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Get this. Average mortgage rates are at an ALL TIME low. Fixed fifteen year rates at 4.73%, thirty year rates at 5.34%. So lemme bust out my TI BA II Plus business calculator. Okay, so if I signed a fifteen year loan and only wanted to pay $410/month (what my rent was for this year), I could afford a house priced at $54,000. $1000 per month would get me a $130,000 house. If I instead went with a thirty year loan, for $410/month I could afford a $75,000 house, and for $1000/month I could get into a $182,000 house!!

Of course, this is assuming I could qualify for these rates, and ignores other ways to spend money, like homeowner's insurance and mortgage insurance and property taxes and the water and energy bills, not to mention the upkeep on a house and all the emergencies, replacements and repairs (hot water heater, foundation leaks, AC/heater unit, plumbing, termites, etc.). Just having a house doesn't mean you have a home either--I'd have to have things to put in the house. But clearly it's not that out of the question.

So what can you get these days in the area? Well, for $42,000 I really like THIS little bungalow. It's outside of Eustace, wherever that is. Oh, they don't have pictures of the interior or anything, but it looks nice from the outside. I'd bet property taxes are absolutely rock bottom. I bet I could get into that place for about $250/month. That would be sweet.

Then for $55,000 there's THIS place. No exterior picture, and only two bedrooms. But the description: "Your own treetop view overlooking the creek, very quiet, no one's above you, lovely mirrored entry, high-vaulted ceilings, gorgeous fireplace". Oh yah, that sounds sweet! Kinda up in the wilderness, and QUIET. I could pay what I pay for this apartment monthly and STILL get a fifteen year loan for that place. Insane.

Looking at higher-dollar houses, for $125,000 there's THIS humble place. Four bedrooms is perfect. The master bedroom would probably be the audio-video room for me--home theater, computer(s), video games, the stereo. One would be a guest bedroom, one would be the study/library, one would be my bedroom. I could own the place in fifteen years at $1000 per month. For $160,000, there are a lot of houses like THIS one available. Beautiful and very comfy, no doubt.

Two more that jumped out at me. First, THIS place, at $154,000, just looks great. It's near where I grew up. I'm a sucker for descriptions like "Vaulted ceilings add to spacious atmosphere, huge formal dining room, charming breakfast room adjacent to kitchen, large living room, master bathroom has jetted tub and a separate shower". Dang, that's nice. Then THIS place is notable because for $165,000, it's over 3,500 square feet (huge, and it's all downstairs) and has a pool and a huge place in which to play basketball (see the pro-style hoop?). I mean, that kicks ASS!

You can get places like THIS for prices like $418,000, and it's a nice little castle, but more than a single person needs by a LOT. I mean, read the description. Actually, most of these are more than a single person *needs*, but I really want to start buying a house by some time in 2005 (and yes, I'm hoping rates don't take some huge leaps by then). So let me dream a little. Anyway, the point of diminishing returns, for me, is reached right at about $150,000-$160,000 it seems. I don't need a place to raise a family, or a three car garage, or a bunch of what some folks deem "luxury". Besides, that, I can't afford it. By the way, $5 million gets you THIS--twelve car garage, 4.7 acres (about 450 feet x 450 feet), six humongous bedrooms (32x15!), tennis courts, several auxiliary houses on property (two story guest house, party house, servants' quarters, two large apartments), wine closets, pool, etc. See, that's too much.

Here's the thing. I've kind of signed off on the idea of getting a nice car, or a sportbike (doesn't mean I don't like em). I don't want to travel the world. I'm not going to be raising a family. I may be starting my own business at some point, doing something like comprehensive financial planning (monthly budgeting, insurance, debt consolidation, retirement planning, research, short-term savings advice, wills, etc.), but I'll probably be forty-five years old by then. But I don't want to live in an apartment all my life. I'm just about ready to be done throwing my money away like this. Basically, the "prize" I'm aiming at right now is a house, as opposed to some of the other things people yearn for.

I mean, Jesus, it was EIGHT years ago I first moved in to The Hampshire apartments. Eight bleedin' years. Where am I now? Living in The Hampshire apartments. Hehe. Oh, I lived in three other apartments in the meantime (the two bedroom Quail Court with M, the super-nice but super expensive Landmark Gardens in Irving, and the default, run-down Tower Village right next to UD). But it's time ta go.

Nicest place I've lived was Landmark Gardens. The place was brand new and I was the very first resident. It was extraordinarily nice the first few weeks before anyone else moved in. It was the perfect place to recover from my "relationship" with M. It was a very nice place, but I knew I couldn't stay there too long. I can't remember exactly, but it was over $600 a month. Other than that place, I've lived in a slum (Park West, before The Hampshire), an efficiency (both stints at The Hampshire), with a skanky whore (Quail Court), and with a roommate (Tower Village). So LG was fun--lots of space, perfectly clean, good detailing. I liked having the space--multiple rooms to exist in or sleep in, lots of space to move around, plenty of storage space. I liked housesitting my mother's house and having all the space. And quiet.

But I don't want to live at another Landmark Gardens, I want an actual home, that I own. No neighbors right on the other side of all the walls and above my head making noise. No maintenance people barging in whenever they want. Equity. The ability to make changes. But it wouldn't hurt if it were as nicely put-together as that place.