Saturday, February 26, 2011

Notes from the house hunt

We saw 6 houses in 2 hours today and except for the place with some dog crap in the living room (!), we were pleasantly surprised by everything-- most of it looked better in person than it does on the internet. The dog crap place and this other house that was on an awesome street in a great neighborhood (walking distance to an elementary school, a junior high, and a high school AND a fantastic neighborhood pool) but needed some major cosmetic updates and had some pretty significant structural damage were at the bottom of our list because they both needed some pretty major work.

Also near the bottom was a small-ish tri-level with 3 bedrooms and 2 small bathrooms. Even though it was also on a terrific street in a terrific neighborhood and even though Ben liked it a lot (he went to an open house and then brought us all back today for a second look) and even though it was not the smallest house we saw, I just didn't like it. I think I was just hungry and crabby because it was house #6. And for some reason, even though I watch tons of house shows and know the rules of engagement when it comes to house hunting, I could NOT look past the owners' stuff to imagine ourselves living there. Harry really wanted me to look at the hamster in one of the kid rooms. I didn't want to, and he was all, "But Mama, you'll LOVE it!" That's when I realized I was being an asshole, and we all cheered up and went to McDonalds where neither kid ate a dam thing, but Harry was stoked about the Barbie fairy toys. God that place is nasty. But I do love a filet o'fish.

Anywho, number three on our list was the cutest little house in the world. Close to campus, near a huge park, big back yard. And really small. Only 3 bedrooms. A finished basement, though, that would hold a lot of toys. Really pretty wood floors and woodwork throughout, lots of cute built-ins in the living room, dining room, and attic master bedroom. It looked like a dollhouse inside and out. BUT, the people moving out were clearly cramped for space (the closets were BURSTING), and they only had one kid. How long could we be comfortable there with 3? (But we could add on-- the back yard was HUGE and the neighborhood is very desirable).

My number one/Ben's number 2 house was a 5 bedroom, 3.5 bath colonial (I LOVE the curb appeal of a colonial) walking distance from another terrific pool. It was great-- sunny, lots of space, a full unfinished basement (well, unfinished except for a really awkward full bathroom in the middle of nowhere). One of the bedrooms was on the main floor, and it had a teeny closet, making it a perfect office/guest room and meaning all the kids could have their own rooms upstairs. It also had a full master bath which is something I want because I am pretty sure this baby is a boy, and I so do not want to share my bathroom with 3 teenage boys. Yuck. BUT, without a basement playroom, we'd probably end up using either the formal living room or the formal dining room as a playroom, which is awkward because both rooms are the first ones you see upon entering the house. Although the street itself was a quiet culdesac, it was right off a busy street, and the kids would have to walk/ride bikes on the busy street to access any more than the 5-ish houses in the immediate vicinity. The biggest drawback was that the house is 19 years old, and so are all the appliances, mechanicals, and the roof. It needs some paint and carpet (but what DOESN'T?), maybe some new light fixtures, but really, we cold move in tomorrow.

My number 2/ Ben's number one is a 5 bedroom, 2 bathroom ranch on a big lot. It's pink on the outside, which is funny to both of us and has been extensively renovated (roof, furnace, AC, etc). The kitchen hasn't been touched for at least 20 years, but in its defense, when it was redone, everything was super trendy and top-of-the-line. Now? Lost of wood paneled appliances (think: a fridge like the Golden Girls). But that didn't bother us at all. Everything appears to be functioning fine, and it would be fun to remodel a kitchen exactly like we wanted in a few years. The cool thing about this house was all of the incredible built in storage-- huge closets, tons of shelves. We both knew we loved the house when we commented how much we liked the wood paneled basement (Because we did. For some reason, the knotty pine was charming in this place). 2 big things sucked about this house for me: 1. 2 of the 5 bedrooms are on the lower level (which I called a basement, but it is not technically-- it walks out to the back yard and has full-size windows, so they're not basement-y bedrooms at all), and our kids are not big enough to have bedrooms in another part of the house, so H&J would have to share. This is not a huge deal because they share now, but it would be better if they could have their own rooms. 2. NO master bath. There's a full bath on the main level and another full bath on the lower level. No half bath, which is also kind of awkward. We'd either have to send guests downstairs or into the hall bathroom, which could never be a pigsty (not that it would be, but still. My bathroom upstairs now is not always company-ready because I have 2 gross boys. And with 3? You get the idea). I really wanted a master bath in our next house, but I know we probably won't get everything on our wishlist, and this house had a lot going for it.

