Wednesday, September 03, 2014

House buying on a budget

I'm hopefully closing on a townhouse before the end of the month (well, we'll see if we will be closing at all... this has been a 'challenging' transaction).

In my house we have a mom, an 11 yr old boy, a dog, and a cat.

Visiting often are the grandchildren, though only the 7 yr old tends to spend the night right now... the newborn is still pretty dependent on mom and dad... but if the new house works out and if I can keep it clean, I'm hoping for some baby sleepovers in the future.

Primary concerns for me were that with my health and issues with my knee... that I wanted the kitchen, bathroom, main bedroom and laundry all on the same floor. I didn't want a house too big for me to keep clean. And I wanted enough space for me to be able to comfortably work from home.

Several bonus factors would include:
 - a nice wood cabinet-based kitchen
 - non-stainless steel appliances
 - wood or wood laminate floors
 - attached garage
 - a family room in addition to the living room (that the boys can play with toys in)
 - no need for a formal dining room
 - a bonus room that I can use for crafting so my bedroom isn't filled to bursting with craft supplies
 - an open concept area

SUPER big bonus factors would include:
 - an HOA (I've got enough fun things I'd like to do with my free time if I had the energy to enjoy it, yardwork and shoveling snow isn't on the list)
 - a neighborhood pool
 - a view of a pond/lake/creek/river - anything water
 - a sunroom with a hot tub - OR AT LEAST room for that as an improvement

The house I'm buying has ALMOST ALL of the things on my list and is priced around $10k less than a lot of the other townhomes in the same area, AND $40-60k less than two story homes that only have some on my list.

What doesn't it have? Well, the kitchen has a bit of a mash-up of appliances - the refrigerator is stainless steel. But, it's working and the stove and dishwasher aren't stainless steel... so, I'm just putting the kitchen remodel (so I can do a side by side refrigerator and get some decent counter tops) on the five year plan. It also has a little more carpeting than I prefer. So, within a year I hope to replace the carpeting in the basement (family room, bonus room, second bathroom and hallways are all carpeted..... sigh) with laminate flooring. And in my three year plan, I hope to replace the upstairs carpeting with laminate flooring (living/dining area, two bedrooms, and bathroom ... all carpeted). And no sunroom, :-( ... but there's a beautiful deck off the living area and with the walkout basement there's a patio area that needs some work. In my five year plan we'll also plan on updating the patio area and see if we can screen in the patio at the same time. It's not a sunroom, but it might keep me going and giving me a chance to explore some 'outdoor' without the mosquito bites until I can afford to update the deck to a sunroom/deck area.

What am I giving up that other people want in their homes... I'm not getting all new carpets (I'd end up ripping them out anyway). I don't have all new top-of-the line stainless appliances (I don't want stainless anyway, have you ever had them with kids? You can never keep the fingerprints cleaned off)... the refrigerator and dishwasher are pretty new... the stove is completely outdated... but new electric stoves aren't that expensive - and I can buy a new stove next year.  The kitchen hasn't recently been remodeled. But it GORGEOUS just as it is (well, with the exception of the old stove, ugly stainless fridge and countertops)... but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the cabinets. And I love that it's got wood flooring in the kitchen. And there's an oversized, very interesting kitchen island with the sink and dishwasher in it. I plan on investigating the cabinets (that I LOVE) and seeing if there's a way to move the fridge (with water for an ice maker to the side wall, and add new cabinets where the refrigerator used to stand (so I can have a bigger fridge), replace the counter tops and add a breakfast bar to the current island. I'm thinking my five year plan includes the kitchen remodel. Bonus is that I get to keep the things I love about the kitchen that others would have replaced if they had updated it, and really make it mine.

I'm not getting a walk in closet. I'll miss the walk in closet I have now. I will. But there is a ton of closet space in the house... just none of it walk in closets. I've thought about it a lot, and I can totally live without it in the master bedroom. I've thought about ways to add one and I just think it would cost too much of the square footage of the bedroom. The spare bedroom in the walkout basement is a little larger than the master and if I really decide to do it (and my knee doesn't expire first) - I could consider updating that bedroom to replace the current closet with a walk in closet. But it's just not that important to me. And that's the key - finding the 'bonus' items that other people want to pay more to get - decide which aren't important to you, and take those things off your house-hunting list.

First floor laundry was a MUST HAVE (note, my townhouse is a ranch with w/out basement)... if I was buying a two story (which I wouldn't really want, then I'd want the laundry on the same floor as the master bedroom). Sadly, this particular laundry is an older stackable unit. I've investigated the closet it's in... and I think I can fairly easily upgrade to the newer stackable front loaders... so that'll be in my plan for the coming year. I'm investigating a single-unit washer and dryer in one... and that's still on my maybe list. I wish they weren't quite so new to the market so that the technology was a little more 'sure' ... but if I can get one that I feel confident that it will work - it will free up space in the laundry center AND at the current prices ... save about 33% on the replacements. PLUS then you can decide if you want the washer to stop after it's done washing (if you have delicates you need to lay out to dry) or let it go from washing straight to drying without even having to move the load (wow! how cool would it be to skip that step.... now I know... most people examine the clothing before putting it in the dryer so they don't 'set a stain'.... but I never do... and if one appliance can take up half the space and do the job of two appliances? Well, I'm interested in learning more about it).

The house has great distinct architectural features, an open floor plan from kitchen through dining 'area' through living room (If I got a dining room - it would be used as an office anyway). The two bedrooms and the bathroom are off of the living area - no hallway except for the front door through to the living area (and beside the garage). AND there's a pond in the BACKYARD. Seriously. Really. Views from most windows of the pond. And it's not one of those nasty bordered with white gravel man-made ugly ones, either. Technically it is man-made - there's a dam at the other end. But it would be wet ground anyway if the dam wasn't there.... and it's old enough (from the 70's 80's era) that it has things like weeping willows and cat tails and all other lovely pond-living things. They did put an aerator at the other end of the pond (the deeper end) and I'm at the more shallow end... but I can't wait to sit by my window and just gaze out at the pond. Something about a view of the water just eases my soul.

The biggest challenge with the buying process has been that the current owner didn't want to do any repairs. It's been difficult as an FHA loan requires that the home meet a certain safe and sound criteria that this house misses by a couple of things. But, we're slowly, but surely working through those changes... and in the meantime, I'm trying to work through seeing if I can't qualify instead for a conventional loan just in case things don't work out the other direction. For the couple of things left on the owner's to do list - if they fall through, I'd insist on lowering the selling price so that I can do the repairs myself (assuming I can go through a conventional mortgage).

NEGOTIATION. not my strong suit. But I'm trying.

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