These seem to be times of transition. I can’t count on two hands all my friends who are going back to school, changing jobs, moving away, divorcing or dying. Each one of them I envy—even the dying and divorcing—for the exhilarating adventures that await them. I’ve always been the one to leave jobs, friends and lovers. But this time I’m staying. I bought a house.
It’s a big house. It’s huge, in fact. Four floors, seven bedrooms, three baths. And it was a fuckin’ steal at $400,000.
Now what exactly I’m doing buying half-million dollar houses I don’t know. The very thought is ludicrous. I didn’t think I could afford a $150,000 house. I’m a stripper, most of my income is undocumented, and I still live hand-to-mouth.
I’ve been looking at houses for two years, but the idea of owning has been abstract at best and terrifying at worst. Hell, I’ve got the world’s best rental downtown that is large, cheap and charming. Anything on the market that is comparable is $200k and up. I thought $200k was outrageous. “Might as well make it $400k!” I joked. “I can’t afford that either!”
But gradually the idea of owning has become more appealing. My greasy rocker boyfriend’s house practically doubled in value in four years. He moved to Spain last year using the equity his house had earned. Another of my friends bought a house ten years ago. She’s lived in L.A. ever since off the rental income generated by it. The more stories like this I’ve heard the more I’ve realized that home ownership isn’t the ball and chain I thought it was, rooting me in Portland for life. Actually, owning a home can be liberating.
Naturally this realization came three years too late. The real estate market in Portland is out of control. People who bought six months ago are selling at a profit. One friend who bought last summer said her house went up $10k the moment she inked the closing papers. Everywhere I go people are talking about real estate. It’s ridiculous. What is this? New York City?
So I’ve been looking at houses all summer, driving to St. John’s, St. Helens, St. So-Fuckin’-Far-Away I’d need a helicopter to commute to work. It was getting depressing. Prices are crazy everywhere. What you get for under $200k is a serious fixer upper (i.e. former meth lab). What you get for $250k is “charming” and in a “hot neighborhood” (i.e. oppressively small and in Vancouver).
Eventually I found a lovely little baby blue bungalow in St. John’s, listed at $210k. I bid nearly ten grand over the asking price but was “significantly outbid” by one of the “many other bidders.” I was heartbroken. I called off the search. The Portland real estate market was already too rich for my blood. I had been outpriced.
Enter my brother, fresh out of the army and bursting with enthusiasm to settle in Portland. He convinced me that between the two of us we could easily afford a $400k duplex. Our mortgage guy agreed, saying that with loans of $200k a piece we were move-in ready. Between the two of them I actually made a bid (and have been suffering panic attacks ever since).
It is beautiful, though. It has high ceilings, nice porches, awesome views and not one, not two, but THREE clawfoot tubs… It’s not in Vancouver and my cats are gonna love it. With a vat of anti-anxiety meds in the medicine cabinet I should be able to enjoy it just fine, too.
(For a seriously miraculous mortgage call 503-805-6567. Stripper-friendly!)