...because home doesn't happen overnight.
02.25.11 / Um, No.

While we prep our home to put up for sale by owner {we’re hoping to have it listed within the next 2 weeks}, we’re also starting to look around at homes on the market to buy.  In fact, we’ve walked through a half dozen already.  I thought it’d be fun to share some of the ones that stick out…good and bad…even if we don’t end up purchasing them.  I guess I should start off by sharing what we’re looking for in our next house first.

  • Price:  We’re looking to downgrade our mortgage by more than $100,000 {yikes!} so we can realistically pay it off in the next 4-5 years.  We do have money saved up for a down payment plus we have significant equity in our current home {equity = appraised value – owed amount} both of which we would slap down on our next home’s mortgage.  We’ve already put a cap on how much we’re willing to spend to keep us from getting distracted by shinier homes that cost more.  It’s really a waste of time to look at homes that aren’t going to get us to that 5-year debt free freedom that we’re eyeing in the distance. We’re intrigued by foreclosures and estate sales that would give us an opportunity to get a great deal.  But we’re also looking at affordable private sales.
  • Size:  We understand that to cut our mortgage by $100,000 we’re going to have to cut down on other things too…square footage is one of those things.  We don’t have a minimum square footage in mind but instead are looking to find enough room for basic daily activities {eating, bathing, sleeping, cooking, relaxing, playing, laundering}.  Obviously, we’re not going to be able to keep all of our current furniture so we’re not looking for a home to hold it all.  Trying to keep open minds!  Ideally, we’d like 3 bedrooms but we’re open to 2 bedrooms {with our boys sharing a room} if the rest of the home is doable.  We’d require at least one full bathroom but, ideally, we’d like 1.5-2 baths.
  • Location:  We’d like to find something closer to Handy Hubby’s work.  Currently, he has a 40-minute commute one way and that’s with traffic and weather cooperating.  A minor glitch easily lengthens his commute to 1-2 hours one way, meaning he has to get up extra early or get home extra late.  Personally, I’d like to see more of him so the idea of making his drive to work shorter is very appealing.  I only work 2 days a week in the town we live in now.  It’s likely that my commute will be longer but I don’t work as much and *hopefully* it wouldn’t be a forever thing. {I’d like to offer design services full-time once our mortgage is paid off.}  Also, since we have 2 kiddos, we’d like to find a community with excellent public schools.
  • Workspace:  Because of all the house tweaking we do {and will be likely to do more of in our next home}, we’d like a space for projects.  A garage, unfinished basement, or outbuilding {or the space/ability to add one of those things} that’s sufficient to hold Handy Hubby’s tools is a must.  Fixing up our house is our passion so we’d definitely like the capability to do it on site long-term with most of the tools and equipment that we already own.
  • Condition:  We’re not opposed to fixer uppers or older homes as long as the cost of repairs and upgrades doesn’t put us past our spending cap.  Ideally, we’d like something that we could live in while we work on it or something that could be fixed to ‘livable’ relatively quickly and easily while we’re still in our current home.
  • Neighborhood:  We’ve already discovered that many homes in our price range aren’t in the nicest of neighborhoods.  We don’t want or need an upscale community but we would like to live in a neighborhood that is presentable…meaning people take care of their homes and don’t pile trash, toys and other random items in their yard or on their porch.  Not only does it just feel nicer to come home to, but it can affect the value of all the homes in the neighborhood.
  • Style:  We’re open to anything.  Bungalows, ranches, cape cods, one-story, two-story, bi-levels, tri-levels…we’re game.  I’m finding myself drawn to short squatty houses at the moment but Handy Hubby has always liked the idea of having bedrooms located on a second floor.  It’ll just depend on all the other variables.
  • Lot size:  In our dreams, we’d like to live on more land.  But with downsizing, we realize that’s probably not going to happen.  If anything, we’ll also be downsizing our yard.  As long as there is room for our boys to run around outside or a nearby park to play at, we’re okay with not having a huge yard.  It helps that my Dad lives out in the country on 10+ acres, so we can always visit him for some good scenery and outdoor exploration.  Who knows?  Maybe we’ll end up in a shack on some acreage!
  • Natural light: We’re like plants.  We thrive in natural light.  Put us near a window and we’re happy.  We’d like a home that offers natural light in the form of windows, skylights and/or patio doors. Which is why most condos/townhomes/row homes aren’t making our list.  This is a minor stipulation but something that could make all the difference…especially in a smaller home.

The biggest problem I’m having with most of the homes out there is my ‘dreamer vision.’  I can look at real estate pictures online or tour a home and my mind just starts racing with possible floor plans, finishing touches, room designs, improvements and furniture layouts.  I {fortunately or unfortunately} have an uncanny ability to see beyond wood paneling, damaged walls, stained carpet, dark cabinets, cumbersome traffic patterns, outdated fixtures and busy wallpaper to a home’s full potential.  I want to save just about every single one of them.  So much so that it makes me sad to say ‘no’ to it.

