Thursday, September 13, 2007

Too Many Choices, or: Oh, the F-ing Money!!!

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a terrible time choosing. I always feel as though the thing/path/whatever I choose will leave me eventually regretting not having made some other choice, and so there I am, paralyzed. This happens with everything.
In fact, I just called to Simon (who's in the other room) and asked, "Simon, what are some of the things I have difficulty choosing--as in, deciding between?"

He had no problem rattling off a list: "What to eat, what to wear, where to live, what house to buy, whether or not to go out--on a Monday night or a Thursday night--interior decor, what career path to take--"

"Okay, got it."

I have several choices on my plate right now.

First, do we want to buy the house we've been planning to buy--for nearly a year now--or do we want to buy the house that has gone up for sale three doors down from said house.

The house that has gone up for sale is a heckuva deal, and it's a double (which, for those not familiar with shotgun houses, means that it is twice as wide as a "single"--28 feet instead of 14). It has a sound roof, sound windows, new vinyl "wood-style" siding, two beautiful Eastlake (historically accurate) doors, lovely "lace" trim, and a live oak tree in the back yard. It's also on a corner lot that affords a view of both the Mississippi River levee and the Industrial Canal levee. And, it's cheap. (I feel confident that there are no aggressive real estate investors reading my blog, otherwise I wouldn't even write about it, so steal-y is this steal.) Depending on other condition-factors, it could even mean that we'd be able to do fancy interior things--like a walk-in shower and the custom concrete counter tops we want but can't afford to have in the single.


Doubles are a dime a dozen in New Orleans. Singles are much less common. I like less common.

Doubles are typically darker because they are split in two with an interior wall (so they have windows on just one side) We would knock down the center wall, "converting" the double to a large single, but it will still not be as light as our single will be.

There's no porch on the front, and no place, therefore, to sit and watch the sunset (and the sunsets in Holy Cross are remarkable. Re-mark-a-ble.) Our single has a porch. But the double has a better view, even without a porch.

The live oak in the back yard of the double is short and heavy and makes the back yard feel dark and contained. Our yard in the single is bald, and will require a lot of landscaping.

The double sits at a dead end that ends at the Holy Cross campus. That dead end could potentially be used for a future entry, or for construction-access during what will likely be a long and messy renovation of the very large campus.

The double, however, will not require any adding on. It will be big enough for us to have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, and an office. And it will cost us probably the same as the single, which is smaller and will require adding on in the long run.

This, my dear readers (whom I have now utterly bored) is what happens in my head. With everything. Sometimes I feel like my head is a giant swirling mess of pro-con, pro-con, pro-con--and what's frustrating is that all the pro/con-ning never seems to lead me to any confident ends. I still feel worried when I finally choose one or the other.

What is this about? I mean really, is it some American culture thing, or genes--or a combination?

Anyways, if you want to weigh in on my house pro-conning, go ahead. Simon and I have finally decided that the single--the house we've been thinking about for a year--is the one we feel connected to and the one that "feels" like home. The double would likely be a better investment.

We, however, see a home as home, not as an investment.

Speaking of homes, tonight's Holy Cross Neighborhood Association meeting was informative. I learned that there is, in fact, a good deal of discomfort surrounding the building of the Global Green ("Brad Pitt") houses. Evidently, when representatives from Global Green were initially meeting with the neighborhood association, the priority was on being able to build homes that were both energy-efficient "green" homes, and homes whose material and building-processes could be replicated in other parts of the neighborhood.

The prototype home that has been built, however, is "stick-built," which I guess means made of lumber and built entirely on site (I think initially the hope was the that homes could be made into environmentally-sound modulars, or could at least be replicated in a more economically-feasible way.) Not only is there building process not an easily-replicable one--or their materials easily attained--but they are expensive. I believe the estimated building cost of the initial prototype home is over $200K. It will be sold for between $150 and $200K.

Now, I realize that this may sound like a steal to the rest of the country, but this is a lot of money here--particularly because the cost of insuring a $150K home is around $3K/year, which breaks down to just under $300. The note, itself, would run around $800 (with mortgage insurance, because no one here has the money to put 20% down. That rainy-day/house fund was spent on--guess what?--an evacuation and return to a much more expensive city.) Add it up and you have a monthly note of $1,100. Add to that utilities, expenses, and all the other accouterments associated with home ownership, and you're up there.

Plus, we live in a city that pays a pittance to just about everyone. Simon and I, as I have mentioned many times, are having a hard time sorting out how we are going to pay for our own home (which will be around $150K). Why? Because we are both teachers who are payed below the national average, but we're living in a city whose cost of living has increased by 40%.

Linda Novak, the recording secretary of the HCNA, asked John Williams, the Global Green designer, to explain why Global Green had not communicated with the community about all of the changes to the project they had made. Another resident wondered about cost. When I offered the cost I'd read in the paper, it was backed up by John, and in the room, heads shook slowly and tongues clicked.

The thing is, too: say they pay a lot to build these houses, and then they get soft-second mortgages and maybe even some serious buy-downs for the owners--well what then? How will they afford adequate insurance? How will Global Green ensure that the owners won't simply sell? How will it work?

I don't know. I was all high on my almost meeting Brad Pitt that I don't think I really even thought about what was actually happening, and how it will change the nature of the neighborhood.

Oh--what I loved: how John said that he really didn't have adequate answers (he did promise to have Global Green come to next week's meeting to communicate fully with the community), but that he did know that there would be a safe haven from storms for us. So even if we can't afford the homes, we can use their safe have to huddle in come storm season. Hmm...

The problem appears to be that Global Green said one thing to the HCNA and then--surprise, surprise (especially when it comes to PR and big money--even if it does have a worthy cause behind it)--they did another. In their case, they don't feel paralyzed by too many choices or potential regret. Dudes got the money, so they're going to spend it and worry later.

Reminds me of many-a-botched investment. Is this what we're doing with our little house? Buying because we love it and worrying later?

Oh, the f-ing money!!!

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