Saturday, February 25, 2017

Comparing apples to oranges; home shopping


I am now working with a realtor, who helped to get me into this condo. I told her my list of criteria, understanding that no home will be perfect, that I am realistic, willing to do cosmetic improvements/upgrades, but want a sound home as I have to pay to get most items taken care of. I told her my budget, that I am already preapproved by a bank(but would most likely use another lender as their rates even at the first look around for comparison, showed them to be higher), told her of my transition to retirement and my new income on paper, including my second income stream, and that I will be getting (hopefully soon)additional employment with benefits. As other professionals have told me, she said that I've done my work, making her job easier.

I hate going with the first thing that I see, but as my Mom says, sometimes things are meant to be (or not). I have found 2 homes, and will see them on Monday (Realtor is booked this weekend).

Home # 1 that we are calling "The pink bath home"
1960, 3 bd/2 bath Ranch,1616 square feet,  unfinished basement with laundry on main level of home (separate room with window, scrub sink w/d and large cabinets above, which look to be what the original kitchen cabinets must have been-maple, and seem to be in great shape)
2 car garage with windowless door that has a large diamond shape (Architecural feature to be repainted to blend in or possibly replace door entirely if shot), .67 of an acre, level property
deck off of dining room (needs power washing and staining)-no issue, has sliders which I'd replace with French doors. Install retractable awning? install screened in porch? entry between living and dining room is very large, open. Not sure of dining to kitchen, which I assume is on the other side of the dining room
oil furnace, hot air system with central air, generator, wood fireplace
septic, I am unsure if there is city water or a well
wood floors in all rooms except tile baths, tile kitchen, tile laundry
from front entry hall, one steps down one step to level living/dining/kitchen floors, it appears that the opposite wing that leads to bedrooms and bathrooms is on the same level, meaning that the step down only impacts the living area, not the bedroom/bath area
taxes $4853
white vinyl siding
hand crank style, casement windows (appear to be Anderson)throughout except for laundry room, standard top over bottom window-fine, I may* choose to swap that window later, no rush
while there is a long planter box in front of the home with unknown plantings inside, there should be additional landscaping done along the other front side of the home-which I am willing to have done
the home was retrofitted for handycapped access: there is a mini ramp from front entry to the step down to the living area, which I would have removed, not an issue, the hall bath has grab bars all over and a roll in shower with movable, fitted seat-again I'd have that converted, not an issue, with either a tub or a large, tiled shower. Wall sink would be replaced with a vanity/sink. Fixtures are white, so easy.
there is paneling in the front entry, the living room,the dining room that I would either paint over or remove, hoping to find sheetrock/plaster underneath
Neutral paint (white in some areas, off white in others) throughout the home
large, double closet at front entry
the fireplace has a planter box on one side as you pass from entry to the living room, I'd like it removed, the fireplace has 3, thin,  staggered shelves on it, also remove and reface the entire fireplace, perhaps installing a gas (propane) insert-unsure on that
there are some ugly ceiling lights, I'd install pot lights, and swop out lights over dining table, assumed kitchen table area (I can't tell from photos if there is an eat in area in kitchen
the kitchen is newer, upgraded white (my preference) GE appliances, good cabinets, but looks like a cheap counter, I need to see it to be sure. I can live with it, upgrade later, focusing $ on other areas
install sink with vanity in master ensuite bathroom (has wall sink)white fixtures again and this is where the pink tile is , perhaps replace mirror/lights-from photos, it appears to be totally functional at this point
I'd install ceiling fans as well as a whole house fan, bathroom exhaust fans if needed

