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I BOUGHT A HOUSE

{This story first appeared in the Duluth News Tribune.}

I bought a home. That sentence makes me want to throw up. I usually have a strong stomach; I’ve eaten frog legs, shark and food that’s been on the floor a good ten seconds past the three‐second‐rule. Those four simple words, however, can clench my stomach up in knots faster than a carnival ride run by a guy with “Love” and “Hate” tattooed on his knuckles.

My experience buying a home was not unlike what it must feel like to have a conversation with Paris Hilton – annoying, frustrating and not very focused on you. I asked for advice from our homeowner friends, but everyone’s experience is different. That’s why I made sure I did my homework.

First of all, I was scared. It’s a big decision and a lot of money, and I’d been watching a lot of cable news, so I’d seen all the negative press about the housing market. However, I kept hearing one positive refrain amidst all the doom‐and‐gloom reporting: if you shop smart and find the right house for your individual situation, this can be a great time to buy. In fact, with home sales in the Duluth/Superior area falling about 20 percent since this same time last year, I realized my wife and I might even be able to find a motivated seller and a great deal. The average home doubles in value in ten years, and Duluth’s median home price is currently hovering at $188,000, which means a sizeable return on an investment if the old model holds true – and it should in our region, which doesn’t have the artificially inflated prices of the seriously affected regions in California and Florida or many major cities. So my wife and I started shopping.

Soon after, we realized the number one cliché about homebuying is a cliché for good reason – because it’s true. No matter whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market, the key is location, location, location. We weren’t new to the area, so we already had a good idea of the neighborhood we wanted to live in – but we decided to blanket the city anyway. We wanted to find a house that was somewhere between being on a busy main drag or a sleepy side street. We wanted it to be close to shops and stores, yet still enveloped in peace and quiet. We had a lot of demands. I even went to www.doc.state.mn.us to check on registered sex offenders in the various neighborhoods and visited www.crimemapping.com to view crimes committed by neighborhood. It took me a while to figure out that the icon that looks like a Luchadore is, in fact, supposed to represent a burglar – but other than that, it’s a very useful tool. My only concern is what if a masked Mexican wrestler starts a crime spree … what icon will they use then?

Once we narrowed down the neighborhoods, we started looking at property taxes. The median yearly amount is $1,400 for the area, but it swings considerably in either direction. Out east, the prices and property taxes are generally higher. We avoided Hermantown due largely to the fact that their median property taxes are $1,860 and because ... well, we wanted a Duluth address. We almost pulled the trigger on a place in Piedmont, but then we discovered a great place in a neighborhood we loved for comparable property taxes and a much lower sale price.

I’m still trying to leverage these savings into a flat‐screen television for the living room and a smaller one (like 50 inches or so) for the bathroom. Trust me; you haven’t lived until you’ve taken a shower while "Storage Wars." My wife and I are in the process of unpacking boxes and hanging pictures now, and we’ve never felt more like grownups. From my bedroom window I can see my old high school, and the house I grew up in is only two blocks away. My mother still lives there – which means my mother lives two blocks away.

Stop laughing.

Even if my life turns into an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond”, it will have been worth it. I bought a home, and I love it. I bought a home, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I bought a home.

Yep, still makes me want to throw up.