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Archive for the ‘House Search’ Category

When was the last time I posted? (Looks at site.) Oh yeah, April. How depressing. I guess summer is blog hiatus time, then, huh? Well, I think it is time to raise this thing from the dead, zombie-fy it, if you will.

Where has my summer gone? I would really like to know that as well. It’s not like I’ve been on a real vacation or anything like that. Maybe I’ve been uninspired to post because it sometimes feels like the world more or less shuts down during the summer months? Maybe it’s because distractions abound? Or maybe it is just falling into a daily grind which results in sheer laziness? In truth, it doesn’t really matter which reason it is; the end result is the same: no blog updates.

So what has been going on these past few months? The biggest project we’ve been undertaking is trying to buy our first house. I’ve felt kind of strange talking about it because there is so much uncertainty intrinsic to the process.  We started seriously looking into financing in early May. Throughout June, July, and August we’ve been looking for houses. We are looking to move out of the farthest-tier DC suburbs to the small city of Frederick in more Northern Maryland. We are deciding to move farther away from Joe’s work in order to lead a more relaxed life. Although the DC suburbs have been fine, I’ve found myself missing a place with a real sense of identity. The area we live in currently was developed only over the last twenty years or so. It is not a terrible place, don’t get me wrong, but it is a more or a less a series of strip malls divided by apartments and subdivisions. There is nothing wrong with this; it is just not the place for me. Having grown up in a small town, I find myself yearning for living in a place with a sense of self; a place where people take a real pride in their community as a unique place. And I think I have found that place in Frederick. Frederick is a more rural community, though many people now commute from there, but the people who live there really seem to want the city to succeed as a real entity, not just as a place to sleep at night. The downtown is beautiful, historic, and walkable.

Just a taste of downtown

So within that parameter, Joe and I have probably looked at 30 houses, basically everything that is on the market that fits our needs and our price range. It has been, needless to say, an exhausting process. Back in June, we thought that we had found “The House.” Good location, good price, fit what we were looking for. We liked the place a lot, spent Saturday talking to neighbors about the neighborhood, checked it out at night, checked what schools were associated with the neighborhood, figured out our negotiation plan. Early Sunday morning we called our Realtor to make an offer and were disappointed to find out that someone else had made an offer late Saturday night. We were beaten to the punch by only hours. I will admit I cried a little bit hearing that and kind of needed a week or so to regroup afterwards.

We got back on that horse, though, and kept looking, even though our options seemed to be dwindling more and more. At the beginning of this month, we found a house that we liked and made an offer. At this point, we have accepted a counter offer from the sellers and are waiting for the paperwork to be completed. Next week (hopefully) we’re going to be getting our inspections done and so forth, and barring major issues, we are hoping to be closed on the house sometime this fall. It has been hard for me to be in a sort of ambiguous area. The house we may be buying is old, and with an older house comes problems. Part of me wants to get excited and love this house, but the other part of me is trying to be more reserved, fully willing to walk away without heartbreak if there is something seriously wrong with the place. Being in house purgatory makes me feel ambiguous towards the place. I don’t love it, I don’t hate it, it just kind of “is.” And although I am a big fan of shades of gray and ambiguity in movies and books, I don’t really love those feelings within myself.

So just like expected, house hunting has been a real roller coaster of emotions. It has been a lot more mentally draining that I thought it would be. But regardless, I will try to update more often!

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Photo by hownowdesign via Flickr

So, Joe and I are finally thinking about settling down. Like “really” settling down. Like “buying a house” settling down. As of now, we are still very much in the tourist phase. We haven’t been pre-accepted for a loan or anything like that; I am checking out books from the library to learn about this daunting process. Note: local library, please buy some new house-buying books. Huge numbers of books about flipping and no-down-payment loans are not so applicable in the market right now!

The other thing I have been keeping my eye on are the MLS listings for our region. A few months ago I signed up with a service that emails me daily the new house listings in our area (actually three counties, as we aren’t sure exactly where we want to live yet.) An MLS is basically a database for brokers to list real estate. I find it incredibly handy, as I love to research, and it really gives me a feel for the types of options in our area, and lets me see what is really available, and what is in our price range. Now, MLS listings are generally for other brokers to reference in order to refer buyers to properties. But there are many options now for buyers to peek at what’s available, too.

So, with this in mind, I have a list of MLS listing pet peeves, things in listings that just turn me off big time! A lot of these have to do with photos.

  • Photoshopped images of the property. Eh, I don’t mind a little bit of color correction, sharpening, etc. But really, if you are photoshopping all sorts of text bubbles over the photos of the property, I am going to think that this is a rink-a-dink operation.
  • Badly taken images. If I can’t make out what you are trying to show, it is a bad picture, and don’t put it in the listing!
  • Photos of strange details. When half the pictures are of the new fixtures added to a property (sink faucets and new stainless steel fridge, I’m looking at you) it makes me think that someone did a cosmetic update to a house, but left the important stuff (roof, HVAC, etc. ) alone because it is more expensive to update.
  • No pictures of the kitchen. Especially when there are pictures of seemingly every other space in the house. Even more if I can see one tiny corner of the refrigerator in the picture of the dining room. For me, the kitchen is one of the most important parts of the house, and if the listing isn’t showing it, I automatically think it must be an absolute mess.
  • Spelling mistakes in the listing. Seriously, please just run spell check, or even just re-read what is written to make sure spell-check didn’t skip something. “Close to shoppin” “kitchen updatee” “walking closet” just scream “we don’t care!”
  • The listing is in all capitals. Which looks better: “Three bedroom, two bath townhouse with lake views,” or “THREE BEDROOM, TWO BATH TOWNHOUSE WITH LAKE VIEWS.” I think this is supposed to be attention getting and it is, but not in a good way. It reminds me of shady tv ads that play during the day for “liquidation sales” with “iPods for $20!” Not good.
  • Too-wide exterior shots. If I am looking at a listing for a townhouse, I would like to know which one in the row of six it is.
  • Drawings instead of photos. This is fine for new properties, but if the house was constructed in 2001, a drawing of the elevation is not adequate.
  • Using wide angle lenses. Yes, I understand that you want to show as much of the room as possible. But it’s just freaky and it throws off the scale entirely. “Is that bed really that close to the closet. The room must be tiny. But hey, the bedside table is ¾ the size of the bed…oh! Wide angle lens!”
  • No pictures at all, only description is: “A must-see property.” That tells me almost nothing. Also, when you say “must see” does that mean “must see” in terms of “wow, this is great!” or “must see” as in”holy cow, how can people live in such a horrible, mold-filled, flooded property! I can see the sky through the ceiling! There is a frog crawling over my shoe. And tell me again why this house costs $140,000?

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