on real estate

As a kid, when the newspaper showed up, I didn’t grab the comics section; I took real estate. I’m not sure why. My parents were always interested in architecture and antiques and probably somehow inadvertently passed this interest down to me. I loved scanning the listings for homes with hardwood floors, wraparound porches and original details.

Living in NYC, I was a regular on real estate and restoration blogs. I sometimes even went to open houses for fun. Of course, seeing as how I neither have a trust fund nor work in finance, I could never afford to buy property there. Well, that’s not entirely true. Right before the Foreign Service became a reality Andy and I were toying with the idea of becoming NYC homeowners, but our budget would put us in, at best, a 700-square-foot two-bedroom in a less than desirable neighborhood probably an hour from work. And we’d be paying that off for 30 years. Hardly ideal.

So, fast-forward to the present. We’re currently living in Rosslyn, an area that’s convenient and safe and totally fine, but also a little soul-crushing for someone who gets so much pleasure from old, quirky architecture. (Andy’s description of Rosslyn in a previous post is spot on: “The dominant architectural style appears to be 1990s Corporate Apartment.”)

One day when I was feeling a little sorry for myself and wishing I’d done more research before committing to our DC digs, we decided to venture out to explore neighborhoods that seemed more our speed.

These pictures were taken around Logan Circle. Love it! Upon returning home we promptly hopped on some real estate sites. Prices aren’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re also not in the it’s-never-in-your-wildest-dreams-going-to-happen range we grew accustomed to in NYC.


But just because we can own, should we? I realize real estate is a much smarter place to stash our money than in the low-yield savings account it’s mostly now all in. (I know, I know. I keep meaning to get on this.) I also of course love the idea of having a house to decorate and restore however I like. And the potential to get some rental income while we’re overseas doesn’t hurt either.

At the same time, not having a trust fund or finance job isn’t actually the biggest reason I’ve made it to age 28 without buying property. Truth be told, there’s something very appealing to me about being untethered.

What about other FSOs out there? Why did you decide to become a homeowner, or why are you holding out?

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7 Responses to on real estate

  1. rich kolker says:

    I own a townhouse out in Ashburn. Not as much charm, but a lot less money. Right now its rented and bringing in enough to cover the mortgage payments.

    I’ve been an owner in Texas, Florida and Virginia for the past 20+ years, and love the idea that the place is mine and what I do to it is for me. That it’s building equity doesn’t hurt either. The decision in the Washington area is do you want in-town or out in the suburbs? Take some time to drive around and look around before making a decision.

  2. David L. says:

    I had to laugh at those pictures because I recognized all of those homes as my sister-in-law’s neighbors as she lives in Logan Circle.

    Our “plan” is to look to buy (probably in Arlington) after our second post, then do our third in D.C. Buy a home, live there for a year or so until we are on the move again, and then hope to rent it out until we come back.

  3. Daniela says:

    Homeownership is great in a lot of ways but it can be problematic too.

    For us, it has been bitter-sweet. We bought our first home in FL about 7 years ago. It was a modest 2-bedroom in a very nice neighborhood by a beautiful park and close to downtown. We put a lot of work in updating it and added a large master bedroom. It was the home where our daughter was born and spent the first years of her life. We have a lot of fond memories from the place. Unfortunately, it has been sinking. We have had to fix the damage several times and pay for the fixes ourselves because the home insurance we had wouldn’t cover the damage. Then we got the Foreign Service “call” and found that we can’t sell the house as is, even though we had already fixed most of the damage. So we are now in a legal dispute with two insurance companies that dropped our claims. It’s a David vs. Goliath type of experience. We are trying to mediate and perhaps settle out of court before we go overseas. We are going to need a lot of luck.

    Best of luck too, should you decide to invest! Make sure you research the area and the property thoroughly before you buy.

  4. gramma says:

    some day

  5. Ed says:

    My wife (the FSO) and I decided to buy property and build before we ever got to this point in our lives and (don’t yet) regret it, mostly for the “home base” idea. We’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it, and hope at least to cover the mortgage with the rental income. Better to invest now and have a 30 yr fixed rate before inflation whacks everything out.

  6. Acacia says:

    I would do it! Interest rates are great now and the trend is certainly exactly as you stated: real estate is a good investment! Go for it! I own with my brother and we’ve really been happy with our decision. The timing was right for us in 2009 and it still is!… we’d like to get a second place when finances allow. Good luck!

  7. Jill says:

    We are on our way back to the US after 7 years overseas … well, the kids and I are on our way back, my husband is actually going to Iraq… So next year when he returns we’ll be buying a place somewhere in the DC area.

    Sure we could rent, but why? The rents aren’t cheap out there … so basically I’d be paying someone else’s mortgage for the few years we’re there. And after living in USG housing for the past 7 years – let me tell you how nice it will be to paint my own walls, change my own bulbs / fixtures, and fix things the right way when they are broken!!

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