Let me give you some examples of what we’re facing here…
We’ve looked at dozens of houses, made offers on two, and had high hopes dashed for at least four potential “dream” homes.
“Dream” House # 1: This house was really too far from campus and too close to a main thoroughfare (one that is likely to be full of tourist and motorcycle traffic in the summer and fall). BUT it was new. It was in a nice neighborhood. It had a yard, albeit a small one. The access was a little steep but not too bad, and it was paved. The house was small but pretty, with some nice upgrades (hardwood floors, a stacked-stone gas fireplace, ceramic tile bathrooms, large walk-in shower, etc.), two covered porches, and a great floor plan.
The problem was: the builder/owner was asking $30 more per square foot than recently sold comparable homes with more land. So we made a low-ball offer that was summarily rejected without a counter. We learned later that the builder had recently raised the price by twenty thousand dollars and was convinced he would get his full asking price. He probably did.
“Dream” House # 2: This house was built in 1977. It was large--nearly 3600 square feet. It, too, was really too far from campus, and it wasn’t in a neighborhood. It had a swimming pool that was in bad shape and needed either serious repair or filling in. But it had a lovely view, a pretty lot, access that was flat and paved, a nice driveway area and meadow where Owen could play, covered and open porches, large native stone fireplaces, lots of windows. It needed some work as far as bringing the décor into the millennium, but I had such a vision for it. It could be beautiful. It also had electric baseboard heat and wall-unit A/C, so needed central heat and air put in to the tune of at least ten thousand dollars (probably more).
We negotiated with that owner for a day or two. Lower price, she puts in the heat pump, we offered. She came back with putting in the heat pump and not dropping the price at all. We said okay, no heat pump, but lower the price. She said come up more on the price and no heat pump. Then she decided to think about it overnight. She came back the next day and raised her last offer by five thousand (with no heat pump). We had to let it go. We couldn’t afford her price and the heat pump. At the beginning of all of this, we were told she was highly motivated, desperate to sell. I guess not so much. Recently I checked back on this house, thinking maybe we could come up with her last offer (before she raised the price). It’s under contract. I guess she got what she wanted.
“Dream” House # 3: Paul and I drive by this house nearly every day and have always admired its shape and form. It’s a square farmhouse on a piece of flat land in town. Has a view of the river, a garden space, flat driveway, metal roof, and best of all, a wrap-around, ground-level covered porch. We’ve said more than once, “I wish that house would go up for sale.” Well, it did. And we went to see it. And…damn, damn, damn.
First of all, it has been rented for several months by college students who have literally trashed the place—destroyed the carpet, the walls, the bathrooms, plastered the walls with photos of naked women (why in hell would you show a house this way?). On the fridge was a notice from the rental agency listing numerous violations including too many people living there, illegal bonfires, too much trash piling up, and unapproved pets (including, oh yes, a GOAT).
Okay so let’s say we could clean it up and fix it up. It still wouldn’t work because the floor plan was just too weird! The rooms were too small, except for a large rec room on the ground floor, which was also the room you entered first. The kitchen and bath cabinets were about the cheapest you can buy anywhere and showed it. It was just plain weird. I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried, envision living there with a family.
I already told you about the house of too much stuff (last post). After viewing the college student rental house, I viewed its polar opposite, a home that was decorated tastefully, laid out nicely, with large rooms, nice upgrades, and a killer view (one of the best I’ve seen in this area). That one, however, was literally on the side of a mountain with no yard whatsoever. It was also at the highest end of our price range, and so unrealistic for us to even consider without getting more of what we need.
This weekend, we found “Dream” House # 4 scenario:
This house was on the market when Paul first moved here in August. I saw it on the Internet from Raleigh and insisted he at least find it and do a drive by. He did, drove straight from there to the Realtor and discovered it was under contract. Since then, we go by it once in a while and gaze at it wistfully, telling ourselves that if it ever goes back on the market, we will snatch it up. This weekend, we did so again, discovered a “For Sale By Owner” sign, and promptly called, asking the owner’s representative (her best friend’s husband) to show it to us that day. He did, and our hopes were, once again, summarily dashed.
Here’s the deal with this one: It is a small house (which is not a problem in and of itself) in the middle of a large flat seven-acre field. The property is bordered on the back by a lovely creek (remember Owen loves water), behind which the woods begin to climb the mountain. On one side there is a horse farm. On another a copse of trees. A nice residential neighborhood is across the street. Although the house itself is small, it is well-placed on the lot, has a covered carport, a separate wired workshop, and a large paved area where Owen could play (not to mention the whole field). Obviously there was ample garden space. Once we were able to view the house, we found that it wasn’t great. It needed new flooring (there was old, ugly carpet even in the bathrooms), wallpaper removed, kitchen updated, and other fixing up. Still, I could have even lived with that in exchange for the lot, the view, the outside.
However, when this house was for sale six months ago, it included the entire seven acre field. The current owner lives in Florida and, the story goes, fell in love with the land, even had part of it tested for an additional septic so she could eventually place another house on it. Then she and her husband decided to divorce and she is allegedly forced to sell, having never moved in. Here’s the catch: she not only wants a price that is forty thousand dollars higher than she paid for it six months ago, she wants to keep three of the seven acres. So she expects someone to pay forty thousand more for only slightly more than half of the original land parcel. What the hell is that all about?
Furthermore, the price she’s asking is ten thousand dollars more than the price we had come to on the 3600 square foot house! For a house of only about 1600-1800 square feet. Okay fine, let’s say she’s asking a premium because of the beauty of the lot, but then she wants to shave off nearly half of that and keep it for herself!
She’ll probably get it, too. But not from us. We just can’t do it.
What is going on around here?
Recent editorials in local newsmagazines have likened the state of real estate here to the gold rush of the early 1800’s. I believe it. Everyone seems to think real estate is the way to get rich, and everyone wants a share, so prices are being inflated to insane levels. In the mean time, those who want to invest in the community, who want to make a home here, who want to make a living here, simply can no longer afford to do so.
Building has its own issues. I’ll have to write about that separately. Right now I’m just too annoyed and depressed and pissed off at the whole situation to go on thinking about it. I just never dreamed it would be this way.