Wednesday, June 6, 2012

House Hunting Week 3: Moms Actually Do Know Stuff

House hunting had been getting really discouraging and stressful lately.  I'd been regretting not buying a couple of the houses we'd seen early on (but how were we to know they were awesome when they were the first couple we saw?) and feeling like we were never going to find anything.  Brahm was getting frustrated because every time he liked a house, I found something wrong with it.  I think the truth was that I was holding out for my "dream house".

But the way life goes is that you generally don't find your dream house when you only have a couple months to look and it is a craaazy seller's market where if you don't jump on a house immediately, you don't get to buy it.  So I was starting to get convinced that we were never going to find anything and should just get an apartment.

One of our criteria when we started looking was that we did NOT want to buy a new build in one of the new suburbs in Saskatoon, because all of those houses have tiny lot sizes, aka super tiny yards and basically touch the house next door.  All of these houses are extremely "cookie cutter" and we were not interested in a cookie cutter house.

However, this week our realtor showed us a cookie cutter house just to see what it was like.  And after a very emotional weekend of coming to terms with what we wanted and what we needed, we decided that maybe a cookie cutter house was what we should buy right now after all.  Because let's face it, while a giant yard that I can landscape the crap out of with bamboo screens and a huge garden and and a greenhouse is still a dream of mine, it's really not a feasible dream for right now when Brahm is working 12 hour days 5 days a week, and I'm living out of town every second week.  And trying to find our dream house in our first house purchase is a ridiculous amount of pressure that isn't fair to put on ourselves.  A smaller, brand-new house with a manageable yard is really what we need right now, and the dream home with the giant yard can be our future goal.  And the thing about the cookie cutter houses, to paraphrase something Brahm said, is that most people like cookies - they are designed for mass appeal with modern people in mind.  They are just NICE.  Not to mention that they are generally quite affordable in this over-inflated housing market.

So anyway, Brahm really wanted to put an offer on this cookie cutter house, but I needed to see it again before making a decision.  I took my mom with me to look again because my mom is always saying that she knows things about houses and I should listen to her advice, and I'm always like "MOM!  I'm 27 and have never owned property so I clearly know more than you, shut up you're embarrassing me, moms don't know anything" (protip:  moms actually do know a lot of stuff and you should listen to them sometimes) (also this is like the time I was 13 and going to one of my first babysitting jobs and my mom was giving me advice and I was like "MOM!  Who took the babysitting course, ME or YOU?" and then both my parents laughed and laughed and laughed for a long time).  So we went to the house and I warmed up to it and was generally ready to make an offer but my mom said "This is the first new build you've looked at.  You have a good idea of what houses in all the other areas of Saskatoon are going for and what a good deal is on older houses, but you have no idea whether this house is a good deal or a ripoff.  It's been on the market for over 2 weeks, there is a reason people haven't bought it yet when everything else on the market that's any good is selling in a day."  She made me drive around the neighbourhood and look for other similar houses that were for sale, and then go online and compare them.

And sure enough, a similar house with the same square footage just down the street was selling for 15k more than the one we looked at, BUT it had a bigger yard, ensuite bathroom, finished basement, better-designed kitchen, top of the line appliances included, legit laundry room (instead of a dark corner in the basement), insulated garage, and a few other good features that I don't remember right now.  None of these listed features were included in the house we were considering, and I can tell you that all of these things together should raise a house value by much more than 15 grand.  Then I looked at all the other new builds that had sold recently, and again, they all had more features than the house we had been looking at and had sold for anywhere between 10-45 thousand dollars less.  Seriously 45 thousand dollars less.  The house WAS ripoff.  A very lovely ripoff, but a ripoff all the same.  What do you know, my mom was right, and potentially saved us from wasting 45 thousand dollars.  Not that our realtor wouldn't have shown us comparables as well, but without taking the time to think about it and just rushing into an offer it's possible we would have been tempted to up our price.

So we didn't put an offer on the house, but we know our focus now and we're on the same page.  It was a very emotional weekend coming to this conclusion, but now that we know that we are going to buy a starter home, not our forever home, and all the starter homes on the market are basically the same and a dime a dozen, we just have to pick one that is a good value for our money and in an area that we can tolerate.

I'm excited about house hunting again, after gradually getting more and more stressed out and discouraged over the past few weeks.

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