Fall is finally, definitely here-- just in time for winter. Temperature staying nice and cool, trees changed at last. It's nothing like last year, which just took my breath away. The hot, dry weather this year makes for a more muted display, more rust and yellow than scarlet and gold. I kind of like it this way, actually, because it's so subtle. Not as in-your-face, look-how-gorgeous-this-all-is; you have to kind of work to appreciate the more subdued hues, to notice that it's still lovely, in a way.
It's the perfect time for sweaters! I love sweater season. Especially if I happen to get an enormous box of wonderful sweaters in the mail... then I can just live in them all the time. Especially as Don and I are trying to keep the heat as low as possible, for the environment and for our own health. I wish I could say that it would save us money, too, but power is still regulated here in Virginia and dirt-cheap. It really doesn't matter how much electricity we use, our power bill is always incredibly low. Not much motivation there to conserve, right? Things like that make me veer towards libertarianism, or at least to believe in the free market system.
Don and I are looking at houses. Don't you just love my complete lack of segue? I do. Anyways, we've been kind of half-heartedly looking about. Then over the weekend, we found something... I can't even say "a house" because it's really more of a "shack". And yet... I like it. And it's in our range, which is not something one could say about 96% of the homes here. This city is one of those places where it's considered normal to pay $300,000 for what would cost $150,000 where I'm from. (FYI, you must pronounce the "I'm" as "AH'm" in order to get the full Texan flavor of that sentiment. )
So I called the bank (the one I work for, natch).
Me: Hi... I'm trying to find out what steps I need to take to start getting my husband and myself pre-approved for a mortgage. So we can buy a house.
Banker Dude: Well, there aren't really "steps". We just do it for you. Do you have half an hour?
Me: ... um, yes?
So (45 minutes later, because I ask endless questions) we are preapproved for a ginormous mortgage. I mean we still have the final paperwork to be faxed and etc. But it all seems to be going through. I cannot believe how easy it was; I'm a little in love with the bank right now, and with the Banker Dude who helped me over the phone. All this time we thought we'd never be able to do that because of credit. Turns out that my credit is reasonably awesome. Don's isn't so hot, which kind of sucks because they only use his rating, as he out-earns me by something like 2 1/2 times. Having good credit doesn't do much good if you don't have the earning potential to go with it. There's no way we could afford the mortgage we've been (almost) pre-approved for... Banker Dude quoted a monthly payment that made me go: "hahaha, that's like twice what we're paying in rent! How silly!" But the idea is to get approved for more and then find a house for less.
The problem is that "what we can afford" is about 1/3 of the area "average price", even after the market slow-down and all that. So we're looking at the bottom of the market, where houses are small and crappy. We get emails from a real estate agent with houses that meet our criteria (i.e., within half and hour of the city and under x dollars)... Almost every house we've seen is the same thing. Small, cheaply-built little ranch houses, all so... I don't know, mundane? Boring? Anti-unique? Character-free? I guess if that's what we can afford, that's what we should get. I just don't like the feeling that, whatever we do, it will always be a cheap builder-ranch. You can paint and plant and renovate, but it will never really be more than the sum of its parts. I haven't yet given up that dream of getting an old, run-down house and making it awesome. But you can really only do that if a) the house had something to begin with and b) you have the funds to put into re-doing it.
So this... building. We drove out to it Saturday to have a look at the exterior-- everything we've looked at is outside of town where it's a tad bit cheaper. It is a log cabin. Or at least, it was a log cabin when it was built; now "pile of logs with roof" might be more accurate. The realtor's description reads:
"Unique opportunity for investor or first time homebuyer. House is ready for renovation."
Which is actually really generous. It does not have any of the following: heat, A/C, windows (i.e., there are holes in the walls that are (mostly) boarded up but no glass), or a water heater. One corner of the building seems to have a lot of wood rotted away, and as it's built from logs that's structural damage. We're unsure as to whether there is a kitchen or not-- the ad seems unsure. It would basically take at least $20,000 of work to just make it a liveable residence, to do things like putting in glass windows, and a heating system.
But I feel like... we could really make this place something awesome. It could have character, flavor, personality. It is nothing like any other house in the neighborhood-- and not just because it's the boarded-up, derelict, unhabited house. It's a log cabin, for pete's sake.