Friday, June 6, 2008

making decisions

We went out for our second session this morning, looking for houses we could love. And we may have found one. I'm scared to say that, since the thing came on the market yesterday and could be swept away by Monday, I suppose, which is when we hope to see it again and make a final decision on whether we want to make an offer. Hopefully that won't happen, but as much as I hate to put any emotional stock in things like this, I always end up doing it anyway. We'll call this House 1.

We also have another in mind, which is a much much different house that we like for very different reasons. We'll call this House 2.

For anyone who would like to give first-time home-buyers their two cents, here are my lists:

House 1


- In town, in a nice neighborhood a quick bike ride from work
- cute front porch, cute back deck (I could have a porch swing!!)
- lots of recent upgrades mean we wouldn't have to do anything unless we wanted to
- wood floor throughout, and I liked the floor plan
- nicest bathroom we've seen, cool kitchen with original leaded glass
- Two-car garage PLUS a heated workshop and a shed/garden area, in addition to decent yard
- Nice decorating, would only need minimal wallpaper removal/crack fixing


- No bathroom on main floor, toilet in the otherwise not very useful basement
- Appliances (except for dishwasher) are "negotiable" and theoretically would cost us
- Taxes are higher
- Driveway and garage floor need to be fixed/repoured
- only a gas fireplace

House 2


- full acre of land in a QUIET wooded area, very vacation-home feel
- Great three-season room plus a patio, huge space for gardening
- Fruit trees and lot of veggie plants (rhubarb, asparagus) already established
- All appliances included, which includes fridge, dishwasher, stove/oven, a giant freezer, washer/drier, and potentially a riding mower
- If I actually biked to work, I wouldn't need to do much else to stay in decent shape.
- It's been on the market for a while, so we could probably get it for maybe 10k less than House 1 (they have similar listing prices)
- Big (two car but two garage doors) garage with a workshop area on the side
- Two fireplaces: wood and gas.
- A piece of land in a developing area near a country club = great resale potential.
- Out of town means we can do stuff like install solar panels without getting in trouble


- Front would need some updating: has awnings and cement stairs that I hate.
- Interior is dated: I would want a new sink in the main bath, potentially enclose the basement toilet and shower into an actual bathroom, and put in new kitchen counters. Wood paneling on walls might have to go in some rooms, and eventually replace carpet/vinyl flooring throughout. But Partner could do most of this, and it could wait until we wanted to do it.
- Well water from a (we think!) community well, which may or may not be a bad thing
- Part of the acre isn't very useful - the yard slopes significantly into a gully out back (as a plus, that gully guarantees that no one will build behind or ruin our wooded view, and the land to one side is for the well, so no neighbor there either)
- small (2 bedroom), so we would definitely have to upgrade if we had a kid over age three (not that this is really a concern pre-tenure).

We were both kinda torn between the two. But we think being in town might end up being more convenient, assuming we have a house we like in a good area. I guess it's good to have options.

And of course there's always the additional assumption that our pre-approval will turn into an actual loan!

It's going to be an interesting week...


Eric Reuter said...

(A) Don't rush, and don't be rushed into anything. This is not the house you'll settle in for the rest of your life, so don't become overwhelmed by the fear that you'll miss "the" house. Be rational.

(B) Any chance you can arrange to visit at night, or even spend the night, prior to making a decision? People forget to find out what the night sounds are like.

(C) Have you met neighbors? Talk to them, ask them questions, scope them out. Make sure they're people you want nearby. They may have something to say that will help you decide on the house.

From what you've described, I would advise the in-town house. You don't know how long you'll be in this town (pre-tenure), chances are over time you'll want to move and/or upgrade, so don't take on too much in attempting to reach the dream life. In your first few years you're going to be extremely busy, and a house with lots of projects and "potential" is going to be a headache. For the same reasons, close to campus is strongly recommended. If you get tenure and decide you want to stay there forever, you can look to upgrading to a rural homestead if you desire. But don't get ahead of yourself and take on more than you can handle.

Liberal Arts Lady said...

Thanks for the input Eric (and I keep meaning to call you but get back too late! Maybe soon..)! We did offer on #1, in part because of what you mentioned -- even if we did buy the country home we'd eventually have to upgrade, and having our "country acre" only temporarily useful seems like a downside.

We did do some night and evening drive-by/walk by trips, so we have an idea of the noise at night. And we know who some of the neighbors are just because the realtor also knows a lot of people in town...seems like a good place.

I'm feeling pretty good about it...I don't think we offered right away because we felt pressured so much as we both felt like it was a good place to buy, and liked it better than anything else we've seen. I'll keep you updated!