Friday, March 05, 2010

House-Hunting, Day 1

Ok, so I went out into the world today with my realtor, who is just fantastic (and whom I found through the recommendation of a colleague, and who apparently has facilitated home buying and selling for many other colleagues as well). Let's call her Cyndi (not her real name, but close enough - she's got bleach-blond hair and is very energetic and direct, and I really like her).

Anyway, so Cyndi took me to see 5 and a half houses (the half is a for-sale-by-owner that is, in her words, "a doll house," but that we couldn't get inside of, so we only saw the outside of it - not the house for me, I don't think, but darling and, indeed, very doll-house-like). But so. I'd thought I'd known what houses would really interest me before I went, but wow, I was so wrong! House #1 turned out to feel very... cramped and problematic. Great neighborhood, maybe a great house for somebody, but not my house. House #2 turned out to be gorgeous and fantastic - even moreso than I'd dreamed it could be - but with it's high ceilings and likely lead painted closets, as well as what I imagine is a lack of decent insulation, too many rooms, and its need of fresh paint on the exterior... Um.... Well, look. I could be Miss Havisham in that house and creepily hang out in a wedding dress, or I could be Miss Hannigan and have a number of little girls live in it with me while I was drunk and abusive, but if it were the actual me and the kitties? Yeah, way too much house for me. But the pocket doors! The stained glass! The original woodwork and floors! The historic designation of the house! And yet, not my house.

So the ones I thought were my houses? Not so much. The others on the agenda for seeing I hadn't really imagined I'd be into, and for the most part I wasn't, but I was all about seeing what there was to see, if only to give Cyndi an idea of what I'd like. And then we get to the last house on the list.

Now, this house seemed to be totally out of the running from the listing alone. It had only 2 bedrooms (I'd wanted 3 so there'd be a dedicated guest room as well as an office), only one bath, and what seemed from the pictures to be a ginormous yard. Also, I'd really thought I wanted to buy a house in area B, and I was only looking in area F (where this house is located) just to get a sense of what I could buy in my price range. Area F tends to have a lot of wooded spots, and tends not to be terribly walkable in a lot of places, and tends to be very family oriented, which, there's nothing wrong with that, but I'm not a family. I'm a lady with two life-partners who are felines. (And yes, I just called the Man-Kitty and Mr. Stripey my Life Partners. Because here's the thing: they're not children, and yet I have committed to them for life. They manage bathing and potty-going on their own, as well as most of their other needs, and they also are available for consultations about big decisions - though often the only response is an irritated meow or a look of disdain. Life Partner seems like a much more apt title for them than "furry children" or "furry babies," though it is true that they both do have fur.)

