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Thread: Rent or buy?

  1. #1

    Default Rent or buy?

    I could use some opinions here. My wife is going to school to be a Nurse Practitioner, and we plan to go to Anchorage, or Wasilla for a two year contract. We live pretty simply now in a small town in Northern Minnesota. I fish year round, and take a couple of deer every fall with the bow, plus grouse, duck, rabbit, and turkey. We pick blue and blackberries, raspberries, and we have a large garden, fruit trees, and chickens for meat and eggs. I even started growing mushrooms this year. Our house is a beat up old farmhouse that we bought for 46k, that didn't have heat, water, or electric, and still needs some work. Point of this is that we don't live extravagantly now, and wouldn't intend to there.

    As of now, the place that she would work will pay off a bunch of her school loans if we go up for two years. I have worked as a prison guard for the last 13 years, and I just don't want to do it anymore. I could care less where I work, as long as it is a half way positive environment, and does not involve working around pedophiles anymore. With even a 10.00 job, we would be making around 160 gross when you combine salaries.

    The issue is that we have 3 big dogs. When I say big, I mean a combined weight of 400+ pounds of dog. We have a French Mastiff, German Shephard, and Newfoundland. I checked rent prices for something with a big enough yard and a couple of big dogs, and we are looking at 2500 a month minimum. For two years rent, it would be 60k. I know real estate markets are tricky, but if we bought a house, then sold a house after 2 years for a 30k loss, we would still end up around 18,000 ahead, barring major home repairs. If we really like it, we might stay up there for the summers, and winter in Florida, so the house payment would just keep being made from down there as the traveling healthcare companies will set you up with, and pay for your housing if we went down there for winters.

    With real estate markets up there being however they are, what do you think? Rent or buy?

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    First off you will have a real hard time finding a rental that will take pets much less large one. Rentals are high here and so are homes as well. You will not find a home here for 50k, you may find something for a bit over 100k but it will be way out off the main roads.
    Buying a home is always a better route than renting and it will be cheaper in the long run. Search the craigslist listing to start your research and trends on the market up here. Figure out where your wife will be working and how far you or her are willing to drive to work fuel is over 4.00 a gal here right now. Jobs are getting harder to find but like anywhere else in the country if you show up to work on time and want to work there will always be a job for you.
    Good luck

    Sweepint
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  3. #3
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    That's a tough one, as the real estate market is still soft, and prices are likely to drop even more in the next year, maybe two. For a two year time span I'd tend to lean towards renting vs. buying, but with the 3 dogs you'll be hard pressed finding a place to rent. Then again, interest rates are really low, and you get the intereste write off. I guess the real question is do you have the 10% down payment and closing costs?

    My advice would be to stick to a smaller home and go for something that is in good shape in a dersirable neighborhood, it'll be much easier to sell. Eagle River seems to have faired well in the real estate market due to the personel at Elmendorf and Ft. Rich living out here, not to mention it's close enough to commute to Anchorage or the Mat-su.

    You'll probably be shocked by Alaska real estate prices, finding something you'll have no trouble selling in two years that doesn't need major remodeling for under $200-250k is going to be tough.
    Those that are successful in Alaska are those who are flexible, and allow the reality of life in Alaska to shape their dreams, vs. trying to force their dreams on the reality of Alaska.

    If you have a tenuous grasp of reality, Alaska is not for you.

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    I'm sure other's will know better than I, but for the sake of home affordability I'd look towards Wasilla/Palmer area. There are a number of affordable homes in the area, and it's just nicer than Anchorage. I'm not sure how much of a choice your wife has, but if she can choose Wasilla, she should.
    I'd agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.

  5. #5
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    If you're commuting to Anchorage from Palmer/Wasilla, you need to factor in the fuel costs and wear and tear on a vehicle. Not to hard to burn $500/month commuting 5 days a week, which can offset a fair bit of house, not to mention the value of your time.
    Those that are successful in Alaska are those who are flexible, and allow the reality of life in Alaska to shape their dreams, vs. trying to force their dreams on the reality of Alaska.

    If you have a tenuous grasp of reality, Alaska is not for you.

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    No kidding, I used to toy with the idea of living in Wasilla/Palmer and taking a job in Anchorage. At the time I thought, the drive couldn't be that bad. Last fall I was in Anchorage for work and I drove up to Ironartists place in Wasilla one evening. One time cured me of ever wanting to make that a regular part of my life.

    I would only suggest that he buy in the Mat-Su if his wife can work in Wasilla.
    I'd agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.

  7. #7
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    Default Rent or Buy? Commute or Not?

    I would normally not recommend the commute from the valley, but if your wife works a non-traditional type of shift that goes against the normal traffic flow, it could work. Such as a 3x12 or a 24 type of schedule. The other thing to consider is if she will be required to take call. The Valley is too far away to take call. Most places like Prov and Alaska Regional require you be be within 20 minutes of the hospital. Eagle River is almost too far away, but I know folks who do call and live in Eagle River. That can really suck in the winter.

