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What would Cyburbanites do?

Habanero

Cyburbian
Messages
3,241
Points
27
Well, since getting married is fast approaching we've started looking at buying a house. Now, where we live is nice, but I'm not a fan of having our home so close to our neighbour's I can hear them flush. I'm also not a fan of driving forever and that's about how long it would take me to gt to work from some of the newer subdivisions.

So, do we look at older homes in an okay area and put more money into updating the house (with us being giants we already know the counters will have to come up at least 5 inches) or should we look at buying a newer home that could have less problems and update it as we go along?

And, where does one start with this? We have a company we go through for our lease, should we just call them or try to go it alone and just deal with the bank?
 
Messages
7,649
Points
29
I would start by having each person list their "must haves", "would be nice", etc. Then shop for a neighborhood -- find out where they have houses that meet your top criteria. With financial considerations factored in, there may be only a few parts of "town" that are 'Do-able'.

I looked at about 6 houses and made an offer at the end of the first week or two and never had buyer's remorse. I knew what neighborhood I could afford to buy a 3 bedroom home in and I bought the house with the open floorplan I liked and the kitchen To Die For (even though the wallpaper was hideous -- the layout was fabulous). I was unphased when the doorknob nearly came off in my hand the day the agent showed it to us. My husband was horrified by detail and I only remember it because he talked about it years later. I had forgotten about it until he brought it up again. (He was convinced that buying a house would bankrupt us and did nothing but stress the entire time we owned it. I made about $14,000 on that house in the 7 years we owned it and pulled most of that money out while we owned it. It paid better than working at McDonald's and paying daycare for 7 years and we had a much higher quality of life with mom at home with the kiddies...er, but I Digress, As Usual. :-D )
 

ludes98

Cyburbian
Messages
1,264
Points
22
Early congrats on getting married. House hunting can be fun. Are you required to live in Ch..... to work there? If not you have alot of options with an easy commute for you.

As for older versus newer, there are advantages to both. I went older, but I have less energy efficiency, new roof, all new appliances, etc. I did pretty much everything myself except the tile roof and the high voltage appliance/AC installs. I like the slow route so I can live in it while I remodel, but the wife was a huge fan of the drywall dust.

I wouldn't go it alone when looking for a house, or shopping for a mortgage. I use a mortgage broker, and RE agents aren't a bad deal for the buyer. The brokers fees are paid by the seller most of the time in AZ. :-D
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
Messages
13,852
Points
39
Habanero said:
So, do we look at older homes in an okay area and put more money into updating the house (with us being giants we already know the counters will have to come up at least 5 inches) or should we look at buying a newer home that could have less problems and update it as we go along?
QUOTE]

A recent series of articles in the Orlando Sentinel showed that the vast majority of new homes have numerous defects, quite often severe (bad drainage, wavy walls, trusses not secured, etc.). Maybe you have a better minimum-labor, no real experience construction workforce where you live. Plus, trying to get builders to fix the problems was almost uniformly unsuccessful.

Six years ago I bought a 1959 ranch, beautifully maintained, from the second owner. I have every maintenance record from the day it was built. Yes, the wallpaper in the kitchen is still dated, but I think my home has character, is in fantastic condition, and there's not another one around that looks like it. Personally, I would find it creepy if half my neighbors had the same house I did, but decorated different. Oh, and beware those deed restrictions.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
It is a shame there isn't a way to separate the home from the land. If the land was good you could always upgrade the home, or if the neighborhood was bad, simply move the home....

Wait a minute... I know!



Maybe you can find a fixer-upper in a gentrifying neighborhood.



You may find many historic mobile homes, like this log cabin dating back to pioneer times.



Or maybe something in Cheektowaga.



Here is one in a rural setting, drawing its architectural inspiration from the native landscape.



No matter where it might be located, you know that your neighbors are going to be "regular folk."



