So most of the house-related things that I’ve done have boiled down to two things:
1) painting the red out of Deb’s room
2) Sorting all the houses on the the real estate agent’s Client Site into Favorite, Possible, and Reject houses.
Here’s a Favorite house:
(shout out to the photographer who got this shot without being in the shot)
Nice big windows, lots of light, family area separated from the living area, and a good location. In fact, I’m pretty certain one of my bosses recommended this neighborhood to me? There’s no pictures, but they also list a “nice big flat yard” as a bonus as well.
There’s a lot of Possible houses. I put houses in the Possible category for any number of reasons:
1) I liked the house but not the location
2) I liked the house but not the yard
3) I liked the kitchen but not the living room
4) I liked the house but it was too big
I was actually really surprised how often #4 came up. I suppose that makes sense. Our budget can get you a reasonable 3-4 bedroom house in Cary or Apex, but it can get you a lot, a lot, in Durham or Holly Springs. I was regularly looking at houses with 5 bedrooms AND an office AND a bonus room AND a game room. We don’t need that much space. I’ll take fifth bedroom or a bonus room, but not both. We’d have to heat or cool those extra rooms. We’d have to vacuum or sweep those rooms. We’d have to decorate those rooms. What would we do with them? There’s only two of us. We might be planning on expanding our family someday, but we’re not rabbits. We can only spawn one, maybe two extra humans at a time.
There’s a variety of reasons that I would put a house in the Reject list. For instance: if it was in Holly Springs.
Here is my extremely rough map of the Raleigh-Durham area. I just realized I forgot to label Raleigh. It’s to the right of Cary (or East of Cary, I guess). There’s no real scale, but it’s about a 40 minute drive from South Durham to Holly Springs. That’s not even in traffic. That’s just regular, smooth highway going.
This house is perfectly fine, fits all of our needs and is in a great location:
But it has the worst architecture:
Another house had an above-ground pool that took up most of its backyard (that house appears to have sold, so I can’t grab any pictures).
On Friday, the real estate agent sent me a house. This house:
My goodness, look at all the layers on the outside of this house. This house is dynamic and interesting to look at.
It has a screened-in porch, which is a joy I hadn’t discovered until I moved to North Carolina. You sit outside, but with all the protections of the inside! No bugs, and you get a ceiling!
That coffered ceiling! Those built-in bookshelves! The ceiling fan that doesn’t have a light on it!
This flex room in the front — look at those french doors, that glass over the doorway, the easy access to the kitchen.
A second-floor laundry room! Interesting ceilings throughout! Everything looked fresh and clean and there were chair rails everywhere. Small details, like the painted doors and railings, that popped and made this place look so fresh and neat.
I was in love. I immediately Favorited it with the note THIS IS MY DREAM HOUSE. This was how I learned that my real estate agent was, in fact, reading the comments that I wrote on every house. She emailed me about the house twenty minutes after I saved it, warning me that I needed to move fast, since this house was not going to stay on the market very long. Had I contacted my bank or her in-house lender?
I sent the house to James. He told me to check out the open house, which was coincidentally on my day off (fate, right?). I told him I would. I showed a picture of the house to all my fellow Home Depot employees. “That’s a very nice house,” they all said.
I went to bed dreaming of that house.
The next morning I reconsidered. Not my ardor, I couldn’t reconsider that, but I had to reconsider my new dream of living in that house. I hadn’t gotten in touch with any mortgage lenders. The first opportunity that I would have for that would be during my lunch hour on Monday. Who knew how long that process took? And I completely, 100% believed my real estate agent when she said that the house would move fast. The house was darling. We don’t have unusual tastes. We don’t want to live anywhere strange or out of the way. We don’t have strange demands from our house. I had to say goodbye to this house as soon as I had found it.
I went to the open house anyway. I needed to see what an open house was like; I’ve only ever visited them as a non-buyer, a tagalong for someone else buying a house or just for funsies. My typical impression was that all the potential houses had too much white. How would I feel in this house?
I was nervous as I approached the house. The neighborhood was well-established. There were lots of trees. No sidewalks, but lots of people walking along the sides of the street. There were also a lot of hills. The darling house sat near the top of one of them.
I recognized that I was approaching someone’s house. It was 2:30 and the Open House sign clearly said 1 to 3, but what if the date was wrong? What if I was wrong? What if they freaked out at the sight me — tiny little me in my Totoro dress, but still, what if they got annoyed that people had been knocking on the door all day and
The door opened before I even got to the porch. I looked quickly up and down the porch. It was actually somewhat thinner than I imagined. If I put a couch swing on it, it would have to face the street, rather than the rest of the porch.
The man who answered was the real estate agent, who was happy to see me. He welcomed me in and asked me about my house hunting and who my real estate agent was and what I was looking for in a house. He also talked up the house. To be fair, it wasn’t a stretch. The house was gorgeous in person. The built-ins were perfectly balanced. He noted all the attention to detail — the clapboard behind the TV, the coffered ceilings, the careful adherence to a beachy aesthetic. Every single part of the house had been upgraded, he told me. The current owner was a current general contractor, and spared no expense in his own house.
