Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dispatches From Uncertain Adulthood, House Hunting Edition

So Jason and I went house-hunting yesterday. We've been dreaming about things we've seen online for months and months. Really, we've been dreaming about houses, looking at them from time and time, and talking about what we want in a house since we first moved here. Now things are heading towards semi-permanance - we had contacted loan companies and realtors. Yesterday, we met with a realtor and she showed us a few houses we had expressed interest in after seeing them listed online.

It was actually really interesting, although it is somewhat despairing to realize that I have become such an adult that I thoroughly enjoyed walking through houses and talking about kitchen appliances and color schemes. Next thing you know, I'm going to be driving around car dealerships on Sundays "just to look" while my teenage daughter gets all sullen and mutters to herself in the backseat.

Well, I don't know. I do still find cars singularly uninteresting, so that might not be something I have to worry about happening to me.

But still...

We went downtown for a late breakfast and to walk around. It was raining, off and on, which meant the humidity was sticky and thick enough to cut with a knife. It wasn't so bad, until the sun came out - I was glad I had gotten the largest size of iced coffee at that point. We saw a huge snapping turtle hanging out by the river.

Once it was afternoon time, it was time to go see some houses!

I would definitely recommend our realtor. Her name is Donna Cantrell, and she met us at a gas station in a common area, where there were lots of landmarks and recognizable things so we weren't just sort of driving listlessly around a neighborhood trying to find the first address. She was very friendly, and for this meeting (since it was the first one) she really just showed us houses we had expressed interest in. She was very companionable and would help talk us through the individual houses and really sympathized with our concerns and took them into account.

House 1 was one of our top three, right off the bat. It's an older (somewhere around 40?) brick single-level home. The kitchen had new stainless steel appliances that all come with the house, it comes with a washer and dryer (eeee!) and had a neat little wood-burning stove rather than a traditional fireplace. The kitchen actually had a good amount of space and good storage. It was three bedrooms, but only had one and a half baths. The only big downside to it was not much closet space, and it was thoroughly carpeted. Like, carpet in the bathroom. But we'd just take that out and put tile down, anyway. Also, while the living and dining rooms were open to one another (the owners had knocked down a wall for just this purpose), the space was sort of an odd Z shape, and we weren't sure how to set up a real living room. The yard, though! The yard was huge, and grassy, and there was a nice outbuilding for Jason and did I mention the yard was huge? Good deck for having people over, decent parking.

Note to northerners: people in the South tend to think garages are unnecessary and lean heavily towards carports, due to the relative lack of snow, ice, and rock salt they have to deal with in any given year. I always find this sort of odd, since it removes the 'useful for storage' aspect of garages, but it seems to work for them.

House 2 was a no the moment we saw the neighborhood it was in. It was a newer subdivision, all slab houses stuck so close to one another the concept of a 'yard' was seriously laughable. The house we went to see was only about six years old but it was deeply, sadly ill-used. The previous residents, who had according to the Appointment Center vacated the home, had left basically everything that was in the closets for us to discover - winter coats, hats, boxes of... something. There were plates and cutlery still left in the kitchen. The stove looked like it had been systematically rubbed with grease and grime to make it as dirty as possible. The carpets were grimy, stained, and worrisome. The "back yard" was a drainage area that was full of standing water. There was a homeowners' association, which I am not fond of, having grown up in a small town where your house belonged to you, not you + the thirty other families who live nearby so they get to decide what color your door can be. We left quickly.

House 3 was in a nice neighborhood. It was a house that had one story of 'living area', and a basement that was cement-floored and had a sort of workshop area. The deck was upstairs, and Jason was thinking about having his shop underneath it and connected to the basement workshop area. It had a good-sized yard. It was still being lived-in, so we were able to see what the current residents were using each room for. The current owner's dogs came escaped the room they were confined to and came out to see us, which caused a bit of a stir, but they were pretty friendly so we were able to coop them up in the basement. This was top three as well. It was kind of weird, though - The cement floor was covered in condensation, which could have just been a side effect of the downstairs door having been left open, but could be an issue. The front steps were sinking into the ground, pulling some of the walkway with them, cracking the concrete. It had the hardwoods, though, and a nice open living room space.

House 4 was from the 70's, and it looked it: the kitchen was all wood paneling, old appliances, thick older carpets, old light fixtures. The master bedroom had a bathroom with a standing shower, which I like, but it was avocado-colored tile, which I... have feelings about anything avocado-colored so far as decor is concerned. House 4 needed serious work. Insulation was drooping and the basement smelled hideously mildewy, some wiring would definitely need replacement, there was a structure that was probably once a greenhouse that would need to be torn down, the windows needed replaced... it was just a list. As first-time homeowners? Not prepared to take on the kind of serious work this house required.

House 5 was a top 3 house as well. It had yellow siding, which I'm not a huge fan of, and was a newer house. I tend to prefer older houses, since their basic structure tends to be more solid in my experience. Nonetheless - the rooms were big, open, and airy. The kitchen was probably the smallest kitchen, but had a nice-sized dining area. We'd need to replace kitchen appliances fairly quickly. The rooms were nice and airy, too, though carpeted. The yard was a big size, fenced, with an outbuilding wired for electricity. The deck was a good size and solid. It had two full baths, which is a big plus. We spent quite some time a House 5, kind of looking and thinking and talking about what we could do, where we would put things.

Another note to Northerners: Southerners have more fireplaces in their houses, let me tell you. I find this intriguing, and a definite plus to home-buying in the South.

House 6 was a newer house, and while it was very pretty, the outside was not at all what we wanted - the yard was sloped, so Jason couldn't easily build a shop. It was only fenced on two sides. The garage, while lovely and connected to the house, did not have a door into the house. The fixtures and appliances were nice, the space was good, but it was a house that just did not speak to us at all.

So that was our house-hunting adventure yesterday. By the time we were done, my brain was fried. This is not something that comes naturally to me, this sort of discussion of practical things, and it took some serious effort on my part. We grabbed gas and groceries, met a friend for dessert at Banes & Noble and wandered over to PetSmart with her to look at the kitties and dream about our eventual dog, and finally headed home to talk about houses some more before bed.

We've narrowed it down, for this particular trip, to House 1 and House 5.

And for any of my readers who are not interested in houses, this was probably the most boring thing you've ever read from me.

Well, maybe not.

I did subject you to more than one post that was mostly pictures of my cat.

If you stuck with me through that, I hope you'll stick with me through this.

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