Adventures in House Hunting

After saying that we’re going to let house hunting take a back burner for the next month or so, we still went through with our scheduled appointment with our real estate agent last Sunday. We had about 10 houses on the list and figured it wouldn’t hurt to get in some viewings. The market is picking up and when we are ready to buy, we’re going to have to act fast to get in to see the good ones.

We whipped through the first few viewings because they were not for us. So many of the older houses we are drawn to have terrible layouts. This is becoming a real issue actually and we’re starting to be open to looking at different types of homes not just homes built before the 1950’s. Those older homes have impossibly small bedrooms and quirky kitchens and have been oddly updated.

We are honest with ourselves- we do not want a fixer upper. Not the kind that will take a total overhaul or require us to gut a kitchen. So it was kind of funny when we entered an old house that had two small bedrooms, a beautifully updated bathroom, nice built-in adjacent to the fireplace and small dining area and kitchen. But the kitchen sink was set in the counter at an angle facing a corner. And it was a tiny sink even though the kitchen itself had been updated. There was a big back porch off of that with a sunken hot tub and a yard that went on and on. I mean, we could have gotten married back there- if we wanted to get married when we’re in our mid-40’s because it would take that long to complete. There was a basement that claimed it had 2 more rooms but it was dank and the small windows let in very little light. I wouldn’t even subject Darcy to having his nerd room down there let alone a guest staying with us. Despite all that we could see the potential and got slightly excited.

We moved on to see a 1963 home that looked very promising. It’s a short sale which is not ideal but we’re not opposed to seeing them. You just never know. The fence that surrounds the home actually lent itself to a private feel for the yard which seemed like it was easy to maintain- just enough grass to not overwhelm us with the potential upkeep mixed in with gravel and some landscaping that needed to be updated.

This is a nice photo of the front though it’s not as well maintained as they would like you to think.

When you enter the front door, to the left is a doorway into a kitchen. Not a terrible kitchen but it was small and would need upgrading (electric stove top set into the counter- no thanks- plus dark counters and black appliances). The kitchen opened up onto the dining area and the entire wall on that side of the house is windows. There was a narrow-ish deck that ran the expanse of that side of the house making it ideal for parties.

Yes, I do judge potential houses by how entertaining-ready they might be.

There was this very cool fireplace that coupled with the expanse of windows almost sold me right then and there. We have mid-century modern tastes and this would fit with our aesthetic.

Here’s the fireplace with a built-in. And guess what? The bottom level of this house has another one of these fireplaces!

So through this area we head down the hall. There are three doors, all shut, so we open them slowly to see sad little twin beds in each. The house smells of dog and it’s pretty clear that a bunch of dudes live there. Everywhere you look there are skis and snowboards and the furniture is all mismatched and shabby. Each room is sadder than the last though the master is ample enough with a walk in closet and good-sized bathroom. Whoever updated the place liked this particular type of tile that looks like wet stone even when it’s not wet. (Not a fan, personally.) We check that all out and then head down stairs that are covered in very dirty cream-colored carpet.

The downstairs is as big as the upstairs with a very large sort of work space directly under the kitchen, the same style fireplace and big windows with a sliding door that opens to a lawn area. The floor is concrete but it could be painted a cool color with some rugs put down and would be an ample family room. Along the hallway there are more rooms with doors shut. I open one that is packed with stuff, again, stinking of dog. I continue walking and open a door to find nothing in it but a snowsuit laid out flat on the floor. That was it! Just the snowsuit! Like someone had laid down on the floor in it, spread eagle, and then evaporated. It was totally creepy.

There was another bathroom off that hall and at the end was a laundry area and two doors. One led to outside and the other was a mystery. Mr. Darcy is always very curious and will explore every nook and cranny, even the scary ones. We’re standing there with our agent and he opens the door to a pitch black room. He feels for the light switch and when the light illuminates the room, he sees a guy sleeping on a mattress on the floor in the middle of the room. The guy kind of rolls over and Mr. Darcy was all, “Oh! Sorry man!” and flicked the light back off. We all looked at each other and scrambled out of there.

Super creepy.

Despite the creep factor- this house was huge and with some clean up and minor changes to the decor and an expansion to the kitchen, we might be interested. Oh and if they lowered the price from $285,000. Even though it’s huge (maybe too big for us?), it’s priced too high for our taste. We’re going to keep an eye on it and see.

The most surprising thing though was not the creepy guy asleep on a mattress in a room that isn’t technically a room. It was seeing a newer construction home (2011) and actually considering it. I never ever thought I’d be into it. I’ve heard bad things about newer construction homes- shoddy materials and craftsmanship but when one came up we agreed to view it as it was in an ideal location. As we drove into the housing complex I remarked that it reminded me of “Back to the Future” when Marty goes back in time and there is that big billboard advertising a new housing development. The houses are cookie cutter but the place is very clean and well maintained and quiet. I was still skeptical. I like my houses and neighborhoods to have some character.

