I almost put down an offer on that townhouse today--I had the paperwork filled out and everything. I felt really anxious, which is mostly sensible because it's an insane amount of money and I have money issues. But it persisted and got worse, so I did my usual thing of checking out reality in detail so I can see if my reaction is really reasonable.
Today's lesson about buying a house: check out reality in detail before you start filling out offer paperwork. Really. In detail. Minute detail. Boring, penny-by-penny detail.
My Spider-Sense[tm] was warning me that I couldn't afford the place. I had asked my mortgage broker to re-quote me terms on a small range of prices, and it's a good thing I did, since they were a good $600 and one interest point higher than what she quoted me in early June. (She also mentioned the big loan being a stated-income loan, where you just say how much you make rather than providing proof. You pay a higher interest rate, but you can lie about your income and get a bigger loan. Why we weren't talking about that before, I don't know.) The interest-only payments alone now accounted for 75% of my monthly take-home pay. Add in other costs (my car payment, for example) and that left me something like $600-1000 per month for luxuries like food and gas. It became a lunatic idea, just like that: an interest-only loan shouldn't be the way to afford the place, only the way to have a lower minimum monthly payment for flexibility. And rates are only going up, so the variable-rate smaller loan would hurt more and more as well.
Screw that. My new resolution is that until the housing market calms down, I'm not buying anything whose minimum monthly payment doesn't fit approximately one paycheck. In the meantime, I very much want a nicer couch and bed for the place I live now, and those I can afford easily while I stay in my nice rented house and accumulate cash and figure out some other way to invest it (like late at night when I get bored and put money in my savings account into a 6-month CD because I'm really lazy and that much I can just do online).
Work has calmed down, as we've hacked around our must-solve intractable problem, and I now have a bunch of leeway to research and try to understand in depth the intractable problem, so I can explain it to everyone else. I'm becoming more expert, acquiring more knowledge and experience of complicated obscure things and the subtle ways in which they suck. It turns out I already have a whole lot of that expert knowledge in some areas: XML processing and protocols, data interchange, webapps (which, though I consider them boring, have plenty of pitfalls). Happily, I'm now working in a realm of more enduring challenge and higher salaries.