I’ve lived and rented in Gainesville eleven years now. For so long my big goal was to leave, go to San Francisco, to Atlanta, to some music hub somewhere, but the past year, ups and downs and all, has made me rethink my position.
Particularly this year my work and the people I work have been great and I really treasure being able to bike to work and take off riding across campus for lunch, not to mention not having to buy so much gas. The bitter cold we ran into on our recent D.C. trip reminded me what real Winter is like and I’d just assume leave it up there and visit for the novelty of it. Yeah, Gainesville’s Summer and Fall is oppressively hot if you’re out on foot, so I’ll ride or roll. For a small town Gainesville has quite a lot of great food options these days. Our old favorites: the Plaza Coffee Shop, Leonardo’s, Caribbean Spice, Hogan’s, Nero’s, Las Margaritas and even El Toro. Our great newer places: Satchel’s, the Top, La Tienda, Mi Apá Latin Cafe, Brick Oven. I think that new Bubble Tea place is going to get a lot of business from my friends and I once the heat really kicks in. Although we don’t see all the touring bands that the NE does, we still see plenty of shows in town and in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Atlanta.
So Steve Buys a House
With all the above in consideration, what I else could I do? Of course I should’ve done this years ago, it just wasn’t even on the radar. I’d always thought it would seem like an anchor holding me here or that I really wouldn’t be able to afford it on my own, but I was wrong. I started looking April 11th. I enlisted help from friends and family. My sister called and tried to give me 20 years of mortgage brokering advice in an hour, but mostly left me in a daze. I drove all around Gainesville for four hours one afternoon and went down so many foreign streets that I felt like I was in a new city a couple blocks from home; it’s amazing how you can live for so long in such a small town and see so little of it. I bought a digital camera. I searched my target zip codes in realtor.com every morning then looked up the seller’s notes in realestateingainesville.com. I made bookmarklets to make this process instant and collected all of this info on a web site. I drove by places almost every afternoon and took pictures. At first I seemed to be getting nowhere with the local realtors so I eventually decided to work with a sweet lady in High Springs that helped some friends find their house.
Eventually I started bidding on houses. I say "bidding" because right now it’s completely a seller’s market in Gainesville and a house with any kind of curb appeal will fetch a half dozen offers, over the asking price, within the first two days. I was outbid twice in two weeks and was pretty disgusted with the whole process, particularly these investors who don’t really even consider offers. They just sit and wait for people to outbid each other until they have the buyer covering every penny of their closing costs. It was a huge letdown to lose the second place, but I felt pretty confident that paying $30k over comparably-sized homes in the area wasn’t a good idea. There are plenty of great houses I can’t afford, it just turned out that this was one of them.
After about a month of letting my home search complete take over my life, I finally found it. I walked in to find the evening sun lighting up an open living room with wood floors to my right, a cozy open kitchen directly ahead, a connected office/storage area farther to the right, and, at the far side of the house, a big room with durable carpet ready for amps and drums. Turning left, down the hall were two carpeted bedrooms on the left and a master bedroom on the right with a bright parquet floor and it’s own full bath. The future "rock room", if you will, was a sizeable porch that was nicely enclosed and a door on the left led to a little stone patio area and a wide backyard with a storage barn (well, it looks like a miniature barn). After this quick 5 minute walk-through I knew I had to act fast (in fact, another realtor pulled up to the house at the same time and we all came in together) so we started writing up the contract immediately and she faxed it over a couple hours later.
As it turns out I was just one of three who put in offers over their asking price, but I was the only one pre-approved for my loan (Thank you, Ruth!) so they accepted! I’ve slowly slid back into life as usual, but I still find myself wanting to pull listings and eyeing for sale signs just out of habit and curiosity. The next steps are inspections, an appraisal and finding homeowner’s insurance. Although I close in late June, I can’t move in until later in July, maybe as late as the 25th, but this is ideal since I can’t get out of my lease here until July 31st. As of the closing date the sellers will be renting the house from me until they find their new place, so this works out for the both of us.