(No, that isn't Chet.) ;)
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
20,173
Points
51
It depends on what your goals in life are... I would ask, are you going to have kids any time soon, then you would want to live in a place that is close to schools, and well, a good place to raise a family. For me, I live in a nice apartment in a upscale neighborhood. But I think that I am going to live here for about 2 years, then buy a loft in downtown K-zoo... (I hope that by then trice will come down a bit)...

I realize that I don't think that I will be married within the next year and a half, so I am looking at the now, once I do get married, a loft apartment is big enough for two, yet small enough that I could save up to build a home for when I want to start a family... IF I ever meet a woman that I would want to mary.
 

Budgie

Cyburbian
Messages
5,270
Points
30
Here's my philosophy. It's very simple. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH !!!! I could not look at myself in the morning if I felt like a hypocrite. Although I could afford a home in a new subdivision, I don't. A subdivision is not a neighborhood. They are clearly two different things. Subdivisions are not "places" but collections of cookie cutter structures - void of character and history - that do not feed the soul. At least my soul need a connection to community (present and past). My son, who happens to be gifted, has been brought up in a diverse mixed income neighborhood (older) where he can walk to school, be comfortable with diversity, and appreciate the benefits of living near downtown and understanding the social nuances of true community.

I'll spare you my acedemic answer. But my advice is that life is not all rich vanilla, go to places where you can make a difference and be a good neighbor. That means not enforcing elitist covenants that do nothing but breed pointless intolerance and confuse Planning Commissions.

Oh -- pass me a Fosters and turn up the Diamond Head.
 

Jen

Cyburbian
Messages
1,704
Points
26
Congrats on the house hunting and impending honeymoon!!!

Ok so I take it you dont look at the local real estate digest publications, I've been planted 8 yrs and still I pore over the real estate ads, and that is what you must do too! You need to be constantly casing out potential neighborhoods, looking for that sprawling custom ranch in an established desirable area that you will upgrade immediately after you swindle a great deal on the shack. Start the mortgage approval process now, pay down debt and close inactive credit cards. It's a great investment, real estate, take your time and choose wisely!
 

Plannerbabs

Cyburbian
Messages
1,037
Points
23
Congrats and happy hunting! One other thing to consider is that older houses often appreciate better, depending of course on neighborhood and quality of work done on them. For example, let's say you have a 25-year old ranch and an 85-year old bungalow. Both need new roofs, some restoration work on the walls (the old roofs leaked), and other stuff. Ranch gets drywall, bungalow gets lath and plaster. Ranch's value goes up slightly (it's not leaking anymore), bungalow's value triples (not leaking either, plus restored properly instead of drywalling). So, if you get an older house, it will be sturdier, and if it's restored sympathetically, it will be expensive, but you will also more than likely get a much larger return on your investment than if you had bought a newer house. And anyway, once a house gets to be more than about 15 or 20 years old, it's going to need work, so you may as well work on something that will really be worth it.
Just my 2 cents...by the way, the bungalow is my parents', and it's tripled in value over 10 years. The ranch is mine, and it's....worth about the same as it was when we bought it a few years ago. Same kind of neighborhoods, too.
 

Habanero

Cyburbian
Messages
3,241
Points
27
Do we have to find a good realtor (if there is such a thing)? We've found a few homes in our area I think could work, but I don't want to make any sudden decisons about a place we could live in for a few years.
 

SlaveToTheGrind

Cyburbian
Messages
1,444
Points
27
I have built two houses in the last 5 years. Yeah, it's not the same as a neighborhood with character, but they are in nice areas and everything is new and will not have to be replaced/repaired/rigged to work.
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,369
Points
29
I have found that using a buyer's agent saves lots of time and trouble, so I advise using a realtor, as your agent. Old or new, live where you can walk to at least some of the important services and/or work. My sojourn here in the 'burbs would be intolerable if I could not walk to the PO, library, park, ice cream shop, etc.
 

biscuit

Cyburbian
Messages
3,904
Points
25
Lee Nellis said:
I have found that using a buyer's agent saves lots of time and trouble, so I advise using a realtor, as your agent. Old or new, live where you can walk to at least some of the important services and/or work. My sojourn here in the 'burbs would be intolerable if I could not walk to the PO, library, park, ice cream shop, etc.
I'd agree. Unless you have already found the perfect house and/or have the time to look around and study the paper and real estate books, a buyers agent makes the process so much less stressful on you.

