Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Buying a House in Homer

After renting a house for two years, we finally decided to take the plunge and become homeowners again. However, the decision to do so was easier than finding a house that we all would be happy with. Living 30 minutes out of town became quite a drag the past 6 months as our kids got more involved in sports, my husband began playing basketball again, and I yearned to be closer to friends and activities. So it was a no-brainer choosing a place closer to Homer, but how close was the question. I wanted to be within a few miles of town, while Douglas, who was going to have a long drive to work once we moved, wanted to be a bit further out. Location helped narrow our search, as of course price does.

Prices made us cringe: our $130,000 house in Michigan would easily be double that or more here in Homer. Homes with a view of Kachemak Bay seemed to be a good $20-$30 K more than places whose view was obstructed by trees. All but one place we looked at had a view of the bay, though some better than others.

Without housing code here, homes tended to be built haphazardly by whomever, without thought for future owners, logic or quality. Most 3 bedroom homes we looked at were in the $275,000-$300,000 range, on about one acre, and were in crummy shape, needing many repairs to get them comfortable and livable. We were still burnt out on home improvements from our house in Michigan so we had no desire for a fixer-upper.

Our Realtor patiently showed us house after house, not censoring them too much. Nearly all of the houses we looked at were empty, some having gone into foreclosure and others the owners had to leave Alaska for family issues, health issues or jobs. Many had been on the market as long as two years, and without any care, were pretty ragged looking. In some we could see potential, but many were so bizarre we couldn't see living there. Our son liked the strange houses, and our daughter wanted to be close to friends and hoped for climbing trees. I wanted a greenhouse and garden, while my husband thought having a workshop would be a treat.

Amazingly, we found a place that fit nearly all these specs, but not until we expanded our search to 2-bedroom homes that might have an extra room that could be converted into a bedroom. The house we found is within walking distance of my daughter's best friend, with enough weirdness to please our son, a greenhouse and raised bed garden with tons of flowers for me and a heated workshop for my husband, and yet in move-in condition. The price was out of our range, but after two years the seller was ready to sell and came down on the price enough to be within our price range, so we have become proud homeowners.

Part of my heart is still up at the end of East End Road. I left friends up there, and I will miss the wide open spaces and privacy of no neighbors within earshot, the long season of snow skiing and snowshoeing from my door, the pond down the drive, all the horses, and the tremendous views of Portlock and Dixon Glaciers. My tradeoff is that now I sit up in bed and see the Homer Spit and ships on the bay, I have a more workable yard (it's mine!), we will have leaves to rake and will get fall colors on the ridge above our home (yellow aspen), and our drive to town does not involve taking a cooler full of food and clothes for an entire day of unknown weather changes.

It is great fun to be able to plan changes for house and yard--to own where we live once again. The kids have discovered ripe strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and watermelon berries right in our yard, and there are many nooks and crannies for them to explore in the house, outbuildings and yard. Best of all, they have had playdates galore. For us, our new place came with a guest cottage, so we are hopeful for company! After all this, I have realized that no "place" can make us happy, and yet people are the joy that keep our lives fresh and meaningful, so our prayer for our home is that it be a source of love and good company.

6 comments:

Andora said...

Your home looks very nice,and I am glad to see you back from your camping trip.I love to look at your blog to see what is there in Alaska..looking forward to next post..take care..

Lisa P. said...

I'm from so. california and I have spent many a Saturday night looking on the internet at houses in Homer. I recognize yours as one of the houses that I really liked. Congrats! (I'll be relocating to Homer in a few years myself).

Ami Peterson said...

Michelle and Family, Looks like you found a great place to call your own! I'm glad to hear you are all getting along and are happy. Sorry we missed you while you were here in Gaylord. We were in AZ visiting my parents.

MichelleW said...

Thanks! Loving the new place--impossible to catch everyone, so maybe next time, Ami, though with mortgage payments now we probably won't get to the Lower 48 as much!

MichelleW said...

Lisa--Good luck looking and finding. It would be scary if some of the of the houses on the market now are still on the market when you actually come up to buy a house up here!

CoachingByPeter said...

Rent-to-own home is another good option in purchasing a house especially if your funds is not that sufficient for a downpayment and monthly mortgage. Just be open with the seller on some conditions on your contract so that both will have the advantage on the set-up.