Sometime in April of 2009, Matthew and I made our first offer on a house. It was a low offer (but one we felt was fair, for an amount we were comfortable paying for the house in question), and it went nowhere. It was by no means our “dream property,” and we didn’t want a starter home, so we shrugged it off.
Our house hunt it now entering its seventh year. In that time, we’ve made a handful of offers, usually low offers on something that might have worked, but that we weren’t too sad to pass on.
It feels like we’re looking for a needle in a haystack (I thought there was a previous post outlining what we’re looking for, but I guess I need to work on that). In the past six plus years, we’ve viewed hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of online listings. The listings are first filtered through some of our criteria for price, lot square footage, location, and number of bedrooms.
If something looks interesting, the next step is to pull up a satellite view. Sure, it may have a BIG yard, but is it a big, SUNNY yard? Or does it have the potential to be a big sunny yard, i.e., are there trees we can remove, or is the shade coming from neighboring buildings and/or trees on neighboring lots?
On the maps, we also look at proximity to highways, train tracks, and other NIMBY factors, as well as looking at transportation options. We’ve already limited our search to locations that would be bikeable [to current/potential work sites], distance-wise, but what would it actually be like to bike from Y to Z? Is it at all convenient for public transit? What about walkability?
The map test significantly reduces the number of properties that are actually worth seeing in person, but every now and then it happens. Yesterday was one of those days, and the property in question even had an open house.
I like attending open houses because it means we don’t have to waste our realtor’s time with an official showing. (I like the realtor we’re currently working with, and after over six years and at least as many realtors, I’d like to hang on to this one.) With an open house, you just show up, pop in, and you’re on your way.
Of course, the last few years of house hunting have been with a little one in tow. The hardest part of this by far is scheduling viewings around his sleep times; compared to that, the actual house tours are a piece of cake! When he was little, we would just stick G in the Ergo and wear him while we toured houses.
Things are a little trickier now, but fortunately G is pretty flexible and low-key. If we’re viewing a clean, safe property, we’ll sometimes bring a favorite toy or two and give him the option of walking around with us or plopping down somewhere with his toys. (Dirty properties, or those with hazards, are a bit trickier, but we don’t encounter too many of those.)
Anyhow, I brought a couple of toys to yesterday’s open house, but G was content to walk around with us. We had finished viewing the main floor, and Matthew opened the door to the basement. In addition to an immediate view of some rather creative plumbing (I don’t think you ever really want to hear the word “creative” applied to plumbing), we were met with a special stench, which Matthew identified as cat pee (the owners had already moved out, so there are neither humans nor cats living in the house at the moment).
All in all, the basement was less than inviting, and Gabriel said he didn’t want to go downstairs. I was also fine passing on that experience, so I suggested the two of us check out the second floor. Now, Gabriel really likes cats, and I could tell that he was curious about Matthew’s comment. In a quiet voice (so the realtor showing the house couldn’t hear), I tried to explain why we thought there had been a cat (or cats) in the house. So we’re climbing the stairs up to the second floor, and Gabriel gets this really serious look on his face and says, “But what color was the cat?”
His non sequitur totally cracked me up, and now I feel inspired to use that line at random in conversations. “Yes, I see your point, but what color was the cat?”
Unfortunately, after our quick walk through, we deemed yesterday’s house yet another non-starter — the location would have been great for both biking and walking, and decent for transit, and the house itself had some nice features, but the actual usable garden space wasn’t as big as we’d hoped, it was overpriced for the updates it needed, and we’re not sold on the school district. It all added up to a big N-O. And so the search continues . . . .
Previous house hunting posts:
I feel you! We have been keeping an eye on the market since we bought our home in December 2004. At first it was because we planned to upgrade from our “starter home” after a couple of years (like everyone else did, because the market was rising so reliably we’d be able to afford more home, right?) and then the crash came! We have been wrestling against the desire for a second bath and third bedroom for a long time. We looked into adding on, but decided to wait until the economy recovered, and by then, our priorities for our home looked certain to fork at some point. Finally, this year, they did, and it’s been so hard to fine the right home. We have found only a handful that “tick all the boxes”, and most don’t feel right – the location, the floor plan, the yard – SOMETHING. Good luck to you!
Yikes, I didn’t realize you had been looking for quite that long — you have our long search beat by a few years! Our situation isn’t quite as urgent as yours (though I know you have contingency plans). Something may eventually happen to force our hand, like losing the lot next to my MIL’s where we currently garden. Or we may decide that we’re ready to have our own place (and be rid of the noise and other trials of a shared building) and make some compromises on garden size, but otherwise we’re going nowhere fast. I think we’d do much better finding what we want, in our price range, in a small town, but that’s not really in the cards, at least not immediately (and it would involve different compromises).