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Real estate anxiety - spiral staircase
Old 08-25-2018, 09:51 AM   #1
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Real estate anxiety - spiral staircase

DW and I are moving due to a growing family. We had agreed to a deal with one seller on a split-level home we both liked. The inspections, however, revealed that the 40-year-old home is not well-maintained, and the seller is unwilling to credit the cost of essentially any necessary repairs to bring the house up to code, let alone replace the leaking, rusted 19 year-old water heater, for example. It's evident they simply maintained the house with bare-minimum maintenance, and now seem keen to dump it on whomever their buyer is... so, we are likely canceling that sale today.

Another appealing property came on the market this week. I intend to view it tomorrow. It looks very nice, but I have one major concern: there is a central spiral staircase leading up to the master suite and a sitting room on the second floor (I believe that's all that's up there - the kid's rooms and main living area would be downstairs).

We have a 2 year-old and another on the way, and two smaller dogs, both young at this point (when they get older, they won't be hard to carry!). Does anyone have any experience with kids and spiral stairs? Gating is obvious, as it would be for any stairs. Interested in thoughts... preferably if you've actually had these in your house before - trust me, there's plenty of "other" opinions on the interwebz! Thanks!
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Old 08-25-2018, 10:20 AM   #2
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Our staircase is curved, not a full spiral, maybe half a spiral. Not sure if that is pertinent to your situation.

There has never been any problem with children, older people, or kittens/cats using curved/wedge-shaped stairs. Our neighbors have the same staircase, and they have lots more kids than we do. The stairs are wide enough at the edge, and have the right height of risers and rails, that anyone mobile can use them.

I do recall being in a 1970's house, very "modern," with a full spiral metal staircase encased in a rather narrow well. It scared my husband and me. The well was too narrow, the stair risers too high, and the stairs themselves just too narrow at the center for comfort. Also, metal stairs are noisy. Had the well and the stairs been wider, the risers less high, and the whole thing made of wood, we would have been comfortable.

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Originally Posted by nash031 View Post
DW and I are moving due to a growing family. We had agreed to a deal with one seller on a split-level home we both liked. The inspections, however, revealed that the 40-year-old home is not well-maintained, and the seller is unwilling to credit the cost of essentially any necessary repairs to bring the house up to code, let alone replace the leaking, rusted 19 year-old water heater, for example. It's evident they simply maintained the house with bare-minimum maintenance, and now seem keen to dump it on whomever their buyer is... so, we are likely canceling that sale today.

Another appealing property came on the market this week. I intend to view it tomorrow. It looks very nice, but I have one major concern: there is a central spiral staircase leading up to the master suite and a sitting room on the second floor (I believe that's all that's up there - the kid's rooms and main living area would be downstairs).

We have a 2 year-old and another on the way, and two smaller dogs, both young at this point (when they get older, they won't be hard to carry!). Does anyone have any experience with kids and spiral stairs? Gating is obvious, as it would be for any stairs. Interested in thoughts... preferably if you've actually had these in your house before - trust me, there's plenty of "other" opinions on the interwebz! Thanks!
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Old 08-25-2018, 11:08 AM   #3
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We've been in our home for 23 years. Our son was 6 and our daughter was in her senior year of high school when we moved here. We have a spiral staircase up to a large bedroom/bath. Both the kids are grown and gone and now its a guest room. We have had tons of kids and adults up and down those stairs with never an issue. The dogs also navigated without problem. Most people think it's really cool. We also have a guest room downstairs, but everyone always wants the one upstairs.
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Old 08-25-2018, 11:11 AM   #4
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The inspections, however, revealed that the 40-year-old home is not well-maintained, and the seller is unwilling to credit the cost of essentially any necessary repairs to bring the house up to code
They probably just want to unload the house and move on. Maybe the owner died and the kids are trying to get rid of it. We were in that situation last year when my mom had a stroke. We debated whether to sell the house as-is (in very bad condition), or fix it up. We opted to fix it up in hopes of being able to sell it for more, but it took us nearly a year since the house was so far away. It took a lot of time and work, so I can understand why someone may just want to sell as-is.

