I sometimes feel a little bad about not following the conventional advice: Rent first! Live here for a few years, try out different neighborhoods. Then, maybe, buy. We bought after coming here just five times, never staying more than 10 days at a time. Were we rash? Did we rush?
Then we met a seemingly sane couple from Florida who bought a beautiful property in Santa Lucia — on their first trip. Their neighbors from Rhode Island, also apparently sensible, also bought a stunner. They saw what they liked and didn’t want to lose it. Like us, they probably reasoned “if not now, when,” and topped it off with “we’re not getting any younger.” They didn’t want to dither, finding reasons not to buy here. They took a leap of faith. The Florida couple bought in 2009, which is a year before we came, and probably a great year to find stellar properties. It’s twice as hard in 2013. Even the cherry House Hunters International took on a more pessimistic tone in their last episode, repeating the notion that Frank and Dan were late to the game, snagging leftovers from a hot real estate market.
So is a whirlwind romance OK? Or do you have to spend years renting and weighing your options? We’re somewhere in between, because it took us about a year and-a-half before started making offers on houses. In that time we had figured out:
- What neighborhood was right for us (Santa Ana with its quick access to the north)
- We wanted a “ruin” and not a finished house (with God-knows what construction standards, electrical issues and plumbing defects)
- That a garage was a priority, the overall width should be over 9 meters and there should be a pool, or room for one, large enough to swim laps in
- What we were comfortable spending (before multiplying it by three later on)
- What motifs suited us best, and which would wear thin (that is, where we’ll willing to fall on the romantic/rational design spectrum)
- What will we do all day? (With apologies to Theresa for stealing her title.)
- What kind of properties should we avoid? Corner properties, for instance. Houses next to cantinas, salas de fiestas and light-industrial businesses. Bus streets unless we went back more than 50 meters.
We keep getting asked about our time frame, but we don’t have one. We’re aiming broadly into the future, which is something I’ve always done. God laughs at those who make plans.
Postscript: This morning we woke up in our own home for the first time in two weeks. We slept well Mérida, but last night we both had nightmares. I dreamed that we had blindly bought a condo in Mérida. It was constructed of wood, and had decks hanging off the sides, something like the kind you’d find anywhere in the U.S. A band of party animals, feeling entitled, tried to invade our deck for a party. Across the hall were other expats, the kind who entertain constantly. The unit had none of the things that drew us to the region — no courtyards, high ceilings, or privacy. How could we have been so rash? We had lost our heads.
Years ago, I used to have the same nightmare, but set in Connecticut. We love our little English colonial, and for years thought we’d die in it. So I had a recurring dream that we hastily sold it and bought something inferior in its place. So last night, the “what was I thinking” theme returned in my head.
But then I woke up and rationally concluded that I’m thinking clearly. We have thought this through. We don’t know when the house will be done, and when we will inhabit it. But we’re going in the right direction.
I still have the “semester is almost over and I’m short 8 credits” dream, although I think last time Joanna was the dean I had to answer to.