Friday, June 28, 2013

Our Charlottesville Home Search, Part 4

On the morning of my last post, I had my wisdom teeth removed. My recovery was pretty rough. I was in a lot of pain and one of the medications I was taking made it hard to stay awake for too long.  Now that I'm feeling a little better, it's time to get back to the story. 

After a second Sunday of seeing homes and getting positive feedback about our open house, we realized it was time to see some houses with out realtor, Jim Duncan from Nest Realty. We really weren't thrilled by the open house experiences we had. It's hard to articulate why we were disappointed, but I guess we experienced some extremes when it came to agents. There were those who stayed camped in one room and just wanted use to sign in on a sheet of paper and those who talked so much we had a hard time remembering the rooms through which we had just walked.

A solid offer coming in on the Monday after the open house made things seem a little more urgent. After another showing, a third pretty good offer came in. More agents were calling to set up visits. We would be leaving the condo much sooner than we expected!

By Tuesday evening, March 19th, the condo was sold. It had only taken 15 days.

Weekend #3

Jim lined up four houses for us to see with him the next weekend. This is about the time that people started making noise about how the real estate market was about to take off. Between our offers and the fact that two of the four houses on the docket for the day went under contract while we were driving around, we were super nervous by the end of the day.

First Stop: The Ivy House
I haven't been showing exterior pictures, but I wish I could show you the Ivy House. The architecture was modern and though that's normally not appealing to me, I loved the look of the Ivy House.

The surrounding neighborhood was fantastic. All of the homes were of different styles, which reminded me of where I grew up. A few desirable school was a short walk away (schools weren't a factor for us, though). The lot wasn't huge, but there was a nice wooded area between the Ivy House's yard and the yards of adjacent homes.

The inside was lovely! The great room was open and airy due to lots of windows and lofted ceilings. There was a first floor master bedroom and a full bathroom, along with a laundry closet with new-looking, Bosch machines. The kitchen was open to the great room and had been updated. It had an awesome tile back splash.

My pictures aren't great. I was more concerned with seeing the houses with Marc and Jim than with photographing them. Sorry!

Oops...a little too bright!

Yikes...sorry you need sunglasses for these.

There were two small bedrooms upstairs and another bath that was really cute.

And then there was this guy:

Look at that adorable, puppy face!

I loved it! Marc was concerned about the space. He didn't like having the master bedroom on the first floor and he didn't feel like it was much of an upgrade from our condo. After thinking about it, the space wasn't exactly my style, even though I found it pleasing.

Second Stop: The Cape Cod
I love Cape Cods. It's probably the symmetry that I find so appealing. When we got to our second stop of the day, I loved the cute exterior. It was textbook Cape Cod.

The living spaces in the Cape Cod were so cute. There was a small, formal living room, a very small dining room, and a first floor bedroom. The kitchen and bathroom on the first floor needed to be updated, but those weren't deal breakers for us. There was a large deck off the kitchen and stairs that led down to a huge yard. The basement was a walk-out basement with a large living room that had a fireplace and kitchenette. There was another bathroom that needed a little work and then an unfinished area with plenty of storage.

On the second floor, there were two bedrooms. The master was huge and had nice closets.

We have the same drapes! I added trim to mine, though.

Ugh...terrible picture. Sorry.

The drawbacks were that there seemed to be problems with the construction of the house. We noticed a lot of drywall issues and there was even a spot where there was no wall (between the unfinished area of the basement and the finished area). Though we didn't expect a totally perfect kitchen, the cabinets that were there didn't seem to be painted too, too carefully. It's one thing to have to change the color on the walls. It's another to deal with a thick paint job on cabinets.

Marc didn't like the area around the house. The cul-de-sac where it was located had a mix of Cape Cods and boxy duplexes that looked like rentals. Behind the big yard was a new townhouse development. The neighborhood was very convenient, but there were high tension power lines three of four blocks away. You couldn't see them from the house and I'm not sure if the lines are proven to be dangerous, but they're obviously not the most attractive things to have around.

