Many of us have dreams of building a home around what we love. Maybe you've outgrown your little starter house or you're looking for property closer to the lift. Perhaps you're just sick of paying rent. Usually it’s simply about creating a place that reflects yourself, your family and the things you love.
In some ways, buying a home for those whose lives revolve around our outdoor pursuits is just the same as any other real estate purchase, but in other ways, we're looking for totally different things than commuting to a 9-5 from a McMansion in the suburbs. Here are all considerations an adventurer should take into account before laying down roots.
THE TRADE OFF:
There's something about owning a home.
It's rearranging the bedroom so you wake to the sunrise instead of the TV. It's not asking anyone's permission to build a mini ramp. It's exploring solar, upcycling material for projects, composting, and planting organic veggie gardens to create a sustainable home in line with your ethos. It's organizing the garage into a clubhouse full of snowboards, mountain bikes, and surfboards with a workbench and a fishing pole rack hanging from the ceiling. It's part of settling in and designing the life that you, or you and your partner want.
But you know what else is awesome? Those powder days at Whistler last year, 14 days in New Zealand or the snowmobile you have your eye on.
“You have to make some decisions,” Mike Carvajal, a loan originator for Equity Prime Mortgage tells ASN. “You want to make sure you can still swing that trip to Nica or Montana when you’re paying your mortgage.”
Owning a home is going to be a big change to your lifestyle. First off, you might as well get comfortable in those "Contractor Parking" spots at Home Depot. You're going to be there every day.
You also have to think long and hard about the sacrifices. Are you going to be missing those weekends hiking out of bounds because you're working a second job? Will you not get another stamp on your passport for six years? There will be sacrifices. But you have to consider which ones are worth making.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION:
Where do you want to live? Hell, where do any of us want to live? We want a beach house or a trailside chalet. We want to ride our bike out the door to our favorite single track or keep a boat tied off the back deck.
The reality is that the beaches and mountain resorts of the world are prime real estate. The median listing price for homes in Malibu is $3.3 million. In Vail, it's $1.65 million. Maybe keep expectations in check.
U.S. real estate markets and the economy in general are getting stronger. In general, we had ten years straight where you could grab something affordable, but now buyer's and seller's markets are determined more regionally.
If you're not able to buy something with beach sand or a snowy slope at your doorstep, find somewhere that is reasonably close to the coast or the hill. Then consider the traffic and time it will take you to get there.
“I grew up two blocks from the beach. Now I live across the bridge, 10 minutes away and I surf more than I ever did,” says Carvajal, “Proximity is great, but when you’re a little further from prime real estate, you can get a little more for your money. You can have a garage. You have a vision for how you want to set up all your stuff. I have 30-plus boards plus kayaks, the kids’ stuff and all the other paraphernalia. I could never fit all that stuff if I bought on the barrier island.”
If you're into biking, fresh water fishing, climbing, or trail running, you might fare a bit better. Property out in the country is a good deal cheaper, so you may actually be able to score your dream house in relative proximity to your happy place. You might also score a lot more land.
There are basics for first time homeowners whether your car smells like rancid wetsuits and a sweaty bike helmet or not.
If you randomly have a few hundred grand at your disposal, you'd be in a helicopter over Jackson Hole right now instead of reading this silly article. Let's assume you're going to need a mortgage. There are a lot of first time home owner programs and incentives worth looking into. Every month, you’ll make payment that includes your mortgage principal, interest, property taxes and homeowner’s insurance on one bill.
You will also need to cough up a down payment, which is about 20 percent of the price of the home. Now, there are certain programs where you don't have to put that much down but then you will be paying mortgage insurance. So on top of this hefty nut you pay every month, you'll be paying an additional fee until you're at 20 percent.
This is where the trade-off comes in. Is this the best time to buy or would it be worth it to grind out another year and save up to 20 percent?
Also, consider the future. Is the property prone to floods or wildfires? Are home values on the rise or falling in that neighborhood? Even if you don’t have kids yet, what is the school system like? That could be a huge issue in four years.
Yes, you can buy a house without a realtor. No, it is not recommended.
At the end of the day, as a homebuyer, you rarely save by not using a real estate agent. Even if you know where you want to live and feel you know houses, there are 50 legal steps to buying a home that you don't know. A realtor is key in navigating all those hurdles.
Furthermore, realtors and mortgage reps rely heavily on networking. Carvajal says 100 percent of his clients hear of him by word of mouth and a portion of that are people he knows through his local surf community.
“We’re a tribe just like any other group. Just the other day I was in the water and this kid who we surf and skate with in his mid 20s asked me about building credit. We were literaly paddling next to each other discussing the basic things you need to do when you want to buy a house,” explains Carvajal.
“You want to have a realtor or mortgage rep who’s going to have a similar vision. You don’t want to go with someone who has no grasp of your lifestyle and community.”
Not every house has to put you into financial stress. Tiny homes, houseboats and other creative abodes let you own a home without all the overhead and property tax.
Again, think long and hard on this one. Mike Basich's tiny home at Donner Summit is epic, but can you swing it? Zoning and buildable lots become complicated pretty quick. How fun is that houseboat through a cold winter? Where do you sleep in a tiny house when your partner snores like a jet?
POTENTIAL FOR INCOME:
The most obvious idea is to have a housemate. Let someone else pay the rent while you're in the Caribbean next winter.
And let's say that you are able to nab a killer spot near the coast or in some gorgeous valley. Is your home someplace others would like to stay?
Maybe you're in a happening town and folks might rent a room of your house through Airbnb. Or maybe you can get really creative and live in a trailer, loft or garage for the season and rent out your whole house via VRBO/HomeAway. Being on this side of the sharing economy is huge for people trying to make ends meet in resort areas.
Keep in mind, it's also a lot of work to create, maintain, market and host. You pay some bills and meet cool people. On the flipside, it's less time at your favorite trail or brewery.
THE FUN PART:
It’s possible that you will never work as much as you do when you first buy a home. If you have talent or knowledgeable friends, you’ll find energy you never thought you had for redoing kitchens, landscaping and building decks to enjoy your morning coffee. Put hooks into the ceiling and hang that hammock your landlord wouldn’t allow. Every piece of art you hang, every succulent you pot and every rain barrel you build makes a house more of the home you’ve always wanted.
That may cut into your time off the grid, but you’ll start to find the adventures in your own backyard that much more enjoyable.
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