Monday, December 14, 2009

A hunting we will go

If you were wondering what the current state of the housing market is, I am here to tell you that even with the economy the way things have been, some sellers are still more than a little overly-optimistic about what their homes are worth.

Lately, I’ve been looking into the idea of looking into buying a house. It’s all very tentative. A longtime friend of my mom’s is a realtor, and she’d been helping me see what’s out there and talk through the process of whether this is really something I want to bother with.

On the plus side: no more landlord, a buyer’s market, and low interest rates on mortgages.

On the downside: yard work, which I don’t do; home repairs, which I don’t like messing with and don’t want to pay for; a committed relationship with a bank, which frightens me; and a commitment, at least for awhile, with one particular area of one particular city, instead of being free to move around the metroplex to whatever area is at that time most convenient for me.

But on the plus side: no more landlord. The no more landlord thing, that’s very appealing to me. I want to be able to rip up carpet or put a hole in the wall and answer to no one.

One of my coworkers just does not get this. She keeps trying to get me rent from her former landlords. Me: I want to be able to rip up carpet or paint a room without asking anyone first. Her: [clearly not listening to what I’m saying, as usual] I’m pretty sure they’d let you replace the carpet, depending on what you wanted to replace it with. Me: . . . Like I said, I don’t want to have to ask permission. Her: Oh.

And then a week later we have the same conversation.

Meanwhile, I’m trying very hard not to let my boss know that I’m looking. She’s a very helpful sort of person, and she’d be very supportive, but that would turn into her basically taking over the search. We’d probably have to go look at houses during lunch.

Anyway, weekend before last, I finally drug RR out and looked a few homes. The second house we looked at was lovely, but it already had an offer on it. The rest of the homes were, well, disappointing. Now, I remember looking at homes with my parents when we first moved to the area, and maybe it’s because they had more to spend than I do, but I don’t remember it being such a literally nauseating process.

The third house we went to had lovely hardwoods throughout, and a nice little office nook behind the family room that would be a great place to work. I loved the kitchen. But the floors in the living room slanted. A lot. Actually, it looked like maybe they had buckled, because the right side of the living room slanted to the right, and the left side of the room slanted to the left. Then they had also left one of those scented plugin-thingies in one of the outlets to pollute the air with a nauseating perfume-y smell. The floors made me feel like I was on a boat and hadn’t quite mastered my “sea legs” yet, and combined with the scent, I felt a little seasick. So, suffice to say, I couldn't leave there fast enough, which is not how you want to feel about your home. Also, it had an above-ground pool (which, sorry if you like those, is of no interest to me), as well as a hot tub, my feelings about which I’ve made pretty clear. Definitely a “no.” And most of the backyard had been inexplicably paved-over.

The third house had water damage and a second floor that did not give me or RR confidence in its structural integrity. There was another that I can’t remember what I didn’t like about it other than the carpet.

But the trip began and ended with the worst of the group, or the best, depending on whether you want to live there or just have something interesting to talk about at lunch.

The first house was just so darn cute from the outside. I'd been eyeing it on the real estate listing website for months now, more and more sure that this was going to be my new house. I'd even driven past it twice now, just to get a look at it in person, and it only made me want it more. On the inside, though, it was bewildering and confusing. Well, maybe it was the gas leak we detected that confused us, but I really think it was the house.

The entry was ok, an odd shaped room with hardwood floors, but immediately to the right was a very small room/alcove/entry area from the garage, a step down from the living room, laminated with some sad, old linoleum. It wasn’t big enough to be used as an actual, functioning living space, and it wasn’t set up right to be a mud room or anything like that, and although we discussed it for several minutes, none of us could figure out what it was for or could be used for.

Off the back of the living room was a family room that was actually quite cozy with a gorgeous fireplace. But there were cracks in the ceiling and floor that made it clear that it wasn’t standing on a good foundation. And in the room was a closet that, instead of a normal door, had what we we’ve been calling a “Scooby Doo door.” Instead of having hinges on the side, it had a hinge in the middle of the top, and it swung around on the hinge like the secret door always does in a Scooby Doo episode. You know, the one that the caretaker-disguised-as-the-monster is hiding behind, that swivels around so that the caretaker is in the room with Shaggy, and Scooby is in the secret passage. Except it wasn’t secret, and it was ugly.

The bedrooms were very interesting. The front bedroom had a closet that backed up to the hallway. The back wall of that closet had a door with a lock on it leading to the hallway. Which . . . what???? You can’t use the bedroom door to go into the hallway?

The back bedroom had a separate entry to the backyard with it’s own screen door and peephole. The back door looked like it had been attacked by a pack of angry dogs—a good quarter of it was missing pieces. Then, when we went outside to look at the backyard, we couldn’t get back in through that way because the push button on the screen door was missing. Fortunately, we were able to get out through the fence. I was not in the mood to climb anything.

All in all, after seeing it, we understood why it had been on the market for so long.

The last house was a historic two-story in a neighborhood that I’m dying to live in. It was understood before we went to look at it that it would need some work. Ultimately, we didn’t even go in. This is because when we got there, it was impossible not to notice that the entire house was leaning heavily to the right (well, technically, stage right). We looked at the house, at each other, and back at the house, and unanimously decided that we were done looking for that day.

And that was that. My first foray into looking for a home. I gotta say, if house hunting is going to be months of this, then the idea of continued renting is somehow seeming a lot easier to swallow.

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