We walked into the model home and I was like HOLY WOW! The layout was so open and everything was so new and sparkly. It helped that they had staged it immaculately. But OMG the kitchen. I had a kitchen orgasm right there. So much counter space and stainless steel appliances and you could see from the living room through the dining room to the kitchen. The upstairs had a large master and bath with 2 more rooms. But, there wasn’t any storage or garage and the yard was non-existent. We really want a dog and a kid and I think having at least some yard and a space to bbq and entertain outside is ideal for us.

Still, we spent a lot of time there, taking it all in. We even went and saw another model that wowed me even more. The dining room was in the front that opened onto a massive kitchen that flowed into the family room in the back. The upstairs had an office nook and, same as the other unit, had 3 rooms upstairs but with a better layout (in my opinion). As we walked to the actual open houses to see where they were located on the lot, I mentioned how the place had a “Pleasantville” vibe about it- very Stepford Wives with everything looking the same. That was right around the time that the guy working the leasing office at the property mentioned to us that there would be more construction going up across the way but that on the other side there would be no new developments since there was a cemetary there.

Mr. Darcy and I looked at each other and said conspiratorially, “You moved the head stones but you didn’t move the bodies!”

Dude, POLTERGEIST! Um, no thanks.

And yes, we reference movies a lot. We were MFEO. (What movie is that from?)

From here until after March 20th we’re going to just keep an eye on houses coming on the market and our agent will send us gems. If it’s something great, we’ll go out and see it. If not, we’ll just it pass until I’m through this insane period at work. The right house is out there for us and we’ll know it when we see it.


14 thoughts on “Adventures in House Hunting

  1. It’s kind of funny seeing the size of various rooms from houses built in different years/eras. Some are super small, some wide and spacious in areas you don’t need it to be so roomy. Makes me wonder about the architecture of each decade. Sometimes it makes me wonder “what the heck where they thinking??”

    Like you said, you’ll find that perfect place for the two of you! It takes time, but you’ll find that right place.

  2. My friends just finished renovating a 1950’s split level…and it is really cute. While I have a love of older homes, I’m starting to really like newer homes. Good luck on your house hunt!

    PS: The movie reference was Sleepless in Seattle. 🙂

  3. Okay, that is super creepy about the mattress guy!
    Man, I wish you lived here — I’m desperately hoping to sell my 1919 2 bed / 1 bath home, and I think you’d love it. I had the same “layout issues” when looking for my home, and the reason I bought mine is because of the fantasticly open floor plan (unusual for a house of that era). I’ve since completely renovated the kitchen so it is like that of a brand new home. Alas, the market is terrible and I’d take a huge loss selling it, so we are renting.

    I also wanted only old homes, and I loved living in (and restoring) my little arts and crafts bungalow. It was a good spot for me for 8 years. I will say that now that I’ve had that experience, I’m very anxious for my next house to be NEW construction. The problem with old houses is that things break a lot, and that is annoying. And they just never seem as clean as a new house, even though I had professional cleaners for the last 2 years that I lived there. But I do love the charm of an old home.

    And some unsolicited advice (since I’m giving it already – ha!), from a newlywed – you are wise to try to breathe and savor the moment. We went from engaged to married in 90 days. I’m also an event planner, so it WAS fairly easy for me to knock out a wedding for 150 in that amount of time. I also let a lot of things go, realizing “what matters here is the marriage, not the party.” I feel like I still had a totally perfect dream day wedding, but also didn’t get all crazy about getting hung up on details. For example – flowers are always pretty. I picked my colors, two things I DIDN’T want (lillies, they smell like funerals, or baby’s breath), and let it all go. I bought my dress off the rack for $200. I let my bridesmaids pick their own dresses, wtihin certain guidelines (black, long). I had a groom who wanted to be WAY more involved than I anticipated, and that caused some issues for us (nothing major, but arguments that could have been avoided if I just remembered that this was OUR wedding, not MY wedding, and things were important to him).

    Also, the advice I ignored? Make sure the day off, you take several moments to stop, look around, and savor. EVERYBODY told me that, and I thought “yeah yeah, whatever,” and now that it is over, I wish I had listened to htat advice more. It was a totally perfect and wonderful day, I wouldn’t change a thing, but it passed in the blink of an eye. 🙂

    HAVE FUN!!!!