Me and the future Mrs. biscuit had thought about buying now but decided to wait another year or two before doing so. As much as it pains me to be throwing good money after bad on rent we just don't have the time to put into the home buying process right now.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,917
Points
36
I would definitely use a real estate agent - unless you know the ins and outs of submitting offers/conditions/etc., it is a necessity. You should also have a good lawyer and insurance broker in mind, if not on board. I went through a mortgage broker for my mortgage - the lender paid the fee in our case, so it definitely worked to our advantage.

I think one of the cornerstones of buying a house is to buy the most affordable house in the best neighbourhood you can find. We definitely bought a fixer-upper, but in a great neighbourhood, and hopefully it will be worth it in the end - I would estimate that for the $20,000 we have but into the house already (new furnace, wiring, plumbing, kitchen, windows), the value of the property has gone up at least $30,000. We are lucky in that we have been able to do all the work (except the windows) ourselves. Your needs may be different if you're not interested in doing renovation work yourself.
 

Habanero

Cyburbian
Messages
3,241
Points
27
Tranplanner said:
I would definitely use a real estate agent - unless you know the ins and outs of submitting offers/conditions/etc., it is a necessity. You should also have a good lawyer and insurance broker in mind, if not on board. I went through a mortgage broker for my mortgage - the lender paid the fee in our case, so it definitely worked to our advantage.

I think one of the cornerstones of buying a house is to buy the most affordable house in the best neighbourhood you can find. We definitely bought a fixer-upper, but in a great neighbourhood, and hopefully it will be worth it in the end - I would estimate that for the $20,000 we have but into the house already (new furnace, wiring, plumbing, kitchen, windows), the value of the property has gone up at least $30,000. We are lucky in that we have been able to do all the work (except the windows) ourselves. Your needs may be different if you're not interested in doing renovation work yourself.
We too would love a fixer upper. I found one and just looking at it, and the price, is making me like it even more. It's in the area we want, good schools nearby, walking distance from one of our favorite eateries and a park, and close enough to major roads it's easy to get to and from work but far enough away we don't hear the cars.

How do you learn to do house updates? :-\ I'm really interested in trying it out, and I don't think we'll buy a house with a ton of problems, but I'm concerned we'll get in over our heads. I think I'd be okay with the interior side of things, like replacing cabinents, painting, drywalling, installing new baths, showers, etc.. but wiring scares me.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,902
Points
57
Habanero said:
I think I'd be okay with the interior side of things, like replacing cabinents, painting, drywalling, installing new baths, showers, etc.. but wiring scares me.
I have never owned a house or any property really, so take my comments at academic.

If you are willing to do the work to fixup a slightly needy house, go for it, but make sure you do alot of due diligence before hand. you mentioned one house that has a great location, but needs work, sounds like a plus to me. You also say you would willing to do alot of comestic work, but not wiring, well factor in have a professional to do simply the basic electrical side of the new wiring, but you can do the finish work, that is a way to keep remodel costs done, I assume. Labor is the most expensive part of remodeling and the finish work is the most labor intensive.

All in all, the location of the house is probably the most important element when purchasing, so if you have a great location the condition of the house is important, but secondary.

This echos Tranplanner's comments: The worst house in the best neighborhood = Greatest potential value.
 
