28 February 2011

House hunting

I swear I have an excuse for my lack of posting. . . . We're house hunting, and it's taking up a lot of time. Neither I nor my husband has ever owned a home, so we're both freaked out by the whole process. The commitment! The money! The fear of making the wrong decision!

Since our budget is limited, we don't have many neighborhood options. I still don't understand how anyone not wealthy can buy a home in Center City, University City, or Mt. Airy--areas in Philly that are uber-desirable both for their locations and their amenities. Although we're not poor--indeed, we've climbed our way into the middle class--so much of Philadelphia real estate is completely off the table for us.

So, we're looking at the still-fairly-affordable neighborhoods. We're especially curious about Fishtown and East Kensington, which are considered either vibrant, up-and-coming areas or among Dante's circles of hell, depending on whom you ask. The larger area in which they're located--Kensington--has a pretty bad reputation, though it seems like the negative perception largely comes from people who either don't live there or who equate any signs of poverty with some sort of moral failing. I find myself repeatedly defending a neighborhood that I don't even call home. East Kensington in particular is wonderfully diverse--culturally, ethnically, and economically. And, it's the locus of tremendous revitalization efforts.

We're also looking in a Philly suburb called Lansdowne. It's a charming town that is really close to the city--just hop on a bus or trolley, and you'll soon be there. Its proximity to the city means I'd never have to drive, which makes me happy both as an environmentalist and as someone who simply hates to be in a car. Plus, many of the houses come with big yards, and I drool as I imagine the 20 or so raised beds I could potentially call my own. Still, the thought of living in a suburb--even the very un-suburban Lansdowne--make me die inside, just a bit.

No decisions have yet been made. And, we have a few conditions that must be met. The house 1) must have some sort of a yard that can be turned into a vegetable garden; 2) must be located in a relatively violence-free area (most crimes, we can deal with; murder and frequent assaults, not so much); 3) must be in move-in condition and structurally sound (we're willing to make cosmetic changes, but would rather not deal with a roof caving in); 4) must be easily accessible by bike and/or public transit; and 5) must be, without any shadow of a doubt, free of any roach infestations (one here or there, we can deal with. More than that, and we will both lose our freakin' minds).

Can it be done? We shall soon see.