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Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-06-2007, 03:38 PM   #1
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Real estate--a tale of two houses

(see http://early-retirement.org/forums/i...?topic=13177.0 for part one of our real estate angsting...)

Well, we've decided that a house is the way to go for our first home. At our current savings rate, we should be ready to buy in about 2 months (got the down payment--need the cash cushion). One of my primary goals is to get closer to my work--I currently have about a 35-40 minute commute, depending on the day. We prefer quality of square feet to quantity (we both grew up in ~1400sf houses and were quite content), and we do not want to be in a suburban cookie cutter development. I don't mind taking care of upkeep on the house, but we don't want to spend all our free time fiddling with it either. We do want space for a vegetable garden, and would like (but don't need) a patio big enough for a hot tub. We're also major foodies/amateur chefs, and want a kitchen we can really play in as well as enough room to entertain a bit more. We currently have 2 leading contenders, one we've visited, one we plan to check out in a couple weekends after DH's deadline crunch at work has passed. We haven't found an agent (yet), but we've been looking around realtor.com and other local websites and have found 2 compelling houses. They are very different homes, and sort of encapsulate the two directions we feel ourselves being tugged in. Both are in our price range, which is well under what we've been told we can qualify for.

House #1: 1400-ish square feet, 3 bed/2 bath/1 car garage. Built in the 50s but remodeled about a year ago. it's on a half-acre lot in one of the Tulsa neighborhoods we like. It only cuts my commute by about 5 minutes. DH's would be essentially unchanged. The kitchen looks nice but is a tad smaller than we'd hoped, though big enough for our purposes. They've put in granite countertops, but it's pretty obvious they just painted over the original cabinets and switched out the hardware. the whole house has new paint, and the hardwood floors are in tolerably good shape, though a little discolored in spots. bedrooms are decent size for our purposes. The master bed/bath has been redone, but not well--there are some electrical outlets that look a bit iffy, they seem to have left in the original '50s-era medicine cabinet, and we would want to put a light in the shower enclosure. The garage is hard to judge as it was full of a lot of junk (as were the secondary bedrooms) , but it looks like it would fit one car and not much else. the lot's about a half-acre, the back yard is most of that, it faces south and gets a lot of good sunlight for the garden. there's a playset we'd have to get rid of, and a shed which is "not covered by the inspection"--not sure what that meant exactly, so I'm going on the assumption we'd have to knock it down and put in something new, assuming we wanted one. going by back of the envelope calculations we figured we'd want to put in about $10k worth of work into it (repaint the master bath, some new fixtures, electrical, MAYBE new kitchen cabinets down the road), and at the price it was at then, that ten grand would take us out of our price range. It's since been reduced in price toward the bottom of our price range, and is back in contention.

House #2
: located just outside a town about halfway between Tulsa and my job. 1700sf, 3bed/3bath/2 car garage. Built in the late-1970s, it's very much a larger version of the type of ranch house DH and i grew up in, but with larger living spaces, an updated kitchen--and an addition with a indoor, inground swimming pool and jacuzzi. The rest of the house looks nice based on pictures (we plan to get an appointment to visit saturday after next)--we might get new countertops and slap up some crown molding in the living room, but that's about all we'd need to do. the living areas are all hardwood/tile--don't know what the bedrooms look like. It would make a great party house, is still close enough to the city to be convenient to friends, groceries, etc. Both of us would have about a 20-minute commute--halving my drive but doubling DH's. the lot's a little under 2 acres, plenty of room for a garden but still manageable. But this pool...it's very tempting, and very worrying. DH wants a pool, but we dismissed the notion as completely out of our price range, and I was uneasy about the liability issues to having a death trap in the backyard. The indoor angle reduces the liability risk, especially since we're childfree. The house is right at the top of our price range, though I suspect the pool and the location will limit their market somewhat and give us a bit more wiggle room on price. (then again, if/when we go to sell, are we going to have that same problem?) As I've been thinking about it, I'm growing to love the notion of swimming a lap or two in the morning and soaking in the hot tub with a glass of wine after work. But other than a few friends growing up, we haven't known many people who have swimming pools (and none of them indoor) and we really aren't sure what kind of money and time we're looking at to keep it up. I've heard anything from $50/month to $200 a month on the web, not counting whatever implications they'd have on our power and water bills.

