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Home stuff 🏡 What do you look for in a home?

Maister

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Random Planner said:
When finding a place to live

5. quality of the build/ maintenance
4. REAL hardwood floors
3. location, location, location
3. size and layout of kitchen
1. outbuilding(s)
0. square footage

Random Planner summed up for herself that very question we have all faced (or soon will) at some point. So when YOU are looking to find new living quarters what are the most important things you look for? i.e. what are your needs vs your wants? Also, how important are architectural/visual considerations to you? Would you opt for an unattractive snout house with reasonable floor layout and the location was ideal if a more attractive, say, Craftsman style bungalow with slightly inferior amenities was located 20 minutes farther away from work? How do you rate the following house styles in purely aesthetic terms?

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3
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4
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WSU MUP Student

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11,539
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52
My wife and I are dipping our toes into the housing market again and for us right now it's 90% location and 10% overall size and layout.

When we bought our first/current house, the size and layout of our kitchen and living rooms played a major role in helping us decide (location was still the #1 factor). But as much as we appreciate the absolutely massive kitchen that we have (along with really big living rooms) now that we've lived in it for a while and learned more about what we like, we realize those big living areas came at the expense of smaller bedrooms and tiny closets.
 

Faust_Motel

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Location, then what can we afford/stand to live in? What are the maintenance liabilities?

The only way my wife and I got into the housing market when we did was by buying the cheapest thing we could get in the location we wanted (that looked like we could push off most major maintenance for the first 10 years of ownership). We could afford to own a home, but not to dump any big multi-thousand $$$ repairs into it. We wanted to be close/walkable to everything.

That location has become much, much louder (planes, helicopters, sirens, loud motorcycles in the summer) in the last few years and the advantages of being near everything are beginning to be outweighed by the negatives. Lately it seems every hot summer night when we want our windows open somebody has a fire in a fire pit (just suburban enough that nobody wants to ban them, too dense for most people to responsibly be able to have a backyard fire without impacting neighbors) and when the city swapped LEDs in the streetlights they did it without regard to color temperature or intensity, which has made light pollution worse.

I wouldn't move, though, if what we could get also didn't give us a more modern layout or at least some better storage options. We are in a little tiny house and with a kid it seems like their stuff is just everywhere, all the time. There isn't much of anywhere to put anything away. Tiny closets, no built-ins, rooms themselves are pretty much too small to accommodate most modern furniture...

If we don't move in the next year, I'm going to invest in some built-ins and other improvements to make what we have a little more livable.
 

kjel

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1. I live in a very high cost state, affordability in terms of price and property taxes is paramount.
2. Location.
3. Functional Layout
4. Need for maintenance or repairs and how soon, how much
5. Architectural style

My little brick rowhome in Newark is a wonderfully laid out home thanks to a gut rehabilitation. Although the neighborhood is decent and has many lovely neighbors, Newark public schools and on street parking are the biggest drawbacks. My eldest lives in the home now as it's only two blocks from the train station with direct service to NYC where she works.

The eldest purchased a ranch home in a tiny beach town at the end of 2017. It was built in 1983 and has a simple layout, the home's bones were solid. The succession of owners before her had no taste or acumen in making repairs or upgrades. I told her it was going to be a 5 year project but it would pay off when it was all done. We're nearing the end of Year 3. My husband, youngest daughter, and I now live in the beach house full time due to the pandemic. My only gripe is one bathroom and overall lack of storage but living in a quiet town with a public school that only has 130 students is amazing. We've replaced the flooring, repainted every room, installed Elfa closet systems, redid the bathroom last year, installed a new roof a couple weeks ago. The next two projects are returning an awkward room to the garage it's supposed to be for storage and redo the siding on the home along with new gutters and soffits.
 
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Gedunker

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I bought my current home five years ago, so these considerations are fresh in my memory. These are not in any particular order:

Location. It had to be no more than a 10 minute drive to the office on local streets. (My typical commute is 8 minutes.)
Design. I was looking for a one-story ranch-style home, preferably with a masonry skin. Hardwood floors. (I bought a 1-1/2 story ranch, with full brick/Indiana limestone veneer. Hardwood floors in all living areas except kitchen and baths.)
3/2. Three bedrooms, two baths. (Check. Actually have 2-1/2 baths. The two main baths are original, though, and desperately need updating.)
Basement. This is tornado country, so a safe place was essential. (Basement is partially finished. The crawl space has a finished concrete floor.)
Small lot. (I'm presently on 70'x100'/7,000 sq. ft. gross.)
Quality construction. (My house was built in 1965 from plans of the Garlinghouse Plan Company in Topeka, KS. I have two sets of the plans and materials list, one marked up with changes the original owner wanted. All of the framing lumber is stamped "Kiln Dried, Weyerhauser" and feels truly solid.)
Functional kitchen. (Because it was only me, this wasn't a high priority. The kitchen I bought is only "just" functional. A very small galley, with almost no counter space. I did paint the cabinets since they were original and looked pretty worn/dark. New lighting has also helped, but the kitchen also needs updating.)
Attached garage. (I have a one car attached because I'm at that age that I don't want to scrape my windshield every morning in the winter ...)
 

