in our eyes. #darnyoubadeconomy

2) Interest rates right now are sick low.  3.5% people.  That’s crazytalk in mortgage interest rate jargon. ‘Nuff said.

3) Key West is an area where single family house inventory is not going to multiply.  Meaning, it’s a 2 by 4 mile island that is about as developed as it’s going to get.  Yeah, there are a few empty lots about, but a few empty lots does not a construction boom potential make.  If we could get in now, while the market is still near its low point (it has been on the way up here for about 9 months already), there’s great investment potential to be had.

3) The rental market in Old Town Key West is vicious.  Like, if you’re not waiting for the newspaper when it comes off the presses by the time you see the for rent ad it has already been rented.  So, when we do move, if we’re smart about where and what we buy, we should have no trouble renting it if we don’t want to sell right away.

4) A doable project.  In layman’s terms, a good deal.  If we can find a house in the right location (check), with a solid structure (needs work), functional floor plan (needs work) and the right mix of DIY projects (trying to figure that out before we take the plunge) at the right price (still a big question) we’re sold.
to rent or to buy

But that whole ‘right price’ thing is tricky.  I’ve looked at houses in the $280 – $800 a square foot range.  That’s a huge range!  And I’ve seen houses in a HUGE variety of states of completion.  I don’t want to pay more now for the bad bamboo floor that the previous owner put in when I could pay less for your stained, ratty carpet that I’m going to rip up anyway.  KnowwhatImean?

5) It’s just more fun!  I’ve spent the last 3 years in a rental and have reconfirmed that for us, owning is just plain fun.  If I see a wall that would look great covered in reclaimed wood or an old tile floor that might look cool painted I want to be able to give it a try.

But with all that said, nothing is set in stone.  We still need to find that right house.  The one that makes sense to buy.  The one that feels like home.  And until then you will find me calling on every relevant rental ad I see … now I just do it before I take the time to drive by the location instead of after.  :)

Update:  We did take the plunge and buy, but not this house, check out the house we bought here, and the full house tour video {before} here.

Tell me, how do you know when you’ve found the right house?

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About Karah

I'm Karah and I'm so glad you're here! I'm a small town girl from the North East who finds myself moving around with my husband and pups every few years and constantly on a journey to make the most of every space we find ourselves in. That little space between what has been and what will be. It'd be so cool if you'd like to join us for the ride.
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46 Responses to should we rent or should we buy now?

  1. I searched for one year – lived in a rental until I could find “the one”. I cried a lot – thought we’d never find something. Then, the planets aligned and a light shown down upon my house! A fixer upper for sure -but that’s one of the best things about it! I say if you’ve been there 6 times, you already know she’s the one!

  2. Nancy Carr says:

    Listen to your intuition. Best wishes

  3. How exciting! Can’t wait to see where this journey takes you!

  4. Julie says:

    I <3 that house! We've considered owning since we got married, but just have never really been in a position to do that. We are now in a rental that fits our family, is not operated by a corporation (our landlords are the homeowners who live about 2 miles away) AND the owners have given us free reign over the house. Any permanent improvements we make are totalled up and deducted from the rent. It's awesome. All the perks of owning, without the headaches. We also have first dibs if they ever decide to sell. Yes, all of the above is writtin into our rental contract :)

    I can't wait to find out what you decide (though it sounds like you've already decided, your brain just hasn't caught up yet).

  5. cwest100 says:

    Go for it! Key West is a HOT spot! If you can see potential and you can DIY it to make it liveable for your family…GO! As you know, though…go for the ugliest in the neighborhood @ the cheapest price! Your neighbors will thank you! lol Just my opinion. I agree with go with your intuition. You’re definitely doing an excellent job on your homework!

  6. Buy the house! Yup, that’s what I’m saying, it’s totally what I would do. Now I’m not just saying that because I’m am realtor and I feel for the poor guy working for no money (because to be honest some of my best referrals come from clients who I have helped but who have never bought) and I’m sure you are those people who would tell everyone about your agent if you didn’t buy, but he had helped you without complaining. Anyway, you need to buy, it sounds like a good opportunity and you are like me and you are happiest in your own home and happy to do the work. Going to follow you on FB so I don’t miss any of this…

    • Karah says:

      Ahhhhhh, we really, REALLY want to … just waiting on a few estimates to make sure we’re not biting off more than we can chew. And luckily, I think our realtor really likes us now he said yesterday that we are ‘a fun challenge’. LOL

  7. Candy says:

    You are so smart for getting estimates before hand! I’m a Realtor too and you don’t know how many people buy something thinking that they can fix it up, but then can’t afford to because they don’t know what they’re doing. You are so right on all of your points! Buy it!

  8. decisions, decisions. I think if it was me I would consider the investment opportunity that is gold on that island. Whether you sell or rent it after you have moved on to the next place. Good luck with whatever you decide.

  9. Go with your gut. I can TOTALLY relate to the second part of #4 about not paying more now for what someone else put in that is “new” that you don’t even like. That’s the biggest thing that we’ve learned from buying…our kitchen is SUPER nice but it’s not what we would’ve chosen as far as cabinets and granite, etc. It added a lot to the price of the house, so next time, I’m getting one that is cheaper (and a fixer-upper) so I can redo it the way I want!! Not that my two sense makes a difference, but there’s my little lesson I learned. :)

  10. Erin says:

    Karah, isn’t this a bloggers dream? I mean, look at all the blogs you will be able to share. All of us are drooling, it’s Key West. Oh my, what you could do with that.

