Well, we’re back on (or still on? — not sure we ever really fell off) the house hunting horse, though conditions are questionable: inventory is really low right now, good properties are moving fast, it’s a seller’s market, etc., etc. Not to mention that interest rates (on loans) are rising. (What really gets me is that interest rates on borrowed money are going up, while rates on savings, like C.D.s and money market accounts, are still pitiful –grr!)
Anyhow, a new property of interest (let’s call is a POI) popped up on Monday. What with properties moving fast, I was more than a little anxious, and we got in to see it by Wednesday afternoon.
I planned to meet Matthew there after work, and since I’d been a bit under the weather, my initial plan was to take the car. However, Wednesday was rather nice, weather-wise, the destination was just over 3 miles away, and biking worked, timing-wise. In fact, in making my plans to bike, I rather forgot that I was feeling sick. I readied my bike, picked Sir up from childcare early, and we headed over.
- Almost a third of an acre (12200 sq ft lot) with good sun for gardening
- A decent kitchen rehab
- A crazy master suite that took up the entire 2nd floor, and included a wall of windows looking out onto the huge front yard (i.e., the garden)
- Decent location for bikeability
- Closet space
- The 100+ year-old house had some additions over the years, which seemed rather random/haphazard
- There was a small basement under part of the house; the rest was some weird combination of crawl-space, subbasement, and slab
- In one of the crawl-spaces, they were using jacks and bricks to support part of the house.
- The entrance to the basement was through one of the first floor bedrooms
- The kitchen, living, and dining areas had been refinished with laminate flooring, which is known for off-gassing some nasty stuff
- The paint (or other?) fumes — both my lungs and head were unhappy; I had to keep stepping outside to get fresh air
- Potential plumbing issues
- Pretty dismal for public transit
- Not particularly walkable
- On the very edge of StL city limits, meaning we would have to deal with “the school” question
The basement issues made it a no-go, a decision we arrived at rather quickly. As our realtor pointed out, lifting a house and adding a basement is neither an easy nor a cheap fix.
We biked home together, and on the way, I pointed out a house with a huge lot (assuming that it was, in fact, a single property) that I’d noticed earlier. After dinner, a bit of house-stalking turned up that it was, in fact, a house on half an acre.
A-freaking-mazing. And, distinctly NOT for sale. Bummer.
Due to various timing and logistical issues, we’ve driven to most of the properties we’ve looked at over the past few years, which always feels wrong, since bikeability is one of our big criteria. I have to admit that part of my motive in biking to this house on Wednesday was hoping to create some good house hunting karma. Despite it not being “the one,” I really enjoyed seeing the house, and I think biking there helped my mood and improved the whole experience.
**Satellite images of POIs courtesy of Google maps.**
I completely understand your frustration. I love parts South City (we nearly bought a home on Rhodes, near Francis Park, when we were first searching in 2004), but it’s SO hard to access from other parts of the metro area, and while they are talking about a (bad-for-Maplewood) bypass that would make it easier to get to places like Clayton, that goes against a lot of your goals and core values. One of the biggest frustrations about searching for homes in the city/inner-ring suburbs is the “school question” combined with tiny lots. I would posit, however, that it might be better to stay in the city (with access to magnet and charter schools) versus relocating to SOME county areas. For example, one thing we discovered when we were under contract on a home in U City is that U City doesn’t qualify for magnet/bussing because it’s already very integrated. Maplewood-Richmond Heights may face the same issue – I don’t know, but I’d check (since MRH is central and close to Sunnen/Maplewood train lines, and reasonably price, but a question mark for values and further commercial development due to the planned bypass).
Yes, we are really far enough south right now that I often think we may as well be in a suburb. Still it’s less than 5 miles to the CWE, and our current location is convenient to a major bus line that takes Matthew straight to work and that we can also use to access MetroLink.
The house we saw was more west than south — we would have almost been in Maplewood (actually a Maplewood ZIP code, which I found odd). I actually looked to make sure that the South County Connector wouldn’t impact the property (as planned, it wouldn’t).
I’ve had the same thought as far as the city, with it’s magnets and charters, being a better option than some of the suburbs (Matthew’s not convinced). But it does mean investing the time and energy sifting through the options, testing for gifted magnets, etc., as opposed to if we lived in Webster or Brentwood, where it would be a simple matter of sending Sir to the public schools.
MRH is interesting. I’m familiar with some of the great farm-to-table work that’s been done in the school district (i.e., providing healthy, and some local, food for school lunches), and it seems like they might be headed in the right direction in other areas, too. But it could be a bit of a gamble, and Matthew’s pretty leery of it.
Hmmmm… well if it makes you feel any better, I looked for a LOOOOOONG time before I found my house. I actually got my real estate agent to let me have access to the actual listings, which was apparently a no-no back then… I’m sorta assuming that’s changed since everything is digital now. Anyhow, when I finally found my house it was actually through a friend not a real estate agent, so it pays to let people know that you’re looking. Hang in there… the right house will find you eventually.
Yes, it’s pretty easy to access listings these days, though I imagine there are some details that only realtors can view. We have a number of searches set up, with different criteria: ZIP codes of interest, minimum lot size, minimum bedrooms, maximum price, etc. By and large, we use these to find POI, narrow them further by using tools like Google maps (which can give you a rough idea if the property will get decent sun or not), and then reach out to our buyer’s agent when there’s something that’s actually worth seeing in person.
I think most of our family and friends in the area know we’re hunting, and we’re working with a new realtor, who I think will be more proactive in helping us hunt, which can only help!