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Does anyone have any experience with kids and spiral stairs?
We have stayed at cabins and cottages that have had spiral stairs. They're OK, but not something I would want to use every day. Every time I use one I wonder how the owner gets a bed, dressers, and other furniture up to the second floor. They certainly aren't carrying them up those spiral stairs. Something to consider...
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Old 08-25-2018, 11:14 AM   #5
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Yes, we have a 2-story spiral staircase. Our living areas are on the 2nd floor and bedrooms are on the 3rd floor, so everybody who comes to visit has to climb at least one story.

Our daughter was 6 when we moved here, but we've had many smaller children visit and stay here over the years. In my experience, spiral stairs are no more dangerous than straight stairs, and for little kids, they're actually easier because they can climb on the inside where the treads are narrower. Of course they still need close supervision, as they do on any staircase. In our previous home we had straight stairs that had a tile floor at the base, and I was always more worried about those than the spirals. It's actually harder to fall all the way down a spiral staircase than a straight one.

If the balusters are farther apart than 4" (ours are 10" or 12", whatever was code in 1973), then I think it's a bigger concern for really small children like yours. You'll have to make sure there are ways to keep them from climbing onto the stairs from the side through the railing and thereby defeating any gate you might install at the bottom. Blocking them into the room at the top should be easier, though if there's a landing with a railing that has wide balusters you'll have to use childproof netting there.

Another thing to beware of with spiral stairs is the difficulty of getting furniture and anything else up and down. If you have a king size mattress, it's probably not going up that staircase, and even a queen size is going to be a challenge. Check for windows that can be used to move furniture in and out. Also, you're going to be carrying laundry and an infant up and down on a regular basis. It's the same number of stairs as if they were straight, but the curve can make it really awkward with something like a laundry basket or a child seat.
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Old 08-25-2018, 11:18 AM   #6
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They probably just want to unload the house and move on. Maybe the owner died and the kids are trying to get rid of it. We were in that situation last year when my mom had a stroke. We debated whether to sell the house as-is (in very bad condition), or fix it up. We opted to fix it up in hopes of being able to sell it for more, but it took us nearly a year since the house was so far away. It took a lot of time and work, so I can understand why someone may just want to sell as-is.

...I wonder how the owner gets a bed, dressers, and other furniture up to the second floor...
Owners are in escrow in another house further north. I think they're just trying to cash out and be done, but at this price point, selling "as is" isn't really much of an option unless they are selling at a significant discount relative to their comps. They are not. Plus, they put some cosmetic efforts in refurbing kitchens and bathrooms, and replaced the furnace. I'm sure they feel like they've done enough, because effectively they did a lot of the "fun" stuff, and left the rest of the "necessary" stuff for whomever buys it. And that's just it. I'd rather they take care of the roof, termite damage, water heater, garage firewall, electrical panel, etc... and then you start to wonder what else might be wrong the inspections didn't catch, but... it is what it is.

The moving thing would be a pain, but there's a straight staircase from the outdoor space up to a second floor deck which has French doors accessing the master suite. It'll be pretty straightforward moving stuff up there if indeed we end up there.
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Old 08-25-2018, 11:23 AM   #7
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Thanks for the input so far - below is a photo of the staircase. Looks like no issue with the balusters for little ones sneaking through. They might be able to slip under the steps, but again, any time they're small enough to do that, we're going to have to be on them like hawks on any stairs anyway.

Re: moving - as mentioned above, there's easy access upstairs from the outside space, direct single staircase to french doors on an outdoor deck. Easy.
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Old 08-25-2018, 11:41 AM   #8
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Seeing the photo, I wouldn't worry about kids going up and down those stairs, and really if the only thing up there is the master suite, they probably won't need to go up and down much once they get past early childhood anyway.

I think your bigger problem is going to be finding a way to prevent everyone from banging their heads on those stairs. You will be under there retrieving dog toys and crawling babies, sweeping, or whatever, and next thing you know you straighten up and whack! In our situation this can only happen in the foyer, and I know how often I've done it. With stairs right between the living and dining areas and two small children, I'm thinking it's going to be a much bigger issue.
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Old 08-25-2018, 11:47 AM   #9
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I think your bigger problem is going to be finding a way to prevent everyone from banging their heads on those stairs. You will be under there retrieving dog toys and crawling babies, sweeping, or whatever, and next thing you know you straighten up and whack! In our situation this can only happen in the foyer, and I know how often I've done it. With stairs right between the living and dining areas and two small children, I'm thinking it's going to be a much bigger issue.
Could be true. I'll have to walk the space to get a feel for that. Some of the other photos make it look like the staircase is much more "out of the way" than this one leads you to believe. But in any event, that's something to think about. Could also probably put a play yard barrier around the base or arrange furniture in the living area to keep them (and us) clear of it.
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Old 08-25-2018, 12:03 PM   #10
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If I was selling in the San Diego, CA, I would get all I could get and screw the buyer as much as possible. I don't mean to be too crass, but it is a hot market.