But so anyway. The Last House.
  • Well, it's true that it only has 2 bedrooms. But what wasn't clear from the listing is that it also has a nook off of one of the bedrooms that is totally big enough for a desk and some major bookshelves and to store my files. And that nook would make it possible to hide my work detritus while at the same time to have a cozy dedicated space in which I could actually do some work. I may not be in love with the house as a whole, but I am in love with that nook.
  • The yard is not as ginormous as it looked like it was in the pictures. It is bigger than I imagine myself needing or using, but it's totally and completely flat. Which is a big deal given the rolling hills of my location. Yes, it's more yard than I'd choose, but it's not an undoably large yard, and I can imagine mowing it every two weeks and not wanting to kill myself. And there's space in the back that would be a perfect garden! A vegetable and herb garden! And fenced off to keep the deer at bay! (The deer are a big enough issue in this SUBURB that it's actually legal to hunt them on private land, land that is no more than 10 minutes from a recognizable city in America. In fact, this is the big dividing line between people who run for office in this town - whether it should be ok to hunt in a motherfucking suburb. I wish I were kidding.)
  • There is only one bathroom, but it's a very nice bathroom. And if I ever wanted to do a half-bath downstairs, there is a space where that would be easily doable, and it wouldn't be a space that was off of the kitchen or the dining room, which, let's face it, is not appetizing.
  • Did I mention that both bedrooms have walk-in closets? And that there's good storage downstairs, too?
  • Both the furnace and the hot water heater are new-ish, and the entire house has new vinyl windows. And the basement is freshly painted and looking fabulous, and has a walk-out onto the backyard. (I still need the intel on the age of the roof.)
  • The house has both a FABULOUS front porch (from which one could hang pots of flowers! And have a table and chairs! And maybe a glider! And gaze superciliously upon the neighbors!) as well as a FABULOUS deck in back (that you access from the kitchen! Dinners alfresco!)
  • It has an open(ish) floorplan, but there is enough division between the rooms for it to feel cozy! Cozy!
  • There is a lovely window seat in the dining room on which the kittens could nap in sunshine!
  • The dining room is so huge that I can have A.'s boyfriend Matt build shelves that would be window-height for books, which would also serve as additional seating! For parties!
  • Amazing windows! All over! Bright natural light!
  • In the best school district in the general area, and located smack dab in between (and within walking distance of each) the post office/town square area and the bar/restaurant area where my vet also is (not that I'd be walking to the vet with the kittehs, but just they'd have a very short car ride, which would be better for their nerves).
Ok, so now for the down-sides:
  • There is no dishwasher. I cannot live without a dishwasher. I would have to do some work in the kitchen to make a dishwasher happen, which would involve shifting the sink to the right, installing the dishwasher, and shifting the stove over about 6 inches. All of which would likely mean needing some new cabinets. This is not a huge project, but it is a project, and one that would need to be done nearly immediately, for I can pretend that I would wash dishes by hand, but the reality is that if I did pretend that, I would live in filth a lot of the time. A dishwasher is a total necessity for me.
  • The woodwork in the downstairs is dark, while the hardwood floors are light. Ew.
  • The yard really is more yard than I'd wanted. It could require me to hire lawn boys. Then, of course, I'd have lawn boys, though, and that could be a positive as well as a negative.
  • No garage. Though in my region, no garage is so not a deal-breaker, as typically we don't get much snow.
  • The house is next to a bank. Only two windows in the whole house (from the kitchen and from the nook) look onto it and its parking lot, and even that is mediated by shrubbery and space, and even in winter it's not a total eyesore. Now, let's just note, this is so not a problem for me. And it's a bank: it's not like it's a Taco Bell or something. But apparently this has turned off other house-hunters who've viewed this property. My thought is that what this means is that I have no neighborhood noise on that side of the house after 5 pm, that on the weekends I've got a whole lot of easy parking if I were to decide to have a bash, and that, seriously? Who cares. Now, I suspect that people who would be negative would be all, "but what if the bank closes and a taco bell opens? It is commercially zoned land!" But I feel like it's not a big deal. I could be stupid about that.
  • The house is a short-sale. This will potentially drag out the process, and it will potentially mean that I have some trouble with negotiating. Let's note: the house is listed at a very good reduced price. But it's my first house. I want to try to negotiate. I don't believe in not negotiating. But I also don't believe in waiting for a month to hear about a house only to find I'm rejected and then to have to spend all of April doing this, too, and still potentially miss out on the first-time homebuyer tax credit.
As you might be able to surmise from the above, I REALLY like this house. But I told my realtor I needed the weekend to think, that I'd want to go back to see it next week, and I called my mom tonight to see whether she and my stepdad would be able to come down next weekend (viewing number three) before I'd ever make an offer. But this might be my house. It really might.


David said...

Good luck on the house hunting. My sister ended up by a house in the valley but looked at many in the deer hunting suburb, where she had lived under a crazy landlord.

Prof. Koshary said...

Why the rush for the tax credit? Can't you just apply it to next year's return, if you don't close by April 15? (Yes, I am totally ignorant of this process; no denying that.)

Plus, if you learned some middle-distance accuracy with a hunting rifle, the deer nearby could yield barbecue to prepare with all those herbs you'd grow in the garden! Meat doesn't come any fresher than that. It'd kinda suck if you missed, though, and blew away a bank patron; you'd have to buy someone a really big fruit basket to compensate for that.

Dr. Crazy said...

Re: the tax credit: You need to have a signed contract by Apr 30 and to close by June 30 or you're out 8K. For first-time home-buyers. That's the deal. No next year's return, no after the fact. So in that regard, time is sort of of the essence. That said, if there were nothing I wanted to buy, I wouldn't rush to meet the deadline, for 8K is in no way worth a 150+ investment,, if you're not really committed to the 150K investment.