  4. When I was looking at houses to buy, I had the same sleeping guy experience. TOTALLY creeped me out. I found the guy and ran out of the room, down the hall and out of the house. My agent had no idea what was happening. 🙂

  5. I am going to be buying a place myself soon, and this was interesting to read. I’m really looking more at condos than houses, being single, I don’t want to deal with the yard issue. I know what you mean though, about old houses. We lived in one in LA that was from the 1920s and it had some horrific plumbing issues. I think anything you get is going to seem much more spacious and exciting to you, but waiting for the right place is a good idea.

  6. When we were moving, we totally judged our potential apartment on entertainability. How many people can we fit in the living room? Could we host D&D or MTG in the dining room? Is there enough parking? I’m sure our future house will go through the same scrutiny. Good luck in your search!

  7. I know SO many people that have had the same experience of finding a sleeping person in a house they were being shown. That never happened to me, but I walk into a bathroom once where it was CLEAR someone had just showered, yet there was no someone there. Where did they go? Out the window? I don’t know. But I did NOT buy that house. It is really hard to over look some stuff. Carpet, bad furniture, paint, that never deterred me. A really stinky, steamy, inexplicably damp bathroom, though, and I was out of there. It’s really individual to everyone.

    I think looking at older homes that haven’t been recently remodeled or that you don’t have huge plans of fixing up yourself (and they will all be huge, there is no “just paint” in older homes”) is something most of us aren’t prepared for. But, the wonderful thing about older homes (pre 1940’s, even) is that they are built so well, with real materials, which is hard to find in new construction.

    This may not be the case for you guys, but with every house I looked at (and am beginning to look at again now) I went in thinking “I am going to tear out the carpet anyway.” That way, I was immediately looking past the smaller cosmetic stuff and opened me up to what was more important for me, like the integrity of the place, and other finishes. You may not want to have to budget for carpet and light fixtures or those little things, but having that option helps a lot, at least mentally when you’re seeing house after house and none feel “right.”

    Okay, I must stop. I looked at over thirty places last time and expect to do at least that this time (and I know people that have seen over 100), so don’t feel like the lone buyers. 🙂

  8. there was so much detail about that creepy-guy-sleeping house that i half expected it to end with “…and then we bought it on the spot!!” (well, until you got to the part w/the creepy guy sleeping in it, anyway) 🙂

    these big open spaces are making me so jealous… i want a better space to entertain & throw parties!!

  9. Most home buyers have to make compromises between their ideal home and what they can afford. Every home has potential issues. Older homes need updating, whether it’s appliances, wiring or tile and paint. Newer homes might have better wiring/piping and appliances with 10-year warranties, but there’s is that unknown factor of whether they built the home to last. I think it’s helpful for first time buyers to see a ton of homes, so you begin to understand how far your dollar will go and what areas you want to compromise.

  10. My best friend just bought a house built in 1910, from an old lady who had been living in it for forty years and done NOTHING to the house. Honestly when we walked in we laughed as it was all orange paint, and too many doors.

    It wasn’t a major remodel. She got two doors and ten light fittings removed. The main walls got painted white, and curtains were replaced. The kitchen and bathroom are liveable,but will be replaced eventually.

    Now though, with her fifties modern furniture and nice art, it looks and smells good, not like old lady. A little bit of money and good taste have made a world of difference.

    Good luck.

    Julie Q

  11. Your right house is out there, and you’ll know it when you enter. J and I had a list of non-negotiables (2 office spaces, garage, 2 bathrooms), and some things we wanted (deck/patio, family room) We also had some real specifics about location because of my husband’s need for public transportation.
    Thankfully, we don’t have a sleeping guy story, but there was a house that we looked at that we named, “The House with No Soul”. It was the creepiest place I’ve ever been. It was obvious that people lived there, but empty and soulless.
    As for older houses, the first house I bought on my own was built in 1914. The ceilings were high, the baseboards were wide, and the closets were tiny. I loved every minute of my 5 years in that house 🙂

  12. I was never a fan of the newly-built houses either, but sometimes I wish we had one just so we didn’t have to continually fix things around our house! Sometimes it’s fun…other times it’s the biggest pain ever. So I dunno, there might be something to those planned communities!

  13. How exciting! I’m glad you’re putting the house searching on hold until you can actually enjoy it, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

  14. If I could buy a mid century house I’d jump on it. JUMP. ON, IT, I love the design both inside and out. BUT I also understand you wanting to be in an older home,too. Personally I’d stay away from the cookie cutter home. Those are staged to give you the WOW factor and although they look good I think given the things you love, you’d be regretful in the long run. Plus houses of the past are built so much better….solid and sturdy. Don’t forget about TREES — I could not be in a neighborhood minus of trees. The end.

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