Turning Them Down is Easier

If I hear from another person about walking into a home and knowing that it’s right for you, instantly, I will instantly smash their toes with my heel.  I don’t know.  I’ve been in and out of dozens and dozens of houses and I’ve put offers on two and I have yet to walk into any house and say “Oh, yes, this is the one.”

The thing is–there’s not going to be a “perfect” house in my price range.  Well, maybe there is, but I just don’t believe it.  I think there’s going to be quite a few just fine houses with big flaws and I just have to decide which ones I can live with.

I like the house on Litton.  I liked it when we walked through it weeks ago and I like it now.  I think it’s quite cute and I love the room and I like the layout.  I like that I could just hand the basement over to the Butcher and a ton of the stuff that’s clogging up my living space would disappear into the basement where I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

And it has a fireplace and a window over the kitchen sink.

A girl could get used to that.

I love the location.

I’m nervous about the siding.  It appears to be buckling in places and I’m not sure if that’s just a bad siding job or an indication of larger problems.  I’m not sure the flipper did the greatest job in the world on it.  Some tiles feel uneven.  The main level bathroom feels strangly unfinished, but not in a way I can put my finger on.  We couldn’t get the garage to open.  I’m nervous about pulling out of the driveway onto the street, because there’s a big honking piece of concrete blocking the view that marks the edge of the neighbors’ yard and I’m afraid you’re just asking to be hit and I’m not sure how to fix it.  I could be wrong, but I suspect there’s no dirt in part of the yard.  I think it’s fill covered with sod. 

And the house is 60 years old, though I find that charming as well.

Is it “the” house?

I don’t know.

We saw one on Elvira that was also very cute.  And it has a huge yard.  So does that count for more than being in a neighborhood you like?  I don’t really dislike the Elvira neighborhood.

And what if I’m wrong and I should hold out for the house that makes me say “Oh, yes, this is it!  Here is the fireplace; here is the big yard; here is the perfect location; here is the porch and the deck and the this and the that and, yes, that’s where this will go and that and that.”

Here’s what I don’t know, though, and this is what makes me sick to my stomach about it–what if I hold out for the house that makes me say “Oh, yes!” and that house never comes along?

Today we saw a beautiful, I mean exquisit, rehab on Buchanan.  It was amazing.  The floors were level, the tile work was perfect, the counters were beautiful, and it had such nice touches–little details everywhere for your eyes to rest on.  He’s asking $145,000 for it.  He’ll take $135,000 for it.

It’s two block from the projects, right on the interstate.  You can hear the cars from every place in the house.

Walking through it, it’s obvious that he should have done less work (though hopefully still at that quality) with simpler finishes and tried to get $120,000 out of the house.  Or he never should have bought a house with an interstate running through its front yard and a housing project within shouting distance to rehab and flip.  It would have been nearly impossible for him to pick a worse location to try to squeeze $145,000 out of a house.

And yet, there he must have been, day after day, doing the most beautiful rehab job we’ve laid eyes on.

I feel like that guy.  Like there is some wise decision to be made, that there are signs and portents all around, and I, I don’t know how to see them, how to make sense of them, who to ask for help who could give me help in a way I know how to hear right now.

I don’t know what to do.

And I’m afraid to even like the house on Litton because I just don’t want to go through that crap of liking it enough to make an offer and having it not work out.

And I feel like there’s both no hurry–I don’t have to move–and this whole thing is about hurrying–because you don’t want someone else to get in there and make an offer.  I feel like when I’m rushed, I make bad decisions.

And yet, when I talked to my dad, he said “Well, if worse comes to worst, you can always turn around and sell it to some other artsy fartsy idiot.”

I found that comforting.

11 thoughts on “Turning Them Down is Easier

  1. For almost two years, I have been after you to buy a house. Every time I brought it up, you poo pooed the idea because you didn’t think you could buy. I knew better.

    Now that a banker has given the nod, you are hell-bent to find a house. It is not a buyers market. The sense of urgency is entirely your own. If you have to find justification for a house….it ain’t the right one for you.

    You have been in your current location for what, 6 years? There is every indication that housing prices will continue to slide, so, whats the rush?

    perhaps the right thing to do is to look in the price range slightly above the one you are lookin in now. Maybe that means you alter your budget…or get a part-time job.

    As for the siding….there are different grades of siding. Thinner grades will crack and buckle after just a few years. I bought a good grade, yet, it still buckles. If I were you, I’d stick with brick. Lower heating and cooling costs.