Home #2 that we are calling "the brick house"
house is listed $16,000 more than pink bath house
1967, 3 bed/2 bath, 1625 square feet, finished basement with laundry in garage
1 car heated (not needed for me, but OK) garage, .42 of an acre, level property with some chain link fencing (remove and repurpose for garden perhaps)
screened in porch off of family room
gas furnace w/ baseboards, central air, no generator, wood fireplace
city water/sewer
wooden parquet floors in living room, dining room and bedrooms, same tile in bathrooms, family room, entire finished basement, kitchen floor looks like vinyl
all floors are same level/no step downs
taxes $5432
front facade is redish brick, dark brownish painted shakes cover remaining 3 sides of home so more maintenance
While there are more, mature plantings/landscaping in the front yard, a lot of it is overgrown and would need to be cut back, replaced-something I'm willing to do, and not urgent
There is no closet (visible from photos), near the front entry. I assume* there is one closeby
This home needs a LOT of cosmetic upgrades, it's stuck in the 1980's:
Front screen or is it just metal scrolls door would be replaced with a glass and screen panel door, no issue
All of the ceiling fixtures need updating, not an issue
Ceiling fans in each bedroom are dated. Would try refurbishing with paint, and swopping out the light kit (if more cost effective to replacing totally). No issue
hall bath is a lovely mustardy yellow not harvest gold. It appears to be completely functional, just dated. Bath and toilet are yellow along with the tile, there is a single, white sink in a white vanity
Can't really see into the Master onsuite, appears to be a stall shower, toilet, sink. Can't tell colors, if there is tile or not
I'd install a whole house fan, bathroom exhaust fans if needed
I'd switch the fireplace to a gas burner, reface the fireplace as well
I'd replace the mirrored closet doors for wooden ones
The big $$ would be for the kitchen: it needs a total gut job. White limenate cabinets, very old appliances (I wonder if they even work but replacing appliances doesn't bother me), same tile that is all over the house. There is an eat in area, against the wall that separates the kitchen from dining room. Ideally, this wall would come down, opening up the floor plan. Rooms seem boxed off from one another.

I need to see the actual homes, and get a sense of condition, clarify things such as city water vs well, determine location of oil tank (big issue if it's buried), when was septic last cleaned, when were fireplaces last cleaned and inspected, ask about oil and gas bills (helps determine if there is impending need for replacement/additional insulation), 200 amp electrical service or not, condition of cellar-any signs of dampness etc.

Scarey going into this alone, even though I am an adult. This would be the second home I've ever purchased. Hard to find ranches here as due to the high cost of land, builders are naturally investing in larger homes (My EX was a builder when we first married so I understand this). Location of both homes is in the same, general area on the western side of the city. One negative is that I strongly suspect that due to distance from closest bus stop, DS would no longer be able to use the ADA paratransit system. I'd have to contact the bus company to be sure. Not a deal breaker, we can hire a private driver, taxi, ubber etc as needed and have the resources to do so.

My current lease is up at the end of May. With my upcoming rent check, I will be reaching out to my current LL and inquiring about releasing, as an option and also about their flexability, should I end up buying a home, aka: if I need an extra month here, are they amenable? If they come back that they wish to put this place up for sale, then I feel there is no question, I am buying as my next move.

I need unbiased pairs of eyes looking at the above. Thoughts?


Ellie said...

It sounds like the pink bathroom house will be a better fit. As one heads towards the "golden years", it is nice to have the laundry upstairs as well as the ability to retrofit the bathroom for handicapped access. (Things you think about when you have elderly parents, that you don't think about in your 20's. LOL)
The taxes don't seem terrible for your area. I know you enjoy the location of your current condo, as it is near city bus services. Is the pink bathroom house on a bus line or near shopping?
I hope the house hunting is successful.


Jill Fitzhugh said...

I've never commented before but have read your blog for several years. Felt I had to put in a word of advice on this posting. As an owner of property with a septic system (in Indiana) for 30+ years I would think very seriously about ever becoming involved in this type of water/waste disposal again. Good luck on your hunt. Jill F.

Crystal Hankey said...

