Thursday, September 16, 2010

House Hunting

I would say Jonathan and I have titled this phase of life: "Saving Money."  Without kids, it feels like now's the time to be saving as much as we can.  There aren't any major, pressing purchases that need to be made (we have a house that fits us, we have furniture for every room [plus some], we have functioning cars [although the Sube functions a wee bit more than my 10 year old Toyota], etc.).

But completely contrary to the idea of saving money, one of our favorite activities on a Sunday afternoon is going to open houses in our neighborhood.

We live in a really cool, old neighborhood that's pretty diverse in its real estate.  There are smaller houses like ours (2-3 bedrooms/1-2 bathrooms); mid-sized, family homes (3-5 bedrooms/2-5 baths); and million-dollar mansions (a gazillion bedrooms/a cajillion bathrooms).

I think we both envision our next house as one of the mid-sized family homes.  Jonathan grew up in one (in our neighborhood, actually), I grew up in one (in a cookie-cutter suburb of St. Louis) - and it's where we'd like to raise kids (unless of course we win the lottery or I write a bestseller, in which case we might consider a mansion).

The reason the open houses are so cool is because all the mid-sized houses in our neighborhood are totally different!  They often share a similar, square floorplan - but since the houses were built in the early 20th century, so many different additions/renovations/updates have been done over the years that the real estate inventory ends up being quite diverse.

Now, we've been to quite a few showings over the years.  It's always for fun.  And we've definitely seen some cool houses.  There have been quite a few I've walked into and thought, "I could live here."  And quite a few more, "this house would be awesome if you did X to it."  But there's never been love.  I've never walked into a house and thought, "We Have To Have This." 

Until Sunday.

It was a big day for open houses.  We walked through 4 total.  There was one we specifically wanted to see, which is gor-geous on the outside, but was just "livable now, needs some work" on the inside.  The other two were no good.  But then there was the fourth.

For starters, it's located on one of the top 3 (arguably the) most desirable blocks in our neighborhood.  It was previously owned by an architect (who has since been transferred back to Chicago - so the house is empty & needs to be sold).  The family apparently moved into the backhouse for awhile while they ripped out the inside of the big house and made it awesome.

Some things the house has:
1. Awesomeness.
2. New hardwood floors throughout.
3. An open floor plan (sort of hard to come by in an old house).
4. A really good upstairs floorplan (a master with a little sitting room, 3 other good-sized bedrooms, and an upstairs den).
5. Really cool, modern track lighting throughout.
6. A really big, friggin cool kitchen.  This is where he took his architectural genius & went to town: he added cool archway-type things to the ceiling; cool lighting; awesome countertops (a sort of smooth stone that has tiles pressed in random places); cool cabinets; all new, updated appliances; a heated tile floor; and perhaps the coolest feature - they took out the back staircase & put in this big rustic-wood spiral staircase.
7. Re-done bathrooms - but redone in a really cool, artistic way.  I would define the materials used & the appliances and stuff as "rustic-modern."
8. A big back yard.
9. A big front porch with 2 ceiling fans.
10. Just general coolness - he's added architectural interest with unique molding, interesting light fixtures, unique materials, etc.

Some things the house does NOT have:
1. Lameness.
2. If we're being picky, it doesn't have a screened-in porch.
3. And again, pickiness, it doesn't have a defined "office" room.  I suppose the upstairs den could be one - but a lot of the houses we look at have small offices off the living room that would be good for my little worker-bee husband.

So we left that showing and were like, "what do we do?"  The house is listed almost $100k less than when it started on the market 4 months ago (which, even at the higher price, is probably absurdly low for what the house would go for in normal economic times).  The people are gone - they want to sell.  Interest rates are c-r-a-z-y low right now.

But on the flipside: we're in saving money mode!  We already have a house (that we'd need to sell - that probably isn't in ideal selling condition right now).  We don't have kids yet (or even one on the way).  We'll probably need to get a new car (to replace my beloved Toyota) in the next couple years.  Buying a new house would be silly.

But the house is so cool!


So in the end, after a good bit of debate (and there really was a good bit of throwing around numbers & ideas), I think we're going to let it go.  Now isn't the time for us.  And that blows.  This house is absolutely one of a kind - and I think that's the reason we really considered it.  There are a lot of great houses in our neighborhood, but no others that have been redone by this specific architect who happens to have a really cool, interesting style. 

It breaks my heart to think that the next owner is probably going to tear the house up because it isn't "traditional."  Actually, when we were walking through, there was a chatchy guy with his realtor walking through (who, we learned, had already put in an offer on the house that was rejected) who was like, "ok, give me the numbers again for ripping out the countertop and putting in granite."  Now I like granite as much as the next guy, but at the moment, I wanted to scream, "Gah - you're so Typical!"  He also mentioned taking out the wood spiral staircase... But WHATEVER - it's not my house or my design to feel protective of.

So yeah, no new house for us.  And it's fine - it's good, actually.  I think, too, something we can take away from the whole experience is that a lot can be done to older houses to "awesome them out."  That is, a re-done kitchen doesn't have to mean granite counters and maple cabinets; a lot can be done with molding; choosing the right light fixtures can really affect the way a house looks, etc.

But still...Sigh.


Sarah said...

Maybe you should go back and take pictures for you house one day? Or at least save the pics that are posted for the listing. Just an idea so you can re create some of the awesomeness someday.

LB said...

Ooh good idea Sarah! You could also get the guy's name - he might have a portfolio online that you could look at down the road. Or maybe he could come back and share his expertise with you guys on your next house :)

katie said...

dude...way to be mature and realistic! i know that has to suck...finding the perfect place, etc...but you obviously made the right decision. and i'm sure when you're ready to move on to a bigger house, there will be other cool things (maybe in a different way) on the market. but yeah...sarah's idea of taking pics is smart.

Jonathan said...

Here is a link to the pictures... it sucks this will probably not be on the market in 2012 with no substantive changes...

Claire said...

That house is gorgeous! I would just love to have a large front porch like that. All the action is up front!

Tippy said...

Must. Move. To. Memphis. this is what you could get for the same price (at today's conversion rate) in my neighborhood in London

There is absolutely no competition for which is better. :( So how about you guys do some house hunting for us. ha. Let me know what you find :)