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Home purchase - what would you advise we compromise on?
Old 11-20-2021, 02:24 PM   #1
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Home purchase - what would you advise we compromise on?

So, I've started looking at homes for sale in our target areas & budget on Redfin / Zillow.

My absolute must-haves are in terms of yard size (for my son), single storied (for both of us), age of the home (cannot take on major / extensive maintenance as we both age, on top of caring for our son), and proximity to public transportation.

Absolutely NO HOA.

We're flexible in terms of sq.ft of the home and number of bedrooms. Neither of us wants a huge home but it should be large enough to accommodate our daughter or siblings who may sometimes visit.

What I'm finding is that not one of the homes on Redfin / Zillow in our targeted areas (as I type this) meets all of our needs. Older homes tend to be on larger lot sizes, or they're rural / not close to public transportation. Newer homes are on small lots, but meet most everything else, except they also have HOAs.

Husband thinks we'll have to "compromise" and since we're not ready to buy yet, this maybe the time to really research deeper and see if we cannot go more rural or settle on an older home, just to avoid small yards and HOAs.

While I understand his logic, I really don't know if the care, expense and keeping of an older home won't be overwhelming for us eventually?

I also worry about access to prompt medical care if we're more rural, esp as senior citizens with an adult disabled son. This home will likely be our "forever" home so it should be purchased with a lot of thought even if it takes longer, but H keeps insisting I be ready to compromise as no home "will have it all".

In our shoes, what would you compromise on and why? We could really do with the advice / feedback. Thanks!
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Old 11-20-2021, 02:31 PM   #2
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I wouldn't take an older home out of consideration just because of it's age. Much depends on how well it's been maintained and updated. If you're not comfortable doing your own home inspection hire an inspector and tell him your criteria.

I got a real compliment from the buyer's home inspector when we sold our old house, then about 50 years old. He told the buyer "If everyone maintained houses like this guy I wouldn't have a job".
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Old 11-20-2021, 02:33 PM   #3
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Some HOAs are quite innocuous, so I would just get a copy of their bylaws and see if anything is a nonstarter for you.

I live in a very small development with an HOA (just 17 houses) and the rules are fairly minimal so we're all friends.
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Old 11-20-2021, 02:37 PM   #4
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As someone who lives in a house built in 1857, I would advise not to automatically discount an older home. We have indeed spent a lot of time and money to get our house to the point where is is now just what we want. But the ongoing expenses are not large. Once you've replaced the roof and furnace and upgraded the kitchen and bathrooms, you're not likely to do it again. So I would just look at a house and keep in mind the cost to do some or all those things (if they are necessary) when contemplating an offer.
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Old 11-20-2021, 02:41 PM   #5
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Well, in the words of former realtor DW: "Buyers are Liars"

That is, they would give her a very specific list of "Needs", and then would ask why DW did not show them a house they found while driving through the neighborhood that did not have half of their stated needs.

Stated another way, sometimes things we identify as needs are really just preferences. And, sometimes you find a house that has other things you never thought of, and they over-ride your your previous list.

So, I would be flexible.
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Old 11-20-2021, 02:55 PM   #6
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I would go with a newer home. What is it about HOAs that you are against? Our current and previous homes have 3 HOAs each that we pay into. Each HOA exists to serve its particular purposes. We are still fully responsible for our home - yard, roof, structure and utilities.
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Old 11-20-2021, 03:05 PM   #7
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I'd also question the hostility to an HOA. Not all of them are "decor nazis". There's an HOA here, and a good thing too, since in their infinite wisdom the voters in this county have twice rejected zoning. That means that without an HOA and covenants, there is nothing to prevent your next door neighbor from opening a strip joint, a bar, a gambling joint, a junkyard or any other neighborhood horror you can think of. I'll take the HOA, thank you very much.

We have yet to be contacted by the HOA for any transgressions perceived or otherwise. That said, we do mow the lawn regularly and have no desire to paint the house purple with orange polka dots either.
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Old 11-20-2021, 03:15 PM   #8
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How old is "old?"

Our house was over 30 years old when we bought it. My father gifted us a new roof when he replaced his, but we were in the house about 15 years when he did that; and there were no leaks or other problems with the roof.