    I would rent until you decide if you like Anchorage enough to make a commitment to purchase.

  8. #8

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    Thanks all. My wife drives 55 miles one way to work now, so we were thinking of keeping that about the max for travel time. I assume from what I have read, travel time and miles traveled are much different than down here.

    I have been checking real estate prices and jobs for the last couple months trying to get an idea of prices of everything. We are still a year and a half out from the move, but I have to figure out what to try and pay off if were gonna buy instead of rent. I just hate renting because your just throwing money down the drain. If we buy, we hope to find something cheap (up there cheap). We would have to stay in the 140 and below range for a house and try to sell when we were done, but the whole pipeline thing has me nervous.

    With the middle east being in a giant blender right now, and the final product unknown, why wouldn't we re invest in the pipeline if our countries foreign oil supplies became more of an issue? I know drilling is not popular due to the various spills that have happened, which is a concern of mine also. The thing is, the American people quickly get in an uproar when gas prices go up for more than a week. If they started to rise and the typical political ploy of "we are launching an investigation into the higher prices of gas", wore off after a week or two, and the prices continue to go up, wouldn't a new pipeline be a possibility? Are there logistical issues that would prevent some entity to build a storage area, and replacing or refurbishing the pipeline? I am personally torn, because while I would hate to see everyone up there put in a bad situation because of the pipeline going down, I also hate to keep destroying or greatly altering our lands for the worse just to keep up with the insatiable American appetite for oil.

    I have one more question though. I can get vacation any time of year except for July, August, and beginning of September. We were thinking about heading up in the end of May, start of June to look around a little since we have never been there. I need to put in for time 8 months in advance, and I was just wondering if early June would be a better time than in the fall around the end of September, beginning of October.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    I think the general financial advise is that if you're going to buy a home and sell it in two years, it should be in a growing housing market, not one that is slow and who knows if/when it'll turn.

    It's easy to buy a home, not always so easy to sell. If your plan is to do two years, then head South, what happens if it takes longer to sell the home then you think? Will you be unable to leave the state until it sells, can you afford to pay a mortgage on a house you aren't living in. Are you willing to rent a house while living in another state?

    Sometimes buying a house can be throwing away money, so think very long and hard before committing yourself to a mortgage for a place you'll only be in for a few years.
    Those that are successful in Alaska are those who are flexible, and allow the reality of life in Alaska to shape their dreams, vs. trying to force their dreams on the reality of Alaska.

    If you have a tenuous grasp of reality, Alaska is not for you.

  10. #10
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    Have you considered a 5th wheel? you could live and winter over (no Problem) at the Golden Nugget directly across from Costco, off of Debarr in the ANC area. I did it for one winter after I retired from the Army. Buy a large 5th Wheel keep your dogs and sell or keep the 5wh after the move. Rent at the Golden Nugget was 450.00 a month a few years ago. http://www.goldennuggetcamperpark.com/ don't know what it is now.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Benning View Post
    Thanks all. My wife drives 55 miles one way to work now, so we were thinking of keeping that about the max for travel time. I assume from what I have read, travel time and miles traveled are much different than down here.

    I have been checking real estate prices and jobs for the last couple months trying to get an idea of prices of everything. We are still a year and a half out from the move, but I have to figure out what to try and pay off if were gonna buy instead of rent. I just hate renting because your just throwing money down the drain. If we buy, we hope to find something cheap (up there cheap). We would have to stay in the 140 and below range for a house and try to sell when we were done, but the whole pipeline thing has me nervous.

    With the middle east being in a giant blender right now, and the final product unknown, why wouldn't we re invest in the pipeline if our countries foreign oil supplies became more of an issue? I know drilling is not popular due to the various spills that have happened, which is a concern of mine also. The thing is, the American people quickly get in an uproar when gas prices go up for more than a week. If they started to rise and the typical political ploy of "we are launching an investigation into the higher prices of gas", wore off after a week or two, and the prices continue to go up, wouldn't a new pipeline be a possibility? Are there logistical issues that would prevent some entity to build a storage area, and replacing or refurbishing the pipeline? I am personally torn, because while I would hate to see everyone up there put in a bad situation because of the pipeline going down, I also hate to keep destroying or greatly altering our lands for the worse just to keep up with the insatiable American appetite for oil.

    I have one more question though. I can get vacation any time of year except for July, August, and beginning of September. We were thinking about heading up in the end of May, start of June to look around a little since we have never been there. I need to put in for time 8 months in advance, and I was just wondering if early June would be a better time than in the fall around the end of September, beginning of October.
    Few quick thoughts if I may... some already kind of pointed out.

