House Hunting: The Beginning
This weekend we got to have our first house hunting adventure. I was all like “yay!”
And now I’m all “yay?”
The idea is that in a perfect world, we will skip the apartment phase and just go straight into a house. We’re not looking for a “starter” house, we want to just dive right in to THE house. With the market the way it’s been the last decade and no signs of it improving, we don’t want to have to rely on being able to sell a house later to move into a different one when we start a family. We have the funds to be able to do a house of that magnitude right now, so why not?
One of Geoff’s family friends is a realtor, and she focuses mostly on being a buyer’s realtor. Considering she’s also a family friend, we’ve decided to work with her because we trust her fully to really be an advocate for us. She’s been helping us keep an eye out for houses that fit our criteria and budget, and we had a good-sized list of houses we were interested in seeing. We were actually really excited about a few of them, and I may or may not have already started mentally decorating some of them.
This is one of the few perks of having moved around so much: I am very used to looking at houses. Of course, my priorities have shifted from when my parents would bring me along on the trips when I was a kid, but I have a good list of things to check for that don’t usually occur to first time homebuyers. I’ve seen everything from shells of houses being built to much older homes that have housed multiple families in their lifetimes. I’ve got a pretty good handle on this, and I like to think it’s been helpful.
We went out Sunday to look at most of the houses on our list. We hit 13 homes in 4 hours.
It is very obvious that most of the families we are looking at houses from did not ever intend to move, so upkeep was not a priority. It’s also obvious some of them have terrible realtors, because there are some things you just do before you put a house on market. I am pretty good at looking past the superficial stuff (like the fact that your paint job is terrible or that your main room is painted fire engine red) that is easily fixable, where as other buyers may not be. However those problems are usually indicative of larger items that will require some moolah to fix. Here are some things we learned in our adventures (both my own with my parents and the one with Geoff) that you should keep an eye out for in your own search…
- A coat of paint is not a big deal. A coat of paint in every room and on every piece of trim (and replacing damaged/missing pieces) is a bit more daunting. Carpet that is beige near the walls and a nice shade of dark grey everywhere else needs to be replaced. Gaps between walls and trim/counters/showers/other important permanent fixtures are not good.
- Tile floors shouldn’t squeak. Floors in general shouldn’t, but if your tile is squeaking that’s seriously bad. You should probably get that checked.
- Have a basement that smells like it’s home to a strongman competition? Invest in some Febreeze or something. Same thing goes for that closet of cleaning supplies that smells suspiciously like it’s home to several dead mice.
- The inside of an oven is cleaned less often than the outside. If the outside of the oven (knobs, door, etc) is icky, the inside is really going to be terrible.
- Wallpaper is terrible to remove. It can be done, but it will take twice as long as you expect, at a minimum, guaranteed. No, you can’t just paint over it. Humidity will show you why this is a bad idea later.
- The two rooms you shouldn’t have to walk through to get anywhere are the living room and the kitchen, and the kitchen more-so. We saw houses that had the halfbath off of the middle of the kitchen. You do not want to worry about opening the oven when someone has a full bladder.
- Glass shower doors are expensive.
- Garages shouldn’t share ventilation with any part of the house, and there needs to be more than just drywall in between the garage and the house to prevent fumes from seeping in.
- Ask how old the roof is (unless it’s a very recent build). A typical roof will last 15, maybe 20 years if it’s built well. If you’re going to need to think about replacing the roof soon, keep that in mind for your budget.
- Test all walkways. Can anyone else come in the room while you stand at the sink? Do you block a major walkway/sitting area if you open a door (exceptions are closet doors)? Can you even open the door all the way?
We saw a lot of ideas that we liked this weekend, but no house as a whole was really right for us. Every house, from the obviously very lived in ones to the new construction, we left with a mental list of things we would change about it. On the one hand, it’s nice that all the houses we’ve been dreaming about we no longer have to waste any time on. On the other hand, we now have to start our search from scratch again. This is going to be a lot harder than we thought…