In a nutshell, House A is the sort of house we thought we wanted and could afford when we started looking. it needs a touch more work than we hoped, but nothing drastic either. House B is a nicer house than we even thought possible and is in a better location for me. But are we ready to go from downtown apartment living to the rural (or at least exurban) life? Will driving 20 minutes on Saturday to get to Wild Oats or Target get old quickly? Are those shimmering blue oases going to turn into black holes that suck up all our time and money?

This, in a nutshell, is our quandary. suggestions from homeowners (especially anyone with a pool), questions, issues I'm missing are all welcome.
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-06-2007, 04:07 PM   #2
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

The 10,000 gallon outdoor screened pool we had when we lived in Florida had a salt chlorinator ($1000 initial cost) so we had virtually no costs for chemicals. I think the electricity to run the pump 12 hrs a day was about $1 a day. Electricity costs were a bit higher in the winter if we wanted to heat the pool for ourselves or visitors.

What I couldn't stand in your situation is the constant smell of chlorine in the house and/or in the enclosed pool area. I have a very sensitive sense of smell and that would be the definition of hell on Earth.
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-06-2007, 04:17 PM   #3
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

Hadn't thought of the smell issue. I think I'd be okay with it if it weren't too bad (I have next to no sense of smell between march and october), not as sure about DH (mild asthma). We'll go in with noses on the alert. The "pool room" is almost more of a large enclosed porch, there are windows on 3 sides that look like they'd provide good ventilation. The salt chlorinator idea sounds intriguing as well. Our lbym policy, in general is to pay a one-time cost if it will help us avoid a recurring cost.
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-06-2007, 04:26 PM   #4
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

I never regretted the initial investment of the salt chlorinator when I heard the stories of how folks had spilled liquid chlorine in their trunks or their SUV's on the way home from the pool supply store. I had to tote home a bag of rock salt every once in awhile but I never feared spilling that or having a pet or a child (other people's) get into it.
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-06-2007, 04:50 PM   #5
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

Sounds like house 1 is in the NBHD that you like. You didn't say much about NBHD for house 2. I'd buy the NBHD first. What is their history? Where do you think they will be in 10-20years when you want to sell? If the answer is the same for both then I'd go for #2. Seems to have more of what buyers are looking for now and you can always use the pool to skateboard!

Both are on big enough lots to get the house to grow to your needs.
If there is a difference I would choose NBHD over house.
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-06-2007, 05:37 PM   #6
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

A swimming pool has major risks... have you talked to an insurance agent? Also they require constant care. Hot tubs are very manageable. Go for the neighborhood.

Admission: I wouldn't have a home with a swimming pool if they gave it to me.
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-06-2007, 06:26 PM   #7
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

Quote:
Originally Posted by honobob
Sounds like house 1 is in the NBHD that you like. You didn't say much about NBHD for house 2. I'd buy the NBHD first. What is their history? Where do you think they will be in 10-20years when you want to sell? If the answer is the same for both then I'd go for #2.
NBHD #1 is convenient to a lot of our non-work stuff, seems to be about evenly divided between young couples and retirees. (didn't see many school-aged kids--it's in a good part of the city district but the 'burbs aren't that much more expensive here). Yards are well kept, cars look about like ours.

NBHD #2 is a rural/suburban development. not the world's best schools, but I think that's because the McMansions haven't made it that far in this direction (yet). most of the cars I saw on the road had older people in them--looks a bit like an empty-nester type of neighborhood. I drove by over lunch a few days back but didn't have a chance to really drive around and get a good look. that's on the to-do list for monday. it's off a two lane road which is why the area is still relatively undeveloped, but I saw a lot of construction equipment on the side of the road that looks like they're getting ready to make it a 4-lane road. I suspect that will increase development/property values, though we're looking to buy for the long term in any case. didn't have much to say about it because i don't know as much (yet). Right now A is leading by a nose but I'm hesitating locking myself into that commute for the next decade or two. (barring something odd, I'm staying at the current job until ER)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brat
A swimming pool has major risks... have you talked to an insurance agent? Also they require constant care. Hot tubs are very manageable. Go for the neighborhood.
Haven't talked to our insurance agent--we will get some estimates if this house stays a serious candidate after we get a good look around. And I have the same concerns on the care front, hence this post to see what we'd be letting ourselves in for.
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-06-2007, 07:01 PM   #8
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brat
A swimming pool has major risks... have you talked to an insurance agent? Also they require constant care. Hot tubs are very manageable. Go for the neighborhood.