The kitchen was white, but the pantry was deep, the quartz countertop was smooth, the faucet was tall. The outlets were in sensible places. I opened and closed a few doors and drawers. They were soft-shut — they rolled normally for most of the way, then stop and roll slowly into place for the last bit. Prevents jamming your fingers when you’re shutting doors and drawers. Soft shut cabinets, and I wouldn’t have to pay for their installation. Glorious.
There was a hall closet, placed halfway between the garage entrance and the main entrance. It was a deep closet, too, since it was under the stairs. The built-ins included little window seats that doubled as storage. There was only one hang-out room, the living/family room area, but was that really the end of the world? Really?
I hadn’t realized that the backyard was sloped when I was looking at pictures, but looking around at it, I thought that the slope wasn’t that severe at all. I had played croquet on worse hills. A good chunk of the backyard was even flat.
Upstairs, the master bedroom was cool. You walked in and took two steps down to get into the room. The room was big enough for our bedroom furniture, and had a nice big closet with upgraded shelving. The bathroom had shockingly a low vanity (that would have to be changed) but there were two sinks. And the fact that you had to walk back up two steps to get to the toilet and the shower was cool.
There were three other bedrooms besides; two regular bedrooms and a bonus room, which was set up as a bedroom but felt more like our future office space. And lots of surprise storage, hidden shelving in the closets and extra shelving tucked into corners you couldn’t see from the doors. It was all very clean and organized and done.
I loved it. We needed to paint the walls a different color — nothing wrong with the current colors but James and I aren’t beachy people — and the vanities needed to be taller, but other than that, the house was perfect, utterly perfect, utterly darling.
I chit-chatted with the real estate agent while we waited for James. He was friendly and from the neighborhood, the father of two teenagers. We talked home decor and about splitting chores between spouses. It didn’t feel awkward at all. He was either a very nice, chatty guy or a consummate salesman, able to make you feel comfortable. Or both. I felt comfortable in that living room, even though the couch I was sitting on wasn’t my couch and the TV in front of me wasn’t my TV.
But. I haven’t started the pre-approval for a mortgage. The owners would be home from out of town soon. They would be reviewing offers tonight. “Your real estate agent might be able to pull together an offer before then,” he told me. “It only takes half an hour to get pre-approved for a mortgage.”
I don’t know if that’s true, as I’m going to start doing research on that after I finish this blog entry. But that was the tact he took with selling the house to us. He didn’t have to talk us into the house. James also recognized that not having separate living and family rooms was okay, since the rest of the house was great. And we were really close to friends, and in the right area that we wanted. What the real estate agent had to do was try to talk us into making an offer. Making the next step. Saying more than we want this house and actually putting our money where our mouths were.
But neither James nor I believed him when he said we could get that paperwork done in an hour and a half. And James and I both accepted that we would not get this house.
There was another house.
Down the road. The real estate agent said that the woman who owned the house had several dogs and cats and had put her money into that instead. The house didn’t have these upgrades. It had been on the market for two weeks, twice as long as this darling house had been. But it had the same layout, was in the same neighborhood, and was $11,000 less expensive.
“We could take this great layout and put our own spin on it,” I told James. “Decorate it how we want to. Especially if it comes with these hardwood floors.”
I don’t know if James was convinced or not. But we drove a little bit up the road and looked. The inside wasn’t open for looking, but we could peek over the fence at least.
It looked, on the outside, much the same. I’ve gone on Zillow since then to look at the inside.
The darling house’s picture showed the view from that corner into the kitchen. This is the view from the kitchen into the living room. It’s certainly a nice-sized living room, the same size as the other living room, and clearly it has the same real hardwood floors.
The kitchen still has laminate countertops, ugh. And the fridge is sitting in the middle of the counters, rather than off to the side where it’s more convenient. But there’s outlets everywhere, great for using small appliances.
And the dining room is still there, just off of the kitchen. Presumably there’s still the nice big closet under the stairs.
So the house still needs some upgrades — some sweat equity. It still has a lot of great features to love, like the floorplan, the good room sizes, the great location, the easy access to each room without being an open floor plan. Our lease isn’t up until January. We could buy the house, get it upgraded, and take our time moving in before November, when we hope to host Thanksgiving. And yeah, this house didn’t have room for everyone. We could fit maybe 8 people in that room. But Thanksgiving was unusual and we would probably have to fit people at two tables anyway. Some people would sit at the dining room table and some people would sit at the breakfast table. It was definitely workable.
I worry about that yard though. Like I said earlier, the neighborhood is very hilly. The darling house sits near the top of a hill and has a fairly small slope. This house’s backyard has a steep slope. You can’t play croquet on a slope like that. Not the whole game at least. If we bought this house, we would have to do something to that backyard to even it out. Maybe add more retaining wall, turn it into stairs. I could play around with it. Draw up some diagrams. Hire a professional landscaper. And a professional contractor to upgrade that kitchen. Maybe have that contractor build some built-ins for us. I feel like a lot of the little stuff we could do on our own. But those are expensive.
There’s other houses out there. Houses with flat back yards. Houses with quartz or granite countertops. Houses with separate family and living rooms. Houses with screened-in porches. And I bet some of those houses are in Apex too.