Well, this past weekend Mrs. WSU MUP Student and officially began our house hunting...
Sorry for the long post, but I just thought I would chronicle our search for Casa de WSU MUP Student!
Some boring background info...
We were married in May of 2008 and after moving all of my worldly possessions from my 1 bedroom apartment into her 1 bedroom apartment, we had discovered that a terribly laid out 800 square feet is just not enough for us.
Over the summer, we would often go out for ice cream and walk around various neighborhoods looking at homes... we were able to determine A) Is this a pleasant, quiet place worthy of our property tax dollars? And B) Can I walk from this house to a local ice cream (frozen custard is an acceptable substitute) stand every night?
At the end of the summer, I became busy with my final graduate course and she occupied her time with the CPA exam and looking for a new employer. A few months later, I am done with school, she has finished the CPA exam and has gone to work for a locally based regional accounting firm and we have gotten into serious house hunting mode.
We have talked with the folks at a couple of the credit unions that I belong to and considering how much cash we have available for a down payment and our income level, we were able to determine roughly what our maximum price might be (and it was right in line with what we were picturing before meeting with a lender). But for now we are holding off on a formal pre-approval since any offer is only locked in for 60 days and we want to look at a few more houses in person to give us a better understanding of what we get for the $$$ in each different neighborhood.
We currently rent in the northern suburbs of Detroit (not far off of the fabled Woodward Avenue) and hope to find a house around the same area. While we appreciate the feel of the inner-ring suburbs and the walkability that they provide, once we find a house, we are planning on staying in it for the long term and would generally trade the density for a better school district.
Anyway... on Saturday of this past weekend, we finally were able to meet with a Realtor and go check out some houses. Before meeting with her, we had emailed her three that we had found online that we liked and she was able to make appointments for those as well as a few others that she picked.
House #1 was at the very top of our price range and absolutely gorgeous. Totally move in ready, updated everything (except strangely, one piece of old countertop in the kitchen), plenty of room, huge master suite (really a suite), great neighborhood and schools, beautiful stone exterior, blah blah blah... but of course it was the most expensive.
House #2 was the one we were most excited about prior to the excursion; it was nearly half the price of House #1 and in a more dense neighborhood (which is more what I prefer as opposed to the wife's ideal neighborhood) and the pictures we had seen beforehand showed a recently updated kitchen and a lot of space overall.... Well, this house turned out to be the biggest disappointment. The kitchen may have been well appointed, but it was probably 1/3 the size of my office cubicle and the bathrooms looked to be last updated during the first Truman administration. I am also having a hard time describing the badness of the living room. Whoever the listing agent was for that house should get an award for their great camera work though because they knew exactly what angles to take the pictures from to put the house in its best light.
House #3 was another one that we had picked out (along with the first 2), and was the smallest of those three. It was in the same school district as House 1 and had slightly higher taxes but everything had been updated in the last couple of years. The neighborhood was fantastic, but the small size was really a deterrent.
House #4 was picked out by the realtor and was just a block away from the previous house. Again, I loved the neighborhood but my wife was not so enthusiastic. The good: The house was bigger than #3 and had been gutted and very nicely remodeled in the last few months and a large master suite had been added on to the rear of the house. There were nice wood floors throughout and a full dinning room. The bad: While the neighborhood was very nice, there were about 7 other homes on the same street (only two blocks long) currently empty and for sale, the taxes were relatively high (currently a non-homestead tax rate was being assessed and we would have to wait until 2010 for it to be reset because of the timing), and the garage was flooding and had no direct access to the house (these were more serious negatives for my wife than they were for me though and this house hasn't been ruled out).
House #5 was the biggest adventure. This was a house that was picked out by our Realtor because she knew of the neighborhood (she lives there) and thought that it might be a great find (she had not previously shown the house as it had just recently been put on the market). As we were driving through the neighborhood to get to it, we were both thinking to ourselves, "How can we afford something in this neighborhood?" Well, when we pulled up outside and got a look, our question was immediately answered...
(note that the above picture must have been taken before both snow and blight began to set in)
On to House #6 was the last house of the day and was another that the Realtor had picked. It was the furthest north in our search (close enough for me to ride my bicycle to work if we moved to it) and would give my wife the longest commute. It was a very nice neighborhood with some hills and mature trees but when we got out of the car, we could hear the roar coming from U.S. 24 and BL-75 which were both more than a half mile away (for some perspective, my parents live on a farm and I-94 runs THROUGH their property and this house was exponentially louder). Inside, the house needed some minor updating to the paint and floors but the kitchen and bathrooms were really in need of some work. Maybe they were not from the Truman administration this time around, but Ronald Reagan was still in Sacramento when the linoleum was laid. The house was a good size, but I think the amount of updating that we would want to do would be a bit daunting.
So now the saga continues as we hang out and wait until we can get a chance to go look at some more this coming weekend!
Our goal is to find a house, put in an offer and close on it prior to April 15th so that we can claim the $15,000 forgivable tax credit on our 2008 income taxes or else we will have to wait until next year for that nicety (assuming that the credit is still in the bill by the time it makes it to the President's desk). But after the confusion that was our first day out looking, we have realized that finding the house in the next 2 months (let alone completing the transaction) may be much more difficult than we originally assumed.