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Buying a Vacation/Retirement Home (Part 5)

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[The following is the fifth part in a series about my adventures to buying a vacation/retirement home. It may make more sense to read it after Buying a Vacation/Retirement Home and Buying a Vacation/Retirement Home (Part 2), Buying a Vacation/Retirement Home (Part 3), and Buying a Vacation/Retirement Home (Part 4). There's also a prequel at Time to Buy that Vacation/Retirement Place?.]]

When I finished part 4 of the series, I wasn't convinced there would be a part 5. We had reached an impasse in negotiations with the place both my wife and I agreed was the best fit. We started to turn our attention towards another place, the Barbie Dream House (BDH) as my wife called it, but putting 20% down would eat up all of our emergency fund - which wasn't an option for me.

After many hours of talking with the mortgage guy our agent recommended, it didn't look like we could come up with anything. We do quite well on a cashflow basis, we were a few month shy from a place where I thought we could make the down payment. It looked like our plans were pretty much dead in the water. Our real estate agent, of all people, came up with a solution. We could get 80% financing from the bank and 10% from the seller's. I think I've heard of seller's financing, but it's been a long time, so it didn't occur to me. Odd that it didn't occur to our mortgage guy either (I'm really starting to doubt his competency). Anyway, we could actually put 15% down and only do seller financing for 5%, but we figured we'd stick with the 10 and 10 and pull out the 15% in negotiations.

Everything was falling into place until three things came up:

  • There was a pending government shutdown scheduled for early March. It was not known if my wife would continue to be paid with no budget in place. They found a way to put something temporary in place, but it's still a concern. In the long-term, this shouldn't be an issue, but any uncertainty is enough to give us pause.
  • A good friend brought this article to my attention. The Case-Shiller report came out and things looked bad, real bad. These people from Standard and Poor's kind of know their stuff. Robert Shiller said, "There's a substantial risk of home prices falling another 15%, 20% or 25%." Later in the article, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research said he thinks the price drop will be closer to 10% or 15%. We are in no rush, so there's no need to catch a falling knife.
  • My wife found an article about Chase bank foreclosing on the military, while they have been off fighting overseas. To combat this bad PR, Chase looks like they are creating an opportunity for active military families (like ours) to get a 4% 30-year fixed mortgage rate. That would be an outstanding help. The catch is that Chase doesn't quite know how the program will work. It is announcing more details in April. We are hoping to qualify and cautiously optimistic about it. Waiting would give us more clarity on that.

In addition to all this, my mother came through with an awesome voice of reason. Why buy the BDH and then rent it out for 10 years until retirement? It's not going to be the BDH at that point. I have to agree. It's almost a little like buying a new car and then letting someone else enjoy the pleasure of dependable driving for 5 years, and then taking the car for yourself. Unless you are leasing it out for a pretty penny, it doesn't make sense.

I think this creates a fundamental problem in our plan. My wife wants a place that looks great now. I'm thinking that it better to get something that's at least got a little wear and tear. For example the place that I liked was built in 2003, but it's been rented out since then as the couple divorced soon after. It's nice now, but it's not brand new. In 10 years, when we are looking to move in, we may need to update some appliances and do some fixes. At least at that point, we'd be able to fix it to suit ourselves. This is in contrast with the BDH, where you get in a situation where everything is going to be still too good to junk it, but not the brand new BDH that it is today.

In the end, it may be a good thing that we have these problems. If prices are expected to continue to drop, we may just save ourselves from a financial mistake. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Last updated on August 1, 2011.

This post deals with: ... and focuses on:

Real Estate

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4 Responses to “Buying a Vacation/Retirement Home (Part 5)”

  1. ” I think I’ve heard of seller’s financing, but it’s been a long time …”

    When my parents sold their dairy farm, they sold on installment basis (actually, just Mom sold, as Dad died shortly before the sale). They made a very safe 6% at a time when rates were falling (and the market was doing its “volatile” thing). Worst case scenario would have been if the buyers defaulted and Mom would have to foreclose … and re-sell at a higher price, since the value of Iowa farmland continued to rise.

    For two folks who never made it past 8th grade (it was a different time, and quite common at the time), they were pretty shrewd on the business side of things.

  2. David says:

    even though i agree prices may fall a bit further, don’t let this weigh on your decision at all. there is no guarantee prices will fall, and if you think you’ll ever catch the bottom your dreaming. either way these prices are low, and over the long term you should do fine, but it has to be long term. the decision should be more if you have the money and find the right place, and hopefully not be dropping cash into it constantly. you have to find something that is to your liking as well as cash flow positive.

    • Lazy Man says:

      Thanks for the comment David.

      I don’t aim to hit the absolute bottom, but the idea is to get as close to the bottom as possible. The average of the two experts that I quoted in the article say the market is going to drop another 20%. On a hypothetical purchase of a $350K house, that’s a $70K drop. That too me, isn’t a little further… it’s a lot further.

      I agree with your thoughts on finding a cash flow positive place. However, it’s the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy in where we are looking – it simply doesn’t exist. The one place that could get close is a place that my wife doesn’t like, which isn’t much of a retirement home.

  3. […] Buying a Vacation/Retirement Home (Part 5) […]

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