We decided to put new siding on the house at one point, but that is an upgrade that we choose to do.

If the house is an utter wreck, I would walk away, but that's not necessarily the case.

I also would not automatically eliminate an older house. You have the opportunity to inspect the house before you buy.
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Old 11-20-2021, 03:15 PM   #9
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Two comments:
If you find a home that hits on 8 out of 10 of your must haves, buy it. That is virtually perfection.
Having lived in an HOA community and one that did not have an HOA, I would take an HOA hands down. The crap that goes on when there are no rules is unreal.
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Old 11-20-2021, 03:22 PM   #10
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Some thoughts as I have gone through this before and had all of the same criteria you have. I made my mistakes.

1. Work with a real estate agent. Homes are often sold before they ever get on MLS. We sold our last house before it was on MLS. We bought our current house when it was listed to real estate agents as coming soon. It was not shown as being on the market on public sites.

2. At one time we went for a more rural house to get other things we needed. While it was a wonderful house, I hated having to drive 20 minutes to the grocery store and 45 minutes to the closest major shopping.

I also thought about when we were older. Did we, in our 80s, want to be having to do that much driving all the time. No? If you think you will be in the house "forever" then I would want one that had good access to transportation and where you could easily go to stores and such close by.

3. DH was adamant about wanting a 1 story house. I agreed although less strongly. I did get him to make an offer on a house where the guest room with bathroom was upstairs. Our son would have used that room and after he was out of the house it could be a guest room. We would only to rarely go up there. I felt that if we could do all of our living on the first floor that we might consider houses that had a room or two upstairs that we wouldn't have to regularly go up to.

4. Age of house was always very important to me. I didn't really want anything built before 1990. However, our current house was built in 1985. I was willing to compromise that far, but no more.

5. HOAs. I hate HOAs. I've lived with them and without them and prefer living without them. On the other hand we owned a house in an area with no HOA and no deed restrictions of any kind and no zoning. So someone could have built a commercial business next door to us and we would not be able to complain.

I have lived with several HOAs and they vary a lot. I currently live in an area with an HOA. So, whenever I buy a house I look at the deed restrictions before I make an offer. In fact, I often look at restrictions before I even look at a house. I look at them and see if they are acceptable to me. For example, pet restrictions are very important to me. I have rejected many HOAs that restrict you to, say, 2 cats since we have 3.

In our last house there was an HOA but there were no pet restrictions and there were no restrictions on things like color of house. You did have to have fences approved but the criteria was very broad. We rejected once buying a house where they could reject fences very easily and I had no assurance they would allow us to have the 6' fence we needed.

Once I look at the restrictions and find out if they are acceptable I try to research the subdivision and the HOA. This can be difficult and doesn't always work. But sometimes it does. For example, many HOAs will publish their newsletter on the internet. Those are often very helpful for many things.

Sometimes people just go talk to people in the neighborhood and how the HOA works.

So, for the HOA, I have found that I can live with them if the requirements don't really affect what I want to do. I lived in one HOA years ago where you had to get approval for any landscaping in your back yard. Nowadays, I would not accept that.

6. Lastly -- forever house. When we bought the last house -- the one 25 minutes from the grocery store -- we thought it was a forever house. But as time went on we realized it wouldn't meet our needs as we got older. So we moved and bought a new "forever" house. And, I really hope it is. But, you know, if it no longer meets our needs then I realize we might need to make a change.
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Old 11-20-2021, 03:34 PM   #11
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Thanks everyone.

To address the HOA question, I'm opposed to it due to two reasons.

1. Our disabled son can be very high decibel. It's nothing that can be helped nor is he doing it just to be loud and make a nuisance of himself. I have fielded complaints from my current and former neighbors and just don't want that repeated when we move into our home. That's also the reason we need a large yard so that he has enough space to roam around & burn off his energy without neighbors complaining about the loud autistic kid who just won't give them a moment's quiet.

2. My elderly aunt and uncle lived in an HOA community that was sued by a resident for some reason. Their "assessments" for legal costs to defend the suit was apparently huge. It apparently caused my aunt & uncle considerable hardship - they simply couldn't afford it on their fixed income and it was hard to sell & move due to the litigation having to be disclosed to potential buyers.

