To Buy or To Rent

Stephen and I are ready for a change in location. Charlotte’s been great, but what it offers – events, sports, breweries – no longer lines up with what makes us happy. It’s also getting more and more expensive.

Last summer, we had two beach trips – one to Hilton Head, SC and one to Wilmington, NC. Towards the end of our second trip, during a long walk along the coastline, we realize what does make us happy – the beach. The views, the smells, the sounds, and the feeling of the sand on my feet really just makes me feel so good. And Stephen, who showers nearly twice a day, is a different person at the beach. He’ll take a dip in the ocean and then NOT EVEN SHOWER. (I know, crazy.)

We consider our options. California is out. Way too expensive. Besides, the water there is ALWAYS cold. And I’m not gonna lie, I’ve gotten accustomed to the warm summer nights on the east coast. I missed them. How about Puerto Rico? There’s a lot of tax incentives to move there (so Stephen tells me). Our parents are not thrilled about this suggestion. I am up for the adventure, for moving far away, but after a trip in November, we decide that we’re just not ready for that leap yet (shotty internet, no hot yoga). Perhaps Wilmington? It’s a cute little beach town, not yet overrun with people and hotels and chains. It’s got a lot of charm to it. And it’s got everything we need, which isn’t a lot – gyms, restaurants, shops, an airport, the beach. Actually, Wilmington seems like the perfect option!

Now we need to figure out if we should rent or buy. I’ve always rented, and I’ve always enjoyed it. There’s no permanence to renting, and if something breaks, you just call someone and they come fix it (hopefully). If we do decide to rent, there’s an apartment complex that we like that it’s in a great location.

Buying though, has a lot of appeal. Having something that is completely ours, to do what we want with it and have visitors and host and oh my God, PAINT! I am so sick of white walls in my life.

Stephen has been on Zillow non-stop, scoping out everything that fits our criteria. What’s in our criteria? Cost, location (proximity to beach/safety/what’s nearby), 2-4 bedrooms, at least two bathrooms, and preferably something that doesn’t need a lot of work.

There are two single-family homes that seem to fit a lot of criteria – possibly. It’s hard to tell some things just by looking at them online. Then a townhome pops up and Stephen is really excited about it. He suggests we drive the 3.5 hours to see it and the other two houses.

We meet with a realtor at 11am. Her name is Happy. Yes, really, and yes, it’s a big part of why we contact her in the first place. Who doesn’t want someone helping them buy a home who’s name is Happy??

Happy takes us to the townhome first. It’s in a real hotspot in that these units don’t stay on the market very long. The road takes you directly to the beach, two miles away, and there’s a huge sidewalk to ride your bike on. 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, end unit, pretty small. Stephen and I don’t need a lot of space, but after living together in a loft-style apartment for the last year and a half, we are both looking forward to having some privacy. Three bedrooms is perfect: one for us, an office for Stephen, and a guest bedroom that I can call my “office.” All I need is a desk and a chair and I’m set. Just a nice space to write that’s my own. That sounds nice.

This place has been completely renovated, flipped by the previous owner. The floors are a pretty gray laminate, the kitchen is small but has been completely redone. Sure, the stove is electric (Stephen and I really want a gas range) but we can get a grill and put it on the back deck – because this place has one. Everything is new – the doors, the windows, the floors, the bathrooms, the kitchen. It feels brand new. It feels so clean and nice. Stephen’s first comment? “I love it.” My first comment? “Everything is gray.”

It’s really nice, but I want to keep my options open. This is just our first stop.

Off we go to the first single-family home. It’s relatively close but further from the beach. While we wait for Happy, I stand on the front porch with Stephen. It’s a huge front porch, and there are banisters that go along the length of it. Banisters. This place is big.

People are renting this place. It really makes a difference when people are currently residing in the home you’re considering for yourself. It’s just not as easy to imagine it as your own. The townhouse was vacant, empty; a canvas for me to imagine everything. Here, I’m distracted by family photos and items strewn about, wondering about the family who lives here and where they are right now.

There’s a grand piano in the living area. I don’t know if it’s grand but it sure looks big to me. Something about that piano makes me feel like this place is too big. Because it is. I’m overwhelmed. All I can think is, how the heck am I supposed to clean this place? How am I supposed to keep up? This house is also in a flood zone, so insurance is through the roof.

On to the next. The further from the beach we go, the more it doesn’t feel right. But this place is right on a waterway with a big backyard. We could get a little boat (I imagine a canoe, or one of those really small boats with a motor on the back) and ride over to the bars in the summertime. There’s an amazing deck on the second floor that is so peaceful, with a pretty view. Inside, though, this place seems… old. And rundown. Like it needs a lot of love and a lot of work. Like as soon as we move in, we have to hire people to fix a bunch of stuff. As if moving isn’t already stressful enough. And now that I think about it, how often are we going to be “going to bars” in the summertime. I’m a homebody. Seriously.

We leave, and I’m starting to realize that the townhome really has it going on. The townhome checks all of our boxes and it’s completely renovated. It’s also cheaper than both these homes. Happy gets a phone call – someone just put in a bid on our townhome. OUR townhome. Why am I calling it that? I feel a little panicked, like we just missed out on something, but that’s ridiculous. It just happened. There’s still time. We can put in an offer, too. Or maybe I just feel this way because now I’m afraid we’re going to lose it. Do I love it? Or not?


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