BUYING? RENTING? WHAT? WHERE?
Once we'd sold our house in Italy we wondered what we'd do next. By the time we sold the house we had decided to move back to the states. Then we had to decide where - and in the end decided that Louisville wasn't such a bad choice. First of all, the cost of living is relatively low. Certainly lower than a bigger city like Chicago or New York, yet we still have the opera, the orchestra, Actor's Theater, as well as many galleries and great restaurants. At least in Louisville we wouldn't have to learn our way around, or scout out the best place to buy this or that.
We discovered, much to our surprise, if we bought a house before the end of April we would qualify for the $8000 first-time homebuyers credit! We began searching the Louisville MLS site and contacted a former neighbor who's a real estate agent, and who knows a LOT about condos/patio homes, which is what we wanted - probably. The idea of a single family home was still a possibility - we were trying to keep an open mind.
We let our agent know our likes and dislikes, our "must haves" (like a gas line so I could have a gas stove, and at least 2 bedrooms and 2 full baths), our "would LIKE to haves" (gas fireplace, a mini-backyard instead of just a patio), and our absolute 'no-no's"; all electric kitchens, bi and tri-levels, and anything that cost move than $200,000. Actually the $200,000 was Art's budget, while I was hoping to stay around $150,000 but was willing to spend up to $175,000 if the place was perfect in every way.
The good news for the Louisville real estate market is that it's never experienced the extremes in pricing like other markets. Louisville never experienced the over-inflated prices nor the sudden and drastic declines that inevitably follow. This meant that for us, it really wasn't as much of a buyer's market as we might have found in a different city, but we could still find a nice place at a fair price, and with luck we might even find a bargain.
We were due to arrive back in Louisville on April 14th, a Wednesday. Art had dental work schedule for Thursday morning, meaning that we began our house-hunting on Friday the 16th. We'd sent our real estate agent the links to properties and areas that we liked so she'd set up TEN viewings for us, some of the specific properties we'd seen online, and others that were similiar. Our plan was to search as hard as we could for a house, using our realtor, looking at for-sale-by-owners and hoping we'd find something before the end of the month. If we didn't find something by the end of April we'd just sit back and wait for the perfect place to come along, whenever that might happen.
Not knowing if we'd have a place to live, we agreed to house/dog sit for our friends in Pensacola while they went to Italy for six weeks. If we hadn't found a place this would mean that we wouldn't have to take advantage of my sister's incredible generosity and could get out of her hair for six weeks. We could rent an apartment for 3 or 6 or 9 months once we returned from Florida, by which time we reasoned our stuff would have arrived from Italy.
Although the idea of getting a check for $8000 was pretty tempting, I knew that we wouldn't buy the wrong place just to get that rebate. We both wanted someplace that we'd enjoy, someplace that we could make our home.