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I Came, I Saw, I Did Not Conquer (Homebuying Series Part 2)

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

This is part two of my series on trying to become a homeowner in Washington, D.C.

So I decided I’m going to buy a house. Not really sure what kind or where at, but definitely want to own a home in DC.

I started to ask myself what kind of place I actually want. I considered a condo. There are plenty of those around the District that are affordable for me, even in Northwest (the most expensive part of the city). I considered a single-family home in the burbs, for the pure fact that I can just get so much house for the money. But neither of these are really my cup of tea. I want a yard for my future dog, and after doing it for the last ten years, I don’t want to live in a one-bedroom apartment anymore, so the condo is a no go. I also don’t want a massive house to have to clean and take care of out in the middle of nowhere, so the single-family is also a no from me.

Instead I decided I want a townhome—and not just any townhome. I want one that has the signature DC charm of a rowhome or federal-style home. I want my home to look old and new at the same time. I want a nice yard just big enough for a small dog but small enough to not require a ton of maintenance. I need curb appeal, a few bedrooms, a couple bathrooms, and a nice kitchen for whenever I finally become a person who cooks.

With that figured out, I got off Zillow and started a real home search.

I officially started my homebuying journey at the end of April, when the person who is now my agent invited me to his office for a first-time buyer consultation. Since my lease isn’t ending until September, I thought it might be a bit early, but then I just happened to chat with my co-worker about how many homes she put offers in on and lost before she finally got one. I figured well, let me go ahead and start now so I can give myself time, but there’s no real rush.

Things have escalated quickly.

The first house I saw was in a new townhome development in Hyattsville, MD (right outside of the District). I had been looking at them online for a while and they were in budget, so I was v excited. That excitement was quickly diminished when I realized what they were showing online was the Cadillac version of the townhome with all the bells and whistles; in real life, the one I could afford was more like Honda. Now, there’s nothing wrong with Honda, but when you show up expecting an Escalade, the Accord is a bit of a let-down. Not to mention that because it was new construction in Prince George’s County, there were all types of fees and costs that were much higher than they would be for a similarly-priced resale home in DC.

That confirmed for me that I needed to be looking in the District (because Virginia is definitely not an option), but the thing is, after more than two years here, I’m not really familiar with any area that I haven’t lived or worked. So basically, most of the District.

My agent took me on a tour of some up-and-coming neighborhoods (the only ones with homes I can afford) and it occurred to me quickly that if I am going to buy in DC, I will definitely be buying in the hood. And I mean, the hood. More on this in my next post.

Over the next week or so after the tour, we saw several homes that left me worried about being able to find anything that works for me in what I thought was my pretty sizable budget. Every house had a “but.” Updated, but tiny. Large, but old and outdated. Nice on the inside, but ugly on the outside. My style of house, but on an ugly or run-down block. After just a few days I was about to throw in the towel and say you know what let me keep this apartment and wait until I have someone in my life who can buy a house with me so I can afford something better!

Then we found one. My agent didn’t even tell me we were going to look at it; we literally just rolled up and he was like surprise, one more house! Um I hate surprises, but I guess this one is okay?!

The house was perfect. A lovely little house on a lovely little block in a lovely little neighborhood near the train and a brand new grocery store (sadly, in this part of D.C., there are only 3 full-service grocery stores, so being near one is rare). The outside was perfectly manicured with fresh new paint and brightly colored door. The inside was cute and cottagey. The back yard was the perfect size and had a brand-new fence and deck. It had curb appeal, a few bedrooms, a couple bathrooms, and a nice kitchen for whenever I finally become a person who cooks—just like I said I wanted.

After discussing with my agent and my lender and my mom (can’t do something this big without her blessing), I made an offer!

I legit told someone I’m willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next at least 30 years for a house in DC. I was excited for about 12 seconds before realizing oh shit, this is real. Am I ready for this? I’ve moved every 1-2 years since I was 18, am I really to be settled and stay in one place? Am I disciplined enough to be a homeowner and take care of my own maintenance issues? Shit I have some summer trips planned, will I have enough money to move?!

Despite these hesitations I felt like this house was special and a rare find, so I went for it. We put in the offer after the house had been on the market for 1 day. By day 3, they had 4 offers (including mine). Welcome to DC. homebuying. I immediately felt deflated, assuming my offer was the worst because it was “only” at the asking price (smh). Turns out, I had one of the best offers. It came down to me and one other person. I was the on the phone with my agent for like two days straight trying to see if we could squeeze out any more money to sweeten my offer. Ultimately I was able to throw in a few thousand more. The seller needed a-whole-nother day to review the offers and “sleep on it” to figure out which one he wanted to take.

After all of that back and forth, turns out the other offer was higher than mine by a few thousand dollars. Seriously?! I probably could have found the money, but I didn’t want to be so blinded by how cute the house was that I started being irresponsible or setting myself up for struggle just to “win.” So I took the L.

The even bigger L than just me losing the place is that I suspect it went to a person or couple that was not of color, another example of how DC continues to lose its “chocolate” every day. I was sad for a bit, but figured, "miss one next 15 one coming, right?" I mean, that can’t be the only nice house in Southeast, right?!

Wrong. It’s been weeks and I’ve seen nothing that compares.

The search continues!

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