06/21/2012 06:59 pm ET Updated Aug 21, 2012

Tired of Climbing Up the Real Esate Ladder

The would-be home buyer didn't like my advice about selling her house before she went to contract on another one.

"That won't work. I won't have a place to live. There aren't many homes to buy in my price range," she said.

Having represented her over the years in other transactions, I mistakenly made a guess about her present real estate intentions. I countered that I didn't believe her perception of the local market was accurate, as there seemed to be sufficient mid-to-higher priced homes available on Long Island. "Plenty of move-up sellers are just waiting for buyers who can sell their lower-priced homes and buy theirs," I added.

"That's just it," proclaimed the prospective purchaser. "I don't want to move up. I want to move down! You know, I've moved up from one house to the next three times in 25 years. I love my house, but it's too damn expensive."

She elaborated that, unlike some homeowners of advancing years, she wasn't exhausted by taking care of the demands and chores of a big house. She was just plain weary of shelling out funds for the huge yearly tax bill and the immense monthly mortgage.

The problem, as she saw it, was that there weren't enough "real starter-type homes" available to buy in the town she loved. After selling her house, she could offer up to $350,000 cash, but not for trashed former foreclosures, neglected short sales, or anti-pet condos. "The house and the property can be small; I really don't care about that. I just want a clean, fairly updated, single-family home, with no more than $10,000 in real estate taxes. But I can't find a single house like that!"

I expressed my sympathy, but wondered if her expectations were unrealistic. I also asked if she might consider selling her costly-to-carry home, and then renting something that met her criteria.

"No, no. I want to be a homeowner! I just don't want to be as much of a homeowner as I used to be. No big mortgage. No big tax bill. No big electric bill. Is that too much to ask?"

I thought a lot about my client's question after we ended our conversation (she promised to keep me updated on her quest). The simple answer is, no, a small, affordable home in a familiar area is certainly not too much to ask. However, in the decidedly middle-of-the-road Long Island town that she's targeted, it is apparently too much to expect.

Where are we going if first-time buyers can't afford to put down roots in areas they'd like to live in, and established owners have to move completely away for some financial breathing room?