I don't have all the details but remember the talk around my parents' table about how a supposedly private spat between the homeowner & someone on the HOA morphed into a costly lawsuit that affected people who had nothing to do with it.

Again, I don't know the details or even if this was at all true, but given my past trysts with Murphy, and given that we will be living on a very fixed income as well, this incident has made me opposed to living in a HOA community.
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Old 11-20-2021, 03:40 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katsmeow View Post
Some thoughts as I have gone through this before and had all of the same criteria you have. I made my mistakes.

1. Work with a real estate agent. Homes are often sold before they ever get on MLS. We sold our last house before it was on MLS. We bought our current house when it was listed to real estate agents as coming soon. It was not shown as being on the market on public sites.

2. At one time we went for a more rural house to get other things we needed. While it was a wonderful house, I hated having to drive 20 minutes to the grocery store and 45 minutes to the closest major shopping.

I also thought about when we were older. Did we, in our 80s, want to be having to do that much driving all the time. No? If you think you will be in the house "forever" then I would want one that had good access to transportation and where you could easily go to stores and such close by.

3. DH was adamant about wanting a 1 story house. I agreed although less strongly. I did get him to make an offer on a house where the guest room with bathroom was upstairs. Our son would have used that room and after he was out of the house it could be a guest room. We would only to rarely go up there. I felt that if we could do all of our living on the first floor that we might consider houses that had a room or two upstairs that we wouldn't have to regularly go up to.

4. Age of house was always very important to me. I didn't really want anything built before 1990. However, our current house was built in 1985. I was willing to compromise that far, but no more.

5. HOAs. I hate HOAs. I've lived with them and without them and prefer living without them. On the other hand we owned a house in an area with no HOA and no deed restrictions of any kind and no zoning. So someone could have built a commercial business next door to us and we would not be able to complain.

I have lived with several HOAs and they vary a lot. I currently live in an area with an HOA. So, whenever I buy a house I look at the deed restrictions before I make an offer. In fact, I often look at restrictions before I even look at a house. I look at them and see if they are acceptable to me. For example, pet restrictions are very important to me. I have rejected many HOAs that restrict you to, say, 2 cats since we have 3.

In our last house there was an HOA but there were no pet restrictions and there were no restrictions on things like color of house. You did have to have fences approved but the criteria was very broad. We rejected once buying a house where they could reject fences very easily and I had no assurance they would allow us to have the 6' fence we needed.

Once I look at the restrictions and find out if they are acceptable I try to research the subdivision and the HOA. This can be difficult and doesn't always work. But sometimes it does. For example, many HOAs will publish their newsletter on the internet. Those are often very helpful for many things.

Sometimes people just go talk to people in the neighborhood and how the HOA works.

So, for the HOA, I have found that I can live with them if the requirements don't really affect what I want to do. I lived in one HOA years ago where you had to get approval for any landscaping in your back yard. Nowadays, I would not accept that.

6. Lastly -- forever house. When we bought the last house -- the one 25 minutes from the grocery store -- we thought it was a forever house. But as time went on we realized it wouldn't meet our needs as we got older. So we moved and bought a new "forever" house. And, I really hope it is. But, you know, if it no longer meets our needs then I realize we might need to make a change.
Wow! Thank you so much!

How do I get access to deed restrictions if I do not live in that community? This is just for my curiosity. Also, can HOAs not amend their deed restrictions or "laws" after you've moved in? How does that work?
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Old 11-20-2021, 03:50 PM   #13
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How do I get access to deed restrictions if I do not live in that community? This is just for my curiosity. Also, can HOAs not amend their deed restrictions or "laws" after you've moved in? How does that work?
It depends on state laws and perhaps even just policy of the HOA. Here in WV, we were given a copy of the covenants at the time we signed the contract AND had a reasonable period of time to back out at no cost if we didn't like the covenants. I think the period was a week but I'm not sure. There was plenty of time to read the covenants, which were understandable.

