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 kitchen...no 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!


  1. That's hilarious about the cave! I remember when we were looking at houses, we went to one that had a huge live turtle in a plastic wading pool right by the door. The house was full of creepy art and the neighbor across the street ran out and practically begged us to buy it. Can't wait to read the rest of your story.

  2. I'm convinced that the majority of Cville realtors are people who couldn't hack it in other jobs.

  3. I am living vicariously through these blogs!

  4. First sentence should read "I had two agents..." Argh, darn fast fingers!!

  5. I had both two agents that were both full time, long term, highly recommended professionals who were just awful (one represented me on a sale, one on a purchase, both had rep'ed both sides for years). Meanwhile, the part time seller's agent (full time firefighter) that I had in NoVA was far and away the best agent I have ever worked with. And the agent that I picked blind when I was buying in NoVA was quite decent and I really lucked out. I'm not dissing the profession as a whole; I think I got seriously unlucky. But it was shocking to me how unlucky I got.

  6. Totally AnonymousAugust 5, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    We looked at the "Cave" house. Couldn't get out of there fast enough.

    That agent sitting in the car is a lunatic. Ran into her elsewhere.

  7. Will you tell us when you share one that you made an offer on?

  8. This seems about on par with my last experiences house hunting and selling years ago. I honestly thought about going in to real estate because there are so many genuinely awful real estate agents who seem to be able to make a living, that surely a thoughtful, intelligent person like me could do it. As a seller, I was constantly fighting off the phone calls from the driveway. As a buyer (and one who was coming from out of town, no less), I was totally exasperated by my agent not previewing showings. While we were open to houses that didn't fit everything on our list, we did have a few "deal breakers" that we had let our agent know were non-negotiable, and she still kept showing us homes in those categories. I could go on.

  9. Ha! We looked at your Little Brick House too. Twice, actually - we seriously considered that one. If there had been a bathroom in the basement, we may well have made an offer. As it was, though, there was something just not quite perfect-for-us about it. The house we chose is actually smaller in square footage (but MUCH larger living space and 2 full bathrooms) and further from town (we're in Crozet now), but it was definitely the right one for us. Looking forward to seeing if we had any other potential houses in common!

  10. I can't believe an agent called you 15 minutes after you listed your house. Actually, I can. When we sold, the lock box was attached to our front door. We had an agent just walk in once without knocking or calling ahead.


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