Sep 26, 2011

The saga of the house hunt, part I

We are starting to feel settled here in our new home, and I feel secure enough, and the chaos and stress surrounding our move and house hunting is starting to fade into the background. So... I can write about it.

When we first arrived in town, we realized several things. First, it was cold. But not as horribly cold as people had warned us. It was strange... I quickly became accustomed to the cold and even liked it. I joked with Skywalker that it was my viking blood, waking up. In the past, I was always the one to step outside on the first below-freezing morning and gripe that "no human being should be expected to live in such conditions." Well, I was cured of my sissiness. And quickly came to appreciate the beauty of a truly-cold place (Dave, I know you're laughing at me... but c'mon. Not all of us can live in 80 below conditions. And 20 below is still really cold!!!) It was, in fact, the coldest winter in 20 years, on record. So Heavenly Father laid it on real thick.

As we drove around, we planned and thought. We had a few options. Because of a giant tax return we had coming to us, we could buy a house properly. Something we previous thought would be 3-5 years out. We considered buying in town, something we could turn into an investment property, and living there for a couple years and building somewhere out away from town on acreage. After looking for duplexes/triplexes, we realized this is a tricky business, because this city is all full of crazy zoning laws and swift changes, and everything close to campus is being torn down and replaced by huge, multi-building complexes.

Some of the houses we seriously considered:

1) Creepy house. Well, we didn't seriously consider it. But it had 3100 square feet, a basement apartment, and was close to campus. When we went to see it, we went in through the basment which was a dank hole with a 60's era tiny kitchen and damp, mildewy bedrooms with windows only a cat could fit through. IT wasn't zoned as a duplex. Still we looked at it, because the price was 115,000 and there were, in all, around 7 bedrooms. By the time we worked our way upstairs and became truly acquainted with the strange floor plan of rooms off of rooms off of rooms, the sadness of dark-wood paneling on the walls, a wall in the entry hall checkered with large squares of black plastic faux-marble and cork board (with lots of pushpins and needles sticking out of it), the kitchen with that 60's era plasticy stuff for the counters and awful decaying vinyl tiling and various other strangeness, we decided that 115,000 wasn't worth it... the whole thing would have to be burned. Honestly. It was soooo depressing.

2) Farm House. Built in 1910, one of the oldest houses up on the hill by the school, lots of history. On 1/3 of an acre (which is a large lot in town!) Four bedrooms, two of which were huge. A giant fireplace reaching to the ceiling of sparkling, soft-white stone chunks that Skywalker said were quite valuable as they were made of some kind of rare material nobody uses to decorate with anymore(forgot the name). We considered walling off part of it and turning it into a duplex, but it didn't quite work. And the upstairs bedrooms were dormer-windows even higher off the ground than where we'd been living previously... and there were the same problems of non-updated electricity possibly causing a fire hazard. Oh, and just before we went to look at it, the roof of the garage collapsed. 149,000... we decided it would be too much work for too little return.

3) Yost house. We found a steal of a deal--a beautiful, red-stone house in a neighborhood that is considered very desireable. It was a short sale, and we got caught up in it for a while... made a bid, got it accepted, waiting on the bank. This took four months from our house hunting. ANd I think it was supposed to, because if we hadn't waited around those four months and kept looking, it's quite possible we would have ended up somewhere else. In the end, I appreciate yost house. But I'm freaking glad we didn't move there! Every time we drive into town and end up in that area, I turn to SKywalker and say, I"m so glad we didn't buy Yost. We would have been miserable. But somehow, for four months, it seemed right, and kept us hanging in there. God works in mysterious ways, I guess.

K, now for the real drama: We got out of yost, finally, and started looking at what we should always have been looking at: large houses with property. We went and saw:

4) Archer House. 12 minutes to Skywalker's job, three acres, nice setup. 6 bedrooms, an already-constructed horse corral and chicken coup, nice flat fields. A very busy road in front (one of the dealbreakers for me) and... the price was 200,000. The very, very tip top of anything we'd even consider offering on (for 10-20,000 less). Unfortunately, this house wasn't a hurting property, and so we decided it wouldn't work out. It didn't feel exactly right to me, either.

