Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Early stages of house hunting

Mortgage rates are low and housing prices have sagged. It is a good time for me to shop for a house, but I am bewildered by all of the alternatives and considerations.

I tend to over-think the process. For me, a house is the stage scenery for my life, conducted as an ongoing amateur theatrical production (typically more comic than dramatic). I want my house to provide the right setting, the ideal being Sherlock Holmes's bachelor quarters with a few discreet modern enhancements such as central air. As an actor of limited range, even in my own autobiographical show, I depend on my surroundings to complete my image. Put me in an Italian villa, I can toss off bon mots like a young William Powell. Put me in a nondescript suburban townhouse (that is, right here) and I have trouble constructing complete sentences. With so much self image riding on the choice of the right house, it is no wonder that I get stagefright thinking about it.

I browse the internet realty sites and puzzle over whether I want a shack in the upscale zipcode area or a 3000 sq. ft. fixer-upper in the high-crime zipcode area. Given my longtime antipathy to yard work, do I really want a single-family house? On the other hand, given my experience with apartment neighbors that have been noisy or, even worse, obsessive about enforcing perfect silence, do I really want to share a common wall with another homeowner? I have no idea what to choose, and I can easily work myself into an existential crisis over it.

My younger son is lobbying for a house with vaulted ceilings. He says that a spacious living room with wall surfaces at irregular angles is the optimal space for recording music tracks with violin, guitar, or bass. He would be content living in an aircraft hangar, a medieval chapel, or a hall of mirrors.