We went through the comparison (we shall call it the "fixer") house last night, and it was good for us for several reasons. First, it showed us that the newer house we saw on Friday really does have a crappy layout. The fixer house has about the same square footage, a little less actually, and the first level felt huge. The upstairs has three bedrooms instead of four, but they were big bedrooms. We would've used the fourth bedroom as an office anyway, and the fixer actually has two more rooms than the new house: a loft area over the family room and a separate den. The loft is basically what the fourth bedroom would've been (even bigger though), and the den is a big room itself.
Even with two more rooms, the first level room dimensions were bigger than the newer house. That made me feel a little better. I was starting to think maybe small room sizes were my imagination in that newer house. Turns out it wasn't.
So, nice layout, nice big house. It had a wide yard with a deck that had a woods line with a ravine as the rear boundary. No easement like the newer house, but still a nice yard. It needed some landscape love, since they hadn't lived there in more than six months, but it had potential.
Really, those are the two themes of the fixer: needing love and having potential. The roof was newer, we thought, but the windows, appliances, furnace, and hot water tank were all original. The windows were the biggie. They have nearly floor to ceiling windows in every room of the house, and there are three sets of doors leading to the deck, plus a front door. His dad's estimate for replacing all windows and doors was about 25k. Now, that's with high-end stuff, and a little inflated, but that's what I would try to get off the seller's asking price. It also needs a lot of cosmetic love--pink striped wallpaper with mauve carpet in the living and dining room! And it needs appliances.
But it has great "bones." That's what I look for in a house. This newer house was well maintained and clean (it better be for only being 7 years old), but it would've been nearly impossible (or extremely expensive) to fix the major design flaws in the house. The fixer house had a great design, but it would've taken work to get the finishes the way we want them.
The nice thing about a minor fixer (I'd never buy a house that needed major structural fixes) is that you can get it cheaper initially and then fix it up at your convenience. Windows one year, the kitchen another, then room by room. Everything is livable now--you can do a bit at a time.
Like I said, I like houses with potential. The caveat is that I need to get them at a discount. I think the reason this house has been on the market over a year is that they are unrealistic about the price. They bought it in 2002 for 254k. They replaced one room of carpet and maybe a roof, and that's it. We saw it for 313k last summer (way out of our range), and it's down to 278k now. If we could get it for 240k, we'd do it. But these people have been reluctant to drop the price (they drop it in $500 or $1000 increments every few weeks--please!). I understand that you don't want to lose money. But if you want it to sell, be realistic!
Tim hates fixers. It's funny, because he likes projects, and his dad has done nothing but constantly re-renovate their (already nice) house. And his dad has helped us quite a bit too. We'd pay someone else to do the windows, but I have no problem tearing off wallpaper and painting, or doing some landscaping. Tim, not interested.
So, because I don't like the newer house, and Tim doesn't want a fixer, I think we're staying put for now.
Actually, I really enjoyed going through the house last night. We spent about an hour and a half there. I felt no pressure from our realtor--she even said that if this isn't it, we'll keep our eyes peeled and wait for one that is. I loved seeing how a good layout can really make you appreciate the square footage. And I love imagining what I can do with the space with some elbow grease and a little money (you should see what I could've done with this kitchen!).
I think if I wasn't already pursuing the doctor/scientist thing, I'd be a realtor. Last year was high stress, but now we're just taking our time, no pressure. Totally fun for me. I think Tim doesn't enjoy it as much, but I could do it every day. I don't think I'm creative enough for the interior design thing, but I'd be a good architect, maybe. I don't so much see the colors and patterns, but I see the bones of the layout. That's what I like. Leave the color to someone else.
Anyway, if I had even the slightest idea that the owners of the fixers would play ball with a lowball offer, I might do it. But I really got the opposite impression. So let the house sit. As for the newer house, it sounded like there was another couple (who didn't have a house to sell) that really liked it. Let them have it. It was nice, but not worth the price.
So, that's where we are at. We'll keep one eye opened, but we're moving forward with replacing our current roof and possibly siding as if we were going to live there for a while.
I figure if we're meant to move, the right house in the right area at the right price will work out. But for now, we're good. We're doing what we need to do on a day to day basis. Maybe that's why house hunting this time is so much less stressful. Last year, everything was on hold. We didn't know what we were doing, so we froze. And that sucked. This year, we're more mellow, and it's a lot nicer, I have to say :)
So, that's the update. It sounds like there won't be a lot of change with the house stuff for a while--these two were the only two on the market now that are in our target area for the target price (and they were both at the very high end of our price). Unless something gets reduced drastically or something new comes on the market (and they usually start out overpriced), it'll be quiet for a while. Which is fine, really. If we don't find something by the end of the summer, we'll wait for a while. Neither of us wants to be moving or getting a house ready to sell with a newborn. And since winter sucks so bad to sell, we'd probably wait till next spring.
Anyway, I had fun. If nothing else, it gives me more experience to use when we do finally move, whether it be this year, next year, or five years down the road. It can only help us clarify what we like and what we don't. And our realtor understands our situation, I think, so I don't feel like we're "using" her at all. This is what buyers do.
Fun stuff. Now, back to the regularly scheduled programming...