Jul 28, 2012

House Hunting Part I: Open Houses and Wish Lists

Last weekend, Brandon and I decided to check out a few open houses in the area. We have talked and talked and talked some more about buying a house and finally decided to see what was out there and what we'd get for our money. We haven't started the financial part of the process yet, but we do have a downpayment saved up and are ready to take advantage of the low mortgage rates now available.


We made a list of the homes we wanted to view (there were four them) and what we were looking for:
  • single family home - townhomes and condos have ridiculously high HOA fees
  • location, location, location - there are only about three towns we want to buy in
  • school districts - we aren't having children any time soon, but the right school district is important for resale value
  • at least 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms
  • updated kitchen and bathrooms - no major remodeling projects for us
  • hardwoods
  • backyard big enough to grill out and have a few guests over
  • one car garage

We also had a few his/her wishes:

  • charm - built in shelving, thick crown molding, arched doorways, etc. 
  • storage - you can't have too many closets
  • laundry room and/or garage with laundry
  • hardwoods or tile in every room
  • kitchen with a lot of storage and preferably, white cabinets
  • gas range
  • close commute to work
  • backyard with room for gardening
  • move-in ready
  • within our price range

Yes, I'm the idealist and he's the realist. We make a great team. 

We started with a tour of two brand new homes in an okay location - they were side by side. Each one had three bedrooms (each had their own master bath), one car garages and tiny, but fenced-in backyards. They were immaculate but just a tad bit cookie cutter. The kitchen in one of them though, was to die for.


I was already picturing where I'd put my kitchen appliances and how awesome my food photography would look with those giant windows.

Brandon really liked the slate in the master bath and I admired the separate tub and shower.

Master Bath

But alas, we couldn't get over the neighborhood. It was most certainly the nicest and newest house on the street and that's a real estate no-no according to the experts. Also, for the price of the house, the lot was small, crowded and the backyard was pretty tiny.

The other two homes we saw were older and yes, had a lot more charm, but needed a lot more work. I didn't snap any photos, but there wasn't much to remember besides the smell of cat pee and mildew. The part of me that wanted a charming, older bungalow died a little inside when I immediately scratched those two of the list. One of them, if you can believe it, actually felt too big. They had a baby grand in the formal living room (and who really needs a formal living room these days anyways?).

So all in all, our first house hunting adventure had its fair share of good, bad, and kitty litter, but it was a learning experience that helped us think a bit deeper about the future, especially where we'll end up a living one day. Yes, mortgage rates are low, we have a down payment, and we are really tired of "throwing away" our money in rent each month.

But, (a BIG but), we still don't know a thing about real estate and if this is a worthwhile investment or not. Especially for two people who aren't sure where they'd like to settle down in the next few years. Would we be able to sell should we move? If we could sell, would we be able to make money or at least break even? The Bay Area is a tricky real estate market with everything being absurdly expensive and in high demand, so it's a big undertaking to try and figure out.

Looks like we still have a lot more research to do on what will work best for us. In the meantime, we are going to continue to stalk Zillow and go to open houses to figure out exactly what we want to do. And it's fun, so win-win, right?

I would love to know about your first home buying experience if you have one. Any advice for us newbies?


  1. I love home shopping, but it can get frustrating! We have been in our house for 4 years... (the hubby has been in it 5!). My advice is to not buy it unless you love it and you know you will be in it for a while (at least 2 years). When looking to buy a house, make sure you check out the neighbors too... they can make or break a resale. I love the pics of the kitchen and bathroom you posted!! Beautiful! I know you will find a great place!

    1. Thank you, Brittany! Yes, neighbors are so important. After living in an apartment since we moved out of our parent's house we know how neighbors can really effect your happiness. I almost wish they'd let you sleep in the house for a week or two before committing (there was an HGTV show on this at one point!).

  2. I have no home buying advice, except for what I've learned from Sandra Rinomato on Property Virgins (before she quit and it was no longer worth watching)...but that might be fake like House Hunters, so I don't know if that even helps at all. :)

    Exciting idea though! Home ownership. That's right up there with marriage and babbies in the category of "things I do not see in my future.'

    1. I was so sad when she left Property Virgins...but you're right. It's probably fake as well. Now if Holmes on Homes is fake, I give up on life.


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