By the time we were headed to the car, we knew this wasn't the house for us. That was a good thing because the listing agent contacted our agent to let us know that an offer had come in and was accepted while we were there.

Third Stop: Cancelled
Our third stop went under contract that morning, so we didn't bother going to see it. 

Fourth Stop: The Ranch
Marc was so excited about the last stop because it was located in one of the neighborhoods in which he grew up. The home was built in the 90s and had a fairly generic "new construction" look to it. The lot was wide, but not especially deep and there was a huge outbuilding dominating the space from the back of the house to the property line. I think our agent guessed that it had been a pool house because there were signs that there had been a very small pool back there.

The layout was interesting. The house rambled along. There were two living rooms side-by-side, lofted ceilings, a kitchen, and a small dining room on one side of the entrance hall and bedrooms with bathrooms on the other side.

The Ranch was a rental and the tenant didn't let showings change his lifestyle. There was a lot of disorder. I bet plenty of people walked right out, not wanting to take on the project of cleaning the place up.

 I wanted to vacuum up that kitty litter so badly.

In this case, bad photography saves you from seeing some details. You're welcome.

Baxter would love this really looooong hallway.

This honestly thought this was charming.  The modest Buddha clearly has meaning to the owner. 

I think we couldn't help but laugh at this puzzle of a house. Marc seemed to really love the layout. I told him I could do something with the place, but it would take A LOT of work.

When we left, we decided to drive around a little bit and I think that sobered Marc up a bit. We saw a home one street over that could have been the Grey Gardens house. We're talking full out neglect. Jim snapped a picture of it from the car. Another house up the street had gutters hanging off the roof. Jim also pointed out some houses that had several cars in front of them, possibly a sign that lot of homes were being rented out.

Honestly, I was a little bummed out after this third Sunday out looking at houses. The spring real estate market hype was starting, we had accepted an offer on our condo, and we hadn't fallen in love with a new home yet.

We started thinking that we needed to cast an even wider net, but we had only eliminated a few neighborhoods from our search. We had two more showings the next weekend that were probably the most interesting of the entire process.
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Friday, June 21, 2013

Our Charlottesville Home Search, Part 3

I shared details from our first weekend of going to open houses yesterday. When we came home from those visits, I wasn't excited about any of the houses. I saw positive aspects of every home and only one seemed totally out of question.

That Monday, our first offer arrived. I've shared before that it wasn't strong. We wondered if the people behind it thought we were in distress. Funny thing about living in Charlottesville...I sat on a board with one of the people behind the offer. That was interesting. I let Marc decide on the counter offer and we weren't surprised when they moved on, probably to find someone who was a little more eager to sell.

Weekend #2

More agents called us to set up showings that week and our agent, Jim Duncan, scheduled an open house for that following Sunday. Since we had to clear out of the condo for the day, we decided to visit four more open houses.

First Stop: The Lake House
I don't talk about it a lot, but we have lakes around here! We stumbled upon a relatively new home in a development near one of the lakes. The MLS pictures made it look like a totally blank slate, which excited me. Though we weren't familiar with the neighborhood, it seemed nice and convenient. It was also near the neighborhood where some friends live and we we realized that we had been a little worried about another neighborhood where we didn't know anyone the weekend before.

The Lake House had a large, combined living and dining room with loads of natural light. The bedrooms were a very good size and there was plenty of storage. Some might have seen the lack of paint or wood floors, but I kind of liked that we wouldn't have to "undo" anything. We could jump right into projects in this house.

The drawbacks to the lake house were the kitchen and the outdoor space. The kitchen was a bit small, but with a little work on the layout, the room could be more spacious. There was a fantastic deck through a door in the kitchen, but there really wasn't a back yard beyond. I wasn't crazy about the fireplace in the living room, but there was no chimney, so I imagined that the fireplace didn't have to stay.

