Wednesday, November 12, 2008

City mouse vs. country mouse

For the past few months, The Limey and I have been having a conversation that goes 'round and 'round in circles. We're not disagreeing with each other, we just can't make a decision or figure out what we want.

First, the good news: due to the "current economic climate" and our- okay, The Limey's- saving prowess, we have enough for a deposit on a modestly-priced home. Even here in SE England.

The bad news is: we don't know where we want to live / what we want to buy! (I know, I know, first world problems.)

As mentioned before, I'm a city girl. I've always said that, should the day ever come, I'd choose a teeny city centre flat over a huge suburban house without a moment's hesitation. Now that that day is here, I'm completely confused.

See, when I compared the suburban home vs the city centre flat in my head, I didn't know that I would so desperately want a garden. I also didn't know that the desired flat would mean an extra hour's commute into work. When it was a hypothetical choice without, you know, reality muddying the waters, it was simple. But am I willing to give up space, an extra bedroom, a dining room, a garden, and five extra hours of life a week (on top of my already long commute)?

The Limey is different: he'd always figured he'd choose the larger suburban house, no problem. But for him, the house means he has to drive to work, which means no after work drinking with work buddies, as well as the stress of driving every day. The house means no easy ringing up of friends and saying, "See you down the pub in half an hour." The suburban house means friends and colleagues are too far away to casually invite 'round for dinner.

We've been talking about this for aaages, and we just can't get anywhere. We just don't know what we want. Now that it's time to actually look at possibilities, we're totally stuck.

How did you guys decide where to live? What other issues should we think about when deciding where to buy? How have you coped with commutes and friends? What do you wish you had known before you bought/moved? I know it's ultimately our decision, but I'm begging for any insight into the process, or any information that may sway us one way or another.


a simple yarn said...

We did what you're doing, taking a look at how we live...

When we moved back to the US, we prioritized Will's commute since that impacts him every day x 2. No use having an overly stressed beginning and ending each day. For us, a good school system for the kids came next. A back garden and space for those same kiddies to play (and have a dog) was a bonus. Relationships for us have usually not been based strongly on geography/location so that came lower on the list, however as I type that we're getting to know more people in our neighbourhood. So our house (which I really like) is very small by US standards and more like Dublin, garden is big (room for veg patch), located in a bit of a dodgy area (which I don't particularly like but am getting used to), not in suburbia but in the older/closer to town area, near shops, not totally dependent on a car (which I also like). Will we be here forever? Probably not, but a good place to start out.

Bridget said...

This is no help, since I live in a large urban area in the US, but I have to say that after living and commuting from suburbia in some places, and now living in a city, I prefer the city. No need to have a car, easy to get back and forth from work, etc. Our house is not that big, and our neighbors are *right* next door, but I still like being here.

But I'm also spoiled, because we have a garden that is just big enough to enjoy without it being a huge obligation.

See? Like I said, no help. But I wish you luck with your decision!

k-brow said...

We've tended to go with smaller houses, tiny yards, in what is known as "inner suburbs" here in the US. Currently, here in Hawaii, I have the longer commute (but it's counterflow traffic) while my husband enjoys the walk to work (about 4 miles round trip) and the pleasure of the pub after work. In our situation, we have to buy a dog-friendly house (this means a yard or good access to public park.) I hate a long commute, but teaching jobs are hard to come by here, and consider myself lucky to have one, so the drive is worth it, about 45 min. round trip per day.

When we started looking for our first home, we spent a lot of time in various neighborhoods, just hanging out, looking. Take your time and enjoy the search.

mooncalf said...

We live (in the UK) in a flat near the city. It has the advantage that we can both walk into work together. It sort of has the advantage that we can get to the cinema, theatre, restaurants etc reasonably easily but I'm not sure we'd go any less if we lived further out.

The thing that makes me want a house is the neighbour issue. In a flat you're constantly bothered by residents being inconsiderate, or fussy or leaving notes all over the communal areas and arranging meetings. I'd much prefer to have a bit more independence in a house. It'd be nice to to have to pay a maintenance fee too.

Woolly Stuff said...

we're in the same spot as you. we're living in a teeny teeny flat right in the center of shoreditch, and are thinking of buying a little house with a garden (we won't move to a place that doesn't have one).

So, we're looking at places like Honor Oak and Brockley. I don't know much about them, but they're 10 minutes from London Bridge on the overhead trains (overland? whatever they're called), and we can have a little 2 bedroom house with a garden.

Best of both worlds? Complete compromise? I don't know yet. We're hoping for the former...

Averil said...

I prefer living in the city than the suburbs/ country for the reasons you mentioned -the freedom of popping to the shops (having more than one option), visiting friends without the need to plan weeks in advance, going to the cinema cos you feel like it and not have to worry about getting the last bus/train home. When I lived in the suburbs my life was just work. I got up, commuted, work, and home. If I wanted to do something after work it could never be something spontaneous, as I always had to worry about how I´d get home.

Here in Madrid, I live in a pretty central location, near a park (which I like to think of as my garden!), public transport is good, loads of amenities nearby.. but we have sacrificed space and live in a small apt. As for the garden - I´d have to move about 40km away to actually be able to call one my own (or win the lottery) and that is one sacrifice I´m not willing to make.

Not much help really! but I wish you luck with your decision, and as some of the others said, relax and take your time deciding where you want to live. It is a big decision, but you can always move!

jacqueline said...

I know I'm late to chime in on this one, but my house was a compromise.

I got a good inexpensive house (with character), with plenty of rooms and bathrooms and a decent yard.

It's not super close to my work like my apartment was, but it's closer to the city, so my fun is actually less of a chore to get out to.

To live IN the city, I wouldn't have been able to afford the extra rooms/bathroom, the work commute would have been longer, and I'd have higher taxes all around. HOWEVER, I would have had a good location for friends to pop around easily. That was the only bonus.

To live near work, I'd have a quick commute to work, would have been able to afford a LARGE house with a great big yard and nice view... but I'd have to drive an extra fricken hour to go do anything fun in Portland....

I kinda figured GOOD friends would make time for me regardless. The space of the house + the money I'd save added up to more in the end to keep me out of the city... however the location I chose proved that I wasn't ready to stop having fun in the city yet... Being able to pop into the city on a moment's notice without it being too much of a chore was important to me.

I'm pretty happy with my choice.

Dixie said...

I am very late to the party (haven't kept up with blogs as much as I'd like), but I'm also thinking about houses (in Ireland, not the UK).

The #1 thing I've kept in mind is whether and how much a given property will appreciate in value over the next 5-ish years. Since the chances of us staying in one place forever are virtually nil, it's more important that we get a good return on the investment. So we're looking for good deals and growing neighbourhoods. Next most important is access to public transit (or whatever it takes to not need two cars) and non-awful commutes.