Admission: I wouldn't have a home with a swimming pool if they gave it to me.
Living in Southern California I must respectfully disagree. My pool/spa/waterfall is the centerpiece of my yard and my lifestyle. FWIW, my pool is very easy to maintain - I use a service for $75.00/month - it has a pebbletech surface that never needs maintenance. I use the pool and spa almost everynight. There is nothing better after a nice workout than going for a swim and then sitting in the spa and enjoying the outdoors. Seriously, I wouldn't own a home without one.

PS- I think it depends on where you live.
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-06-2007, 07:26 PM   #9
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

I'd keep looking.

But then, when I bought this house (my first house as a divorcee) four years ago, I must have looked at 25-30 houses.

The first house that I made an offer on, was perfect but negotiations broke down. I fell in love with the place (bad thing to do), but realized that I should be guided by the facts, and the fact was that it wasn't worth a penny more than I offered. Boy, did that hurt! The seller/owner/agent must have fallen in love with it too, since he still lives there to this day. Couldn't sell it at that price.

After telling my realtor that I wanted to make an offer on a second house, I got cold feet when someone told me the neighborhood was dangerous. Luckily it wasn't too late to pull out.

I got an entirely different house. This one is 5-6 minutes from my job, and I thank heaven for that every afternoon as I think about my co-workers who are still struggling with traffic while I am relaxing at home. Also, my house didn't flood due to Katrina, and the house I had previously fallen in love with, did, as did the house in the bad neighborhood and actually, every single house that I had even considered. All 25-30 of them flooded except for the one that I bought. That was completely unpredictable, but lucky enough to give one pause.

There are MANY realizations of the perfect house for you. I urge you to make sure you get a good deal on a house that would appeal to a lot of buyers in your area, so that if you ever need to move you can sell quickly for a decent price. That is the best advice I would have for a family in your situation, straight from my heart.
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-07-2007, 10:05 AM   #10
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

I would do what I could to keep a short commute. My personal feeling, totally unscientific, is that any commute over a half an hour is just not healthy.

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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-07-2007, 10:54 AM   #11
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha
I would do what I could to keep a short commute. My personal feeling, totally unscientific, is that any commute over a half an hour is just not healthy.
I'm pretty much with you. I wouldn't call my drive unhealthy (it helps that I commute in the reverse direction to most people and have a nice scenic drive through the country), but after almost 2 1/2 years, it's starting to get a wee bit old. DH's drive is so short now (<10 minutes) that he's okay with moving a bit closer to the uni, as long as we still have a reasonable drive to payday sushi. :-) House B is looking good (and if not house B, at least neighborhood B)--we'll see how things look after we tour the house. thanks for everyone's input--knew we'd get some educated opinions here. :-)
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-08-2007, 12:22 PM   #12
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

House B seems to be your dream choice. If you go with A you might always be second-guessing yourselves. I suspect House B is harder to sell. I know lots of people who will not even look at houses with pools. (Been there, done that.)

Indoor pools can cause humidity control problems. We had friends who would turn off the pump when they were expecting company in order to control the chlorine smell throughout the house. In cool weather, condensation on the windows would drip constantly. But then that can all be fixed with (expensive)technology.

You might want to find out why the current owners are selling and how long prior sales (if any) were on the market. Make sure to look at their utility bills before making any offer.
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-08-2007, 12:44 PM   #13
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

My DH is an architect and has done an indoor public pool. Maintenance is a nightmare because of the chemicals.
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-08-2007, 04:44 PM   #14
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

As some people have said... if you go salt you do not have the smell of the pool...

My sister commented about not smelling the pool at her local gym... they said to use the salt instead of the chlorine.. and no smell...

Now, that does not help in the humidity problems... hopefully it is walled off with a door..
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-08-2007, 07:23 PM   #15
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

Quote:
Originally Posted by Texas Proud

Now, that does not help in the humidity problems... hopefully it is walled off with a door..
It is. We're still not convinced that a pool is worth it to us, and we're actually looking at some new construction that's happening at about the midpoint of our commute, though that house is staying on the short list. I think I said some nasty-ish things about "cookie-cutter subdivisions" earlier in the thread, but these have pretty good size yards and aren't too mcmansion-ey.

The search continues...
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses
Old 05-09-2007, 12:00 AM   #16
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Re: Real estate--a tale of two houses

The problem with new construction is that the builder's short cuts won't be evident until the warranty has expired (or the contractor has gone bankrupt).

Frankly I would rather buy a house with knowable defects.
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