So we went to look at houses and condos on Saturday, for the first time since the end of 2009. We also met our realtor in person for the first time. She's an older woman and seems to know what she's doing, so far.
I had given her a list of about 8 houses and condos I wanted to look at. Unfortunately, one of the houses ended up not being available to view until Monday and one of the condos went under contract (meaning someone made an offer and the sellers accepted the offer). In the process of making appointments for us, our realtor was unable to reach one of the condo seller's agents and another condo's agent forgot the keys at home (an hour away). So we ended up with 4, 3 single-family houses and 1 condo.
The first house we went to look at was one that we had fallen in love with from the picture of the outside. Unfortunately, upon closer examination, the picture didn't live up to the hype. Although the yard has major potential, the porch rails are rotting and falling apart in places. There is a varitable cable salad along one side of the house and the air conditioning unit is covered in duct tape and a trash bag. The worst part was that people were at home.
I'm used to people leaving before the house they're living in is shown to prospective buyers so the buyers can speak openly about the things they like and don't like. Even weirder was that some of the rooms were locked. When we left our realtor said something about it being a boarding house, and I feel she might be right, where people rent rooms for a while and then move on. There were some positive things about it, it had a really nice laundry room on the second floor with a nice washer and dryer. It also had 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, so it certainly had room for us to grow into it. The biggest downside was the amount of property taxes. At $6,900 per year on top of the price of the house and the amount of work we'd have to do (putting in a dishwasher for one) it's just not feasible.
Then we went to look at House #2, which was even worse than House #1 in terms of boarding house type. Again, there were people at home, which was annoying. Most of the rooms were locked. No dishwasher in the kitchen. Both staircases were literal death traps (my DH almost fell down the stairs to the basement, conveniently located directly across from the door when you enter the kitchen). And the basement had a second kitchen with the hood not actually over the stove. As with the first house, the amount of work, coupled with the property taxes, and the price made us dimiss that house from consideration entirely.
The only good thing about that house was the yard. And no amount of fenced in yard could make up for the lack of enthusiasm we felt about that house. House #3 was a few houses down from House #2, so after a brief sit in the car to jot down impressions, we continued on.
House #3 also had people at home, but it didn't look like a million people lived there. All of the rooms were available for us to look at. It had two bathrooms and a huge master bedroom. The yard had a lot of potential for a large deck and was fenced in all the way. Again no dishwasher, but there was space for one.
One of the true downsides was that one of the bedrooms smelled rather musty and they had never bothered to paint the room since they moved in 10 years before. It had some really awesome built in shelves in the living room though and had a nice large finished attic which would mean a lot of storage space. Another negative was that you had to pass by the washer and dryer to get to the master bedroom and the master bedroom had a pass-through window into the kitchen which was a bit sketchy. Again, the property tax is a bit crazy coupled with the price, but except for the dishwasher situation and a bit of paint, it didn't really need any drastic changes before it would have been move-in ready. Definitely still on our list for consideration.
Next we went to take a look at the one condo that was left on our list. Of the places we'd looked at so far, it was far and away my favorite, but was also the smallest. 2 bedrooms, 1 bath. But the light was amazing in the condo, the kitchen actually had a dishwasher, there was no one at home (in fact, by the look of the packed boxes in the living room, the owners were merely using it as storage until it sold), and it had a balcony and the complex had security and a pool. One of the only downsides was that the monthly condo fees are $581 and it was unclear if all utilities were included in that price (at which point I would have said fine).
Another problem was that the closet with the furnace looked to have black mold and the furnace itself looked ancient and hadn't been inspected since 1999. The one bedroom closet also looked like it might have some water damage. On the whole though, I would have loved to consider it further but after having been on the market for over 400 days the owners received not one but two offers the weekend we looked at it. I was pretty bummed. I'd already started picturing what our furniture would look like in the space.
So I guess we continue our search this weekend. And maybe we'll find that perfect place, if not, we'll just have to keep looking or turn a fixer upper into our starter home.