Our Charlottesville Home Search, Part 5

I told you I wasn't sure how long this story would take. I've gotten positive feedback, both online and in person, about people enjoying these posts, so I'll continue.

After two weekends of going to open houses and one trip out with our realtor to see homes (during which 2 of the 4 houses on our list went under contract), I was nervous. I liked plenty of the homes we saw, but Marc didn't seem excited about many of them. While we had only eliminated neighborhoods up until this point, we hadn't even seen homes in a few parts of the area that interested us. I guess that means there are lots of happy residents in those neighborhoods! No one wants to move!

The next week was one of unfocused searching. In a way, that helped us focus in on what we really wanted.

The Bypass House
An open house listing took us to a street we didn't know existed, just north of Charlottesville's downtown. It reminded me of my childhood neighborhood. All of the houses had good sized, but not massive yards and though the homes all looked like they were from around the same time, the styles were all different.

The house itself was very nice. An addition meant there were two distinct parts of the house. The front door was in the living room and all of the bedrooms were to the left. Straight back, behind the living room was the kitchen, a very light and bright dining room, and steps down the basement. The basement had a large finished living room, a bedroom, bathroom, and an unfinished laundry/workshop.

I guess the drawbacks of the house were that the dining room addition was a little awkward, with a big pass-through from the kitchen.

The backyard was probably the perfect size for us and Marc was thrilled that there was a paved "half" basketball court. One quirk of the Bypass House was that there was a shed straddling the property line. The real estate agent said that it was shared between the neighbors.

The other drawback of the house was looming on the other side of the fence. I named this the Bypass House because beyond the fence and down a little slope is Charlottesville's 250 Bypass. This is a pretty busy road that circles the city. I imagine that the bypass wasn't nearly as busy when the house was built as it is today. Most homes on the bypass have fences and greenery to serve as a buffer between their yards and the road.

I felt that the beautiful street full of charming houses really offset the 250 Bypass being on the other side of the property, but there was no denying the traffic noise when standing on the back deck of the house. Once inside, the noise wasn't noticeable at all.

The Cave House (again)
As we compared the homes we had visited, there was one that we couldn't remember. We had only been there for 20 minutes originally. The MLS website had listed the open house as starting at noon, which had given us plenty of time to see the house and get Marc to a business meeting by 1 PM. In reality, the open house started at 12:30 PM, so we raced through while the agent talked and talked and talked. Between the quick visit and not being able to focus on what we were seeing, we didn't remember the house.

Our realtor, Jim Duncan from Nest Realty, met us at the house one afternoon to let us see it. I didn't know the neighborhood, but Marc had friends who lived there when he was growing up. The house was on a cul-de-sac in a section of the neighborhood that was built in the 1970s. We entered on the first floor and there were steps to a second story in the front hall. In the kitchen, there were stairs down to a lower level, but that entire level was above ground. So I guess it's some sort of modified split-level home?

Despite plenty of windows, the place felt a little dark. Someone had convinced the owner to put new appliances and pinkish-red quartz counter tops in the kitchen, which was in need of a full update. The floors were mismatched and most of the rooms with the original wood flooring had pretty big stains. The ceilings in most of the house had swirls of plaster on them. I really don't like textured ceilings.

There were three sun rooms added to the back of the house, which seemed like overkill to us. The three bathrooms looked original and had the largest toilets I've seen in a while. I'm guessing they had 3.5-4 gallon tanks on them.

I thought the house was a big, odd puzzle. Marc kept talking about the size of the lot and the basement, which had a large, dark finished living room.

The House that Didn't Exist (Yet)
I'll give you the Reader's Digest version of this visit: We eliminated new construction from our search.

We had a growing feeling that new construction wasn't for us, but an unplanned stop into one of those sales centers at a new neighborhood was the final nail in the coffin.  An open house was listed on our local MLS website, MyCaar.com, in a newer neighborhood that has been built in phases. Since there was an address on the listing, I assumed the open house was for one of the homes built in the first phase.

When we got to the neighborhood, we couldn't find the house. We drove around and around, thinking we'd see a sign for it, but became convinced that there was a segment of the neighborhood we didn't know about. I was ready to leave, but Marc suggested we go into the model home/sales office to see what the people there had to say.

The salesperson did their best, but I was really annoyed to find out that the house listed as having an open house didn't exist yet. Looking around, I instantly could connect half a dozen homes in which I've been to the builder because the layout and design is so consistent. Some probably love that, but I found it annoying. There were tray ceilings everywhere and lots of columns. I guess we love Thomas Jefferson so much in Charlottesville that we have to put columns everywhere.

I thought saying "we're looking for a more established neighborhood" would get us out of there, but that seemed to excite the salesperson. Apparently, that made us perfect candidates to buy at a neighborhood the builder established two years ago near the National Ground Intelligence Center, about 25 minutes north of town.

After we left the new construction house, we started comparing all the houses we saw. A few leaders emerged. Shockingly, I didn't feel strongly about there being one stand out property. I told Marc that they were all just buildings to me at that point. I could make any of them a home if I had enough time (and money). So, I kind of left the final decision in his hands. Do you think I'm insane?


  1. Wow. That is so interesting! Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  2. Oh my gosh, yes! It just doesn't make sense.

    Some listings have a little box on every photo that says "similar to shown." Similar?!?

  3. I know the builder you encountered. We have lived in one of their homes for four years. It was pretty and had a great floor plan. New construction is so easy to move into. They don't always tell you the negatives. If they are still building in your community, there will be dirt. So much dirt. It will get on the kids, the cat, the car, your porch, your shoes. Everything. Even with a shoes-off policy in our house, there was red dirt in places. I guess i could have turned the cat into an indoor only cat.

    We had to open up a wall to fix something and found garbage in there. I was appalled. You always think that's something that you find in ancient homes---an old newspaper or an antique Coke bottle---but we had that stuff in our wall. I'm just thankful it didn't attract any pests.

  4. Ha! I had a similar issue looking in Richmond. The MLS listings would show a house and have all of these specifications and then I would drive by the address and it was an empty lot. I guess they are trying to help you visualize a house, but I also found it equally annoying and wasn't too interested in pre-fab new construction. I can't wait to get to the end of this story and see what you are going to do with the new place!

  5. This is exciting, Jeannine! Can't wait to see the final pics of what you chose. But what the heck are you going to call this blog once you're in the BIG, beautiful house?! :)

  6. I don't think you're crazy at all! I also would have left it up to my husband in that situation. You'd clearly seen a lot of decent houses that could easily become homes. I think the expectations for shopping for a house are similar to those for a wedding dress - we're told it should make us cry and we should fall in love immediately, but that isn't always the case. Just because it doesn't look or feel like the house (or dress) of our dreams the moment you step into it, doesn't mean it won't become that quickly.

    I'm excited to find out what you ended up going with, and the process of getting there!

  7. I know what you mean about popcorn ceilings! It looks like the bypass house has them too.

  8. So funny about the non-existent house! I can imagine the type of neighborhood you looked at. It makes such a different between the older homes and the new construction in Charlottesville....not as much charm!

  9. Natural light is huge...not sure how ours will be...may need to add extra mirrors...light walls. Love these posts.


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