EsquireHare

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4
Interesting topic!

1 - 9.5. I like that it looks Victorian style. It's not very common these days so I like it.
2 - 2. Kinda feels like any other ordinary building.
3 - 5. Quite common among houses.
4 - 10. I've never seen anything like it before. It's a plus that there's a lot of vegetation.
5 - 7. Very few plants. Too minimalistic.
6 - 5. Squarish.
7 - 6. Squarish.
8 - 8. Feels like a California home. Reminds me of perfect climate.
 

DVD

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I look for nothing. My wife looks for a great kitchen and...
 

RandomPlanner

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Great thread, @Maister !

I suppose I should clarify that price range is really above all else. If it is out of my price range, none of the other factors matter at all.

As for your style example, I'd say the following I would want to see the inside: 1 and 4, with maybes for 2, 3, 5, and 8 and NOs for 6 & 7 as they are just not at all my style.

I should also point out that this is in an ideal world. We are not currently in an ideal world.

When we started looking a few months ago, my rose colored glasses made me think that it wouldn't be that difficult to find a great* house. Now that I've been in probably 40 homes and looked at literally hundreds more online, our standards are starting to falter. Instead of "ooh, I found a great house today to look at", "Eh, I don't hate it" is now enough to send me driving by the house to check out the neighborhood and see if I'd like to schedule a viewing.

We have made offers on houses that would work for a few years with the realistic expectation that this will not be our forever home. But then I see the unicorn -- the one that has everything we are looking for and is somehow below our budget -- and, even though it's now under contract and I can't own it, it makes me want to stop looking at the I-don't-hate-it houses and wait for the right I-love-it house! But then again, how long can one be homeless before settling...?

*Note I do not expect to find the perfect house right off the bat but something that we can work with and make into the right space for us.
 

HomerJ

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I bought in 2019 in a region where home prices have been rising rapidly and it is not uncommon to be competing with all cash offers. I'm very happy it's over and I don't plan on jumping back into the housing market anytime soon. My wife and I put a plan together to prioritize things such that, if we could not satisfy our highest priorities (in this case price and location), we wouldn't even consider the other factors. We listed it out as:

1. Price - We stayed firm on a price cap, which was very difficult to do in a sellers market and meant turning away from a lot of homes that checked all the other boxes. Our (un)willingness to go above a certain range also took a lot of potentially desirable neighborhoods off the list automatically. We did the best we could to roll the condition of the home into the assumed price to help level the playing field between fixer uppers and renovated homes.
2. Location - I had to be more flexible on this. As long as we could keep our work commutes under 30 minutes, we had a elementary school and park within walking distance, and were able to stay a 1 car household, the location box was checked
3. Square footage - Would not consider anything below 1,100 square feet, just based on experience anything smaller would not work
4. Bathrooms - In a lot of ways more important than the number of bedrooms, had to have at least 1.5.
5. Bedrooms - Needed at least 2, but realistically were looking for 3.
6. Style - It was such a bummer putting this at the bottom of our list, but had to out of necessity. I wanted a craftsman, my wife wanted a ranch. Based on all the other factors above, a ranch was way easier to find.

I ended up further away from downtown than I would have liked, but could still access downtown via transit within 30 minutes (#2, check). By far the hardest thing to anticipate when switching from renting to owning is the cost of maintenance. The house is just over 70 years old, and for the most part still in very good condition. Between some new furniture and appliances, minor repairs, and a couple of small remodeling projects (I do as much DIY as I can other than plumbing/electrical), I still had to sink about $15K into the house in the first year on top of the down payment. I try to make an assumption about how much equity the house will build over the course of a year and use it as a basis for how much I will spend improving it, and so far I have been way off on both of those in terms of underestimating.
 
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EsquireHare

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So when YOU are looking to find new living quarters what are the most important things you look for? i.e. what are your needs vs your wants?
location, view

Also, how important are architectural/visual considerations to you?
very important. i want a house that will look quaint a long time from now

Would you opt for an unattractive snout house with reasonable floor layout and the location was ideal if a more attractive, say, Craftsman style bungalow with slightly inferior amenities was located 20 minutes farther away from work?
i believe that you can change the architectural style to your liking.
 

