Saturday, November 19, 2011

Strauss House

After just stopping in to see the model home, it wasn't long before we were in love with the house-- the open floor plan, the high ceilings, the beautiful master bed and bath. But we expected our friends and family to tell us we were crazy, remind us that it's our first home and to be more economical etc.  We actually heard the opposite from most of the family members we discussed it with- they cautioned us that we would probably end up staying in our first home longer than we expect to, and to make sure we had room to grow.  They also thought it might save us more in the long run to have a newer more energy efficient home.

So... after much deliberation about the finances and timing etc.; we took the plunge and signed the contract for our little patch of dirt that will someday be our Strauss House.  We picked one that would not be built until the summer so we would have more time to save up for the down payment.  The incentive they offered us (to use their mortgage company) was $2,500 in closing costs plus a free deck. Ryan homes is also paying $6,500 toward closing costs. 

And so now, the long wait and save game begins.  :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Search for an Open Floor Plan

When we started looking for townhouses, we came across a lot of the same problems that we found in the condo: homes that had not had the maintenance they needed as the building aged.  The places that were well maintained had price tags that seemed too high for houses that still felt old fashioned, even if they had some nice renovations. 

What we really wanted was an open floor plan with a modern feel-- and this just didn't seem to be the style in any of the homes in our neighborhood, most of which were built in the 80's.  We were torn- we really couldn't see ourselves staying in any of these houses for the long term and didn't want to invest in a place that we didn't love.  We were also worried that a lot of these homes needed major repairs or maintenance- like new roofs- in the next few years.  We knew there was new construction, but also knew it really pricey so we had not even looked at it.

One Saturday after driving all over to lots of houses we weren't crazy about, we decided to just pop in and visit the model home. 

Not Buying a Condo

We started our housing search looking for a condo.  A nice little place where we could save money, and then maybe rent out once we needed a bigger place.  We knew there were lots of bargains out there since the condo market had crashed and many places were priced at less than half what they would have cost a few years ago.  It seemed like a perfect plan.

We found a place that seemed perfect- 2 bedroom, 2 bath, fireplace, gorgeous vaulted ceilings with huge bright windows.  It faced the woods, and was right across the street from a big park. We loved it.  We put in an offer.  Since it was a shortsale (most of the condos in our area are) we needed to wait for bank approval, which took about 2 months.  In the meantime, I day dreamed about how I would decorate and having our first Christmas in our very own home.

Then we did the home inspection.

All I can say is: WOW.  The home inspector himself said "You think with a little condo an inspection isn't going to take long, but there is just so much going on here."
Some of the things going on:
  • An oven that's exterior gets so hot you can burn yourself.  
  • That renovated bathroom?  The sink wasn't actually secured to the wall.  The porcelain bowl could easily be knocked onto someone's foot, or a child could have pulled it down on their head.  
  • Opening the medicine cabinet put the place at risk of an electrical fire, due to a poorly placed and improperly installed light fixture. 
  • Neither toilet worked. 
  • The whole building had Poly B pipes; which means any condo that hasnt replaced theirs could explode-- sort of a problem when you share a building. 
  • Evidence of water damage on the ceiling that the inspector suspects is from the upstairs neighbor's bathroom.  
I could go on and on.  But the point is, it was looking less and less like a bargain and more like a safety hazard.  Additionally, the condo association docs showed what we should have suspected: they were in debt.  As more and more people couldn't pay mortgages, more and more people couldn't pay condo fees either.  Which means that they would either need to cut services or raise the fees on those who are paying. Not a good deal, if you ask me.

After all that, I was disappointed and tired. It had taken a long time to find that place, longer to wait for the bank, and I suspected we would find similar problems with a lot of the condos right now.

So we had an important realization: We didn't want all the risks and drama of buying into the condo market when it isn't healthy and we definitely didn't want to have to house hunt again in just a couple years.  So the plan changed.  We started the house search.