Finding a Place to Call Home

I have written here and there about our house search, but those little tidbits, nestled into rambly posts, don’t really give you the whole picture, which is that houses and where we will live is taking up a huge amount of my brain space lately.

house hunting adventures

I have moved every two years, like clockwork, ever since I moved out of my parents’ house in the summer of 2007. I have also had four different jobs in the past six years. I’m now, finally, working at a job that’s not too far from Dan’s, and our current apartment is fairly centrally located between our two jobs. Location has always been THE issue when we’ve talked about buying a house; up until last fall, I was working an hour and a half away from where Dan worked. We just couldn’t figure out where we’d live, and neither of us really wanted a commute that long. So once we got married, and figured out where we were financially, it seemed like a great time to start looking. We have a decent-sized search radius, and while we know we’re not going to find our Forever House, it seemed like it wouldn’t bee too hard to find a place that could be a great First House.

As with any major Life Event, we have gotten a lot of advice and many horror stories from friends and family. We looked for over a year! We bought the first house we saw! Avoid this town! Don’t ignore the elementary school! Make sure you know what your non-negotiables are! Don’t get caught up in ugly wallpaper! It was (mostly) hugely helpful. Our biggest non-negotiable is the kitchen; we know a big kitchen may not be possible, but we really, really want more counter and cabinet space than we have now. We want to make sure there are lots of places to park for our friends and family. We don’t want to be on a busy street. We want a nice flat backyard (one that’s good for sports-playing).

and featuring "fresh paints"

So armed with all of this information, we started visiting actual houses back in April. I have been moderately obsessed with House Hunters, probably going back to high school. I love seeing the types of houses, laughing at how ridiculous people are, and trying to guess which house they’ll pick (and which one I’d pick if I were them). Even though it’s obviously scripted and a non-reality situation, I was still surprised at how far from the traditional House Hunters experience we were. We weren’t being unreasonable (although we have had moments of horror where we whisper to each other that we sure hope we aren’t THOSE buyers, the ones whose realtor says “they have NO clue; they’re never going to find what they’re asking for”).Β  But everything we’ve seen has either been way too expensive or had some sort of fatal flaw (including but not limited to: a horse farm in the backyard, a sink in the bedroom, a sliding glass door off the living room on the 2nd floor that leads to… nothing, it is in a major flood zone and only looks so nice because it just got redone after flooding completely, a house on a hill so steep that if your kid threw his or her ball over the fence it’d be rolling for hours, appliances older than I am, no A/C at all, chew marks from the 5 giant dogs on all of the woodwork…) or needed so much work (and we’re not talking wallpaper and carpet like that photo above, we’re talking roofs/septic systems/furnaces/appliances/ all the flooring needs to be replaced) to then push it back up out of our price range.

We figured we’d be able to say “oh, we don’t want a fixer-upper” and mean “not one so bad that you’d need the Property Brothers to jazz it up” (and I can’t tell you how much I wish I could just have them come solve our problems. Well, bad enough that I looked up on hgtv.com to see if they were casting. They’re not.) But we were seeing houses at the top of our price range that needed complete overhauls. As we got more and more discouraged, people have been telling us to just keep at it, just have hope, don’t worry you’ll find it eventually.

It has been SO frustrating. After all of these years of nomad-like living, I just want to know where we’re going to end up. I want to order a custom return address stamp. I want Dan to be able to join a softball league because we’re gonna be around for a while. I want to hang a gallery wall made up of my photos. I know there’s a process but OMG can it just be over already? We didn’t know it would be this hard. At all. We haven’t had hope.

And so right now, we’re facing some realities about the area we want to live in, and our price range, and what you get for your money here. I am so angry that with our budget, we’d be able to find what we’re looking for… if we were looking in different parts of the state. I don’t want Dan (or me) to have a long commute once we have kids. I don’t think we’re being so picky that we’ve passed up on perfectly decent places, either.

What does all this mean? Well, we’re trying to re-evaluate. We can’t raise our price range too much higher if we want to have the kind of life we want to live once we have kids. Maybe we can’t find a single family home with a great backyard (even if it’s small) in a good school district. We have started looking at townhouses (which we’ve avoided so far because we’re tired of sharing walls, and we want a real yard, and we don’t want to have to pay association fees) and it’s really amazing how much more square footage you can get in a townhouse vs. a single family house.

I don’t have a happy ending now, although it would be great to end a post like this with “and then we found a place and it’s going to be so great!”. This process has been kind of AWFUL. We have been so discouraged. But we’re really hoping that with this healthy dose of reality, maybe we can find a place to live after all. We’ll see, I guess.

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7 thoughts on “Finding a Place to Call Home

  1. Your mention of a horse farm in the backyard reminded me of house hunting with my parents when I was 10. There was one house that we liked a lot, but once we were in the backyard, I (of the very sensitive nose) noticed a funny smell. Turns out there were cows right behind the fence.

    Now that I think back to that process, it took us so much more time than we planned to find a place that we ended up renting for about 8 months. At the time, my parents had jobs an hour apart, so we were looking for a place in the middle. Of course, once we found the place and waited for the house to be built, we only got to enjoy it’s prime location for a couple of months before my dad got a job at the same place my mom worked. We still live in the house, so I guess that’s a good outcome!

    It sucks that you haven’t been able to find what you want, but I think there is a difference between sharing walls and sharing walls AND a floor/ceiling. My best friend lives in a townhouse (relatively new, not-too-strong construction, too), and she’s told me that she doesn’t hear her neighbors. I hope you find something you like, soon!

    • I think more people than you’d think have a hard time, or it takes a while. My mom has told us about both of their home-buying experiences, and it sounds similar. And I love the story of your parents’ house and all that geographical drama. I don’t know why I never hear more about people in that situation, it’s so complicated!

      And you’re SO right – sharing side walls is a huuuuge difference than being below someone with annoying dogs who bark all the time. πŸ˜‰

  2. Just a point of information: My parents have always, when living in the States, lived in townhouses (or apartments). My father doesn’t want anything to do with yard work so this works for him, and I don’t remember ever having issues with noise from neighbors.

    • that’s so good to know! Our particular place is pretty much the WORST at sound reduction… so I’m glad most other buildings are better-constructed than that. (So tired of hearing when the upstairs neighbors are, say, using the bathroom. guh.) And believe me – not having to deal with yardwork or snow removal is a HUGE PLUS, especially from Dan’s point of view πŸ™‚

  3. Wow, no wonder you’ve been so disappointed thus far–those places sound terrible! But it sounds like that re-evaluation and new parameters will help get you closer to being homeowners! And I think it’s good to document the process, because then you’ll have a record of all the work, and then how satisfying will it be to have the “aha! ours!” post, to then bring you into documenting the process of being in your First Home.
    Also, if you’re worried about noise, you can make sure to ask about it and maybe even test it when you see houses! Newer built places might have better standard noise reduction, too.

    Good luck!! Keep us posted. πŸ™‚

    • we’ve seen some pretty bad ones (and a surprisingly large amount of very fresh dog poop, incidentally – srsly?? just goes to show that all that ‘designed to sell’ crap on HGTV isn’t really… something real people use) and some “yeah, but..” ones. and we are trying so hard not to settle, but we also feel like we really shouldn’t have to convince ourselves that a house is worth it.

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