If its just the 2 of you and you don't plan to have friends or family aboard on a very regular basis, I would offer that a 30-34' boat should easily meet your need and you could get by with less if the spouse will let you.I am just starting to look at boats. I have been crewing on a fairly serious J24 team for the last two years. My dream boat is a Viper(20' sport boat) and a racing budget to go with it, but my wife may be interested in a coastal cruiser. I am trying to get her out a cruiser type boat, and a local dealer/broker says he will take us out, so she can see if she is even interested. I would be very happy if the Mrs. wants to sail together. I could do less serious racing or crew for others.
I have been walking the docks on Galveston Bay and at the regattas we travel to. I like everything from a Catalina 27 to a Hobie 33, to brand new condo boats, so I am all over the map and truly do not know what I want, much less what my wife may want.
My question is just genereic: What is the difference in cost of ownership? 28 vs 30 vs 32 vs 34 vs 36 or even 38, condition of the boat being equal. I think we would be happy with a 28 or 30, but what if I found a great deal on a 36? I have looked up the cost of new sails and marina fees, so you do not have to go there.
I have been lurking here for a couple of years and you guys have covered how to buy a boat, ect. very well. I am sure it will take a year or more of looking, unless we just find that perfect deal.
I would offer that a good course of action would be to go used for your first boat and to select the best example on the market of a popular boat. My experience was that my first boat taught me what I really wanted in my next boat so I was glad I bought a boat I could sell for about what I paid for it. Buying a boat you can get out of without getting crushed is not a bad idea for a first boat especially if you don't know exactly what direction you want to go with your sailing. If your wife doesn't like weekend crusing, you may decide a full on club racer is what you want, or conversely you may find you'll only get water time if you go with a big beamed condo boat with tons of galley space, that's great for evenings on the hook. A first boat that compromises too much in either direction will probably disappoint one of you.
Good luck with your search, it's a great time to be a buyer. I bought last year and noticed some really nice boats that were well above my price range last year, are right in it now, so asking prices have come down.