Wow. You are doing an awesome job of considering all the good and bad and upgrades needed on a home. I love that you are looking at cost of taxes, water systems, etc... Maybe your next career should be as a realtor or something else to do with that. You are doing your homework and knowing cost info you gave us I like the first home even though it is older. As someone who spent the first several months of the last two homes we bought doing major construction and up grades (all at once - yikes) and living in the home at the same time I am leery of doing that again. A little at a time would be better and of course you know what needs to be done first or what really bugs you. The second home may have been a little newer but seemed like more work with possible tearing out of wall and other things. I think you'll have a better idea when you see them both in person or maybe neither one will be what you want. I always walked into a home (my last few ones) and could picture us living there. The kitchen is always my big sell. We looked at one home that was amazing but the kitchen was more like a small galley kitchen and there was no way I could see myself living there. Happy home hunting.

Winter Fan said...

My gut reading your descriptions has me going with the pink bath house. Parquet floors are a deal breaker for me though. I much prefer traditional hardwood floors. I also would prefer the two-car garage and not having the laundry in the garage.

Sometimes however, a house that is handicap accessible means that the kitchen counters have been lowered. Not sure if you can tell from the photos, but that would mean a cabinet redo for me. I could live with widened doorways and the other accommodations though.

I live in a house with hot water heat (cast iron radiators), which I do prefer over forced air, but I don't care for baseboard heating. Some don't mind it though.

CTMOM said...

Ellie, I know which one I am seriously considering making an offer on already, but await further feedback. Thanks for chimming in. : ) Both homes are located in the same general area, both are a short drive to shopping, pharmacy, etc. Neither are directly on a bus line, which would be ideal both as a back up for other family members, but in particular, for DS. From photos, the counters seem at normal height, as they are in line with the top of the range surface. Good point, however to consider. This home would have forced hot air, thru wall registers, no baseboard registers.

CTMOM said...

Jill, should this home be the one selected, a contingency would be a home inspection, to include the septic, and septic maintenance records. I am aware that for years, 2 elderly brothers lived here together until 2 years ago, when the first one passed away. The death of brother number 2 is the reason this home is up for sale.

CTMOM said...

Crystal, yes, I am very detail oriented, just how my brain works. : ) I try to do my homework, considering all factors so as to make an informed decision. I need to physically see both homes, already have a preference but await additional feedback. I've talked the 2 over with my Mom, sending her the realtor photos and await feedback from a trusted friend, having also send her the particulars. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

CTMOM said...

Jill, I should have added, I lived with a well and septic from 1990-2012.

CTMOM said...

Winter-the counters appear to be normal height, as they are in line with the range top. You raise some good points, thanks

Carol Farley said...

Just my opinion but I would try to buy a home with natural gas hot water baseboard heat (much more efficient than hot air and gas is less expensive than oil) and city water and sewer as compared to well water and septic system. The property taxes for each home are very reasonable as compared to NJ. Good luck in your search.

NAN said...

Carol, I'm considerably older than you are but I have bought and sold probably 12 homes in my life. I own my home now- no mortgage- and am seriously thinking about selling it and renting. It sounds like you are through renting but honestly, no maintenance and you're talking over $400 a month property taxes for both those homes plus home owners' insurance is a heck of a lot more $$ than renter's. Is it just for long term security that you want to own your own home? My daughter's inlaws rent 2 houses and are the best landlords ever- maybe I am skewed thinking most are like them! My house was new but in the 20 years I've lived here, I've had to replace a fence $$9000, central air system ($7500) and a new roof (($8000)plus new carpet and my kitchen sure could sue updating! I am so over home ownership! Also whenever we bought, we looked at least 20 houses to compare!

Marcia in rural WNY said...

If you went with the one with handicapped accessibility, I wouldn't be so anxious to pull it out! But then, I'm seeing it at age 74, although those years do go quickly. We have a one bath home and it's on the second floor. It's already a pain sometimes to go up and down those stairs another time, and my laundry is in the basement besides--I've been doing a load here and there during the week--my habit has been all the laundry on Friday but frankly, it tires me a little too much lately. Knowing you already have some health problems, I would not change out something I might need in the future.

