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.
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?