Second Stop: The Willow House
The Willow House had a huge lot full of trees that we immediately could see Baxter loving. There was even a fence around the backyard, which was a huge bonus. Despite being a little older than the Lake House, this home has a more open floor plan. The bedrooms were great and there was a second master in the basement. The home was a split level, so that basement had plenty of natural light.

I found the kitchen and bathrooms dated, but they didn't need urgent attention. Marc thought they were just fine! He liked the bathroom that I thought needed the most work. Thankfully, he lets me take the lead on bathroom design.

A surprisingly open floor plan

Marc liked it, but I didn't

The basement bedroom

Third Stop: The Bungalow
One of the most desirable neighborhoods in our downtown area is full of bungalows. I love them. They aren't big, but they are full of charm and many have been updated over the years. Marc, being a Charlottesville native, has strong opinions about which streets are nice and which ones aren't. The Bungalow's block was deemed acceptable.

Every turn in the Bungalow revealed another cute detail. There were some nice colors on the walls, a pretty master bathroom, and a little front porch with a swing on it. The yard was quite large for the neighborhood and there were raised boxes for gardening and a compost bin in the back corner. There was new lighting and a kitchen that seemed recently remodeled, too.

If I had to find a drawback to the Bungalow, it would be that it lacked storage. We were selling a 785 square foot condo and I couldn't picture where some basic things would go in this house. When we left, Marc was solidly against the place because of the size. I didn't see it as a deal breaker. All that charm overshadowed that one negative aspect.

Fourth Stop: The One with the Cookie Jars
Our agent joked that you don't want your house to get recalled with something odd like "the one with all the cats." Well, just one week into our search, we found a house that got an odd nickname. This house had an extensive collection of cookie jars throughout the first floor. It was a little distracting.

This house had a massive lot that included a little stream. It was on a fairly busy road, but we had good friends just a block away, so we were okay with the location. The home felt very old on the inside and there was wood everywhere. I loved that there was a claw foot tub in the main bathroom.

Why didn't they show the clawfoot tub in the MLS photos?!?

Let's be brutally honest: this house needed a lot of work. The kitchen was desperate for an update. Looking around the neighborhood, there were some homes that were completely renovated and others that had seen better days. We left pretty sure we'd never be back to this place. This wasn't the best way to end the day.

When we got home, we got fantastic feedback about the open house. We were told that people liked the place and were shocked that a dog lived there. One visitor felt like there were some signs that our condo was her next home.

We were thrilled to have the compliments, but a little nervous at the same time. Things were happening so quickly! We didn't LOVE any of the homes we had visited. Aren't you supposed to love your house when you see it?
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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Our Charlottesville Home Search, Part 2

I teased you with just two house pictures in part 1 of this home search series and I promise that this time, you're going to see more. First, I feel like I have to show you how the timing of our search played out.

We first talked to our realtor, Jim Duncan, at the end of February and it was decided that we would have the condo listed by Match Day for medical students (the condo is within walking distance of the medical center) on March 15th.

I was going to list out the dates, but it's probably easier to see everything in calendar form. The MLS listing went up on Monday, March 4th and we had a call within 15 minutes asking for a showing. Jim had put a note on the listing saying that agents should be in touch with us 90 minutes before a showing so we could get Baxter out of the place. That first agent called from our door. He didn't have clients with him, so I told him that he couldn't go inside, but that there was a broker's open house the next day. He said he couldn't go to that. I decided it wasn't meant to be.

Over the next few days, agents from around town called to set up showings for that first weekend. We thought it would take a few weeks for people to notice the listing and a few months to sell the condo. The calls for that first weekend alone made us think that we needed to get in gear and go look at some houses.

Weekend #1

We decided to go to four open houses on the first Sunday that the condo was on the market. By the end of the day, they all had names, which our agent told us is common.

First Stop: The Little Brick House
When we got to the Little Brick House at the exact moment that the open house there was supposed to start, we thought we had made a mistake because there was no one there. We drove up and down the street and then up and down neighboring streets to see what the neighborhood was like until we saw someone pull up to the house. We probably were a bit too eager to get going with our first day of open houses.

