Thursday, April 09, 2009

House Hunting

Quincy and I have been looking at new houses. This is not news to those of you who see us often. We spend probably an hour a day each combing through the recent and not-so-recent listings on Redfin hoping to find our dream home. We’ve been regularly meeting to discuss our core requirements and nice-to-haves. Our dream homes look very similar – sadly, we have expensive tastes. (I remember my dad telling me that I always would voice enjoyment over his Asian-influenced dishes when he used better cuts of beef.) In a nutshell:

Core: Yard big enough to practice agility with two dogs (60’ x 40’); separate yard for gardening with good southern exposure; enough space in the house to store our stuff comfortably; two bedrooms + office; good light; safe neighborhood; access to gluten-free food; no more than 45 minutes to Seattle downtown via mass transit; affordable enough so that one of us can quit our job.

Flexible: Master bathroom off bedroom; gourmet kitchen (or budget to remodel kitchen); neighborhood with sidewalks (if in-city); close to businesses; views (sunrise/sunset); yard big enough to run a real agility course (100’ x 50’); out-building storage for agility/gardening equipment; mudroom; room that can support a pool table; front porch; feels-like-home architecture (hard to describe, we know it when we see it); space for ornamental plants and veggie garden; posh neighborhood; near a PCC grocery store; house sits above street or shielded from street; affordable such that both of us can get out of this crazy industry forever; not surrounded by industry or developments.

Yeah, I know we're crazy. All dreamers are.

This week we swung by our first house with Quincy’s amazing realtor, Wendy. The house is only a few blocks from our current home, in Greenwood. Here’s the listing. We were immediately drawn to the yards and the tallness of the house.

We were both a little disappointed in what we ended up seeing. The second floor was a converted attic that did have 540 square feet of floor, but most of the volume was taken up by the roofline. The three bedrooms were tiny. The views were beautiful. The basement was also a disappointment: what was listed as a spate apartment was nice, but also very small. The rest of the basement was unfinished and mostly just knee-wall storage and crawlspaces. It’s listing of 760 square feet is at best generous. The main floor was exactly as called out: 760 square feet of usable, beautiful space. The den was very small, but would actually be a great computer room for one of us. Converting the basement apartment into a “man cave” or TV room would be very doable.

In seeing this house, though, we both added a new requirement. This house was built in 1911 and was nearly 100% knob and tube wiring. Rewiring would require ripping out the walls, as there is no way to access anything with so many finished ceilings and floors. Quincy realized that with her entire life savings in the house, she wasn’t comfortable not having earthquake insurance. Since we’re overdue for The Big One, a retrofit and insuring would be required for her piece of mind. Again, with the walls finished and the extra story, this would be both expensive and invasive.

So, in the end we walked away from the house. I am still thinking about it daily. I wish it were just a little different. I wish the earthquake retro fit wasn’t necessary, and that the knob and tube wiring would magically update itself. At the price they are offering, we can’t afford to pay someone to do both, and do the other work the house would require (like a kitchen remodel, etc).

Back to the hunt, I guess. I am worried we won’t find a house that matches our expectations. I am more worried that the search itself is driving a considerable wedge between us, and I push for a shorter commute and Quincy dreams of acreage.

Wish us luck.

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