House Thoughts

PreparationJenn and I have one year (and two months) to go on the five-year fixed rate portion of our adjustable rate mortgage. We locked in when interest rates were pretty close to their all-time low so it’s a pretty sweet rate. Without much checking, I know that the interest will be heading up at its maximum-allowed jump as soon as October of ’09 rolls around. Thusly, we’ve been discussing where to live for the past few months. Not so much, “do we remain in Atlanta Metro”, but “where in ATL do we want to live?”

It is almost a certainty that the next home we own will be the place where we raise at least one child and it is one of our goals to stay in that next home for long enough to be really settled. I’m talking a minimum of ten years, possibly longer. This makes for a very important decision, and there are a lot of competing factors:

Space: I confess that we are typical middle class folks who want a big house. It would be nice to have a 5 bedroom 3.5 bath house with a basement. That’s a bedroom for us, two bedrooms as offices (this could be compensated by other rooms, possibly), a bedroom for guests and a bedroom for kids. Seems about perfect.

Not to say that we couldn’t live someplace smaller! We’ve kicked around the idea of a townhouse or condo with much less space. Heck, my oldest sister lives with a husband, two sons and a cat (and a drumset!) in a 800 square foot townhouse in Santa Cruz, CA. If she can do it, we can, too.

Cost: Without much surprise (I’m sure) I’ll tell you that the closer you live to Downtown Atlanta, the more expensive housing costs are.

Location: Also without surprise, I’ll tell you that we spend a lot of time ITP (inside the I-285 perimeter) whilst living OTP (outside the perimeter). It seems like every single person we’ve met in the last year lives about a 35 minute drive away, which adds up fuel costs very quickly. With gas rising in price, I’m thinking this could significantly offset the cost of a close-in home.

We tend to do a lot of things in Downtown (Dragon*Con!) and Midtown, Little Five, Decatur, etc., all of which are not near where we live in Cobb County.

Bus Stop SignTransport Options: Where we live is without a single mass-transit option within 6 miles. In order to effectively use a bus system, I have to drive about halfway to the destinations that the bus would be used for, so there’s no incentive for me to use one. If we lived closer in to town, there would be a lot more options, plus we own bikes which are very convenient methods of transport in central metro Atlanta, not where we live now. Getting close to a MARTA rail station would be a bonus. As it is right now, Jenn has no real option but to drive into Downtown for her job at GA State. I have to drive to my job in Marietta, again with no real option. If we lived closer to the MARTA system, there would be effective options even if we’re occasionally forced to fall back on the car.

SchoolSchools: I mentioned that wherever we live is likely to be the home of a small protoplasmic being, mewing for care, love and attention? And, eventually, schooling. We currently live inside an excellent school district (Cobb County) but as I mentioned before, Cobb is not exactly in the center of things that we like to do.

This is the primary item that might keep us right where we are, or relocated within Cobb County.

Like I said, our ARM is coming to it’s Adjustable stage in another year. We will want to either move or refinance the current house. Our house now has a lot of good features, but I don’t think I want to raise a child in it. For one thing, we don’t know any of our neighbors due to the way it’s situated at the bottom of a hellacious driveway. For another, there’s not much room for play on our large lot. Sure, we’ve got 2 acres, but it’s either swampy poison-ivy-filled forest or steep hill.

I personally think we could do well in a townhouse in Decatur or Midtown, but that would give up the space option (although I wouldn’t have to mow!). There’s a development in Dekalb county that some friends of ours live in that is enticing. It’s called East Lake Commons. We’ve been meaning to go there for one of their community dinners. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that next month.

We’ve got time. We should be making a decision on this soon (this winter). I’ll try to let you all know when we move.

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