BY AARON STELLA “Oh Osh magosh me? A house? Mortgages and mahogany? Brunches and backsplashes? Go pick on someone your own size!” Was what I told my broker/boss at CITYSPACE, a real estate agency, when she asked me if I was considering buying a house anytime soon. That was November 2009. I was 24-years-old and in my sixth month employed at CITYSPACE as their Web Content Associate. I possessed relatively little knowledge about real estate and home owning, and to me, people just didn’t purchase homes until they’re ready to settle down.
A few weeks after my broker poked me about the house thing, she drove me deep into the heart of South Philadelphia under the pretense of buying me lunch. As we passed through the neighborhoods, she outlined each one’s financial history, including what certain properties sold for, taxes, trends in architecture, interior design, surrounding amenities, culture, nightlife—you get the picture. “Let her have her moment,” I thought. But then she pulled over. Beside us stood a handsomely weathered stucco row home with a blue “for sale” sign buttressed out the façade. Inside, my broker remarked at the quality of the hardwood flooring, choice of tiling in the kitchen and bathroom, size of the bedrooms, lack of a washer/ dryer and HVAC and feng shui of the floor plan altogether. She then asked my opinion of the place. I wasn’t diggin it, so we set off for another property, then another, and another, and another, until we finally found one that got me all shiny. And five months later on April 6th, 2010, I settled on my first home, which is currently under renovations. I expect to be in and settled before June.
Welcome, my friends, to the intro edition the First-Time Home Buyers Column. Now I’ll be honest, I’m not a REAL-TOR or real estate savvy by nature. I don’t go dashing over to the Inquirer newsstand everyday to get my average house price statistics and I don’t cozy up for a nice read of Philly’s real estate blogs on my morning routine, because frankly, real estate, from a non-homeowner’s perspective, can be frightfully boring, and for a prospective and/or current homeowner, acutely maddening. Acquiring a mortgage will make you want to drink (they’re like trying to get student loans on steroids), working with contractors will feel kind of like asking a refrigerator to pass the LSAT, and the prerequisites for home owning will seem like they change every time you look over your shoulder. So I’d be lying if I said it was all gumdrops and sunshine. But consider this: to own your first home is to begin your education in the ways and means of the ownership society. It’s also possibly the safest, fastest and most sustainable way to accumulate wealth: it’s stock you can live in, essentially (in the same vein that you can’t live in your GE or Hulk comic book stock), tax write-offs are plentiful, and heck, it’s your house, you can mess it up, dress it up, take it salsa dancing or let it sit pretty and still profit from the equity when you two decide to part.
But we’ll tackle more of that later. For the time being, I’ll be chronicling my foray into home ownership, and my education about wealth management. I want ya’ll to know about this stuff. The good, the bad and the ugly. Frankly, because you need to know — and the sooner the better. When you really think about it, the ownership of property is where everything begins and ends. So my hope is that, by sharing my experiences, I can help equip future home owners with the savvy they need to make educated decisions and equip others similarly, thereby creating a more competitive market, better products and more equal conditions for everyone. Huzzah! So again, welcome to the first edition of the First Time Home Buyers Column. Until next time, folks…