Over the past couple of weeks my husband and I have started to look at houses. This was not part of our five-year plan.
A year before we were married, a property fell into our laps that was too good to be true and we jumped at the opportunity. Three months full of sweat, tears, and hard work landed us in our first home; an 1875 farmhouse. With the help of our family & friends, we put the bare minimum into the house – new floors, paint, cleared the yard, knocked down some old structures, and disposed of many truckloads of junk/scrap. We took the character that the house provided and added our style making it the perfect combination for our five-year plan house. With the money we saved purchasing the land for cheap, we were planning on saving up for the next couple of years to build a future house on the property.
But, as always, things don’t go as planned.
Built only ten years after the civil war, the house presented it’s own problems. We were losing heat in the winter at a rapid rate and with the rising costs in heating oil, we were filling the tank 3-4 times a year. The bedroom is at least ten degrees cooler than the rest of the house and very damp, causing us to need a dehumidifier as well as a heated mattress pad on the bed. The dampness has caused many illnesses and we never failed to wake up without a runny nose or sore throat.
Trees had grown to uncontrollable heights, leaning over the roof of the house; these needed to go.
We had two chimneys, no longer in use, that were not capped and falling apart, causing water damage that needed repaired.
We had outdated electricity that needed updated, inspected, re-wired, and approved.
The upstairs bathroom had plumbing issues that the previous owners never cared to fix and even though we had good intentions to renovate this bathroom, wedding planning and jobs got in the way. We have one, tiny bathroom that me, my husband, and our goldendoodle Novella, all have to share – we have no hose attachments on the outside of the house with which to bathe our dog.
All the above are minor issues compared to what came next – the insurance company saga.
I couldn’t help but feel like we were being picked on. Every few months or so I got a letter saying that something else needed to be fixed or replaced – wait, didn’t we buy this house so we could save money? Little things here and there weren’t too costly but then in January, right after the holidays, we get a call saying that if we don’t put a new roof on immediately, we will lose all coverage.
Hey insurance company, it’s January…in Pennsylvania….JANUARY IN PENNSYLVANIA. You don’t just go put a new roof on in the dead middle of our winter/rain/sleet/hail season. It doesn’t work like that. Thank you for proving how miserable insurance companies can be.
So, here we are, searching over a span of 45 miles north of Pittsburgh for a new place to call home.
The stress has only begun. Don’t get me wrong, looking at houses is hella fun, but you also get a new recognition of just how many people out there do not take care of their homes. We have been using the Zillow app which I thought was great but it turns out that so many listings we have been told of will not show up on our searches unless we type in the exact address.
We are learning that you can’t go into house hunting blindly. The items listed below are just a few details that we have learned to navigate during this process.
- Make sure you set a budget – more importantly, STICK TO IT.
Have you ever tried on a wedding dress that was way over your budget, fell in love with it, and then couldn’t go back? I have. It’s the same with houses. Sit down and go through your finances to figure out what you can afford and don’t look at houses that are outside of that range.
- Know what you want before you go looking – but have an open mind.
We had a list of things that we needed in our new home; a fenced in backyard, a closed in porch, two bathrooms, very little renovation, and a garage. Finding homes that had these wasn’t the problem, it was learning to deal with all the other details that came with it; on a busy main road, tight floor plans, old wallpaper, dirty carpets, very little light, etc. Our list of unwanted details ended up being longer in each house than the ones we wanted. We are learning how to balance them out.
- Find a realtor – then find a new one who cares about you.
We got so sick of seeing beautiful pictures of homes on the internet and showing up to a house with a not so beautiful inside. With all the editing that goes into photos these days, it is hard to tell what you will end up with once you get there in person. We needed help. We contacted two realtors who then showed us a couple houses. The first realtor did not care whatsoever about our needs; he spent the whole time on his phone, ignored our budget, did not offer knowledgeable information on the properties, and gave the impression that he did not want to be there. The second realtor was felt like an old friend; he took the time to get to know us, our wants, our needs, our history, and he took his time finding properties that had our requirements and were within our budget. We are still working with him.
- Take advice & hear opinions – but trust your gut.
This is going to be your new home. No one will be living there but your family . Choose a house that has what YOU want. Don’t live those moments of regret when you purchase a house that can’t be made a home because it doesn’t have the right fit for you.
Now we have reached the part of the house hunting journey where we have found the house that we want to call home. What do we do now?
That’s another story….