Everyone wants to live there. What do you expect? It is hot. It is a great place to live.

Sellers market. Staircase? We like it. You don't? Tough. The value of the patch of land under that staircase is worth more than an acre in the humid southeast.
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Old 08-25-2018, 12:04 PM   #11
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Spiral stairs donít have to be an issue for children. My folks had stairs with no baluster, no stair backs, and large gaps, and we never had any problems.

IMO the real potential issue with stairs, especially spiral, is with the adults, both visitors and residents. If you injure your leg and need assistance to walk, you might find yourself unable to get upstairs for the duration. They also wonít make the house easy to sell.
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Real estate anxiety - spiral staircase
Old 08-25-2018, 12:19 PM   #12
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Real estate anxiety - spiral staircase

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If I was selling in the San Diego, CA, I would get all I could get and screw the buyer as much as possible. I don't mean to be too crass, but it is a hot market.

Everyone wants to live there. What do you expect? It is hot. It is a great place to live.

Sellers market. Staircase? We like it. You don't? Tough. The value of the patch of land under that staircase is worth more than an acre in the humid southeast.
As someone who has owned here for 7 years, watched the market the whole time, and has a house in escrow as a seller, suffice to say two things: (1) I donít think you read my original post correctly; (2) I feel confident in my understanding of this specific market - itís not as ďhotĒ as you think right now. The owners of the first house, not the one with the staircase, have had one offer in more than 90 days on market (ours). We had two offers on our house in less than two weeks. A market can be a lot of things, but it only matters about the specific property in question.
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Old 08-25-2018, 12:20 PM   #13
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We had a totally normal staircase in the house my sister and I grew up in. I have several memories of falling down most of it myself. My sister went better, and once fell fast enough that she tumbled down it, across the 3 ft of entryway at the bottom, and into/through the window.

(ps we're both fine).

Point being even regular staircases can result in bumps and bruises, and my parents were hardly neglectful. We we just clumsy kids.

If the only thing you don't like about the house is the staircase, I'd probably get a quick rough estimate to convert it to a regular one, assuming there's enough footprint to make that work. Just budget that in with your bid. To me, from that pic, it makes the space look a little dated. Like, a 60's/70's thing maybe?
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Old 08-25-2018, 12:22 PM   #14
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As someone who has owned here for 7 years, has one house in escrow and understands this market, suffice to say two things: (1) I don’t think you read my original post correctly; (2) I feel confident in my understanding of this specific market - it’s not as “hot” as you think right now. The owners of the first house, not the one with the staircase, have had one offer in more than 90 days on market (ours). We had two offers on our house in less than two weeks. A market can be a lot of things, but it only matters about the specific property in question.
My apologies. I am only going on what I hear from friends and people on this forum thsy Southern CA is so hot that cost is not much matter and buyers would fix any insufficiencies.

Sorry, I stand corrected.

BTW, I don't like any open staircases, spiral or otherwise. Any house with one would be off my list.

I also probably need to turn off HGTV.
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Old 08-25-2018, 12:22 PM   #15
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We had a totally normal staircase in the house my sister and I grew up in. I have several memories of falling down most of it myself. My sister went better, and once fell fast enough that she tumbled down it, across the 3 ft of entryway at the bottom, and into/through the window.

(ps we're both fine).

Point being even regular staircases can result in bumps and bruises, and my parents were hardly neglectful. We we just clumsy kids.

If the only thing you don't like about the house is the staircase, I'd probably get a quick rough estimate to convert it to a regular one, assuming there's enough footprint to make that work. Just budget that in with your bid. To me, from that pic, it makes the space look a little dated. Like, a 60's/70's thing maybe?
Iíll find out more tomorrow. Remodel was done in early 2000s; house was built in 1990.
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Old 08-25-2018, 12:26 PM   #16
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Spiral stairs don’t have to be an issue for children. My folks had stairs with no baluster, no stair backs, and large gaps, and we never had any problems.

