Thursday, January 31, 2008

Just like heaven (if it didn't look like hell)

So this house just showed up on my radar today that sort of exemplifies the dilemma of someone like me, rummaging around near the bottom of the real estate market: the houses I see are either where I want to live/in a decent 'hood or really cool houses, but hardly ever both (and if they are both they're already under contract). The house in question is in Bethesda, which is at the top of my list of places I'd like to be, and not only is it newish construction and in one of those hideous neo-"Little Boxes" neighborhoods, but it's a damn garage with a house attached! Yechh! There ought to be laws against that sort of thing.

I know I'm going to have to make some compromises because I can't afford a "perfect house," and I know having a less-than-fab house won't make me a bad person. But am I crazy in thinking there's no way in hell I could live in such a place? Plus the lot size is only .097 acres. That's hardly room to play with a Chihuahua.

11 comments:

Ross Grady said...

Bright side: right around the corner from Kemp's Seafood!

M. and I are in the process of fixing up our house to sell, with the goal of moving into a condo in downtown Durham. We've already put a down payment down on a 2-bedroom that's just shy of 1200 square feet. Our current setup is right at 1400 sqft, but it's just 2 bedrooms & while I won't call space "wasted," some of the rooms are, ahem, "roomier" than necessary.

What I'm getting at, in a reply that should be to that earlier post, is that 900 sqft doesn't seem that unreasonable, provided that there are some amenities, such as a front porch, and a fenced backyard. Yeah, the dogs'll take up some space, but they don't have clothing & extra furniture (do they?)

It certainly makes sense to have a bare-minimum sqft threshold, but right now you already have a bunch of other constraints, so adding size to the list just narrows it all down further.

While I'm replying to earlier posts in this comment, let me just ask: do *you* think you'll be moving again in 5 years? Or, since that's an impossible question: can you list the things that would make you move, and/or the things that would make you not want to?

PJ said...

I'd have to say your agents theory of reselling in 5 years is idiotic. If you find something you like and enjoy, why would you move? I stumbled across your blog accidently the other day, and haven't read enough to know what your about, but you seem to be pretty set and content with this area. Am I right? Why would anyone settle for something they spend 6 figures on? I'd rather pay cheap rent on a dump, than settle for crap someone else likes, if I might sell it in a few years, not having accrued any equity.

I cruised by that free house tonight on my way home. It's right around the corner from your Trinity Park, one block from Well Spring Grocery, 3 blocks from 147. I noticed on Durham county GIS online, there are several empty lots just a few blocks from the house, and one is only 4 doors down around the corner. Just a thought. But it would sure be a big project, and you sure sound like a VERY busy woman!!

Paul J of Mebane

Lisa B. said...

You're right--my soon-to-be-ex-mother-in-law's house (which we own and which I would LOVE to move into) is about 900 sf, but the way it's laid out makes it seem open and roomy. A lot of the little houses in Northgate Park seem smaller because of the way they are cut up. So yeah, I'm taking square footage off the table as a deal-breaker.

And yes, the dogs have little beds ;-) Mostly I'd like a room where I can play with the dogs or do a little training without a lot of furniture in the way. Most people don't need that for their dogs but, hey, I'm kind of a dog trainer and all ...

And I don't plan to move in 5 years, but I suppose it's possible. I think I should at least keep the possibility in mind while I'm looking at places.

You're the voice of reason, Ross ;-)

Lisa B. said...

Paul--I think I am a little too busy to me moving a house ;-) One of my criteria for houses is that they need to be move-in ready, needing only repairs that won't affect livability (i.e. I could put them off for a few months if need be). I'd love the be the person that saves an old house, but I just don't think I can swing it right now.

jrtbarbi said...

Having dogs myself, my house qualifier was does the house have a nice flat yard and big enough to do some training in. .09 acres would kill me. I wouldnt even consider that size yard. I did love your comment that they attached a house to the garage. Too funny!

Lisa B. said...

Yeah, flat is a must for the yard, and the more space the better. I'd go with a teeny house and a great big yard ... if I could find such a thing! But thr trouble is the teeny houses in Norhtgate Park often have teeny yards, too.

Elayne said...

I've got a husband and 3 dogs (and up until recently a cat) and live in a little 1056 square foot ranch house that doesn't have a huge yard. Yeah it would be great to have another 300-400 sf but I love my neighborhood so I'm willing to put up with it. You get used to it, or at least we did. We Americans are so spoiled when it comes to housing, our little place would seem like a mansion to my Scottish in-laws. The way the space is laid out is more important than the total SF anyway. We lived in a house twice the size with a huge yard in a neighborhood that we hated and we were miserable and had to move out after only 3 years.

I think that if you can hold out and keep looking you'll eventually find something close to what you want. Don't settle for some neighborhood you won't be happy in. It took us about 6 months of looking in a very expensive, competitive seller's market and like you we were at the bottom of the market but we eventually found a good deal and it was worth the wait.

That house you have the link for looks like it's right next to a big utility tower and for me that would be a deal breaker. The house will be harder to resell and the tower will make the small yard feel even smaller. I think if you're patient and keep looking you can find something better.

Lisa B. said...

I drove by that house today because I was in that neighborhood, and it's worse than it looks. The utility tower is actually on the other side of a road that runs behind that house, but it's still very close.

I would have plenty of time if I were willing to move twice, once into an apartment and then again into whatever house I find, but I'm trying to avoid that. Maybe that's why people in my position move again within 5 years ...

Elayne said...

We did that, moved twice and yeah it sucks but we were able to sell our house at our asking price (we did it by owner too) because we didn't have to worry about a contingency contract on something we were trying to buy. Also we were in a better buying position because we could close right away. The people we bought the house from came down $15,000 and turned down a higher offer from someone else because they were in a hurry to close (they had already bought a place on a bridge loan that was coming due and stood to loose way more than the difference of what the other people offered).

We were in a different position though because we were planning on staying in whatever house we bought so we were willing to go through the 2 moves to get what we wanted. Still, 5 years is a long time to live somewhere where you aren't happy.

Amelia said...

Ms. Pants,

I'm sad to read about your life's
"complications." When I moved to Durham (from Northern CA), you were the first person I "met" that gave me hope that I hadn't made a terrible mistake. I read your blog like I was talking to a friend. It sounds crazy, but only because it was a little crazy. Still, for a while I referred to you as my BFF in Durham, until I finally met some people that weren't trying to recruit me to their church...
Anyhow, my point is about housing, not about how much Durham needs people like you. Just on the other side of Roxboro St. from Northgate Park is a neighborhood called Colonial Village. The houses are similar to Northgate, but about $10,000 cheaper (less cache for being on the wrong side of Roxboro), and with generally very large lots (.20+ acre). I live here, and I love my nieghborhood & my neighbors. I'm not a real estate agent (I'm an English teacher!)--if you'd like a non-real estate agent tour of the 'hood, I'd be happy to do that for you. It's the least I can do for my virtual BFF.
Take care,
Amelia

Lisa B. said...

Hi Amelia, good to hear from you! We looked in that 'hood back when we were buying our current house and when we were looking for my mother-in-law's house. Back then, however, it seemed a little sketchy--like maybe it wasn't where Mr. Pants would want his mom to live alone. But I know there's been a lot of buying and rehabbing going on there lately, and I know a few people who have bought there. I need to drive around there again and take a look, I know ... although my car just died (another blog pose waiting to be written!!) Having good neighbors is certainly a draw ;-)