5) Collapsing-Basement house. ON the listing it seemed fairy-tale-like, made of logs and cute stonework, lovely light-colored stained oak floors and a staircase and giant, stained-log beams on the inside. It was soooo beautiful. About 3600 square feet. 6 bedrooms. 4 acres. 14 minutes from work and 13 minutes from Winco Town (where we travel at least 1 time per week.) Unfortunately, an elevated septic tank and severe water damage in the basement clued us into the fact that there were problems with flooding... likely the whole basment would need to be redone somehow... drainage reworked... and the price was 190,000... still kind of outside our ballpark. And it was in an area we weren't all that thrilled about... a nice family-town but already getting too crowded for our taste. And flat. Really, really flat.

6) Ship's-Prow house. A giant, jutting southern bank of windows that came to a point that looked like the prow of a ship, and a porch all around... right on a cliff's edge overlooking a giant, gorgeous river. It was situated at the edge of a certain set of buttes that I loved the minute we saw them, coming into town. IN the wintertime, we drove out there a few different times to see the beauty of the ice-green river, and the rugged, rough, lava-stone buttes. The wind blew through the lilac bushes that bordered the property, bringing the fresh scent of the river... Skywalker and I both relaxed, walking around that property, and smiled at each other--such a peacful place. Peeking inside, we saw that the decor needed updating. ANd there were dank, narrow hallways leading to the bedrooms--only three in all. The cliffs that lead down the river were beautiful in a raw sort of way. They formed slate-colored shelves that could possibly be turned into a natural sort of porch-garden.

But when the realtor told us that this area was the most treacherous area of the river, that he (an avid duck-hunter and fly-fisherman) only went on it with a trained guide and a life jacket, that his friend, a veteran river-guide drowned in it just the previous summer, that it was full of hidden currents and deceptive calms that covered little maelstroms that would suck you down because of the offrun of irrigation ditches... In his words, "you lose a child in this river? You're not getting them back. Up higher, in the rivers of the upper valley, you'd probably be OK. You'd probably be able to jump in and save them. But here? IT'd be a lost cause within seconds."

That convinced us it wasn't the house for us. And also, the fact that it was a 25 commute to work, and the road wasn't the best. Likely not always plowed. Likely, we'd need a vehicle with big tires and 4-wheel drive if Skywalker wanted to get to work every day.

I was getting a little bit depressed at this point. Ship's prow house had been so special. We had already built so many dreams around it. Committed a little, emotionally. But we went on to go look at:

7) Octagon House. OK....let's just say that this listing seemed completely unbelieveable. 10 bedrooms. That's right, 10. 9 bathrooms. And when we went to go look at it, we saw gorgeous, custom-made jetted tubs in two of the rooms--one shaped like a heart (tub of iniquity??) and giant paintings on all the walls. The rooms were themed: eg, wildflower room. Cowboy room. Teton room. (hehe.) (grand teton was painted on that wall.) (hehehe. K, I'm done...) A giant kitchen with industrial-sized sinks, a 10,000 refrigerator-freezer system.

It was an inn. Built ten years before, and gone bankrupt. The acutal worth was probably around 500,000. IT was listed at 183,000. And the clincher... ten acres. Fenced. With a horse barn and corral on it.

but when Skywalker and I walked through it (and having a hard time believing our own eyes), we had a feeling.

It was too much house for us. I mean, lets say we got it. IT was a strange configuration: two octagon shaped structures, joined by a straight piece in the middle--so it was possible we would have a hard time finding a loan for it. But say we did get it.

The roof. If it had to be replaced, it would bankrupt us. We would never be able to afford it.

And the utilities. Each room had its own thermostat, so we could shut a few of them off, shut off one of the octagons perhaps, live in half the house--we went over and over this, thinking of way we could make it work.

By the way... did I mention the indoor solarium, compete with landscaping, indoor sidewalk, leading to a giant hot-tub room? Oh, and the inside paneling of said solarium was cedar wood that smelled heavenly? And the house itself was built of cedar? No? Just the icing on the cake, I guess.

As we drove away, I felt so depressed I didn't exactly know what to say. Because Skywalker and I both realized that, while we could possibly afford to buy the disney-house-of-our-dreams, we couldn't afford to live there. Literally. It was too much house for us. It was like closing the door on fantasy, on the fun, on the limitless ideas of "what if," and stepping sort of a mediocre reality. We had to settle. We couldn't buy this house, because our lifestyle just woulnd't support living in it.

I was so sad.

ANd on that note.... I'll leave part II--the strange miracle of our home!(this was already too long and rambling!) For next week.


Amy said...

Loved reading this! Makes me wish I would have kept a record of our house hunting also. Cant wait for part 2!

Fern said...

Good for you! You knew when to step away and realize: Just because it's a "Good Deal" doesn't mean it's a good deal for YOU. Lots of people never learn that!!