Everything I know about house shopping I learned from HGTV. My favourite shows are Property Virgins, House Hunters, House Hunters: International. For those that have never seen these shows, it usually goes like this: buyer meets with an agent, buyer views three perfect (for them!) houses, picks one, makes an offer and voila they are homeowners. If only life could mimic reality television shows.
I found a local agent via Twitter (Hi @SarainAnnArbor!) and was really excited when I set up our meeting because I got to say “Hello, this is Amber from Twitter” when I called her. If you know me you know I am a huge geek and relish moments like that.
Sara gathered 6 houses in various areas of Ann Arbor for us to see. As this was our first meeting she was giving us a few different options in different areas to help her learn what we do/don’t like. A week ago if you asked me what I’d need in a home, I would have told you: 1600+ sq feet, stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, big master bedroom etc, pool, soaker tub, hardwood floors, rain shower, walk-in closet… You get the idea. I knew I had to reconfigure my “needs” and get some realistic criteria for my first home. My sister Jill gave me great advice: Take the silver spoon out of your mouth before you start shopping.
The first two houses we saw were “Cape Cods” located in Dixboro (NE Ann Arbor), priced in the 140 000’s and built in the 1950’s. See them here:
I call these homes “Sybil.” While the main floor on both of these cuties were charming and offered some decent living space, the upstairs were in need of a lot of work. It was like two different houses from top to bottom! Richard and I both rated these 3 out of 4 (4 meaning we’d like to run away screaming) so we moved on to Starwick Drive:
Starwick Drive is in a great Northside Ann Arbor location. This house was nicknamed “NASA” as there was a ridiculously large antenna on the sloped roof. This was a tiny little guy needs a LOT of updating, too much for our modest budget. It looked as if the owner had put some effort into the bathroom but our realtor figured they probably only spent about $500. Cheap-asses! Once again we rated this 3/4 – which is not good enough for this couple – so we moved on to Haisley Drive.
Haisley was easily our favourite of the day! The first house we viewed with actual people living inside :) Judging from their darling pictures around the house, they are the cutest couple ever and I’d like to be friends with them. Wait, reverse that. These two either don’t own a TV or they put it out of sight. Sorry but I can’t be friends with people who shun television. Anyways, we really liked the layout, it had a large basement, kitchen was lovely, new windows….but it’s right next to a very busy road. Another con: Although the house faces the side street, the driveway is off the busy road. No bueno! That’s a dealbreaker, ladies. Even though Richard and I both rated this a 2 out of 4, happy but not in love, we moved on to Revena Place.
Amber’s nostrils, I’d like to introduce you to the smell of pungent cat piss. This house had an awesome addition off the kitchen…and thus concludes the positivity. Not only was cat piss l’odeur du jour, it looked as if Paige Davis and the Trading Spaces team was in charge of decor. Case in point:
I know you are not supposed to judge a house based on decor, so I will judge this beaut on the pungent cat piss smell, 1940’s kitchen and holes in the majority of the closets. This darling was rated a 4, so we both ran away screaming to Coronada Street.
Upon walking up to the Coronada house, we noticed this lemon-shaped thing right outside the door. We’re still not entirely sure what it was, but all I could think was “This house is a lemon. Run. Run away, now!”
While it wasn’t a complete lemon, it did have a lot of downsides: built on slab and needed a major kitchen makeover. I will say the decor was interesting. The homeowner’s stagged this house using “Retirement Living Magazine.” Knick-knacks, rocking chairs, doilies, corn husk dolls and the like really enhanced the Grandma Chic look I think they were going for. The piece de resistance would be these wooden leg outlines – I choose to believe the homeowner’s have some sick fetish with outlining their legs every year and turning the silhouettes into wall decor. As much as I wanted to love this little place, we had to give it a 3 out of 4 for not being “move in ready.”
This first tour has definitely helped me realized I don’t need as much space as I think I do. So long as the layout is clever, Richard and I could live quite comfortably in 1200 sq feet. I learned I really appreciate basements, do not appreciate cat urine and wouldn’t hate living in a ‘ranch style’ home so long as it has the right layout.
Our next tour is on Saturday, you can be sure I’ll keep you posted!
If you’re a homeowner, what was the biggest concession you had to make when buying your first place? If you’re not, what do you think will be the hardest amenity you might have to live without?