  11. If I were you, I’d likely buy. But then, I’ve been a homeowner for more than 20 years, have forgotten what renting is like, and had some serious renter envy when Cane was in an apartment and NOT dealing with much of the kind of stuff I was. But everything you’ve said make it sound like a good investment and a good time. No brainer?

  12. Ahh….buying in Key West..I can’t imagine. My mom is a conch and prior to my arrival my entire family lived in in Key West..very different city now than it was 30 plus years ago, but still a fantastic one. I’ve only owned since moving out of my parents I can’t relate to the renting thing. At times I’ve always wanted to know what it would be like to know that we could pick up and move at any point (well after a lease was up..but you get the point) rather being tied to a mortgage and a house that we took a hit on when the market tanked. Having said that, I love that I can do whatever I want to this house (or any one we’ve owned before it). I think you have to trust your gut on this’ve rented enough to know whats important in a house, and what you’re really looking for so I’m sure you’ll make the right decision. Can’t wait to see the inside of this place if/when it happens!

    • Karah says:

      Such great insight … it really is a gut feeling and we just haven’t found the right thing yet, to rent or buy. You know what it’s like down here … very limited supply to choose from. It’s an interesting process that is for sure!

  13. Sounds like an adventure you’re really tempted to have ;) You make a really solid business case for a purchase … a few months from now the real estate market could have rebounded past a reasonable entry price point. Since you know you won’t be there forever, do you think you’ll be there long enough to have the house to a completed stage so it is either attractive for resale or if you keep it to rent it isn’t a burden on you as a remote landlord? If you could be “done with it” before you move on, then I’d seriously consider it. Happy negotiating!

    • Karah says:

      That is one thing we are very seriously considering … we want a ‘fun’ project and not a ‘burden’ that we’re scrambling to finish as we’re moving away. I’m beginning to think that’s too much to ask around here. **sigh**

  14. Not to mention, if you own, you know exactly who is responsible for fixing the air conditioner :)

  15. I seriously got excited reading this. House hunting is SO fun when you have a DIYer’s vision like you do! I hope this one works out for you, I can already see it has some amazing features!

  16. Hmmmm, that’s a tough question to answer, because it really is an intuition, a gut feeling more than a calculated right or wrong decision all things being equal in the process. I think you have intuition speaking in favour of this house, and it sounds like it’s coming down to the logistics of investing in this house. I’d bet this one is it if the logistics weigh in favorably!

    • Karah says:

      You are absolutely right … we’re still waiting on a few more numbers and then we’ll see. Would love for it to work out, but not married to the idea either. What will be will be.

  17. Great tips. I bought because I had 3 pets and no one wants to rent anything decent to people with pets around here. I hadn’t thought about renting my place out if I want to move and the market hasn’t come up yet. Great tips!! Have fun moving!!

  18. Kimberly says:

    This is my first time to your blog and if you have considered the following, I’m sorry for bringing it up. I hope you understand the insurance issues with homes in Florida. Get ready to to pay 5 times the amount you already do. Plus, it is very difficult to find out if your home is sitting on top of a sink hole and if it is you are going to have a very hard time getting insurance to cover the damage (actually they won’t). You better educate yourself on the signs of a sink hole such as foundation damage. Also, jobs are not as plentiful as in the DC area and you most likely will be earning half the amount in FL. Also, be advised the public school system in FL is one of the lowest in the nation. I don’t even want to start on the issue of trying to find a primary care physician (almost half of the doctors in the state have been shut down for illegal drug prescriptions and this can be verified by the state medical commission). If I were you I would rent out your current home and rent in FL. This way once you decide you don’t like it you can still go back up north because as it sounds right now, once you sell you can never afford to buy in that area again. I’m sorry if I’m sounding so negative, but I really don’t want you rushing into FL without know all the facts and being sorry.

    • Karah says:

      Thank you so much for all of the insight, Kimberly!! We are so excited to be in FL and it has definitely been an interesting house hunt so far … that’s for sure! We will definitely only be here a few years so we’re just looking to soak up as much of the local flair as we can. And yes, the insurance numbers are staggering! Yikes!

  19. Lynn Graham says:

    Best wishes to your house hunting project!

    Hopping by and following your lovely blog’s twitter, FB, G+, SU, IG and Pinterest. I blog for health: Lipoid Pneumonia, Breast Cancer & Petroleum Jelly and crafting: Valentine Heart Wreath

  20. Definitely buy! And definitely keep that shed!!! I’m fantasizing over what could be done with it!!!

  21. It really does look so charming! And can see why you’re drawn to that property. But you do have a lot to consider. With that said, I don’t see property values in Key West dropping … such a desirable location, location, location!

    :) Linda

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  23. How exciting!! Good luck =)

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  26. Tammy Hebert says:

    How exciting. As a homeowner of a historic house in a historic district just make sure you read over those rules thoroughly. It costs 3x as much to reno a historic house as it does any other house. But with that said – I would do it all over and over again. I love the old, the character, the saving a bit of history. I can’t wait to follow your journey. And Key West? Duh what’s not to love :)

    • Karah says:

      I have heard about some funny regulations that we’ll need to abide by … it is sure to be an interesting process!! But hopefully a rewarding one! Thank you for stopping by!

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