Re changes in the covenants, that can of course happen but usually the process is cumbersome and quite properly so, to prevent spurious changes. It you don't like the process, if you think it is too easy for example, then clearly that is not a place you want to buy into.

But again, it is important to read the covenants before buying. I have no sympathy for someone who does not and then whines because they want to do something the covenants clearly state they cannot.

A huge red flag of course would be if they refuse to give you a copy of the covenants at the time of contract signing, with time to back out. Worse yet would be one that doesn't give it to you until settlement. I'd run from either of those.
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Old 11-20-2021, 03:56 PM   #14
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I would consider older homes as I think these check more boxes. You can upgrade condition now to "futurize" to some extent. Even a brand new house will have maintenance issues which begin to hit around year 10.

And in most areas new construction is much more expensive for what you get.

Good luck.
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Old 11-20-2021, 04:00 PM   #15
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I think you should keep most of your "must haves", except for age of the home (I agree with others here that an older home does not necessarily need more maintenance than a newer home). Maybe you could find a very well maintained older home on a large lot.
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Old 11-20-2021, 04:08 PM   #16
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Regarding the age of the house, some houses and neighborhoods age well and some do not. We live in a very well kept neighborhood (has an HOA) and age is not much of a factor.

Our house was about 15 years old when we moved in and we have done a lot of things to the interior but especially the exterior to make it more to our liking. At 35 years now it is a very desirable house and would fetch top dollar I think.

Also pictures can be deceptive. Do not go just by Zillow. Visit the neighborhood and walk through the house. Become familiar with how to price changes that you may want to make immediately. Interior painting, floor changes or painting hardwood floor, etc are much easier to do before the furniture and such arrives. Do not get turned off by someone's taste that does not match yours if a few thousand dollars can correct the situation.
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Old 11-20-2021, 04:27 PM   #17
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My husband and I looked for a year before we purchased our current home. This was the 3rd house that we put in an offer, and that was before the market was as nutty as it is now.

We are both seniors and my husband had specific wants that in the general scheme of things weren't outlandish but ended up being hard to find. He would only consider a home that was a single story with a 2 car garage and full basement. Sounds easy, but in reality in our area 2 story colonials are the vast majority of houses. And the only single story homes with 2 car garage were at least 4 bedrooms. All which drove the price higher.

We ended up with a home that ticked most of the boxes, in a great neighborhood. It more than makes up for the work that we needed to do on the house the first year. The prior owner was a widow with 4 kids. The house lived hard.

In addition to finding a good realtor to work with, if you are on Facebook or Next Door, look into joining a group for the area that you are looking. I am on a "mom's" group for my town and see a number of posts of homes that are soon to be listed. While FB gets a bad rap, I have found the info from that group to be invaluable.

If your needs are that specific, you may best best off building. I actually started considering it about 10 months into our search.

Good luck.
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Old 11-20-2021, 04:39 PM   #18
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I'd compromise on the age of the home if it looks well maintained. Even as you age you can still call a repair person and write a check, can't you?

I'd also compromise on the HOA but I haven't had the bad experience that your family has.
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Old 11-20-2021, 04:54 PM   #19
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I would be flexible on the distance to medical. The quality and type of nearby medical mean more to me than whether I would have to drive 5 minutes or an hour to medical.

I would be also flexible on the HOA issue. The specifics of the HOA need to to determined before the prospective property can be ruled in or out.

I would also be flexible on the age of the house. The age doesn’t necessarily dictate the quality of construction or maintenance needs. The characteristics of each house need to be reviewed to determine possible maintenance problems.

The above 3 issues would be at the bottom of my list of must haves or have nots. Location, neighborhood, size of home, size of lot, interior and exterior finishes would matter the most to me.
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Old 11-20-2021, 05:09 PM   #20
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DW and I lived together in about seven places before we settled in our forever home. We each had lived in almost as many homes before we met. We paid an architect to design our forever home and are very satisfied.

Given the OPs disabled son, along with the standard list of aging in place requirements, I'd recommend finding a good architect to design a forever home. It is an additional cost, but we found it very worthwhile.

If you know what you need, and you know your priorities, a good architect will match them much better than the real estate market....but you are at the market's peril for location.

Good Luck!
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