HOWEVER, there has been one home {that we viewed last weekend in person} that I couldn’t even begin to help.  I’m sorry, little house. First, let me say when I ran across it online I was super excited to see it because it was a foreclosure that obviously needed some work but had large rooms and 2 fireplaces.  It was ugly, but I’m kind of drawn to that…better before-and-afters, you know?  So, we went to see it and as soon as our realtor unlocked the door we were hit with an awful – I MEAN HOLD-YOUR-BREATH, GET-A-FACE-MASK AWFUL –  smell of mold and mildew.  {A virtual scratch-and-sniff app would work well here.} I don’t know if it was the toxic air or what but I couldn’t even picture furniture in that place.  I was picturing people being kidnapped and brought there against their will.  There was mold growing on the fireplace and floors.  We were stepping over mold!  I was nauseous.  Did I mention it smelled horrific?  Besides the smell, there were all kinds of problems.  The roof obviously leaked, the furnace had been torn to pieces {but not removed?} and in the garage electric had been run by {what it looked like} someone punching their fist into the drywall several times in a row and running the wire along the outside of the drywall.  In the midst of trying not to vomit, I did capture 2 low quality photos of this place.  Just to prove I’d been there.

Yes, that is faux black fur and a brass kick plate on an interior door.  And you might notice the room beyond with the fireplace…

It was an obvious, poorly constructed addition to the original structure.  And those vines and ivy on the ceiling, beams and doorway?  They’re fake.  Yep, someone purposefully tacked those up there {that had to have taken a while!} as decor.  The Silence of the Lambs vibe combined with the nauseating odor left us with no appetite…and it was lunch time.  I’m having a hard time swallowing just remembering it now. We got in our car thinking the same thing, “Um, no.”  Just to get the smell out, we would’ve had to rip the entire house down to the studs and start from scratch.  The fugly house I’d found online was everything I had expected and more…in a bad way.

On a lighter note, we’ve found a few homes that seem more doable and are going looking again this weekend.  Primarily, they’re foreclosures so we’re taking our heavy winter coats and flashlights since utilities are shut off.  We’re not in a hurry but we enjoy walking through homes and figuring out if they might/might not work for us.  We’re also prepared to make an offer if ‘the one’ turns up. We’ve discovered that while the real estate market in general is still down, foreclosures with potential don’t last long…at least in the areas we’re considering.  In the few weeks we’ve been looking, many have gone pending or sold already!  The inventory changes daily.  Making a ‘wanna see’ list has become my second job.  But it’s fun to us and we keep reminding ourselves why we’re doing it.

images:  1) Pundit Kitchen via I Can Has Cheezburger  2 & 3) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

34 Comments

25.February.2011

Boy does this bring back memories!! Our short sale took 5 months (to the day!) to close. We put in offers on 4 short sales and two bank owned properties with the idea which ever one came though first, was were we were going to put down roots. Luckily, thankfully, gratefully the house that went through already had the perfect paint colors on the walls and EVERYTHING on my wish list. The house price and mortgage amount came in less than our planned budget so that was a major bonus. But in the process of looking at homes…we saw over 100 in person and hundreds on line!! It’s amazing what’s posted on the internet!!
Good luck with your search.

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25.February.2011

I am actually relieved to here the vines were fake. Could you imagine if they had crept in for real! AH!!!! Have you thought about buying land and building? You could start smaller, but then give yourself the chance to go bigger as time and funds allowed. They sell house kits or with the economy what it is, you might find some very eager builders who wouldn’t cost too much if they put the skeleton up and you guys did the walls. See if there are any builders in the area who have land to sell.

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replied on February 25th, 2011

Amy – That’s definitely another option!

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Oh. My. God. That is horrific. When the fiance and I were looking at homes we came across a similar situation. This woman had lived in a house for years and years and had a dog….well she never let the dog outside. Ever. So the dog would just go to the bathroom inside…all over the house. They had to rip up all the carpets etc. So when we looked at the place all the carpets were gone and it was just down to the wood…however you could see all the stains on the wood and it still stunk. We walked out of there with a NO WAY IN HELL! mentality.

