Wednesday, April 10, 2013

house hunting notes

Yesterday I saw 10 houses plus a lot in a new development.

I will try to break them down here:

Category A -- the cool old houses

1)  The Victorian.  I really liked this house, had a huge emotional reaction to it.  It felt bigger than I had expected it to feel.  Gorgeous details, gas range in kitchen (which was a really nice kitchen with tintype back-splash), unbelievable yard/gardens, on a country acre, backs up to a field.  I really, really liked it.  Much more open feel than the online pictures lead me to expect.  It was moved out to the country, so it has a 22 year old basement (vs. 138 year house), new plumbing and wiring.  However, it has very steep stairs, and it seems like it would be a tremendous amount of upkeep, the kind of house you buy if your hobby is doing your house, and not much else.

2)  The Farmhouse.  I actually really liked this one, too.  It had the same old charm as the Victorian, but it seemed as though it would be easier to keep up.  The master suite, on the first floor, had a really comfy attached sitting room with a fireplace, and the bedroom opened onto a deck/back porch with a hanging swing.  Cool solid-state countertops that looked like some type of slate or cement.  The upstairs had two really decent sized bedrooms with abundant (abundant!) closets.  A huge bathroom with clawfoot tub was between them.  This house was in the middle of a field, next to a red barn, with no neighbors at all.  There was a "hamshack" type room over the garage.  The basement was small and unusable, looked like it sometimes got water in it.  Not really enough bedrooms to have the kids visit once they start to marry (for now the boys could share and the girls could share).  Good price; we could add a sunroom/guestroom.  Would want to change pergot in main living/dining are to real wood, and run a gas line for a gas range (doable since the basement is not finished).

Category B -- The new construction (builders' models)

3)  Savoy:  this house felt very small on the main floor, although supposedly the overall square footage of floors 1 and 2 should be the same as the house we live in now.  The bedrooms did not feel that much bigger, although they were decent with nice closets.  The master suite was undeniably nice, and the closet and bathroom in it were better than ours, although the bedroom itself seemed smaller.  Lots of nice details and pocket doors, pretty treatment of fireplace.  Nice finish of family room, bedroom and bathroom in basement.  3 car garage.  BUT... Shawn could never deal with a yard this small and close to the neighbors.  Also, no laundry sink.

4)  Mahomet:  Very similar to Savoy.  Better in that it had more brick, a sink in the laundry room, and a better yard, although it backed to a pond with an alarmingly close and steep drop off to the water.  Basement was not finished out, but that would mean that in this house we could more easily convert the stove from electric to gas.  Main bath on second floor was not as nice as the Savoy one.  This house felt backwards to me, as the stairway came down to the back of the house where the eat in kitchen and great room had windows opening to the view of the pond.

Category C -- The houses "similar" to ours

5)  The 2 year old white house.  This was a stunningly gorgeous build, but it was across the street from duplexes, and very close to the freeway, which ran behind the duplexes.  It's a pity.  It was a really pretty house.  The location was a deal breaker.

6) The established Champaign "colonial."  This was a fine house, neat, clean, intelligently laid out, very well maintained.  It could work.  It was a lot like the house we have now, except I like my house better.  This did have a nicely done basement.  Still, I think it was not my favorite.  White cabinets and woodwork, and not a lot to compensate for them.  Tight yard, although there was a park in front.

7)  The huge colonial in Mahomet.  This was a nice house, with a nice main floor, lots of hardwoods, pretty kitchen counters and cabinets.  They had gone crazy with bizarre paint colors, though.  A brilliant orange wall here, an electric yellow bathroom there...  It was a huge house, vastly bigger than what Shawn and I need for the two of us.  For the price, the carpets seemed shot.  Other "cons" -- There had been a pool, which had been removed, leaving a hanging deck with a curved edge that no longer adjoined the pool, and a big dead circle on the lawn.  The door from the kitchen to the garage had a big, clear window in it (?!?!?!?!?).  And the entire basement was painted intense public-swimming-pool-turquoise.

8)  The colonial with curb appeal, near the end of the cul de sac.  I liked this one.  I had expected to like it.  I didn't, however, like it quite as much as I had expected to.  It is almost in the country, with no houses built on the end of the cul de sac yet (when??) and a back yard that backs to a country road, so no neighbors behind.  Cute but vanilla house.  Nice bedroom layout in which I can easily picture my kids.  Great-room on main floor, family room in basement.  Electric stove which would be a major pain to convert to gas, as the basement is almost completely finished.  Weird kitchen cabinets that have top molding that stops about 3 inches from the ceiling (awkward).  Off-white laminate counter tops.  Laundry with sink and pocket door.  Hardwood dining room.  Flat master ceiling.  Two car garage with extension on back (workshop?).  Pros and cons.  Could be a good one, definitely the winner of its category.

Category D -- the ranches

9)  The inexpensive ranch.  I actually really like this house.  The open great-room was bigger and prettier than I had expected it to be.  The kitchen, although not at all the finishes I would have chosen (white cabinets, tiled counter tops), was well appointed, with a gas cook top and double ovens.  The house felt cheerful and welcoming, spacious but not huge.  I just liked it.  Basement had a nice family room with built ins, an office/spare bedroom, and a full bathroom.  The floor down there was laminate, which was fine in that application.  Three bedrooms upstairs, nicely sized master with trayed ceiling and ceiling fan.  Good closets in the bedrooms and the hall.  Drop down ironing board in the laundry.  2 car garage and no laundry sink, also not really enough bedrooms.  But I just liked it.  It had wallpaper, which was not as offensive in person as it was online.  There was a sweet screened porch with a vaulted knotty pine ceiling and skylights.  Bigger yard than the Champaign houses, although not huge.  There were trees and shrubs all around the perimeter of the yard.

10)  The expensive ranch.  This was a nice house, but I did not have the same emotional reaction to it that I had to the other ranch.  Sprawling floor plan with four bedrooms on one end of the house, and a family room and a sun room on the other end.  Fenced area perfect for Piper and Schubert within a half acre lot. Pristine three car garage.  Weird smell... I think the owners smoke.  This could be a problem if David is ever to live there for any length of time.  Great yard with pond.  Hardwoods in living and dining rooms.  You actually come into the house to a slate foyer and to the right is the kitchen, to the left the bedrooms, and straight ahead through french doors is the living room.  Pretty cool plan.  May be too big.  Fireplaces in both the living room and the family room.  GORGEOUS solid oak six panel doors everywhere, and solid oak trim throughout.  Very pretty kitchen.  Electric cooktop which could actually be converted to gas, as the basement of this house is not finished.  Disappointing master suite, nothing remarkable about it at all.  Great closets everywhere in the house, but the master walk-in is surprisingly small.  I mean, it's plenty big enough for us, but it isn't what you'd expect in a house of this price with all the other features it has. Laundry sink in third bay of garage, as well as a sink and abundant cabinets in the laundry room, which is in the hall with the bedrooms and has one of those drop down ironing boards, as well.  All in all a really good house with a really great yard/location, but perhaps a trifle underwhelming for the price or something.  Oh, it was solid brick all around.  Maybe my problem was the smokey smell.  For the right price, I could really love this house, but I'm not sure we have it at that price.

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