Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Houses: Part Four

We pulled into the driveway and introduced ourselves to the owner who was a pleasant middle aged woman. She offered to show us around the property again and we readily agreed. That is when the blinders came off. Let me explain.

Since that had been the first house we had looked at in our search for a new home, I don't think my eyes had been trained to see what needs to be seen. Back then, I had noticed that the wood siding was rough in a few places and would need some work and a new coat of paint but that was about all I had remembered of my tour as far as maintenance was concerned. So this time I mentally told myself to pay attention to the physical parts of the house to see what I would need to fix up should I buy it. What I saw was a lot.

As we toured the inside of the home, the first thing that caught my eyes were the windows. They obviously were original to the house and just looking at them I could envision lots of energy going out of them. I confirmed that later when I asked the lady about her average utility bill and it was nearly three times what I pay now. The next thing I noticed was a water stain on the ceiling which the owner claimed she didn't know what had caused it but blamed it on the renters living there. Taking a look at the layout made me see that while the kitchen was laid out well, and the sole reason we kept talking about this house all these months, parts of the rest of the house felt all cut up and inefficiently arranged. When we got to the finished basement, the owner dropped the bombshell and told me that it had leaked quite a bit. She said they fixed it with concrete anchors and waterproofing on the outside. I'm sure the waterproofing corrected the problem but the concrete anchors sure didn't. I'm guessing the walls were beginning to buckle in on that side which is why the concrete anchors were installed and covered over so that I couldn't see them. When we later got outside, I could see that the real reason for the leaky basement was that the grading was sloped to the house on the two sides it leaked. Some dirt and a weekend of grading would fix that issue permanently but the anchors holding up the basement walls kind of made my neck hairs stand up a bit.

As I had suspected when she told me she had remodeled a lot of the house since the last time we had seen it, she really hadn't. The renters who had been renting to own had done the work and their tastes were evidently not mine. The 'hardwood floors' that had been installed up stairs looked like really cheap painted plastic flooring that didn't even resemble wood and had been incorrectly installed so it was all wavy and crooked. The wall paper had been stripped out of the kitchen but they must have damaged the drywall doing so and tacked up terrible looking strips of aluminum on all corners to cover it up. The railings on the center stairs that you see right when you come in the door had all been stripped off and numerous pieces of the railing were missing in the upstairs hall. Everything, including all the nice beige carpets were now dingy due to the three dogs living with the renters.

On the outside, I noticed that the shingles were also original to the house and coming to the end of their lives. Everywhere I looked I saw sections of wood siding, window trim, garage doors etc. that needed repaired. The landscaping was overgrown in weeds and needed a summer of serious effort to rehabilitate. Brush needed cleared, trees pruned and of course, the septic tank being installed was going right down the middle of the cleared space of the back yard and would need a couple years of refilling, regrading and reseeding to repair. By the time we made it back to their cars, I felt like I had woken up only to find out that life thus far had been a lie. She informed us that the price she had given me over the phone had been her lowest offer to cover her expenses with everything. We told her we would get back to her and drove back home.

My new view of the house is one that hasn't had a lick of maintenance done to it since it was built 32 years ago and that is a shame. It was a beautiful house and despite everything has beautiful curb appeal. But what that lady is asking is not what it is worth. By the time I fixed it back up to what I feel it should be, I would have sunk a lot more money and time into the place than what I could ever hope to recover. In order for me to consider the house, she would have to drop her price way down.

So after talking it over, we decided that since we were approved for a loan and the timing was right, to go look at a list of houses that we have been eyeing for the last six months as potentials and see if we can find something else that catches our eye. I arranged for a Realtor to show us around the following Monday. As for the lady of the house that we had just fallen out of love with, we still haven't called her back yet. It still has a lot of potential and with a lot of work and a price that is right, could be an awesome home. I am willing to do the work if she is willing to price it without regards to trying to get our of her mistake of paying too much for a place and not maintaining it for so many years. We'll make that decision after we have ruled out other places and perhaps make her an offer on its true value.


sage said...

It is good that your eyes opened before your check book! Good luck.

kymber said...

i always tell people to do a lot of online looking at a variety of houses, regardless of whether it is in your price range or not. then i recommend that you keep a running list of all of the things that you like about different properties - even something as crazy as "oh i love the fish pond". some people will get stuck on one detail, like a fish pond, and discount other houses that are probably better-suited to them. and you can always add a fish pond!

i tell people this because jambaloney and i spent every saturday morning looking at real estate sites while drinking our coffee. we did this for 2 years before we were going to buy our house. we had a list of things that actually changed over time. and when we bought our first house - we loved it! i will always love that house - it was exactly everything we wanted and needed while we were living there.

i am so glad that you were able to see the house again, without the rose coloured glasses. good luck in your future searches.

your friend,

Ed said...

Sage & Kymber - We're glad that we finally went back to that house and saw it for the second time. We can now cross it off our list, unless the price comes down drastically, and move on with the search.

PhilippinesPhil said...

I knew it... Saw it coming a mile away... I always ruin movie plots for my wife too.

Ed said...

Phil - I wanted to say something when I saw your previous comment but decided to wait until this post. You nailed it.

Vince said...

Bummer. Still 'tiz better not to be too invested emotionally.
Why is it again you are moving. I thought baby doctors were prone to dramatic lurches before fixing on a spot.

warren said...

Keep it up! I love and hate buying a new place...gee whiz the stress is usually awful but exciting too!

Ed said...

Vince - At her new job this fall, my wife will be on call probably once a week or slightly more on average. While on call, 90% of her work can be done via phone giving directions to nurses. They are allowed to do this from home as long as they are with 15 minutes of the hospital in case of emergencies. We live about 25 minutes from the hospital. This means that my wife would be spending five or six nights a month in a motel room (at hospital cost) or holing up somewhere in the hospital when she could be at home. It just makes since to move closer so that she can spend more time at home and I'll do the short commute of 20 minutes or so to work each day. (The discrepancy in times is because my place of employment is on the opposite side of town as our house and is five minutes closer to the hospital my wife will be working at than where we live now.)

Ed said...

Warren - I'm excited about moving to a 'new' house but I could do without the stress of wondering if what I pay for the house is way too much.

R. Sherman said...

Better to leave that one behind. No need buying a money pit.