    - Generally two years is a bad time frame to buy a home and sell it. Three is pushing it. two is bad. Remember down payment, financing costs, etc. Plus housing market is soft, nothing is appreciating. You won't get your money back in 2-3 years considering other costs involved.
    - Home prices here are MUCH higher than most of the lower 48 with the exception of the coasts and a few metropolitan landlocked areas down there.
    - 140 is NOT very much at all to spend up here. If you see things for that on the road system, consider that you might not be getting what you think you are getting.
    - If your wife is a student, it might be a bit much to ask her to continue anything close to her 55 mile commute, also the Glenn highway is the only way in or out of Wasilla to/from Anchorage. It gets really backed up fairly often on the north side of eagle river in the winter. many folks in Anchorage wouldn't consider living in eagle river, we love it here and find the commute a pleasure all but about 10 times per year. However just north of town the backups are far longer and more frequent.
    - Gas is among the highest in the country here, next only to Hawaii I believe. I think its selling for $4.15 / gallon for the cheap stuff today, give or take.
    - Keeping a home vacant here as a seasonal home after your wife finishes school is not as easy as you make it sound. Break ins on seasonal homes/cabins are common, ESPECIALLY in the valley (Wasilla/Palmer and North). Many folks around unfortunately will gladly take whatever you have if they realize your not around, and sometimes even if you are. Plus pipes freeze.
    - Have no idea what the rental market is like where you would be looking. I would not consider renting out my home to someone with a cat let alone 400 lbs of dogs. Thats going to be tough. Don't have an easy answer for you there.

    No opinion on your decision just want you to consider the factors involved that might be different than where you are.

  12. #12
    Member G3_Guy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Armed_alaskan View Post
    Have you considered a 5th wheel? you could live and winter over (no Problem) at the Golden Nugget directly across from Costco, off of Debarr in the ANC area. I did it for one winter after I retired from the Army. Buy a large 5th Wheel keep your dogs and sell or keep the 5wh after the move. Rent at the Golden Nugget was 450.00 a month a few years ago. http://www.goldennuggetcamperpark.com/ don't know what it is now.
    How did you keep your pipes from freezing during the winter? Did you run into issues with this or any other items while camping during the winter?
    G3 Guy
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  13. #13
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    No pipe freezing, the Golden Nugget wants you to heat tape all your incoming water from the pipe stand on yor RV site (if you don't they'll shut off the water). I dug down 18+ inches and heat taped the pipe with the plugin type heat tape. I also heat taped the copper tubing from the stand pipe to my 5th wheel and then wrapped it with insulation. During my day job my wife crawled under the 5WH and lined the bottom with 4in fiberglass insulation.

    We then line the sides about half way up including half the windows with 2-3 inch foam board. Other folks would cover the water spicket with a box containing a bare light bulb for added heat, we never did, and had no problems. The other thing my wife just mentioned was she added plastic on the ground to help prevent moisture from rising up.

    We didn't go so far as renting a very large Nat gas tank like most folks we just filled ours once a week.

    We connected Cable TV, house phone, internet, and we were golden

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Armed_alaskan View Post
    Have you considered a 5th wheel? you could live and winter over (no Problem) at the Golden Nugget directly across from Costco, off of Debarr in the ANC area. I did it for one winter after I retired from the Army. Buy a large 5th Wheel keep your dogs and sell or keep the 5wh after the move. Rent at the Golden Nugget was 450.00 a month a few years ago. http://www.goldennuggetcamperpark.com/ don't know what it is now.
    When we go up there, she will be done with school, and I will find something to do up there. I thought about a fifth wheel, but was not sure how it would do living in it through the winter with the condensation/heating issues.

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    The best rule of thumb I've picked up is always rent for at least 6 months in a community before buying. This allows you to settle in a bit, figure out neighborhoods you like, figure out the market, make some friends, etc... It will take some extra work, extra money, and time with that many pets, but you can find a place to rent.

    I've been renting for the last 18 months since moving up from Colorado and I'm still a bit hesitant to step into the market. Generally, the market seems to be flat (optimistic) to gently dropping and 24 months can go by quick if you're busy. I'd spend my time and money enjoying the outdoors and on some winter hobbies, not worrying about having to selling a house I bought last year because your job situation goes south.

  16. #16
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    Condensation/heating issues:

    used the gas heater (came with the 5WH) and if you see the windows with condensation wipe them dry; you can also use the cans of absorbent.

    But hey do what works for you, good luck

  17. #17
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    Keith

    Renting gives you more flexibility. Stay away from trailers. my 02. Akkevin
    Are we talking about goals or are we talking about dreams? AkKevin The one and only

  18. #18
    Member Armed_alaskan's Avatar
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    Good point Keith, but only if you have tornado's Alaska doesn't have tornado's

  19. #19

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    In Anchorage $300K bought me a small ranch home (1700 sq ft) with no garage, on small lot, loud city noises, high property taxes (that goes up every year), high insurance, and more zoning regulations than the IRS. When I moved to the Valley I got 4 acres, a 2400 sq ft of living space, an oversized 3 car garage, a detached 1200 square foot shop, lower insurance and half the property taxes (gone down last 3 years). No zoning prohibiting chickens, goat, horses etc... I do have to put up with unsupervised kids on atvs in the summer and pay for heating oil as there's no natural gas service where I'm at. All in all, I'll take the Valley.

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