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Home buying is complicated... [Dec. 17th, 2009|08:16 am]
Okay. So.

I found a lovely little house - two bedrooms, or a third if you want to count the short attic with the sloping wall (it would work, especially as a kid's room). Nice price, nice plot of land, and in the middle of a block. No, I mean, *in the middle* - down an alley. I kinda liked it. So did someone else, and their offer got taken.

There's another little house that's about 25% over my target price. It has an unfinished (but decent) basement, an attic much like the tiny one, and some strange layout issues. But, a nice kitchen, 1 and a half baths, and it's had its big problem - leaky roof dumped water in the basement, repairs made (including a new roof), and seems to be in sound shape...I'm about to offer 15% over my target price. I don't like making this offer - one of the things I've loved about my job is that it's paid me enough that I've always had some spare cash hanging around, and this will do a great deal towards removing *that* problem. Plus, the parking is a bit tricky (two concrete paths - one for each set of tires! - and a garage that would be a pain to use to hold a car.

Oh, and, this is what freaks me out: a shed whose roof leaks, so the floor is just constantly hit by rain. It offends me to think of having such a thing in what could be "my" yard. If you'd told me last year that my decision could be made by a roofless wooden shed, I've have laughed at you. But I'll tell you one thing: if I take this house, that shed is going to be hauled off or repaired/replaced, quickly.

Another home *just* came on the market; spot on my price-point, but I might have to add a bit to re-roof it. It's on a nice plot of land, it's got a decent, boring layout (someone called an architect, and s/he said "I'll get on the phone to my blueprint maker- you want 3 beds, bath and a half, with a garage, right?"), parking is reasonable (on a bit of a hill, but a full two car garage). But it's a rambler - one level, no stairs. Homes are supposed to have attics and basements.

The price is great, a home inspection should tell me everything I need to know about it, but I find myself willing to go about 10% higher (on top of the roofing costs, which I assume will be needed) just to get a home with stairs in it.

I'll grant you, there's one other thing that weighs in favor of the more expensive house. As I said, it has *had* it's problem, and the problems have been fixed. It has appliances (refrigerator, washer&dryer, and maybe even a garbage disposal), but for the price difference, I could get those in the rambler, cheaper, and I could pick the ones I wanted.

What's bugging me most are the presence or absence of stairs, and an old, mostly-roofless shed.

Still, either house could be workable. I won't take a house I don't feel I'll enjoy living in - I mean, talk about a *lousy* investment! - but it's weird how things that I never thought would matter suddenly have become important.

[User Picture]From: karenkay
2009-12-17 05:06 pm (UTC)
About the house in your price range that needs a roof--if the inspection shows that it needs the roof, you can make having the roof replaced a condition of the sale. Or ask them to cut the price by however much a new roof would cost. You have a lot more flexibility here (in making your offer) than it sounds like you think you have.

(ETA: I just read that and then realized that the inspection comes after the offer. Offers are generally contingent on a good inspection anyway--you should talk to your buyer's agent about how to include the new roof in the offer. The sellers should definitely pay for it.)

I think it's funny that you want a house with stairs--I wanted a house I would leave feet first, so I deliberately looked for 1-story houses. But chacun a son gout!

I do think you're concentrating on the most important things. Floor plan is crucial, and it sounds like you are learning what's important to you.

Edited at 2009-12-17 05:08 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: susandennis
2009-12-17 05:24 pm (UTC)
I'm fascinated by your stair requirement. Why?

I'm addicted to House Hunters and House Hunters International so now I'm also glued to johnpalmer House Hunt!
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-12-17 05:36 pm (UTC)
Well, it's not a *requirement*. It's not like I'll refuse the rambler if that's what I can get. It's just, the rambler is a three bedroom apartment with the upper floor apartments shaved off.

When you're a child and you're frustrated as all hell with the world, and you need to go away and curl into a little world of your own, you go *upstairs to your room*, and open a book.

When you need something darkly mysterious that isn't kept in normal spaces, you go *downstairs to the basement*.

