House Hunting 101 for 504

Within the last month or so Drew and I have started looking at houses on the market. Every day we scour the Internet for listings that fit our criteria and do drive-bys Uptown to look at properties. Somehow I envisioned the house-hunting process as more of what’s presented on HGTV: perky Realtors, endless options and dynamic designs. But that’s not the case. Not even close. Maybe we’ve watched too many episodes of House Hunters over the years.

We’re only a short step into the process, but our experience is already fraught with uncertainty. For starters, we’re looking for a shotgun double (to have rental income) but every house we’ve seen thus far is either too expensive, requires too many renovations or is surrounded by decrepit homes in sketchy areas.  Obviously every house isn’t like this. But for the most part it seems we keep missing the mark. The process has even conjured up memories of our first experience working with a Realtor prior to moving down here. She tried with all her might to strike fear in us during our lengthy e-mail and phone exchanges: “Uptown is dangerous”; “It’s better and safer to live in Metairie”; “If you must live Uptown, avoid all areas north of Freret, west of Carrollton and east of Napoleon”; “Buying a house in NOLA is flat-out riskier than buying a house in any other city in the country.”

Fortunately we weren’t swayed by her enduring and ironic pessimism of New Orleans real estate and decided to follow our instincts and live Uptown anyway, which has been a wonderful experience thus far.

On a practical note, prior to our recent home search we hadn’t given much thought to other relevant home-buying topics beyond aesthetics such as homeowners’ insurance, taxes, maintenance, utilities, etc. Guess we thought we’d find a house, fall in love with its charm, sign the dotted line, get keys, move in and live happily ever after. Never mind the number crunching and dealing with lenders and home inspectors; we were convinced we’d coast seamlessly from “search” to “sign.” I suppose it was just wishful and immature thinking on our behalf.

 We’re are also (un)fortunate to have advisers who try — much like our first Realtor — to  dissuade us from investing in New Orleans real estate altogether, as if buying a house here is akin to playing roulette with the catastrophic events that threaten to level the city in any given year. “It’s just not worth it,” they say. So we’re clearly confused. Perhaps I should just sign us up for an HGTV episode. They never seem to film in New Orleans, anyway.

All this house-buying anxiety isn’t mitigated by a recent report by the U.S Corp of Engineers that the Corps has opted (yet again) for the third-best option in hurricane flood protection. In other words, their proposed strategy is on par with pre-Katrina protection levels.  News like this is undeniably disappointing, but we’re undeterred in our desire to find the perfect place.

Buying a house is supposed to be fun, not daunting; supposed to make one feel empowered, not enfeebled. We are committed to buying a house here. It’s our personal commitment to the city and to our future. We, along with every other homeowner, are willing to take the risk of home ownership because we love the city, come hell or high water.

House Hunting 101 for 504

Here are some of the neighborhoods on our list. We’re not necessarily wedded to staying Uptown:
•    Uptown, near Audubon Park
•    Lower Garden District
•    Uptown, Riverbend area (very charming)
•    South Carrollton area (Willow and Fern streets)
•    Bayou St. John area (flood-prone but beautiful)
•    Bywater (out of curiosity, I suppose)
•    Lakeview (I’ve seen nice areas here, but it’s been vetoed by Drew. It’s not an option, but still on my list, nonetheless)

Do you have any suggestions on house hunting in New Orleans?


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