Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Houses: Part Six & Next to Last Post

We spent a rather long afternoon with the Realtor following through with our new game plan of looking for houses that have most of what we desired but not everything. Our goal was to take the cost savings of buying a much cheaper house and just use that to fix it into the house we desired. The only problem with that game plan was that it seemed like most of the houses in that category needed LOTS of work in order to save them from falling into a pile much less make them livable. However the last house we saw that day was different. It was in great shape on the outside and even decent shape on the inside. The only problem was that it was pretty cramped and laid out in an odd way. It was a split foyer house with the garage under one half of the main floor which meant that if you came home with a load of groceries, you would have to walk through the lower part of the house, up the foyer stairs and to the kitchen, a small distance.

Despite this, I could see possibilities because this house was the easiest house by far to add onto or to 'correct' issues that we had with it plus it was in descent shape to start with so if we didn't get to it right away it would be habitable. So later when we got home I took up a pencil and paper and started drafting the house plan and layout views to see how I would correct things but I found it hard to remember exactly how things were laid out after an afternoon spent looking at a bunch of houses. So we decided to schedule a second look for the following week, this time with a video recorder in hand so that we would have something to show a contractor friend of ours to get some feedback on whether we were crazy or not.

In the mean time, I did more research and learned that split foyer houses are about as desirable as split level ranch houses which is to say that people would rather get shot in the head versus buying one of them. I don't understand how two half flights of stairs is any worse than one longer flight of stairs but the statistics don't lie. Still I thought that if the price was right, if it made me happy for my time in it, and it was in the right location which it was, it would be worth the gamble. So a week later we visited it once more, video taped it with our digital camera and then decided to take a look at a couple more long shots while we were over there.

For the most part they were 'no chance in hell' shots but one was pretty decent. It was a little more money but was in move in condition and best of all, would need absolutely no major alterations. The drawback was that it was the most expensive house in a neighborhood full of very tiny houses. The neighbor looked like a nice neighborhood but when owning a house, I would rather own the cheapest house in an expensive neighborhood than the other way around. I can always fix up a house to the point it might fit in and be sold in a desirable neighborhood but I can't go the other way around which is why that house had been on the market for the last two years.

As we were driving back to the Realtor office, the Realtor asked if we would be interested in looking at his house. Not wanting to be impolite, we said we had the time and thus we found ourselves in his house a few minutes later. It had the right location to my wife's new job and my current job, i.e. wasn't on the opposite side of town, and it was in the right location meaning it was one of the cheaper houses in its neighborhood and one that is highly desirable to be in. It is a plain old ranch home with a full basement and though in good shape, though showing its age. The siding and shingles need fixed/replaced and the interior is dated but for the price he was asking, it certainly wasn't out of the question. We slept on the thought, talked it over a bit and then called up our Realtor to tell him that of all the houses he has shown us over the last six months the one we were now interested in and wanting to make an offer on was his house. He certainly was speechless.

(Note: I am going to kill off this series of posts with hopefully one more post on this subject.)


kymber said...

i am really glad that you are doing your research! you are right - split-style ranch houses have a very bad resale value - not sure why but it's true. and if you can get a cheapy house in a good neighbourhood and then spend a few years fixing it up - you can usually make a few bucks - it's always about location! good luck. and i am looking forward to the next post!

your friend,

Vince said...

Do you mind me asking before I really comment, but whose agent is the realtor. You or the seller.

sage said...

Vince's question does come to play if he's selling his own house!

I have never lived in s split-level, but there are plenty of them out there and I don't know why people don't like them (I'm with you on the stair thing--we have a long stairs that goes down to the basement (walk out) and garage.

Ed said...

Kymber - I hope I don't disappoint now that the pressure is on.

Vince - The Realtor is the seller and the agent for me. In our area, all realtors are dual agents and you sign a form acknowledging that fact. If this were some complex deal, I would be nervous enough to obtain an agent only tied to me but this is about as straight forward of a deal that can be had.

Sage - The only drawback that I've seen to the split level is that all the bedrooms and even bathrooms are either up or down a half flight of stairs from the main living areas. In other houses, you generally have at least the main bedroom and a bathroom on the same floor as the main living areas. This is a concern to older people who may not be able to navigate stairs to got to bed or use a bathroom.

kymber said...

Ed - when we bought the Manor, the realtor worked for the seller. as we were 1,000 miles away and buying the place unseen - we asked the seller's realtor to be our agent as well. this is not illegal in canada but it is kind of uncommon. we had absolutely no probs with the agent working for both sides. if this is a decent realtor, and it sounds like they are or you wouldn't still be working with them - you should be fine.

your friend,

Woody said...

I would guess that the realtor is kicking himself in the pants that his house wasn't shown earlier. Although your train of thought might have been a little different had you not looked at the undesirables first.

Ed said...

Woody - Yeah I think we had him on the ropes because we ran the gambit of houses to look at. We started off with ones more expensive than we wanted just to get a feel for the market, then moved to houses we could afford in our range and then down to extreme fixer uppers including one that would need to be completely gutted. In the end, we ended up with a fixer upper that didn't need as much work as the others.

R. Sherman said...

In the mean time, I did more research and learned that split foyer houses are about as desirable as split level ranch houses which is to say that people would rather get shot in the head versus buying one of them.

Certainly true for me. The stairs only become a big deal as one ages. My grandmother wound up having to leave her split level because of the stairs. I'm sure she could have stayed in a ranch a few years longer.


Ed said...

R. Sherman - Up here, a ranch still has a basement under it and in that basement is the laundry room, the family room, extra bedrooms, exercise rooms, etc. To me, it still seems like you would still need to go down a full flight of stairs on a regular enough basis to make two half flights a moot point. Unless all rooms that you need were truly on one level, which means a very large house, I just can't understand it. I do know that I will probably buy another split level house if I can help it just due to the negativity associated with them.

malor said...

As a home health staff, the split level homes are the worst when people get incapacitated. At least with 2 storey home, you could install only 1 stair lift vs 2 stair lifts or more with split level.

Vince said...

I didn't know what to make out of the split level/ranch style. Then looking at them, it dawned. THE BRADY BUNCH HOUSE !.

Vince said...

Oh, that dolls house you made a while back is a dead-spit of 17C farmhouses in a line from Durham to Sligo and a ways north and south of that line. Anything like that round abouts your way.