Since we spent our first 8 years of marriage with husband in the military, and then rented for another dozen years, I know there is no such thing as a perfect house--as do you. I would go with the house that strikes me as more to my taste, period. For me, I think it would be the first one, the pink bathroom. Sounds more conveniently laid out to me, but of course you have to go through your check list first. Why WE bought the house with the tiny kitchen still makes me wonder--but other things sold us on the house is the truth!! I can't cook anything without setting 3 other things aside first, but I've been doing it for 39 years now and I am used to it! Sometimes despite careful planning, one little feature that you love calls out to you!!

CTMOM said...

Carol Farley, natural gas is my preference. My list of particulars will never be 100% met, I accept that. It is really hard to find a ranch around here, although there are plenty of raised ranches, which I do not care for. Yes, I prefer city water/sewer over well/septic. Choices for a level ranch are few and far between,I've been watching the real estate market ever since I divorced, over 4 years ago. The taxes on either home are nothing compared to what I was paying in a local, suburban town with few business to help with the mill rate. I anticipate that there will be multiple offers. Sigh . . may not even get it in the end.

CTMOM said...

Nan, should I buy a modest home, I stand to lower my housing costs by $1000/month. The plan would be to get into my next forever home, one that I can age into, and double up on mortgage payments, with it being paid off when I can finally stop working as I will have aged into Medicare. I continue to apply for positions, needing to find something come Sept 1, for insurance. Any salary beyond that, can go to savings and prepaying/doubling up on my mortgage. Owning would mean not having to move every few years as I have been, being able to modify a home to my taste/preference. Yes, I get it that stuff breaks, repairs and upkeep are needed, that's why I keep an emergency fund. The taxes on either of these homes is actually low compared to what I paid for my marital home in a neighboring town with no business to offset the millrate for taxation. Yes, home owners is more expensive insurance, I already pay rental, and have paid HO insurance in the past.

Hawaii Planner said...

I'm with everyone else on the "pink bathroom" house. A kitchen remodel can be quite a time/money suck, and the house more generally sounds appropriate. And less expensive! Win/win! Just bought a house in the San Francisco area, and . . . working through the very expensive update options myself!

NAN said...

I understand that- guess I know folks who rent the same house for 25 years and never move. I'd hate to have to move every few years for sure! I don't want a house though but a nice 2 bedroom/2 bath one floor apartment. Around here that would probably rent for close to $1000 a month. Some even have one car garages. Of course when I start the process, there might not be anything suitable!I wouldn't even mind not having washer/dryer if the facility is close.

Busy Bee said...

I think that both houses sound wonderful. I have one thought I would recommend considering.
Having gone through a total gut and overhaul of a kitchen -- it is a serious pain and can be quite costly.

I can't wait to hear if either of these houses is the "one." I love house hunting!

CTMOM said...

Busy-I worry about the cost of remodeling the brick home. Scares me, as I DO know how costs can spiral. I am officially retired as of Wed, and although I've been living off of projected retirement earnings, and have another steady income stream, it is a fixed income, especially as I have yet to be hired for my new career, which would provide medical ins as well as additinal, modest income, but a buffer to be sure and the ability to more readily tackle house costs/repairs. I still plan on seeing both homes, and have added a 3rd option as the realtor feels that there will be multiple offers on the home that I prefer (pink bath) and I suspect that I will be outbid. I'd much rather go under than max out my mortgage budget.

CTMOM said...

Hawaii, the pink bath home is actually more expensive than the brick home that needs a kitchen remodel

Belinda said...

I think the pink bath home seems like the better option. I like the fact that it has an already remodeled kitchen. White is so in these days. I like the fact that the laundry is on the main level of them home. Climbing stairs with laundry is no fun as I've done that in my former FIL's home. The paneling can easily be repainted. I did that in one of our former homes and it looked good. I'll be anxious to hear your take on it after you've seen both homes. I'm so excited for you. :)