May 19, 2015 12:36 pm

Adventures in homebuying

Renting is kind of insane in my hometown – it’s often cheaper to purchase a home than it is to rent one. We got preapproved for a loan recently and while our monthly payments would be higher than what we’re paying right now, they’re several hundred dollars cheaper than it’d be to rent a house. After salivating over houses online for the past eleventy years, we finally started going out and viewing some potential homes.

We’ve looked at a few duds so far. One was cute and had a nice kitchen, but it felt small and kind of dark and was in a weird location. Another was super small – a one-bedroom with something they called an “office or non-conforming bedroom” that was basically a glorified closet and MIGHT have fit a twin bed inside but nothing else, and every room felt like it was desperately trying to be a different kind of room. The living room felt like the master bedroom, the master felt like a utility room that would have housed a water heater, etc. It did, however, have a gorgeous giant cast-iron sink with double dish drainboards. I wanted to take it home with me.

Then we happened upon what I’ll call the Park house. Park house was listed at the top end of our (very modest) budget, but was across the street from a popular park and had a big, pretty, landscaped yard. I’ll begin by saying the yard was truly the best part of the house. It needed a lot of cosmetic updates inside, and while it did have a new gas stove and some newer laminate flooring, it had a LOT of structural issues. The bathroom floor was squishy and the tub surround was in pieces and held in with aluminum foil. It needed a new roof. It needed new siding.

The upstairs was half finished bedroom and half unfinished attic, but the floor was INSANELY BOUNCY and made me run screaming from the room when my dad jumped on it to test it. You could feel the whole house shake! The stairs weren’t up to code and had a really short run, so your whole foot wasn’t able to fit on the stair and you felt like you were tripping the whole way up. It didn’t have any closets anywhere in the whole house.

It also had that old tile in one of the bedrooms that had vermiculite (asbestos!) adhesive underneath, and the siding was all asbestos as well. POISON HOUSE!

On the bright side, it had a nice flow from the living room to the dining room to the covered deck and then the big backyard.

I made pro/con lists and everything on my pro list were things like “I like the doorknobs” and everything on the con list was like “NEEDS NEW ROOF IMMEDIATELY.”

We temporarily lost our minds did make an offer on it, but they countered with more than we felt the house was worth, so we walked away. Whew! Park house was in a nice location but oh my god, literally everything else was wrong with it.

A few weeks later, I stumbled across what I’ll call the Reach house. It was listed for roughly $20K more than our budget allowed, but it was an older house that looked like it might have needed some updates, so I requested to see it just for comparison purposes. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it did have a massive fenced backyard.

We went to go see it. Reach house reminded me of many Portland rentals – structurally sound but old and lots of painted wood. It had a mudroom (where we could store our stroller and bike trailer instead of them taking up space in my living room), and a cute entryway and hardwood floors and a normal staircase.

It had a long-lasting metal roof, the siding was fine, and none of the floors were squishy or bouncy. The yard had some raised-bed gardens chock full of healthy looking strawberry plants. It had a washer, dryer, and dishwasher! And a broom closet! A dutch door to the kitchen! A shop for storage!

There are several things I’m kind of iffy about still – it has a shower enclosure but no tub, which will suck for bathing a baby. It has baseboard heating, which is expensive, AND it only has two baseboards to heat the entire house. I predict we will freeze to death in the winter unless we install a gas fireplace or something right away. The kitchen is made for tall people – I can only reach one cabinet easily, so I guess that’ll be the dishes cabinet and to hell with the rest. The downstairs bedroom has a big sliding door to nowhere.

BUT!

Our realtor let us know that the seller was about to drop the price on it, which then made it within the realm of possibility. We offered an amount squarely within our budget, and the seller countered with a price a little above it. My parents offered to help cover the difference (which is SUPER NICE OF THEM! Thanks Mom and Dad!) and we accepted.

AAAAAAAAAAAH!

We just had the inspection done and there are a few things we should fix (like one of the support beams under the house is just… lying on the ground) but overall it seems pretty solid. I doubt we’d find a better option in our price range if we kept looking – especially not a three-bedroom house in the neighborhood we’d like.

If we do get it, I plan on blogging some of the updates we plan on making because we’ll be doing a lot of the work ourselves. (Well, with my dad and uncle since they actually know what they’re doing.) I’m excited to learn how paint rooms and patch drywall and I want to get a fancy power saw and re-do a lot of the super-basic molding and baseboards. This little house has so much potential and I think it’s a great option for us.

This is all very new and exciting. We have our fingers crossed that it works out!

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5 Comments

  • Amanda says:

    Sounds exciting. Old houses are a lot of work, but they’re so charming. Ours is frustrating in that it needs so much work. But it’s in a great location. We joke that we bought it just for that, and not the house. I like the layout, but not anything else really. With some new floors, walls, wiring and appliances it’ll be wonderful. XP

    I’m interested to see how your fixing up goes, since it’s been 3 years and we haven’t tackled anything at our place yet.

  • B says:

    Ah!!! That’s so exciting!!! Fingers crossed that this is it! I look forward to reading about the work you all do to make it your own.

  • Cristina says:

    Yay how exciting! I hope it all works out! Keeping my fingers crossed for you guys!

  • Tracy says:

    Good luck! It sounds like a nice little object. We’ve been looking to rent something bigger here but prices are sooooo high in Munich and the suburbs. Also buying. It’s insane and our budget isn’t high.
    Hope everything turns out the way you hope for you guys!

  • Melissa says:

    Crossing my fingers for you! Buying a house is such an exciting time! Painting and drywall and molding – so much FUN!!