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25.February.2011

that is possibly the strangest house i’ve ever seen! when looking at foreclosures, i noticed that the photographs on the listings are often very odd. for instance, i’ve seen many that have a picture of the utility room (to show that the furnace wasn’t ripped out?) but no pics of bedrooms or kitchens…i guess you have to be willing to see some strange places to find “the one”!

i think split-levels are great for young families (the bedrooms are on their own level, but still within earshot of the main living areas, typically). we looked at 3-level and 4-level splits, and the price was not that different here. The advantage of a 4 level split is that it has a basement (for kids and/or mancaves.) We have a 3-level split with a walk-out basement, and it works fine for our 2 (older) kids+dog family.

we moved from a bi-level, and it was a little too much togetherness for us, not because of the size (about 1300 sqft), but because the bedrooms and living area were on the same floor, and it was hard when we had friends over at night, especially when the kids were small. i guess that could be an issue with ranches, too, depending on the layout.

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25.February.2011

Woah that house was too much for me. I also was happy to know the vines were fake. Happy house hunting!

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25.February.2011

Yikes!! I would have run screaming from that house! And yes, I’m not that much of a fixer-upper already, but that house doesn’t need to be sold – it needs to be burned to the ground and started over. Yikes again.

I must say how awesome it is that you are able to realistically evaluate your true needs when purchasing this next home. So many people *want* to have less of a commute or lower payments or to get out of debt, but they don’t actually do anything about it. Or they can’t possibly imagine every down-sizing – like it would mean going backwards in life. But that’s not true at all. It’s all about weighing your real priorities and making it really happen.

Having lived in military base housing so far our entire married life, it’s taught me that your home is just one tiny aspect of who you are. It doesn’t completely define you. Our last base we had a large house and yard, this time a townhouse and small yard. There are pros and cons to both and we realize that while you should be happy with where you live, not getting *everything* you want in your home RIGHT NOW is okay. It really is!

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25.February.2011

WOW!!! And I really thought those vines were real until I went back and read the full post. lol! That was a scary house and you only showed us two rooms. Some houses are not worth saving and that was one of them. Lots of luck to you and the hubby….I hope the road to finding your new home won’t be too long.

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25.February.2011

It seems like you have a very practical set of things you want that will be possible to find in a less expensive house.

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Those vines! WTH?!? At least they’re not real, but yeah, difinitely not great either way. Good luck with your search!

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25.February.2011

How do you guys put it up for sale? Do you list it online? If so, do you also link it to your blog?
Just curious.

Greetings from Germany,
Yvonne

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25.February.2011

Thank goodness those vines are fake, I actually gasped and got goosebumps when I saw them! Good luck on your house hunt. We’ve lived in three houses, all fixed uppers. I think the ones that are owned by older people still living in them are the best. They seem to do better upkeep. When my husband and I were engaged we went to look at houses and the first one we went into the ceiling was sagging and the floors were sloped. When we went to look at the bedrooms the homeowners were there, SLEEPING! At least that’s what I’ve always assumed. I noticed later that the house did finally sell and I’d drive past it quite a bit on my way to work. Who ever bought it put A LOT of work and money into getting it up to snuff. Ugly can be worked with, structure is a whole other story. Hope you find your diamond in the rough!!

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25.February.2011

WOW! I think you are crazy (oops) I mean really brave, to even go inside!
Your house hunt is inspiring! We have been renting while we get to a point where we can buy the house we want. Recently we’ve changed gears and started to think about lowering the amount we want to spend on a house considerably so we can move sooner. I look forward to seeing how your move goes!

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25.February.2011

Eek!! That is awful. The fake fur may give me nightmares!

We recently moved to a new city and had to sacrifice square footage for a short commute. Best decision we ever made. We have 4 kids and our house is about 1800 square feet. Every inch of our house gets used everyday. It was an adjustment at first but we love it now. It was hard at first to downsize our stuff but it’s so worth it for a short commute and smaller house payment. Good luck on your house quest!

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25.February.2011

Seriously I love looking at houses LOVE it! We purchased our current home a year ago and I still make our realtor send us all the new houses that pop up! Im happy where I am and we have worked our tails off here BUT I love to see whats out there. We did the exact same thing a year ago…downsized. We were fine where we were but the thought of a lower house payment was something we knew would work for us. We bought a fixer and continue to fix and fix. Hopefully we will stay and enjoy our work for a while! Good luck in your adventure. Im so excited you are documenting it here I love it!

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25.February.2011

Thank goodness that vines are fake! Oh my goodness. That’s purty rediculous. I actually would be interested in seeing that house’s makeover.
We looked for a year and a half, before we found our new (old) home. I feel your pain. It can be exciting too! God bless!

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25.February.2011

Yikes — that house is CREEPY!

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25.February.2011

Two kids is it???? : )

When I saw the picture on my phone I totally that that real vines coming in. I cannot imagine any decor that would warrant a fur door and vines.

I so wish you a townhouse was in the plans. It would be nice to see how you swing it. We are in a townhouse with two kids and we sometimes get one eye raised when we say that we aren’t rushing out to buy a house. It would be nice to see it done with style.

