Thursday, July 14, 2016

The house we didn't buy

I wrote this post way back in February, but failed to publish it. I'm doing it now as I want to remember this part of the home buying process. More on the house we did buy soon.

Neil and I are in search of a new home. We are in a lease until the end of July and have been keeping our eye on new listings. Back in November we found an agent we liked. We are prepared to buy any time that we find the right place (our house in Austin sold last summer).

Last Friday, I thought we had found the one. The house felt just like the one I grew up in: built in the fifties, ranch-style, family-friendly neighborhood. Nothing needing to be done ascetically to the interior---the kitchen was redone in a practical, but not showy way and had a nice gas stove, the main level had beautiful old hardwoods, the bathroom was a simple, bright, and clean, the living room featured a stone-fireplace, there was a back-entry with a mud-room type area for coats/boots, and what was originally the garage had been converted into another bedroom (we would have likely used this as a playroom for now then as the master when the kids were older). I was sold.

Neil, however, was not. The problem? The detached garage. The fact that it is detached is not an issue; we are prepared to buy a house without an attached garage as so many houses in the area we are looking have either a detached or no garage at all. His issue was with its placement. The lot was oddly shaped, which mean that to meet the setback requirements the front of the garage was closer to the street than the front of the house.

At first I blew it off as something ugly, but nothing more. So what if it is ugly? We can deal with ugly. But Neil's reticence remained. To him, buying that house was an endorsement of the design. A design that, to him, said that having a place to house your vehicles is more important than creating a community where people are more important that cars. The garage is not only ugly, but it blocks off our yard from our neighbors yard, so if our kids were out playing, it would be harder for our neighbors to look out their window and see our kids (or us) out and about.

Ideally, we would have torn down the garage (waste of materials and more things headed to the dump) and turned the master bedroom back into the garage. But that would cost us tens of thousands of dollars and decreased the value of the home. Not a financially sound move.

I was fixated on the fact that I loved everything about the interior. Neil does not care about that, because he sees it as something we can easily change. I am less excited than he is about major renovations. We did that in Austin, and quite frankly, it was exhausting. It meant that I solo-parented on the weekends while he worked on house projects--not fun.

Neil and I went back and forth about this house for two days. The whole time I was thinking, "High-five! We are such responsible adults having a respectful, thoughtful conversation about our concerns and desires." So that part was good. On Sunday we reached a place where I was fine not buying it and he would have been fine buying it. We decided to move on.

The next day I found a teeny-tiny house we could move into for about $90k. Ninety thousand! The thought of having such a minimal mortgage, taxes, and insurance was so very appealing. Then I rode by and it became clear that the location that would not have worked for us.

We are back to the drawing board. The whole weekend helped me see how off-track we had gotten in the search. Now I feel like we are returning to our minimalist desires--no fourth bedroom, willingness to do renovations so the house will be exactly the way we want it to be, and a cheaper neighborhood. I am excited to see what will come on the market in the next weeks and months as things pick-up and more houses get listed.

Our dream house will have:

3 bedrooms (no more, no less)
1 bathroom (I'd be happy with an extra 1/2 bath, but would prefer not to have another full)
1000-1500 sqft (ideally right in the middle of that range)
Space for a large dining room table
Easily walkable and bikeable to work school, and amenities
Good natural light

Everything else is negotiable. Fingers crossed we find the right thing!

Spoiler alert: the house we bought has all of those things. Well, it is just over 1500 sqft. But otherwise!

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