Hello fellow Mustachians!
I'm hoping that this wonderful community can share some collective wisdom and help me make a good decision regarding housing, as I'm seriously looking to buy a place in Washington, DC.
Facts and background:
--30 year old renting for the past 6+ years in DC, have several roommates for cheaper rent.
--Current rent is $1060/month in a great neighborhood, but I'm tired of living with five roommates.
--Have a partner, we're looking forward to living together in the near/mid term future; she's a key part of the decision process, but supports my choice. As we are as yet unmarried, the mortgage would be in my name.
--Earn $100k a year, frugal by nature so I sock most of it away, have been saving to build a nest egg, which currently stands at $130k.
--Commute is a 20 minute bike ride to downtown DC.
--Working in international affairs, so my career will always touch DC in some way.
--I know that I want to buy a place in DC (not northern Virginia or Maryland), and I know that what I buy will be rentable/sellable in the future given DC's market.
--Have never owned property before, have just begun to work with a highly recommended real estate agent.
--Am in talks with lenders, have excellent credit, and am being pre-approved for $550k mortgage.
--Regardless of where I end up, I'd get a 30 year fixed mortgage and then pay it off in 15 years or less.
I'm facing two key decision points; please note that in addition to my partner, I'd have another friend live with us, as well, which expands what I can afford.
1) Deciding between a condo/co-op and single-family house. While a condo/co-op would be attractive and easy to maintain, part of me would love to grab a house and invest sweat equity in it over the years. Part of me is intimidated at the cost/amount of work a proper house would require (but also eager to take that work on). I know that a single-family home in DC will appreciate in value significantly more than a condo/co-op. Condo/co-op fees can be exorbitant, which is intimidating, but there's also far less work to do at home, which allows more free time with friends, traveling, fun stuff, etc. I love house projects, but at this stage of life, unmarried and no kids, wary of biting off too much house.
2) Deciding on whether to aim for a place "closer to the action" or further from downtown. My partner and I are young, and the idea of being "far" from friends and fun activities is a little isolating. Granted, "far" in DC is a matter of a few miles, but still, closer to the action means a shorter commute, more fun stuff to do, but also much more expensive.
The back and forth:
--I can absolutely see myself prospering in a 900 sq ft 2BR $400,000 condo in a fun part of town, with no maintenance work to speak of, and thus lots of free time for fun. I love to travel, and I have a large friend circle and we cook together lots. It's unlikely I'd want a condo on the outskirts of town. I don't see myself staying in the condo for more than five years.
--I can also see myself thriving in a 2000 sq ft $600,000 house on the outskirts of DC with a quieter neighborhood, a garden, hosting large gatherings. I couldn't afford a house in DC close to the action unless it was a disaster, and my enjoyable albeit demanding job wouldn't allow for me to take on a a major fixer upper, just decent-size projects. I'm wary of idealizing homeownership, but I know that I want to continue to sink roots into DC. If I bought a condo, lived there for five years, tinkered with it, sold it, and then aimed for the bigger house, a) single family house costs in DC would likely increase drastically in that timeframe, and b) since I know I'd like a house in DC eventually, why not just get one now?
So that's my dilemma, wary of making a wrongheaded move, would greatly appreciate the wisdom of the Mustachian crowd! Thank you!!