Thursday, September 25, 2008

House-Hunting, First Hand

I suppose it's time to share here that Brian and I have been house-searching again. This time we hope we won't run into the same issues we faced last year. What a fiasco. We think we've found the house for us, and our offer has been accepted. We're currently in the thick of working things out with the attorney, inspector, mortgage broker, and realtor. If all goes through I think I will be glad we didn't buy one of those houses last year but waited for something better to come along.

I won't post pictures here; I wouldn't want to jinx myself. Instead, my story:

It was Saturday morning. We had been anxiously awaiting our scheduled showings all week, especially the first one. The house was a four bedroom ranch in a beautifully kept neighborhood, on a quiet street, in a terrific school district. It had a good-sized kitchen, a beautiful fireplace in the living room, and a pretty nice yard. It was also closer to work than all the other houses on our list. Sure, it needed some updating, but in the ad it still sounded far too good to be true--for first time home buyers on a very tight budget, at least. I tried not to build myself up prior to seeing it, and that turned out to be a good thing; the roof was so bad that there was damage to the ceiling and floor in one room, the foundation had some pretty concerning issues (can a foundation have "issues?" Sounds so odd, but I tell you, it did), and while it may not be worth mentioning since it certainly wasn't going to sway our decision one way or another on any house, I just have to say that the orange shag carpet would have really had to go - and quick!

After our realtor learned how much we liked the area, he wanted to look around, so we spent some time perusing the adjoining streets in search of other homes for sale, following our realtor in the van and trying to calm Gabe, who wasn't the least bit appreciative of all this in and out of the car seat business, and ended up stopping to look at a house that wasn't on our list. It was beautiful. The street was pretty busy, but everything else made up for it; the great big private yard, new kitchen and baths, open floor plan, lots of space.... Yeah, WAY out of our price range. We left that area pretty quickly after that.

Our next stop, and I'll spare you the details on the other three homes we saw that day since they eventually all led us back to this one, was in a familiar town to me. About four years ago I had driven through it every day on my way to work at the small country doctor's office (where one doctor still occasionally exchanged his services for a bushel of apples or basket of tomatoes from some of the local farmers). The town was near an old and tired city; a mix of village, farms, and everything in between.

Off the major road was a left hand turn onto a quiet street. The houses were old but well-kept; the lawns modest-sized but mowed and manicured. Tall, mature oak and maple trees shaded the street. Our house was a simple white cape with a detached garage and fenced in yard. I walked the boys out to the back yard first. It was small, we observed, but certainly big enough for a game of catch, and the privacy of the trees to the back of the property didn't go unnoticed. We peeked into the garage through the carriage style door windows at the used lawn equipment and tools resting between the dust and shadows, and then we made our way back to the front door.

The seller had a cat, so we all had to pile into the little area between the front screen door and the main door to the house to make sure we didn't let her out. It was tight, but we figured were there not three adults, one child, and a baby in there, there certainly ought to be enough room for our boots in the winter.

The living room instantly reminded us of Brian's grandparents' homes, though it had some character of its own, namely the arched doorways into the hall and dining room. Bright and open, though a bit outdated, there was a nice feeling to the space.

The dining room was small, with a view of the back yard out a picture window set between two built-in china cabinets and a couple of shelves. We found it odd that there was carpet in the room, though it was light and bright, and the walls had recent neutral wallpaper below white chair rail and a soft cream paint color above.

Through the dining room sat the kitchen, and should the house become ours, that is one room we will have to figure out, as we have become appreciatively accustomed to seemingly endless cabinets, drawers, and pantry space in our current apartment. However tiny, it was clean and (once again) bright, with new flooring and white cabinets, and I admit I found some mild amusement in the tall hidden spice cupboard set within the wall between the two rooms. It was just a couple inches deep, and I couldn't imagine any other way to use it, though it must have had room for close to 100 spice jars in all.

From there, there was a step down that led either to the basement or outside to the driveway, but we headed back through to the downstairs bedrooms and bathrooms first. I don't remember much about the bedrooms except that they were open, bright, and spacious. All the walls in the house were painted white or cream, and the bedrooms had wood floors and closets, and I think, two windows each.

Our realtor didn't seem to show much interest in the house, which conversely interested me, as he was very observant and helpful with every detail in all the others we saw. Instead he spent most of his time talking about others he was going to show us, but we were taking this one all in. -It didn't take him long to dismiss the bathroom as "old" and even write it down in red ink on our little paper along with "old windows." I'll give him the windows, but the bathroom was a bit more deserving. Sure, today few would pick the yellow and black color scheme (I am sure I wouldn't think of it), but all the tile and another arch above the bath were in fact quite lovely, and in excellent shape.

We found closets around every corner - nothing big, mind you, but useful, for sure. Upstairs was all knotty pine. The bathroom seemed a little silly as it was clearly an afterthought and barely fit, but I supposed it might be nice to have. I didn't like the dark ceiling, what with all the dark pine color throughout, particularly with the curtains drawn, but again found charm and character within all the closets, cupboards, and built-in shelves. Brian thought it would make a nice master suite.

Back down and to the basement, we found a dated but incredibly useful space in the rec room. The seller had two couches, a TV, a table with chairs, and some games in there, and it still felt roomy enough for a weekend game night with friends. Behind that was a laundry room, and there were two other basement areas still; one set aside for storage, and another area with the furnace, water heater, and electrical, that was mostly empty aside from a workbench at the far wall.

I asked about the mechanicals, and we learned that the furnace was about 30+ years old, there was some desperate need for electrical updating, and we had already noticed that some of the roof shingles were starting to lift up just a bit - or bow. All were significant and expensive issues, of course, though the house was certainly livable as it was-and seemed otherwise extremely clean, sturdy, and well-maintained.

After filing another set of pictures, observations, and concerns in our minds, we saw three more houses and almost put an offer on one. Once we had a little lunch however, and started to process all that we had just taken in, Brian and I realized that we both agreed to really like this house the best. It just seemed to have that x-factor, so to say, so push came to shove , and we now think we've worked out a way to take care of the electrical, roof, and furnace, albeit after we move in. So... here's hoping it all works out!

If it does, I'll share some before and after pictures when the time comes.

1 comment:

Afshan said...

wow! I feel like I was there with you when the realtor was showing you around. Good luck - hope the attorneys and details don't drive you crazy! hopefully, you can put up pics soon too :)