Messages
7,649
Points
29
Habanero said:
How do you learn to do house updates? :-\ I'm really interested in trying it out, and I don't think we'll buy a house with a ton of problems, but I'm concerned we'll get in over our heads. I think I'd be okay with the interior side of things, like replacing cabinents, painting, drywalling, installing new baths, showers, etc.. but wiring scares me.
Get it inspected --- you should do that anyway -- and the inspector can tell you what is a Big problem and what is 'cosmetic'. You want to do the cosmetic stuff and avoid a house with Big problems or make the seller fix them as part of the contract on the house (and even holes in the drywall inside is merely cosmetic and not too tough to fix). I buy a lot of 'shelter' magazines and, from time to time, I watch HGTV a lot. I like to reconfigure closets, paint, wallpaper, and so forth -- all that cosmetic stuff. I sold a modest home in the midwest for about $13,000 or $14,000 more than I paid for it just 7 years later with putting sweat equity into it. (I had to put sweat equity into it because I surely did not have money to put into it. :-D)

Places like Home Depot sometimes hold free or inexpensive classes, usually on Saturdays. Drop buy one and find out what they are teaching, when. Friends who do this kind of thing may be willing to help clue you or show you how it's done or even help do the work. I helped rehab my sister's house when I was living in an apartment, in part to get a Fix: I am an Addict and I cannot live without it. 8-! (And, no, I don't need a 12 step program, thanks. This and my addiction to books are Keepers. :-} ) I taught my sister how to "book" wallpaper -- something she had not heard of -- when I helped her with her master bedroom and her daughter's bathroom. We did the planning and picked out and purchased wallpaper for the other two bathrooms and she was able to do those on her own because of what she learned from working with me. (The value of her house went up substantially as well -- I am pretty good at what I do. :) )

If you have a small project -- like a half-bath, bathroom, or hallway -- check out the clearance bins for wall paper, wall paper borders, paint, etc. If you get stuff cheaply and screw it up, you can do it over without freaking out about it. Start small and work your way up. You learn with each job. Don't start with gutting the place and some Grand Scheme. Start by painting a closet and buying one of those kits to organize your closet and make it work better, with more shelving and stuff. And: Measure twice, cut once. That can't be said enough. You will regret it if you measure once and cut twice -- and it gets expensive. :-0

EDIT: I don't do wiring or plumbing. Hire someone for stuff like that. The stakes are high. You can burn the house down with a screwed up electrical job. There is plenty of work around a house that doesn't involve wiring that you can do. Stick to those unless you have an EE degree (like one relative of mine, who does install lighting and stuff himself).
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Well, a two-year remodel of a house that was uninhabitable at the start gives me a little perspective. Painting, wallpaper and other cosmetic things should not be a problem. Carpentry can be a bit tricky if you don't know what you are doing, but get a good book on framing and that should help. I will still not do much more plumbing than connecting a few hoses, but I am more comfortable with electrical work. You should be able to feel comfortable with the most basic things, like replacing a light fixture. Addin fixtures, outlets, etc. can be tricky at times.

One word of caution. Everything takes longer than you figure. Almost every time I started a project I found something else in the process that needed attention.
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
Messages
13,852
Points
39
Most realtors are idiots. They are bored housewives with a hobby, or used-car salesman types. They LIE all the time. Luckily, you, I am sure, know to check everything they say: "It's a greenbelt, it'll never be developed."

I got very lucky in finding my realtor. I described what I wanted in a home and she took me straight to it.
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,995
Points
31
Best money I ever spent was to hire a home inspector from out of town! Someone who didn't give a damn if they worked in my town again. Sure I paid millage, but I got the truth. My 0.02
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,917
Points
36
Michele Zone said:
Get it inspected --- you should do that anyway -- and the inspector can tell you what is a Big problem and what is 'cosmetic'.
Excellent point, MZ - I would say it is a must to get a good house inspector, especially if you have no idea of what to look at when buying a house (especially an older house). ZG has a good point too - I was very wary of getting a crappy real estate agent. I ended up getting one through a friend - worked out very well. I ended up using my father's lawyer and insurance broker (I trust my dad!).

As for house renos - it's not really that hard, even the wiring. I was lucky in that my brother is handy in that way. He taught me a bit, and it really isn't that hard. Just make sure the power is switched off at the mains! If you are uncomfortable, find someone to do it for you. The house inspector should be able to tell you if there are any problems with the wiring that need to be addressed. Our house had a real mess of "knob-and-tube", and aluminium wiring - but luckily had a relatively new breaker panel in place (therefore no need for an certified electrician). The guy who installed our windows happened to be an electrician, and he mentioned that we had done a good job, pointed out a couple of things that weren't exactly up to code, but said it wasn't going to be a problem.

