Monday, February 14, 2011

The House Hunt Continues

Since we went to look at 8 condos and houses yesterday, I'll give you a quick summary first.
Condo #1: Immediate no, because of the price. It's almost double what the other condos in the same building cost and it doesn't even have a balcony or anything else that would make it stand out.
Condo #2: On the top floor. View of the parking lot instead of the green space behind the building, but otherwise nice looking. Updated kitchen.
House #1: Middle of three rowhouses, foreclosure, fixer upper, potential mold/roof leakage problem. Finished basement.
House #2: Couldn't get inside because the key was missing.
House #3: Immediate no. Floors uneven, layout haphazard at best. Most of the appliances missing.
House #4: Quiet area, park across the street, couldn't see all of the rooms.
House #5: Duplex, fenced backyard, foreclosure, fixer upper, new appliances, potentially dangerous walk from the Metro.
House #6: Immediate no, major structural/foundation problems (huge cracks in almost every wall), too big for the two of us.

Condo #2

Condo #1 was such an immediate no, that I didn't even bother to take any pictures. Although the kitchen had a nice big window, it lacked the storage space I had come to expect from looking at the first condo in the building. It also had no balcony, which I felt was a major crime. Plus the price was almost double what any of the other condos were going for.

Condo #2 was on the top floor of the building. It looks like it has brand new laminate wood floors (looks like hardwood but isn't), the kitchen and bathroom are nice, the furnace room doesn't look atrocious. There are a few potential issues, like cracks along one of the ceilings, broken doors, and haphazard molding, but all in all nothing a few extra bucks and some elbow grease couldn't fix. And the price is good. The appliances in the kitchen also look to be new and I love the tile work in the kitchen and the bathroom.

House #1

House #1 is a bank owned fixer upper with some black mold and potential roof leakage issues. It would definitely need an investment of ready cash, a brand new kitchen with all new appliances, a new washer/dryer, and various cosmetic touches to make it livable. The price leaves us some wiggle room to do that, however. It's in a quite neighborhood, about halfway in between the two Metro stops we're looking around. One of the bedrooms upstairs has part of the ceiling pulled out and the insulation laying on the floor is covered in black mold. I'm not sure if it's a bathroom pipe leakage problem, which should be fixable, or a roof leakage problem which could easily put us over budget very quickly.

I see a lot of potential there, but also a lot of work and money invested. It also doesn't have a driveway which worries me a bit. One plus side is that there were at least three nice cars standing on the street in front of the house, so maybe parking in the street isn't as much of a problem as I think it is. It had a nice fenced yard too, long and narrow, but perfect for a dog. The basement is finished too and has a small bathroom with a shower. We could potentially rent it out as a basement apartment (it has a stove) or just put guests down there when they come to visit.

House #3
 House #2 we couldn't even get into, since the lockbox key was missing. The yard looked nice though and it had a dog run in the back.

House #3 was a definite no. It looked promising from the front and even at first glance from the side entrance. However, most of the appliances were missing, the beautiful hardwood floors in the living or dining room looked more like a rollercoaster ride than a floor, the floor in the one bedroom bounced when you stepped on it, and the layout of the place was attrocious. Upon a further look, we saw holes in the foundations and the glass door in the back was smashed on one side.

House #4
 Before we could go look at House #4, my sister texted me to say that she was at the metro stop. We went to go get her, but she'd already walked to our apartment. So we met up with her there, dropped off her luggage and then took her with to look at the remaining houses. The house was on a dead end, across from a park, so the location was nice. Unfortunately, both neighbors had clutter in their yard, like they had so much stuff inside that they were spilling out onto the lawn. That was a bit off-putting. The house itself had no basement, but it did have a yard and a driveway. No dishwasher though and we couldn't look at all of the rooms because they were locked. There were also people at home, which always puts me on edge. The price does give us some wiggle room to make changes, but I'm not sure there aren't surprises hidden in the rooms we didn't get to see.

House #5
House #5 was by far my favorite. My sister liked it too and so did DH (I think, he's not very vocal about that kind of thing, but he seemed to like the yard and stuff). It's a foreclosure and definitely a fixer upper. But the price gives up a lot of room to play. It has new windows and new appliances in the kitchen (they haven't even been hooked up). It needs a major kitchen overhaul and the upstairs bathrooms has some mold issues (but they appear to be minor). It does have to be completely redone though (the bath that is). The three bedrooms upstairs need some major cosmetic overhauls, but that's most sweat equity not actual contract work. I see a ton of potential there.

The one big downside is the location. Although the neighborhood seems quite and there are some nicer homes in the vicinity, it's the walk from the Metro that's a bit off-putting. You have to walk along a river and through the woods behind the Metro stop, which sounds and is quite nice during the day, but becomes a lot more sketchy at night. And since it's dark by the time I get home in the winter and it's dark by the time DH gets home every day, that's a problem. But I'm already mentally redoing and decorating the place in my head.

House #6
House #6 looked really cute from the front. No driveway, but there was space in the front yard for one. But then you get closer and start to look. There were huge cracks in almost every wall, around every window and door. There was a very creepy looking crawl space in the basement and the kitchen needed to be completely redone. No dishwasher either. The backyard had a nice screened in porch, but that needed work too. And then there was the fact that the place had 5 large bedrooms. There are two of us, we plan on having two kids someday, but even then, we wouldn't need 5 bedrooms. Not to mention that we'd have to heat and cool those 5 bedrooms whether or not we actually used them, etc. The price also wasn't right in terms of the amount of work it would have needed and it was the house farthest from a Metro stop. So it's out.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The House Hunt Begins

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.

House #1

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.
House #2

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
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.

Condo #1
 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.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ready to go Home

I've been on the road for almost a week. I left Washington, DC on Friday. Took my first ever solo train ride here in the States from DC to Baltimore to get to BWI. The train was delayed by almost half an hour, but I built in a two hour window before my flight. The flight to Grand Rapids was non-stop, which is always awesome. I actually arrived almost half an hour before my dad was expecting me, so I had to wait a few minutes for him to come get me. Luckily I have a nice new down coat so waiting wasn't a problem. It was actually kind of enjoyable after the stale plane air.

The weekend was slightly crazy because I got shuffled back and forth between my family and my in-laws. Or, to be fair, I chose to be shuffled back and forth. But it was awesome to see everyone again. Well, I didn't get to see my sister, but I'll see her at the end of February since she's coming to live with us for three weeks. It was so good that I told my mom to turn around when she was dropping me off at the airport. Unfortunately, I had to continue on to Portland, OR for a business trip, so not going wasn't an option.

The business trip has been good too, though. I got to hang with some of the best minds of our organization and listen to them strategize. The best part was that I actually knew what they were talking about, after only four months of immersion in the subject. The only curveball for the week was an impromptu job evaluation. The good, the bad, and my supervisor's expectations for the future. At the end of the day, I think they're satisfied with my work but not quite ready to believe that I might actually have something concrete to contribute besides my awesome organizational capabilities and up to date technological skills. I'm not sure if it's my age or because I don't have a masters degree yet. Oh well, I'll just have to work harder to convince them that I'm smart and have something to say that might actually be helpful.

I fly back tomorrow afternoon and arrive back in DC around midnight. I can't wait to see my husband and my cat. Five days is fine, but seven is just a little too much to be away from home, at least when it's for work.