The home was extremely cute and there were some good opportunities for projects. The living room was a little small, but there was a very large finished basement that could serve as a second living room. The guest bathroom was updated, but the master bath wasn't, which I saw as a good thing. I was hoping to update at least one bathroom. There were three small-ish bedrooms on the main floor and a fourth larger one in the basement, off the finished area.

Main living spaces weren't huge, but they were comfortable.

The not-yet-updated master bath. I liked the pedestal sink already!

The extra bedroom in the finished basement.

I guess the drawbacks of this property were the size of the rooms on the first floor and a neighbor who liked to work on cars. I'm stretching on that second part. You could see cars in the next yard from a side patio, but the views from all the windows were just fine. In fact, the property was near a large park with trails, so there were definite positives to the location.

I made the mistake of telling the agent what I did for a living and couldn't get out of the place for at least another 30 minutes after that. From then on, I was vague about my job. We had houses to see!

Second Stop: The Fireplace House
The name we gave this house is kind of a joke. It was a new construction home that had a fireplace that didn't work. The builder installed working fireplaces years ago, but the HOA decided to disable the natural gas lines at some point, so none of the fireplaces in the community worked. I didn't need a fireplace in a home, but we agreed that if there was going to be one, it would be nice to have it working.

The rooms were bright and there were some nice upgrades, like crown molding and large closets with organizers in them. The location of this home was great. It was very close to some of Marc's family and we could potentially walk to a few nearby businesses.

Spacious living spaces
The kitchen with the [no longer working] fireplace on the left

Bright, spacious bedrooms

This was an attached home and that could be a negative for some, but coming from a condo, it didn't bother us at all. The lack of a yard was the only drawback for us, but the location balanced that out.

If pressed to really find a fault, I guess the layout of the kitchen could be improved. With the patio doors in the middle of the back wall and the small island starting in line with the edge of the doors, it felt like you had to leave the middle of the room open for walking. I think the seller was smart to stage a small sitting area in that room.

Third Stop: The one with the floors
That fact that I don't even have pictures to share of this home should tell you something. On the plus side, it had a fantastic yard and we could see Baxter having a great time chasing squirrels and tennis balls back there. The rooms living spaces were big and the bathrooms definitely needed updating (a negative for some, but a positive for me). There were a few walk-in storage rooms, too.

The main drawbacks were the location and the floors. The house was near our airport, which would be convenient when we went on business trips, but it meant we were a bit of a ride from both of our offices. And then there was the floor situation. While there wasn't a staircase, there were places in the house where there would be one step to go into a room.  There was also an oddly-shaped area attached to the kitchen that had vaulted ceilings and a huge fireplace. The shape seemed to prevent it from being used as a dining area. It was kind of a conundrum.

We knew this wasn't our house almost immediately.

Fourth Stop: The Cave
Do you think it's a sign when the agent holding an open house is hanging out in her car instead of in the house when you get there?  I honestly don't remember much about this open house because the agent followed us around the house and talked and talked and talked. She talked about credits for damaged floors and for the lack of a heat pump (this is how most people heat homes here) and for some other things. I think she pointed out more deficits than strengths in her spiel.

The rooms were large, the location was great (though I didn't know the neighborhood well), and the property was bigger than anything we had seen that day. There were new appliances in the kitchen and the seller put in new the counters recently...but they were pink quartz. I almost felt badly that money was spent on something that most people would tear out immediately. Despite the appliances and counters, the kitchen was dated.

I guess I call it the cave before the places was dirty, cold, and cavernous.

 The dated one thought to highlight the new appliances?

If there's a picture of a tree in the MLS listing, what does that say?

The basement

I'm so curious about your reactions. I was honestly discouraged after this first round of open houses. The homes that needed work were interesting, but I wasn't really excited about any of them. I liked the newer, attached place, but the kitchen was a little awkward.

In part 3, I'll cover the next weekend of open houses. Things are going to get interesting!

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