Luckily, our life is not an episode of House Hunters, so we don't have to pick something that we saw today (probably the ranch with the Golden Girls kitchen-- the more I write about it, the more I know I really, really liked it).

I remember when we saw our current townhouse on a random Sunday spent trolling open houses, we just sort of loved it and felt at home. How did you know your house was "the one"?


  1. We've been in our house for almost 5 years. After looking at several homes, this one just felt right...and had most of the features we wanted. It's not my *dream home,* but is is the right home for our family for now.

    We have 6 bedrooms, and two are in the basement/which is really not 100% below the grade but just our bottom level. We have all of the family sleep on the upper levels for saftey reasons...and I didn't trust my 2 oldest teens in the basement. They would have sneaked out for sure! Dean and I have our offices downstairs. There is a full bath down there. We also have no guest-friendly location for a bathroom, but our downstairs bathroom is the one we send guests to; we keep it really clean, and I don't let anyone shower in there (we have 2 other bathrooms, though).

    I think when you know, you know. In 5 years, we've made the house our own...with paint, some modifications, all new light fixtures...a lot of new flooring. It's our home now. It's not perfect, but it's perfect for us!

    Good luck on the house hunting!

  2. After looking at about twenty houses we happened upon ours at an open house and we both knew the minute we walked in the door that it was our house. It had a swing set, it wasn't too big or too small, it had room for us to grow (which is good, as it turns out), and it was in a great neighborhood. It's worked out really well and I think all the time how glad I am that we live here.

    One thing that is nice is that it doesn't have a lot of extra rooms that we never use. It has a playroom with a door instead of a formal living room (it is right off the foyer, it's supposed to be an office), it had an eat-in kitchen with the bathroom, laundry room, and back door right there. I knew it would work well for me to be making dinner or doing laundry and still be able to supervise the kids. The only thing I would change is to add a bathtub to the kitchen bathroom. Then I'd never have to leave! :)

    I don't think this helps you at all.

  3. Anonymous9:08 AM

    Wow, I'm really surprised you're house huting and pregnant! Are you planning to move before or after the baby??

  4. I remember looking for this house pregnant with AJU5. We really liked early on, but there was an offer on it. We were almost to the point where we were going to have to give up and wait until after she was born when it was "available" again. We really wanted a house without the extra "useless" rooms like Becca said. This one has one eating area which was really important to us. We only have 4 bedrooms, and one is an office, so the kids will obviously share, but my husband and i each had to share growing up and it wasn't bad.

    Hopefully you will find "the perfect house" at the perfect time. Oh, and kitchen makeovers are pretty easy. Let me know if you want advice on those (we have done two of them).

  5. I love ranch houses - and while the boys may be too small to have their own rooms on a separate floor at this point, they won't be in a few years and you'll still have that space to move them into. On the other hand, having a basement playroom (you could so easily/cheaply finish the basement in your #1 house well enough to make it a playroom, we're not talking fancy) is so wonderful! i can just tell the kids to go down and play and I never have to care how big of a mess they make with their toys because I don't have to go down there to see it.

    Good luck with the search - sounds like you're off to a good start!

    ps: to answer your question - when we walked in to our last house it totally felt like home somehow - so we bought it. The house we live in now though, my husband and mom picked out - I never even saw it until the day we moved in. And it feels like home too. So who knows?

  6. I love that you referenced "The Golden Girls" when describing a kitchen. Love it.

    When we bought at the height of the market, we used to spend all day Saturday w/ our realtor; we'd go to 12 houses in 6 hours. We saw some unbelievably nice places (that we were never able to bid high enough on) and some serious dives (can you say astro-turf living room carpet?!). Because of the way the market was, "the one" for us was so NOT the one we fell in love with, but the "the one" we could get. We put a lot of TLC into it (read: it was a money pit) & it did become "home" for us. I was sad when we moved out to California and left it behind.

    I am hoping next time we buy a house, we will have that "this is our home" feeling when we walk into a house, but who knows. Its sort of the same thing as love at first sight--you either believe it's possible or you don't. Like Kate said, who knows what makes it "yours" beyond your ability to see your family happy there. I think given your family and the new addition and adventure you're embarking on, you're bound to make any new house feel like the perfect home for you.