IMO the real potential issue with stairs, especially spiral, is with the adults, both visitors and residents. If you injure your leg and need assistance to walk, you might find yourself unable to get upstairs for the duration. They also won’t make the house easy to sell.
+1 Basically, you will need to keep an eye on your kids 24/7/365 and actively parent every minute until you are sure they won't do something stupid on the stairs. Kids learn fast so maybe guarding the stairs won't last as long as one might think. But kids have friends and when their friends visit, you may need to resume stair sentinel duties.

I have never owned a home with stairs because I have always known that some day I will grow old, and some older people do not do well with stairs.

Even though I grew up in a home with stairs, honestly I don't "get it" when it comes to stairs. We may be primates but we are not monkeys living in trees, so why do we feel the desire to climb up and down stairs, ever? Yet often we do, and I think that often the basis for that desire is instinctual more than logical.

Right now, I am 70 - - for me, an age in which I fall easily and more often than I might like, and fall prevention is important. I don't have stairs. If I did, I'd be able to navigate them (slowly, with some difficulty) but I guarantee you that I would have had several bad falls on the stairs by now and probably broken bones. Others like Nemo have no problems with stairs well into their 70's or even older.

Pardon the rambling post. Obviously I need more coffee this morning.
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Old 08-25-2018, 12:31 PM   #17
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My apologies. I am only going on what I hear from friends and people on this forum thsy Southern CA is so hot that cost is not much matter and buyers would fix any insufficiencies.

Sorry, I stand corrected.

BTW, I don't like any open staircases, spiral or otherwise. Any house with one would be off my list.

I also probably need to turn off HGTV.
We all need to watch less HGTV!

You have to deal with less than ideal stuff (split levels...) at high prices here, but when youíre talking basic household maintenance neglected for 20 years at these prices, thatís different.
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Old 08-25-2018, 12:33 PM   #18
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When I was a kid in the early 70s, my parents had a friend with a "Brady Bunch" staircase. Even as a 9 year old, I was afraid of that thing. So, I understand your anxiety. I can't believe that open staircases still exist today, or the last 20 years. I really thought they were a 70's Brady Bunch thing.

Geez, I really was crass with my reply about real estate values. Feeling bad! Sorry! I am bad!
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Old 08-25-2018, 12:35 PM   #19
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When I was a kid in the early 70s, my parents had a friend with a "Brady Bunch" staircase. Even as a 9 year old, I was afraid of that thing. So, I understand your anxiety. I can't believe that open staircases still exist today, or the last 20 years. I really thought they were a 70's Brady Bunch thing.

Geez, I really was crass with my reply about real estate values. Feeling bad! Sorry! I am bad!
No worries! I appreciate the input. It was a hot sellers market until probably late last year. Itís flattened or even declined slightly in a few areas this summer. Inventory is high and avg DOM is rising. Not that there are tremendous buyer deals out there, but we need to move either way as Iíll go nuts with six mammals in our current house!
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Old 08-25-2018, 12:52 PM   #20
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No worries! I appreciate the input. It was a hot sellers market until probably late last year. It’s flattened or even declined slightly in a few areas this summer. Inventory is high and avg DOM is rising. Not that there are tremendous buyer deals out there, but we need to move either way as I’ll go nuts with six mammals in our current house!
Wow, thanks for the forgiveness, Nash.

Let me rewind to your original post about experience with stairs. As I mentioned, it was early 70s. It was my parents' friends. Although it wasn't a spiral case, it was open, per your picture.

As a 9 to 11 year old, they were scary. It was less about the balusters and more about the gap in the steps, i.e. the open back. You'd think that would be something fun for kids. I don't think so. We had no fun with that.

When my parents' friend died, I went to the visitation, and I was remembering stuff with their kids. The topic of the 70's house came up, and without hesitation, it was about those stairs! How many times do you talk about stairs with your deceased mother 20 ft away?

Let me just say, they were not well liked. I think the Brady Bunch really screwed with our minds for generations. Seriously. Open stairs, straight or spiral, are a bad idea.

Anyway, I'm just confirming your anxiety. Is there any way to renovate those differently? I'd really want to consider such options before buying such a house. (From the picture, it looks like there may be options without burning much space. And that might be OK if there are continued concerns.)

Take care and good luck friend.
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