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Sunday, May 07, 2006
We just returned from New Town and have a lot of thinking to do.

We saw a bunch of houses today, and surprised ourselves by the type of house we were attracted to during this trip. We saw several new construction homes because we thought that's what we wanted: T likes new things, I like to paint, I like perfect appliances and shiny sinks, and T likes to tinker on a blank canvas yard. We bought the house we currently live in partially because it met all of those requirements. We bought the house new, we picked everything out, and the house was perfect when we moved in. But when we toured the new construction homes in New Town, our perspective changed. We found ourselves rejecting the "cookie cutter" neighborhoods with the perfectly rectangular yards and without trees or landscaping, wrinking our noses at the smell of freshly-laid carpet, and even sighing with dismay at the perfect, untouched walls. Don't get me wrong: the new homes we toured were beautiful and move-in ready. But T and I decided we just don't want to do that again.

Instead, we were drawn this weekend to the more "distinctive" properties, properties that had something special to offer us that we couldn't find in a cookie cutter neighborhood. Over and over again, we were pulled toward older homes in more established neighborhoods, homes that were on the edge of town and partially obscured by wilderness. I'll detail two of those homes here, as they are our top two contenders in the housing game:

Wooded Dog Pee House: this is a house I've been gazing at online for several months. It is on a heavily wooded lot in a neighborhood on the edge of town. The rest of the houses in the neighborhood are out of our league price-wise; most of them are occupied by professors at Smallish Midwestern University and doctors at the local hospital. The houses are separated by lovely stands of maple and aspen. T and I were thrilled when we saw the lot -- as I wrote yesterday, however, we were dismayed when we saw the condition of the house itself (overflowing dirty gutters, damaged AC unit, house in dire need of powerwashing, etc.). The house is adorable, with a wrap-around front porch I loved (below).

When we walked inside, however, the illusion of woodland coziness was disturbed by the nose-burning stench of dog pee. Seriously, I gagged when I walked in. Through the smell, however, I saw a house I really liked: the office is fantastic (unfortunately, it's also where the dog pee smell emanates from), the dining room is big enough for my huge table and has lovely hardwood floors, there's a sunroom, a two-way fireplace, a huge master bedroom, huge second bedroom, and a darling third bedroom with hardwood floors. The basement is funky, but we could make it work with the help of an architect.

The house needs a lot of updating. All of the carpet would need to be replaced, as well as the outdated appliances. The house needs a thorough, professional cleaning. But the structure and the layout are good, and I honestly think that we could buy this house for far less than the asking price. The seller is out of state and is desperate to sell. The agent we spoke with today said, "Just make an offer -- any offer -- and I bet they'd accept it." We're thinking about it, but it's a tough call because there's A LOT to do. T and I love house-related projects, but this might be a real kicker. If we made an offer, it would probably be close to $50,000 less than the asking price because there's so much work to be done. T always repeats the adage of buying the worst house in the best neighborhood, and this fills that bill to a tee.

1980s Pond House: they say it all comes down to location, location, location, and this house is the epitome of the phrase. The house sits on an acre in the middle of the woods with a five acre pond behind it (below). The pond is deep and sandy, and there were kids fishing in it when we were there. It's so clear that you can see the bass swimming around from the dock. Across the pond is a sandy point that will never be built on because the property is held in trust. The yard is massive and planted with native trees and wildflowers, the lawn goes on forever and is well-maintained.

The house itself is stuck in 1985, the year it was built. It's a four-bedroom house and is HUGE -- almost 2,700 square feet. The living room has floor to ceiling windows that offer a view of the spectacular pond, and the dining room is expansive and decked out with recently refinished hardwood floors. The bedrooms are big and airy and offer pond or forest views, and the office has a lovely view of the secluded front yard as well as a walk-in closet filled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The basic structure is sound, and you can tell someone loved this house very much.

It does, however, need a lot of updating. The kitchen would need an overhaul, all of the bathrooms need TLC (there's a disgusting brown tub in one, a gray tub in the other), the vanities and faucets need to be replaced, and the 1980s light fixtures can all go. Eventually, we'd replace the siding -- it's cedar and is attractive and in excellent shape, but not what we like. Also, the carpet would have to be entirely replaced, as some of it is... mauve.

This is a house T and I feel we could live in forever. Seriously. We could make upgrades bit by bit, and truly make it our own little secluded paradise. We wanted to live on a lake someday, but living on this large pond has all the benefits of lake living without the noise of motorboats and jet-skis and with added privacy (there are five other homes on the pond, but you can't see any of them through the thick foliage). The downside: this house is at the very top of our price range, and the seller also happens to be the agent selling it. We doubt he'd budge too much on the price, and we'd need some major cash to make the needed upgrades (e.g., the carpet, which is far too ugly to live with long-term).

These homes are two definite options, though. They are both "project" houses, but houses we think we could really turn into something amazing. T looked at the pictures I took of the new homes, and as he looked at one shot of a perfectly tidy kitchen he said, "Hmm. Boring." As much as the shiny new oven appealed to me, I think I feel the same way.

