- in the hills
- view (city or forest)
- near transportation (in some capacity)
- open floor plan
- lots of light
- laundry NOT in the basement
- a good place for watching TV
A few "we'd really love this" features include:
- vaulted ceilings
- space for two offices
- master suite
- awesome fireplace
- people say "wow" when they walk in
I realize that last point is kind of silly, but we've always had that with the homes we've owned. When we first saw our loft, the first words out of my mouth were, "THIS PLACE IS BAD ASS!" And yes, I was screaming. Everyone who came over was blown away by how spacious it was. This was at a time when developers in San Francisco we're building wanna-be lofts as new construction. There were very few rehabbed places on the market, but we were lucky enough to find ourselves one that started out as a grocery warehouse in an industrial part of town that still operates many produce businesses. We had thanksgiving for 25 people our first year there and we could have fit triple that. We hosted Alan's parents' 40th anniversary party there with multiple table-in-the-rounds. It was spacious and unique and just pretty darn awesome (too bad the HOA turned out to be corrupt as hell).
And then you've got our current house. We x'd off this neighborhood on our map when we were searching. Then we sold our loft and didn't have anywhere to move so we decided to look at this house based on the pictures. You've seen this place. The woodwork is beautiful. It's exactly everything I'd wanted since I was a kid and I'd seen the craftsman neighborhoods in Pasadena. I swiftly forgot about that big red X on the map ... and now look where that got us. But yeah, this house. I majorly love this house.
For this upcoming move, what we've found is that houses with these parameters do exist, but they're going way over asking with multiple offers which is a hugely stressful situation, or they're are out of our price range entirely. Because of the changes in mortgage lending laws, and our need to move sooner than we had planned, we're kind of at the mercy of these laws. You see, we bought both our loft and this house with no money down, preferring instead to save our cash for the repairs these homes needed. That was never a problem because we never spent outside of our means, even though we could have likely been pre-approved for sums that were outlandish. We always went with the house we could afford, and so our monthly payments have never been a problem with our salaries - even when I took four months off and Alan took a reduced salary to start his own company. We've been responsible. Unfortunately, many lenders weren't responsible about who they lent to, and many home buyers had eyes that were much bigger than their wallets, and now both have ruined the situation for people like us. Yes, I know it's tragic that people lost their homes, but dammit, I'm just a bit bitter about it all because now that we could really use that no money down buying situation it no longer exists. We can afford to buy a place with 20% down, but it's not the home we want, especially since several houses are going for $100,000 over asking in the areas we want to live. (Let's hope a group of someone's goes nuts and bids like this on our place.)
After talking it over a bit we decided that given the 20% down that will be needed, we'll rent somewhere for a year while we prepare ourselves better for that situation. In fact, if we wait a year, the likelihood is that we'd be in an even better situation to buy a kick-ass house. That was fine because even if we could afford to move into our dream house right away, we haven't exactly agreed on anything we've seen. A few have been really close, but were all lacking in some major way. For example, a house we saw off Shepherd Canyon had floor to ceiling windows and an AMAZING master suite that I might not have ever left, but the kitchen was TINY and there was no place to put a TV. Still, it sold after being on the market for one week.
This weekend we finally saw a house that we both liked. In fact, Alan liked everything about it. The house itself met many of our requirements - especially the kitchen and the two-car garage! - but it had a view of the freeway and was loud. Also, it was over a million dollars. So yeah, the one house that we've been able to agree on was well over our price range.
Today I woke up and like I do every morning checked my email. There was an update on one of the houses I'd bookmarked several weeks ago - the sellers had dropped the price by $80,000 putting it in a somewhat more realistic buying range. But still just outside what we have right now for that pesky 20% down rule. Also, it's about four months too soon. I'm very sad about this. I'm half tempted to ask our agent to write to their agent and ask if they'd be willing to do a lease-to-own option given that they've already had to do a drastic price reduction on the place. Sadly, the house is now priced in a range that will likely draw a lot of traffic and like many others on the market will probably end up getting multiple offers. I'm so sad. Alas, onward and upward.