I don't like plumbing (I hate using the propane torch). I had my father-in-law do that. And then my brother redo whatever my FIL screwed up.

There is nothing like the satisfaction of working on your own house.
 

MD Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
2,509
Points
38
I have a few thoughts and suggestions I'll share with you. First of all, talk to a lender or two to find out how much house you can afford. In my opinion, unless you have some other means of significant income other than being a planner, knock that price down a bit (between 10 and 20K). You may be able to afford the house, but you also want to be sure you can afford to furnish it and still have money to go out and eat once in a while.

I have a 104 year old house. They are not for everybody. It's one thing to update wallcoverings and paint, it's quite another to truly restore or remodel. Having a bathroom or kitchen torn up for weeks or months can be very distracting for some people and sometimes not good for relationships. Make sure if you are buying an "older" house that you can afford or can perform yourselves some of the repairs that will be needed. For example, plumbing in many houses 50 years or older is often galvanized piping which corrodes and will need to be replaced with either copper or CPVC. You can do it but do you want to? Wiring is another issue for older houses. Make sure the house is wired for today's needs.

I'm not trying to steer you away from an older house. As Budgie said, his house was in a real neighborhood, not a development. There is a difference. I love my old house but there are unique things to consider.

There are a couple of things you should always look for in any house. Starting with the outside, look at how the drainage flows away from the. Make sure water does not stand near the house. Look up and see what kind of shape the gutters are in. Clogged or rusted gutters can allow water to run behind siding and windows. Moisture is a house's biggest enemy. See if the chimney is in good shape, no cracked or missing bricks or leaning. Are the shingles new or are some missing or curled up? Run every faucet, flush every toilet and flip every switch to see how things work. Check for uneven floors and ill-fitting doors and windows.

As Michelle said, when you find the right house and your offer is accepted, make sure you have a reputable home inspector do a thorough inspection of the house. Pick one yourself, don’t let your realtor pick one. I suggest you be there when he does it. Make sure he crawls around in the attic and crawlspace and under the porch and really looks things over. A termite/pest inspection is also a good idea (and often required) Many home inspectors these days work with laptops and can give you a room by room print out of their inspection that can be a big help to you. If there are major things that need to be corrected, try to get them fixed by the seller if possible. If not, then knock something off the asking price.

Bottom line is if you buy a “fixer-upper” do you really want to do most of the work? If you both have it in you, go for it. As for your question about learning how to do all these things, don’t worry about it. There are lots of books and online resources telling you how to do almost any project. If you take your time you’ll be fine. I’ve taught myself how to lay ceramic tile, replace the plumbing, build a deck, refinish hardwood floors, etc. It just takes time and the will to do it.

I could talk about this subject for hours but this should be a start. Feel free to ask more questions, I’ll be glad to respond.
 

Habanero

Cyburbian
Messages
3,241
Points
27
Okay, when I say old, the oldest house we've looked at is from 1985. Where I live doesn't have old homes, unless you think 1978 is historical. :-D We're not even going to consider a home that needs major repair, it's too much stress and with the man finishing up his MBA and both our long work hours we wouldn't have the time to actually put effort into the home for a few years.

So, with that said, I think we're going to go talk to a few brokers this weekend and see what we qualify for. I know we could probably get something for more $$ but there are a few homes in the area we want to stay in that need a little TLC and are about 50k less than we our qualifying amount.

Now, if we do buy a home and we want to do renovations can we wrap a home improvement loan into the whole process?
 
Messages
5,352
Points
31
I know Habanero started the thread, but BEK and I are certainly taking this advice into consideration. :)

I have a question/comment of sorts:

There's a rather busy parkway in a nice area where we're interested in living that has had several houses go up for sale in the last 6 months or so. Presently, there are two right next door to each other that are up for sale. One has been on the market for at least 3 months and the other one just went up in the last day or so. The other houses along the parkway have been slow to sell - many of them started out "For Sale By Owner" but changed to realtors.