  2. The way I see it is houses aren’t much different from men. I’m not married, but I’ve bought two houses though I still think marriage is probably easier. It’s certainly easier to get a divorce than it is to sell some houses.

    Mack has given good advice. Don’t settle for just any old house that’ll do. Wait and commit to a house you love, but play the field a little. Though considering the vast number of houses you’ve looked at, I think you could stand to cut back on that some.

  3. Honestly, maybe you’re trying to talk yourself into the house on Litton. What’s the rush? No house is perfect, but buying a house that exasperates you every time you think about what all needs to be done for you to be happy in it is probably not going to make you happy with your choice. There should be a house out there that you know is not perfect but feel right enough about that you *want* to improve it, rather than ticking off a bunch of “if only…” items every time you think about it. IMHO.

    I don’t want to advocate for you to look at a million more houses only to add to the frustration, but it might also be time to reevaluate your criteria. Yes, there are things you want, but I think it’s important to think about why your want them, their relative importance, and your assumptions (such as area of town, what you’re going to realistically be able to improve in a house). How important is a window over the sink, compared with not having to replace the siding in short order? Is it necessary to buy a house in an area that is assumed to be already on its way along the gentrification path, versus a house needing less work elsewhere? You might be overwhelming yourself with the number of houses you’re looking at, but the houses you’re looking at may not reflect a realistic approach to your lifestyle. Are you really going to get a part-time job in order to support a lovely yard? When would you enjoy it in that case? These are important things to think about.

  4. PS-I hope that doesn’t come across as condescending or assuming that you’re *not* thinking about these things. Home-buying can be stressful, and it took some work for me to separate what I really needed and was happy with versus the prevailing assumptions about getting the biggest house you can, the “right” areas, and so on.

  5. I can only speak to my own experience here. Houses are like people — there are many wonderful people who can fill your life with happiness, but that doesn’t mean that those same people can’t also have big flaws. As you mature, you figure out which of the flaws you can live with and which are heartbreaks on the hoof. You’re ideally looking for a person who is someone you want to change with, not in the sense that either of you have to change to be tolerable but in the sense that life brings you change through your door and it’s a grace to be accompanied by a good familiar at those times.

    On the other hand, house-buying is not a metaphor. It is what it is. I’d vote no to getting a part-time job to get into the next range of houses, even if it means getting “less” house and doing more work in it. A house that stresses you out financially from the beginning is a burden, even if it periodically stresses you out later due to things that break and need fixing.

  6. Mack is right; there is no hurry and no pressure to BUY NOW! Prices will probably come down considerably in the next year, whereas your income and credit rating won’t be going away.* And Rachel may be right that you’re overloading yourself with looking at too many houses. Sometimes the brain just shuts down in the face of too much information, you know? A while back you talked about making a list of your criteria, and only going to look at houses that met them. I think that’s smart.

    *In fact, if there’s any way that you can save some money while you’re house-hunting — sock away the cash you would be using for house improvements or whatever into a CD or something — you may end up able to afford a bigger down payment when you do buy, or be able to afford a new paint job right away or something.

  7. The only hurry in buying a house now is to preserve the low interest rates. Of course, rates could drop even more … I can’t predict what they’ll do. Two weeks ago they jumped up, this week they dropped a bit.

    We’ve looked at plenty of houses and we’ve had to because often the pictures and descriptions on the MLS are not accurate. For example, who’s going ot say the pipes are so corroded that the water flow is pitiful on the MLS? You can’t write that while we’re touring a house, you hear gunshots fired POP POP POP.

    I remain positive that B. is doing the right thing in giving careful consideration to any home she finds appealing. My job as her realtor is to find her a healthy home where she will feel safe, happy, and comfortable. If it means we take one month or six months to find it, then so be it.

  8. I hope I don’t sound negative, but be really careful if you’re buying from a flipper. They tend to use the cheapest product they can get away with. They just want it to look good at the time of sale and they aren’t all that worried about wether or not it will hold up.
    And you really don’t have to be in a hurry. Slow and steady wins the race. :)

  9. I’ve bought two houses (in the past three years) and I’ve never gone in one that just felt right. I’ve been in some that made me think ‘This is pretty nice, but what if that falls off?’ or ‘This would be much nicer if it cost $20k less.’

    You can always take a break for a month. But I know from experience how hard it is to let it sit once you get it in your head to buy. We’re currently renting until our new place is built and paying that rent every month just kills me.

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