Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rainy day road trip

It rained heavily all day Monday. I had to take my truck into the garage for minor repairs and the garage gave me their loaner for the day. I went over to Lin's for breakfast and we discussed real estate. A couple of weeks ago we looked at a cabin on the South Mountain with a real estate agent and we both agreed that we liked her, if ever either of us were looking for an agent we would probably like to deal with her. So I phoned her and she was in her office doing paperwork. I said I'd like to look at some houses for sale and she invited me to her office to discuss it. I asked Lin if she wanted to tag along and she said she would, but she needed to get ready so I should go see the agent at her office first and pick her up later.

I went to see the agent and we talked about what I was looking for and she showed me what was currently listed on her computer. I picked a few that I was interested in and she checked to see if they were still available. They were. So then she put together an itinerary for the afternoon. All of the places I had picked turned out to be currently vacant so she didn't have to book in advance, we could go right away or whenever we liked.

I said, Oh goody, a rainy day road trip! and she laughed. I think she was up for an afternoon tour in the rain. I called Lin and arranged to go for lunch with her first and then we would meet the agent later at the first house on the list.

The first house was not really on my list as a serious prospect, it was out of my price range. But I told the agent that I was curious about it because I used to own it when I lived here in the '80s. She thought that was a good enough reason to put it on our list, and it was the closest to her office so we would start there. She arranged the list so that we ended up at a house near where she lived and also near the garage where my truck was, so she could go home and I could get my truck.

I probably shouldn't have gone to see my old house, it was probably a bad idea. I never wanted to sell it, I knew when I moved away that I would eventually be back and I had hoped to hang onto the house until then. But being a long distance landlady was just way too stressful and eventually I sold it. The new owner did substantial renovations on it and had repeatedly tried to sell it over the years (the agent looked up the history of the house for me). Apparently there were no takers.

I liked the changes the owner had made to the house. Except maybe the windows in the master bedroom which are smaller than the old windows, and the stairwell in the kitchen. But everything else looked nice. And the row of pines I planted on the north side of the house, there had been ten of them but only three survived and they are now taller than the house. They were only four inches tall when I planted them. More trees had been planted, including a dogwood and a maple in the front yard. And the driveway is now paved.

The fatal flaw of that house though was the leaky basement. It always leaked when I lived there, and I just made sure nothing was in the way of the water. It came in the east wall and flowed across the poured concrete floor to the drain. But the new owner has completely finished the basement with three rooms with laminate flooring. I think it has been set up as a rental apartment. And in one corner of the bathroom you can see a little water staining and I don't think that is from the shower, I think it is coming in from below. The leak is still there, under the flooring. That's probably not a good thing.

Nevertheless I liked the house, I felt right at home there. Surprise surprise.

Next we looked at a brand new as yet unfinished house on the North Mountain. It is located in a place with a fabulous view of the valley below. The owners were in the process of completing this house when something happened and they had to stop and sell. So it is not complete, it still needs about $25,000 worth of finishing. But it has a well, an approved septic system, and all the basics. The owners even had quotes from various trades to back up the cost estimate for finishing the house. However, it felt cramped. It was being built as a summer place and you could tell, it did not have a lot of storage space, the bathroom had space for a shower but not for a bath, and the kitchen livingroom area was very small. It was awfully close to the road, and that road is fairly busy because of the view and the campground just down the way. I didn't particularly like it, but both the agent and Lin did.

The final house was in a small town on a small cul-de-sac near the downtown area. It was over a hundred years old, with wooden shingle siding and virginia creeper growing up one wall. It is walking distance from the town shopping area, the grocery store, the drugstore, the coffee shop and the library. And it backs onto the property of Lin's boss. Well, he is Lin's boss in name only, in reality Lin is his boss, she tells him what he is going to work on and when.

From the photos on the internet, it was clear that someone had done a lot of work on this house. No septic to worry about, it is on town water and sewer. According to the description there are fruit trees in the yard. It has a solarium in the front and a covered open porch in the back. But when the agent unlocked the back door we were greeted by a strong odour of furnace oil. Not good. The ground level looked good though, nice exposed plank floors and thermal pane windows. A propane fireplace in the livingroom, solid wood cabinets in the kitchen. A lovely staircase to the second floor. On the second floor there are two bedrooms and a large bathroom, including a huge clawfoot tub in good condition. There were skylights in the bedrooms with no drips or leaks, new carpeting and the ceilings appeared to be insulated.

But the solarium on the ground level had two leaks in the rain. It had been freshly painted, you could still smell the paint, and the drips from the ceiling beaded on the newly painted floor.

The basement was dry and in good shape, we could not locate the source of the heating oil smell. It was most likely the tank which may be at the end of its lifespan or the furnace itself. We couldn't tell. Lin called her boss to ask him what he knew about the house, the agent discussed strategy with me. We walked around the outside of the house as well to see what shape it was in. Half the house had been recently painted, the other half had not. The roof was so-so but clearly there was a problem with the solarium roof. Lin thought it was a flashing issue.

I asked the agent if she had to choose, which house would she go with, the first or the last one.

She said, Are you serious?

She thought it was no contest, the last house was clearly the superior deal. She said the smell was fixable, so was the roof, the house was a find. Which is why I should never have gone to see my old place, I was completely sold on it, leaky basement and all.

It makes me think of relationships. You date and look for the guy who is going to get your juices flowing, not for the guy who is reliable, a good find. I want to walk into a house and feel excited by it, not just that it is sound and a good deal. Is that a good idea? Is romance a necessary pre-req? Or is that being blinded by fleeting emotions?

Not being an expert in such things I have no idea. But it was a fun road trip.

I definitely like the agent. She made the whole thing fun, I felt like I could trust her and she was very informative.

1 comment:

Barbara Anne said...

Oh, I love to look at houses! I look in books, in magazines, at floor plans, on-line, and in person. What fun imagining what you'd do with each room and wondering why THEY did such and such!

Methinks the last house is best because it's a good house with good space, fixable issues, and is in convenient walking distance to places you'd want access to in winter weather. Besides, your former house is too expensive as listed, right?

Have fun choosing one of these homes or going on another real estate excursion with this nice agent to see other homes! There are two more summer months so you need be in no hurry.