Doohickie

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We bought in 2018. Several things that we considered, in no particular order:
  • 2 bathrooms. I could have lived with 1 but to my wife that would be a deal breaker.
  • 2 car garage. For the right house I might have considered 1 car, but strong preference to 2 car
  • East of maintenance. Our house is mostly brick with some siding, both recently painted (not a fan of painted brick but whatever), with aluminum-clad trim.
  • Quality of construction. The hardwood floors in this house jumped out.
  • Charm. It's not an overly cute house, but it's familiar feeling in terms of reminds me of my parents' house in several regards. It has a decent, sensible design/layout.
  • Location. We were pretty focused on a particular neighborhood. We looked at several homes in other neighborhoods but they either seemed too expensive per square foot, or just not a neighborhood we wanted to live in. Our hood was right at the sweet spot between established, but upward neighborhood, cost to buy, and quality of construction.
  • Unexpected extras: The garage has a loft over it providing extra storage, there's a sprinkler system, this lot is larger than most of the others in the neighborhood, and I like having the driveway and garage around on the side since we're on a corner lot.
Something we didn't care much about was interior paint color. We're still working on it, but we're changing the interior color pallet to our liking, so the generic beige didn't really matter to us. Many sellers painted the interior so the house would look fresh but I didn't want to "pay" for paint colors I didn't want.

layout/orientation
Good point. Our last house had the living areas facing the sun most of the day, and the bedrooms got it in the evening. No bueno. Our current house has east facing bedrooms that are lit by the rising sun but cooler in the evening, and our living area faces north so we can live the shades open and see out without the sun streaming in. There are minimal south- and west-facing windows but there is still plenty of light.

And along the lines of location but not necessarily the neighborhood: We're near the top of a hill so flooding isn't an issue. The houses at the other end of our block are 5 stories lower and catch a lot of runoff when we get significant rain.
 

Planit

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One item I try to look out for is house location vs. office location & the commute. I want my house to be east of where I work if possible so when I'm driving west to work I'm not looking into the rising sun & driving east to home so I'm not looking into the setting sun.
 

mendelman

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One item I try to look out for is house location vs. office location & the commute. I want my house to be east of where I work if possible so when I'm driving west to work I'm not looking into the rising sun & driving east to home so I'm not looking into the setting sun.
Agreed, but north or south location is ok as a secondary option.
 

Big Owl

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One item I try to look out for is house location vs. office location & the commute. I want my house to be east of where I work if possible so when I'm driving west to work I'm not looking into the rising sun & driving east to home so I'm not looking into the setting sun.

Good point. If I had much of a commute that would be an issue as I live west of the office. However, now when I retire, people can say that he drove off into the sunset.
 

dandy_warhol

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We had the chance to be on House Hunters International when we moved here but the filming didn't work out with our schedules. Womp womp.

But we had to list our wants:

Our must haves:
4+ bedrooms
2+ bathrooms
good sized, fenced yard
dry storage
garage
walking distance to Itty Bitty's school
walking distance to public transportation
less than an hour commute for Hubby


What we ended up with:
5 bedroom
2.5 baths
tiny yard
full finished basement and storage room
2 german car garage or 1.5 american car
20 minute drive to Itty Bitty's school
2 min walk to bus stop, 20 minute walk to train station
hour commute for Hubby
 
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michaelskis

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I have been thinking about this topic for a while, and even more since @Maister started this yesterday. As some of you know we were struggling with the idea of moving somewhere with a bit of land in an effort for increased privacy. We ended up doing a pros/cons list and realized that we can address almost all the cons list with our current location and home.

I think part of what one looks for in their home is representative of a snapshot in time based on the lifestyle that one wants at a given point in time... and that changes over time as well.

For me, at the moment, the location and surround lifestyle opportunities is more important than the structure of the house. Currently, my location has a lot going for it.
  • Fully master planned community
  • Vibrant neighborhood with great neighbors
  • Tons of kids
  • 1/4 Acre at the end of a cul-de-sac
  • Walking distance to restaurants, retail, and coffee shops
  • Walking distance to national chain grocery store
  • Walking distance to kids school (elementary and middle)
  • Walking distance to neighborhood pool
  • Walking distance to Dog Park and Playgrounds
  • Miles of greenway paths (both paved and unpaved)
  • Half-way between wife's work and my work (about 15 minutes in opposite directions)
  • Up and coming area
  • Branch of hospital under construction within neighborhood

We figure we can modify our house to meet our needs, although there are some limitations due to HOA regulations, costs, and land. Our house is also on a hill which is great in some ways, but it means that our back yard has a slope to it. The house is a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath that is around 2400 square feet with an attached 2 car garage. It is front loaded, but there is an alley behind us. It is a typical suburban national builder style house with a bad attempt at a neo-traditional craftsman architecture, with hardiboard siding, crawl space, and a decent front porch. It has an open floor plan with an home office on the first floor looking out the front windows.

My only issue with it is that it is not within the municipality that I work for and it is not walking distance to downtown.

About 15 years ago, we were living in a very small 1 bedroom condo on the upper floors of a building in a historic district. 10 years ago, we were in a 3500 square foot Victorian that built in 1885, in a very large historic district, and was a 10 minute walk to the core of a mid-size midwestern city. Our needs change based on the situation and circumstances.
 
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