The housing options are not our only conundrum, however. If you look at my left sidebar "Big To-Do List," you'll see that one important task has been completed. Our house is sold -- it's official. This was a huge relief, as it means we have a decent down payment on our next house and can buy without the contingency of our house selling. Hurray! The complication is that our buyers would like to move in the first week in July -- fully one month earlier than we'd planned. We were hoping to close on this house August 1 or around that date so that T could have a full month of paid work before we step into the vast unknown in Midwestern State. We will have to negotiate the closing date, especially if T's firm will keep him on until the end of July. Worst case scenario: ST and I move to Midwestern State without T, and T lives here with friends for a few weeks to finish out his job. That's not an altogether bad scenario, but it's also not ideal. Another complication this raises is, of course, the necessity of our finding a house to buy ASAP.

There's a lot of thinking (and not a lot of sleeping) going on in this house tonight.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 5/07/2006 09:35:00 PM  
8 Words of Wisdom:
  • At 11:38 PM, Blogger betty said…

    Congrats on selling the house! And, it sounds like you have some good options. It sounds like even though you have to update the more expensive house, it might be the better option in the end because it sounds as though it was better taken care of. Just my two cents...

  • At 1:19 AM, Blogger phd me said…

    Oh my GOODNESS, what a view! Can I come for vacations if you buy the second house? My social life aside, I agree with betty that, although it's pricey now, it may be less work/money in the end because of better owners. The porch on the first house is very pretty, though!

    Yeah to selling your house! Even with the earlier closing date, this is great! I'm actually closing earlier than I wanted, too, between having time to get back (another flight - sigh) for the closing and having the entire house painted before my furniture arrives. I'm not excited about paying an extra month's mortgage than I expected (with what I don't know) but I can't wait to get my hands on my house!

  • At 6:46 AM, Blogger BrightStar said…

    I'm scared of that dog pee smell. There was a bit of cat pee in my basement that I've NEVER been able to get rid of... I suppose if I replaced the carpet, it would be okay, though.

    Other than that, both houses sound awesome. I hope you can make a decision that works for you. I'm excited that you've already sold your house, too!

  • At 8:34 AM, Blogger RageyOne said…

    Congrats on the selling of your house. I'm sure that is a relief off of your shoulders.

    On making the decision in your new location, boy that's a tough one. I love the porch on the firs photo, but abhor the smell dog pee! I'm shocked the previous owners didn't try and clean that up. Surely that (and the other stuff you mentioned) is why the house is not selling.

    The other house sounds adoring and very appealing. I really like the idea of living on the pond.

    Tough decisions...

  • At 11:01 AM, Blogger Prof. Me said…

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

    RE: the dog pee smell, B* I agree with you that the smell is nearly impossible to get out. We think the smell is really only in the office, and we're pretty sure it's seeped into the floorboards/subfloor. We'd have someone inspect it thoroughly before we made an offer. If we bought this house, we'd have to replace everything under the office before we moved in -- at the seller's expense, or at a substantially reduced cost. Honestly, because of the smell I think we could get this house for a song.

    Ragey -- yep, the house isn't selling because of the smell, for sure. In fact, there hasn't been a single offer on it yet, and it's been on the market for over six months. It also used to have HORRIBLE paint in the inside -- I'm talking pink, turquoise, and purple -- but thankfully the sellers have recently had the entire house professionally repainted in cream. I really don't think the sellers have a clue how to sell a house -- they must NEVER watch HGTV, poor saps!

    PhD Me -- sure, come over for vacations! I'll make some cupcakes for us to take down to the pond, or we can spread our research materials on the lawn to get some work done!

    Betty -- your sentiments are T's as well: buy the house someone maintained. It still needs a ton of work, but at least the Pond House is clean and doesn't stink!

  • At 12:40 PM, Blogger ArticulateDad said…

    Good to return from my conference trip, and see you've been making progress. I think you've got some good options. You will be very happy there, whatever ends up. Don't... DO NOT feel pressured to rush into anything. Keep your head on, and make offers you are comfortable with, accepting the possibility that either or both of these options may go away. You will find a great place, rest assured. But find temporary solutions, if needed for the housing and transition period. It will all work out.

  • At 3:26 PM, Blogger Dr. Mon said…

    Hey Prof Me--I'm thinkin of you guys. Keep breathin and holdin on to that beautiful family of yours--everything is going to work out find. Congrats as well on selling your home--coming up with a good closing date is always one of the more stressful part of the process.

    I too love the porch and hate that Choice 1 is the dog-pee home lol! Given your time frame for moving, that would have to be replaced right away that could add some unneeded stress. Choice 2 looks beautiful--that view alone will resell the property if you ever move. And if you and T can already see yourselves there forever--sounds like a winner!! Keep your head up--it's all coming together very soon.

  • At 9:16 PM, Blogger Lilian said…

    Very interesting. Now I'll be very curious to find out which one you'll choose. Dog pee sounds like quite a serious problem - but the house looks lovely. I feel quite envious just reading about them :)

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