When you're taking that Special Someone to the bedroom, you end up stuck on the stairs because you just want your hands all over them, and stairs are tricky to negotiate, so you stop, briefly, on the stairs, with full awareness that you're no longer in living space, or loving space, but right on the boundary.

Stairs are a passageway, a gateway to different worlds and different levels of reality.

Plus, cats love stairs.
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[User Picture]From: susandennis
2009-12-17 05:40 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful and amazing reply!! Wow. I'm old and lazy so stairs to me are a barrier. I never considered them as a gateway to wonder. But, after reading your 'why', I am going to have to rethink this. Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: essaying
2009-12-17 05:29 pm (UTC)
How long are you planning to live in this place? Stairs become less and less appealing with age, IME.
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[User Picture]From: lolleeroberts
2009-12-17 05:39 pm (UTC)
Homes are very individual things. I don't want stairs - but then I have mobility issues and balance issues, and I want to be able to stay in my house even after I need a walker or a wheelchair. Add in the fact that our water table is too high for basements and you've got a one-story rambler. But then, if we all liked the same thing, think of the shortage of haggis!

I totally agree with you about the roofless shed. Not something I'd want either. I hope things work out well for you and you get a house you enjoy at a price you can afford.
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[User Picture]From: beaq
2009-12-17 06:43 pm (UTC)
Maybe expand your consideration list? Walk around the neighborhood to see how many dogs bark at you. Hang out there around 10pm on a Friday night and see who's blasting their stereo. (This works better in the summer.) Are there cafes or shops within easy walking distance? Big insurance hassles like buried oil tanks? Anything you'd really love to have nearby? Is the freeway next door, and is that a good or bad thing? You know, that kind of thing.
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[User Picture]From: eleri
2009-12-17 07:37 pm (UTC)
I was thinking about you t'other day when a couple houses at the end of our street went up for sale. Single story though :/
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[User Picture]From: sueschus
2009-12-18 02:55 am (UTC)
What is your motivation for buying a house? Must you buy immediately?

It's like buying clothing - would you buy a lime green shirt because it had nice buttons and you just really wanted a shirt? You know you love stairs to Other Spaces. Hold out for a house with stairs. The 2nd house with the formerly leaky roof has red flags even with repairs - removal of the shed, tricky to worthless garage, layout oddities. Have you seen the repair orders/receipts? Do you know who did the work? An inspection is only as good as the inspector.

Do you have a Buyer's Agent? A good BA will have access to properties as they come onto MLS and possibly before. They can set up automatic searches per your requirements. When you look at properties bring a steno pad. Left side is positive comments, right side is negative. As you pull up to a house, write down your first impression (along with the address).

When you and your BA write a contract be sure to include a period of time (here usually 10 days, during which you can opt out or change the contract without penalty) to get the inspection, line up financing and check with your insurance agent. You don't want to find at closing that the house can't be insured for some weird reason. You can put anything you want in the contract - Seller makes inspection repairs up to $XXX, remove the shed before closing, appliance allowance, etc. Of course, the Seller can say no too, but sometimes ...

YOUR house is out there - stairs, basement, attic. Have your agent keep an eye on the first house (2 beds etc) to see if it goes through. Hold out for a HOME, not a house, John.

Everything will fall apart nicely.
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[User Picture]From: barbarakitten_t
2009-12-18 05:32 am (UTC)
We have stairs...very steep to attic, not bad to basement. It's the basement that concerns me, because that's MY home...and mobility issues are a concern. Of course, my basement (mine and kathi's technically) is not dark because the walls in my part are pink!

You are younger and in better shape than I...so if you want stairs, you should have them.
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[User Picture]From: laura_alive
2009-12-18 04:13 pm (UTC)
You've gotten some excellent advice here.

I loved your thoughts about stairs. I'd also say if you're planning to be in the home for any amount of time (years), consider that you/your guests may be less enthusiastic about stairs in the future.

My house has a guest bedroom upstairs (along with the main bedroom), which is great! Except for in-laws who are elderly and have a very difficult time navigating said stairs. And days of late when my knee aches.

I still think the most important factor is to find a place that feels like home to you - that makes your heart warm and happy.
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