Anonymous said...

I love love love calling your kittehs life partners. It's so appropriate to what they are. This makes me very happy.

Anonymous said...

also, the natural light is spectacular and such a selling point for me. That's definitely worth pursuing in a house.

and a further also, I'm not sure the bank would bother me particularly. Our house was across the street from a shopping mall, which was very uncool in some ways but really, the biggest problem--other than some occasional noise--was that we were across from a vacant lot that the mall tried to expand into, which would have been seriously ick but didn't happen. I dunno. Maybe I'm stupid, too, but it's a bank. And even if they turned it into a taco bell, I don't think that would be the worst thing ever.

The dishwasher has got to happen. I'd say keeping looking and look at this one again, but it sounds like a real possibility.

Aurora said...

Short sales are risky. A house I liked was listed as a short sale and my realtor said the transaction wouln't be completed till the summer, if at all. Other than that it sounds like a very nice home.

Geeka said...

Ok, 2 comments:

If you feel the yard is too big, you can always landscape it with ponds and rocks. (this is what I did for a while). It would be much easier for you because you don't have a dog, and it looks pretty all the time because none of these things are dependent on season or a lot of input work.

What about a portable dishwasher? That way you wouldn't have to worry about moving cabinets right away, and you could always have a butcher block put on top for an island effect.

Also, does that nook have the ability to have curtains hung over it so that you can block it off during guest time? That way you don't have to reorganize during visitors.

Your man-kitty looks like a long haired version of my cat, I seriously think that I am going to refer to mine as a life partner now (especially since both of my cats are 14). Now that I come to think of it, Mr. Stripey looks like my girl cat (except she has girly eyes).

Ok, that was more than two...

one reflective teacher said...

This place sounds great. I agree with the landscaping options. Rocks can do amazing things with lowering the amount of mowing you have to do in a yard.

Good luck with the short sell stuff. Sounds like a pain in the ass.

Seeking Solace said...

I am on the house hunt too. This will be my second house, having owned one previously.

What I know is that you will look at some duds before finding a diamond. My husband and I are on house number 27 in our search. But, we are a little picky, mainly because we owned before and know what we want and don't want.

My best advice is not to get presured into buying something. Find your perfect fit. And ask A LOT of quesions.

Good Luch!

helenesch said...

The house I'm really interested in has a similar issue--it's next to a commercial building (though there's a big parking lot as a buffer, and a fence around the property). My real estate agent thought that the location would be a problem for some potential buyers, but I don't think it will bother me--there's a lot of space (and no next-door neighbor) on that side of the house. She suggested that I call the city planner and just make sure there are no development plans for that building. (It's not too far from campus, and if they were to turn the building into apartments, that could be a problem). The city planner was very helpful--he assured me that they're no such plans, and he told me a lot of other interesting things about the neighborhood. So you might consider giving your own city planner a call, just to see.

PhysioProf said...

There is only one bathroom

If you are going to want to have guests stay with you in the guest room, this is gonna be a pain in the ass.

Ann said...

Having only 1 bathroom will be just fine for 50 weeks out of 52--unless you're planning on having guests every other weekend. Think about how you'll be using the house and space 95% of the time. To me, it sounds ideal, and even idyllic.

The objections you raise are mostly cosmetic (cabinets) or easily remedied (DW). I'm with you on the DW by the way. You will want to hire lawn mowers--be sure there's room in your budget for that.

Your descriptions of the houses you saw in this post made me nostalgic for the days when I lived in green, rolling hills myself. Ahhhh! Especially this time of the year--I bet you can see some forsythia and daffodils shooting up now, and soon will be the red buds, the lilacs, the apple blossoms. . . lovely!

Happy spring, BTW!

Anonymous said...

We installed a portable dishwasher at the end of a counter, then just had it plumbed in place to the sink so we did not have to roll it back and forth. Works like a charm. Only down side is the slight gap in back between wall and top which accomodates water pipes but also lets a bit of dust in behind. Small price to pay for us.