These are nice houses (from the outside) but there are definitely some limitations. The parkway does not have a parking lane so you are forced to pull out or back out onto the street when the coast is clear. It's also kind of odd that many of these houses have gone on the market right about the same time. I know that this general area has some retirees and military personnel, but other than that, I can't help but think it's ironic how there's been sudden rash of houses for sale on this street, especially after many years of no one selling or moving on this street.

Observations? Comments?
 

ludes98

Cyburbian
Messages
1,264
Points
22
The sale of houses seems to go in spurts. I got a new group of neighbors in the space of a yearUunrelated circumstances, but nonetheless houses were on the market at the same time. One of the prospective buyers approached me when I was in the yard and inquired about the neighborhood and turnover, so you could try that. Our county GIS also has the most recent property sale dates.... :-D
 
Messages
7,649
Points
29
MD Planner said:
As Michelle said, when you find the right house and your offer is accepted, make sure you have a reputable home inspector do a thorough inspection of the house.
The offer can be made contingent upon the results of the inspection. Learn a little about state laws, etc. I think that, legally, you have 3 days to change your mind about ANY contract but my law is not my strong point so that "3 days" may be something only applies under certain circumstances.

I bought a house when I was basically "broke". We negotiated to have the seller pay half the closing costs and stuff like that. I paid under $1000 to close the deal.

Start your "education" Here: http://www.miracosta.cc.ca.us/realestate/100webs.htm ("100 Real Estate Links").

Happy Hunting!
 
Messages
3,690
Points
27
Lots of good points made already, but I'd really like the stress the importance of shopping neighborhoods, especially if you're planning to stay for a while. I wouldn't say that I *love* the neighborhood we live in, but it is walkable to the park, elementary and middle schools. And the location in the region cannot be beaten. Which was really important to us when househunting - i hate spending time in the car.

Also, money lenders will usually give you WAY more than you can really afford. Decide ahead of time how much you really can afford your monthly payment to be. INCLUDING taxes. One of my less bright friends built a huge house in our town, expecting town/county/school taxes to run $3K tops - and didn't do any research about it. She was shocked to find their annual tax bills totalled out at over $8K - which works out to over $650 per month just for property taxes.

that said - yay for you guys!
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
Other than cosmetics and maybe a new roof (20 year shingles), how much work can a house built in 1985 really need? If I was looking at houses in that age range, I'd pretty much flee anything that needed more than cosmetic touchups/updates. (flooring, carpet, paint, a bit of spackle, tile repairs etc.) It is not like their "design life" has expired, yet. ;)

On the counter height thing, be careful about setting them at a comfortable height for you, I did it on one set and the real estate agent I have selling my place told me to lower them for "normal people". I'm not as tall as your SO, but still in that range.
 

Habanero

Cyburbian
Messages
3,241
Points
27
donk said:
Other than cosmetics and maybe a new roof (20 year shingles), how much work can a house built in 1985 really need? If I was looking at houses in that age range, I'd pretty much flee anything that needed more than cosmetic touchups/updates. (flooring, carpet, paint, a bit of spackle, tile repairs etc.) It is not like their "design life" has expired, yet. ;)

On the counter height thing, be careful about setting them at a comfortable height for you, I did it on one set and the real estate agent I have selling my place told me to lower them for "normal people". I'm not as tall as your SO, but still in that range.
Yup, instead of custom counters I think we'll go for a custom install which is much easier to undo. In any case, when we do sell, that can be worked into the contract.

So, the house hunting has begun. We got pre-approved and now we're searching. We've found a few that we like but then I check and see if they had permits for some of the work they've done (in groundhot tubs, lofts, finished out attic space- they actually removed trusses!!) and they don't so we pass it up.

Still on the search for a nice home, big back yard, good kitchen layout, big master bed and bath, and not in the ghetto area.
 
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