I’m in a mad frenzy to save money and buy a home by late next fall. That gives me a little more than a year (14 – 16 months) to save up enough cash for a down payment. However, in Southern California, homes are crazy expensive! I’ve budgeted a reasonable amount for a “starter” home and am hoping to snag one for under $410,000. First, let me list my requirements:

  1. Must be in a few select cities I’ve chosen, mainly because resell value will be better in those neighborhoods in 10-15 years. I’ve found homes in my price range in other cities, like Van Nuys, but the city name alone reduces resale value. (The 10-15 years is based on my retirement plan in which I move to Colorado! 🙂 )
  2. Must be at least 1,100 square feet. I know I write a ton about little homes, but the truth is I’ve lived in a 1,600 square foot apartment for the past four years and now have the furniture to match!
  3. Preferably a home that’s had some upgrades (also, many homes in my area were built in the 1950’s and ’60’s). For close to $400K, I don’t want to have to replace windows or tear out flooring.
  4. Must have some kind of back yard. It doesn’t have to be huge, just a typical sized lot (6,000 square feet minimum).
  5. Preferably a two-car garage in the back of the house down a long drive way, not in the front as the main focal point.

Here’s what I can buy, within my requirements, for that amount right now:

1. 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house for $399,000 that meets my requirements and is 1,206 square feet. It’s very cute, but the location is a bit sketchy (even though it’s in a “city” of my choice). Also, I think the garage has been converted to a guest house which means there is no garage. This is also a flipper house, based on the sales history :

Cute remodeled house within my "budget", but the neighborhood is sketchy.

Cute remodeled house within my “budget”, but the neighborhood is sketchy.

Inside so-called "sketchy" house, very nice.

Inside so-called “sketchy” house, very nice.

2. 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house for $409,000 and is 1,214 square feet. The neighborhood is a bit better, I actually lived nearby for 5 years and would feel comfortable living in this area again. I don’t necessarily like that the single-car garage (which is very dinky) is in the front of the house, but I could deal with it. The interior has been remodeled and is quite nice, but notice the driveway would need to be repaved – lots of cracks.

Nicely kept "traditional" home.

Nicely kept “traditional” home.

I like the open kitchen/dining area/living room remodel. The interior has definitely been remodeled and kept nicely.

I like the open kitchen/dining area/living room remodel. The interior has definitely been remodeled and kept nicely.

That’s it folks – two houses meet most of my criteria. Sure, there are others for sale in the areas I’m focusing on, but most of them range from $430,000 to $450,000. Of course, since I won’t be ready for another year, these houses will be long gone by then and I’ll have to find a few more choices that meet my criteria. I’m really hoping the real estate market slows down a bit and I can find more homes within my price range next fall.

Have you purchased a house recently? Were you able to meet most of the criteria on your list?