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25.February.2011

I so, so respect all of your criteria for the new house!! I’m really inspired by a real family that is going to make real sacrifices in order to be debt free! Honestly, that really is amazing! Best of luck – can’t wait to see how it unfolds!

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25.February.2011

oh, also – if you have a camcorder, I would LOVE to see a video house tour like Sherry and John did over at Young House Love (http://www.younghouselove.com/2010/10/video-house-tour-2010/) before they moved out of their first house!

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replied on March 1st, 2011

Tosha – Handy Hubby already has that on the to-do list!

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27.February.2011

I just caught back up on your blog.

You are a pharmacist, too??? Crazy. I daydream about paint and fabric while a patient is screaming at me because they need their Vicodin filled early because aliens stole it. It may be a great career for some people but for me, it has turned into a soul sucking one. I hope to have my student loans paid off by July 2012 so I can either consider decreasing hours or finding a new career. I can totally relate!!

Good luck!!

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27.February.2011

All I keep thinking as I read your posts is, “she’s gotta be taking that barn door with her…” so are you taking the door with you?! Because if not, i’ll probably come take it before the new & very LUCKY tenats move in!

Love the blog :)

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27.February.2011

That’s a hilarious post! The furry door and the vines had me laughing out loud at work. Best of luck with the hunt!

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27.February.2011

I’m following you now! I have to be able to get all your latest “stories” on your home adventures! Our family is getting ready to join you in downsizing… xoxo

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28.February.2011

Okay, the furry door had me thinking “cheap bordello”, but then the vines? Did you see the Batman movie with Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy? Creepy.

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Black furry door?! Tacked up ivy?! WOW. I remember seeing some pretty awful houses when we were house hunting, but the “decor” in this one is by far the craziest!

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28.February.2011

The prices on foreclosures are very tempting and if you aren’t scared away by do-it-yourself-ing, as you guys obviously aren’t, they can be a good option. But there are pitfalls aside from the condition of the home itself. We placed an offer on a foreclosed home last August and did not find out that the way the owner had purchased the home disqualified us from a conventional loan until just last month. Sometimes perfect credit, patience, and plenty of down payment is still not enough to get you into a foreclosed home. Also some friends had trouble obtaining a mortgage with their great credit because several mortgage companies did not support their endeavor to “downsize.” Mortgage companies are much more gun-shy now, and several thought they were investors because they were trying to buy a much cheaper house. Good luck!

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28.February.2011

Wow that was a interesting house I am sure you will be talking about it for some time. I just had to laugh when I saw the vines that is a decorating style I have never seen before and I doubt I ever will again. Good luck on the search I am sure it is stressful but have some fun with it all.

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28.February.2011

Wow! That house is horrible. I’ve been to look at a few houses where I won’t leave the entryway because they are so bad.

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28.February.2011

Since y’all seem willing to take on reno work (and not just decor), It may be worth while to keep an eye out for a 1 ba house which could be converted into a powder room, after your cash flow has recovered from the moving/refurnishing process.

I see that you have already expressed interest in a townhome, which I always think of as an upscale rental option, because other people have (so much) input on when/how repairs to your property are done. I’ve seen some wonderful HOAs where everyone pitches (e.g for landscaping projects and general cleaning) to maximize value/dollar spent, but in others, there can be a wide range of quality and effort that a homeowner is willing to invest. My brother’s HOA just had an assessment of >$400 b/c one of the residents put a cedar roof on (restricted because it’s a fire hazard) and then sued the HOA for taking action.

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28.February.2011

Oh wow. That faux fur and the vines reminds me of a near-foreclosure house I saw in PHX when we were house hunting several years ago. It was in a nice neighborhood and was totally deceiving from the outside. As soon as we walked in we knew something was off. The walls had terrible paint jobs in all sorts of different colors, there were feather boas acting as crown molding, and one room with a beach theme actually had sand and plastic sea creatures adhered to the door. Then there was the black room. The one with the black walls, the black light, and the bong in the center of a little table in the middle of the room. Directly across from a children’s bedroom. Oh, and did I mention the current tenants were in the house? Freaky weird. Um, yeah. My realtor and I basically ran out of there and he called CPS. Thankfully we found a normal house to call home! Best wishes on your house hunt!

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28.February.2011

That house needs to be torn down…When we were looking I remember walking into a house and the mold and mildew was so bad my husband had to rush me outside…I couldn’t breath and my eyes swelled up…and I know that smell you are talking about…It slaps you right in the face…Good luck in your search but just think of the journey you are on!!!

Denyse
http://mydailyphotojourney.blogspot.com

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03.March.2011

um…i think they were elvis fans. read your blog post to my husband who laughed and said, “that’s elvis’ jungle room…” oh boy.

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