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.