Advice Wanted: New Home Edition

So the house thing is apparently happening… and much faster than I thought.

Carl found us a realtor last week through church connections, and we’ve been idly sorting through the customized listings he’s been sending us for our price range. I’m picky when it comes to certain things, but location isn’t really one of them. Carl is much pickier about location, and it’s actually really good because it’s kept our focus nice and sharp.

When the M was here on Thursday we had a lovely lunch at Compari’s in downtown Plymouth (get the goat cheese ravioli) and then decided to do a covert drive by of the more promising addresses… which enabled me to knock a couple off our list immediately (roof looked terrible, neighborhood sketchy, shed/yard falling apart). And also revealed one that might be a keeper. Carl got an email a few hours ago as we sat over our pancakes and bacon informing us the asking price for that one just dropped 5k yesterday, so I think we may have to get a tour on Monday and see if the inside looks as promising as the out.

A cosy 3 bedroom home with a finished basement, fenced yard, family room fireplace, central air, and hardwood flooring upstairs. The paperwork calls it, rather optimistically, a 3 bedroom colonial, but I’m not sure I’d go quite that far. It’s a comfy, friendly, cookie-baking sort of home whose name is probably something akin to Nancy or Brenda.

I like it.

But I’ve always had a soft spot for kicky ’50s and ’60s names. Susan, for example, is a fantastic name for a small dog, am I right?

Anyway, the point of all this was to ask for advice, since I know many of you have already moved into your first (or second or third) homes and have been through all this before. So lay it on me. How long did it take you to find the right house and what would you do differently if you were doing it all over again? What drove you crazy and what worked out super well about your approach? Have you actually used/do you still like the fireplace/huge yard/hard wood flooring or are the extras not as thrilling as you thought? Do you need more/less space than you thought you did? Does it drive you crazy to only have one bathroom or do you HATE having to clean the 2.5 bathrooms you ended up going for?


I need the help!


6 thoughts on “Advice Wanted: New Home Edition

  1. I was surprised by how hard it was to nail down a square footage of home space or yard area that was “right” because it is really all about how it’s laid out. That’s one thing to think about. I still love my wood floors, and fireplace and yard space, and guest room. Am still very pleased with our choice. It was my third love for homes and by far the best selection. Am so very glad I didn’t get my first choice. Talk to the neighbors. Envision winter, rain, company, babies, potty training, illness and holidays in the house…those will give you a few scenarios to try out. I loved cruising by listings before we saw them to save us time and eliminate places that weren’t right for us. Things that make a home super marketable (for re-sale later) include a kitchen with newer appliances and stone countertops, hardwoods floors, a master bath and bathrooms on each level. Our house only has bathrooms on the second and third floors which is its major negative. I don’t mind, and we may eventually put one in someplace.

  2. Can I just start by saying. *Grin* House hunting is my favorite. I just love looking at houses and imagining living in them. I am so excited that you get to go out and shop for a home.

    OK, here are my thoughts. Neighborhood: Definitely talk to the neighbors. Good neighbors can be your emergency back-ups for so many things from a cup of flour to dog-sitting. And bad neighbors can make you want to run away screaming. Another neighborhood issue is sidewalks/traffic. Personally, I like to live in a place where I can easily go for walks and where my kids can safely ride their bikes without too much fear of being hit by a car. Especially when they’re first learning, kids can be all over the place, and busy roads=very scary. Also, how close are stores for midnight medicine runs or quick grocery pick-ups? And how close is Carl’s work? This is important for the commute, but also if you are thinking in terms of possibly having children in this house, there are going to be times when you just really want that other adult there NOW, like the time Michael fell down the stairs and cracked his head open and needed stitches, and I was there with no car and four small children. Having Gene a mere ten minutes away was a huge plus.

    Yard: Get a really good idea of how much maintenance you actually want to do. We LOVE our huge yard space-wise. It kills us that it takes three to four hours to mow the thing. Again, if you are thinking about kids, it is great if the house is laid out such that you have a good view of the back yard from the spaces you are most likely to be in. That way you can let the kids play outside while you are doing dishes, folding laundry, checking e-mail, etc.

    House: Hard floors are awesome. Our carpets have been totally trashed by kids, our dog, guests with muddy shoes. If you want a more snugly space, you can always put area rugs down. The most important place to have hard floors besides the obvious kitchen and eating areas is by the door. We have a postage stamp entry and the carpet in that vicinity gets a mud bath regularly. A big, easily cleaned entry is really nice.

    Another consideration is lay-out of the bedrooms. A lot of houses put the master bedroom off by itself somewhere, which is probably great if you have teenagers, but not so great if you have small children. Look at the path from master bedroom to potential kid rooms and imagine walking it in the dark half-asleep.

    As far as bathrooms go, at first I did find cleaning two kind of a bummer, but now that we have lots of littles and also frequent large gatherings, I’m really thankful for them. So often the main guest bathroom will be in use, and some potty-training toddler (whether ours or a guest) is desperate, and it’s so great to have that second bathroom.

    I love what Carlie said about imagining different scenarios. I failed on that with out kitchen and wound up with something so narrow that it really only works for one person. When Gene and I are both in there, it gets a little comical. When multiple children want to help or when everyone’s trying to clear the table, it can get downright frustrating. And when we set up a buffet in there for guests, we have to give traffic pattern instructions.

    We have survived the last eight years without central air, but it hasn’t always been fun. Central air is definitely on my list of things I want for our next house.

    I hope some of this is useful. And most of all, I hope you find just the right place.

  3. What amazing advice! There isn’t really anything to add. I just support the idea of the two bathrooms, or at least a guest toilet (as we call it in Europe). Location and the neighbourhood are also very important, particulary if you want to sell it again!

  4. @ Carlie and Andrea: THANK YOU!!! That was exactly what I was looking for. I suddenly have lots of notes for our house hunting mission tomorrow. 🙂

    @Phoenix: I’ll be sad to leave too! Honestly, if I could have a dog and a second bedroom, I’d be set to live here for years. Carl, on the other hand, can’t wait until he can watch movies at night without having to hold the remote at the ready for when his wife freaks out about *volume* and *neighbors*.

  5. The only thing I might add is that I had a good feeling about our house and loved it upon walking in. People tried to talk us out of it for various reasons, but they were all reasons that THEY cared about, not us. There weren’t major concerns (like the first house we loved but had a cracked foundation), just little things that people would have opinions about. In the end though, we love our house and wouldn’t trade it, and I’m glad no one talked us into buying a house we didn’t like just because it was newer.

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