Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Zillow.com and Trulia.com have become my latest obsession, giving me direction to move on from ProjectWedding.com where I've realized that I'm getting over not only my wedding, but the whole planning phase in general.

At any rate, Dave found this house online that sold about two months ago.  We're kind of stalking it because the two major housing sites (listed above) are saying that as of 5 days ago, it's on the market again.  But, none of our local real estate offices have it as a current listing yet.  It's possible that it is a home that went under contract and fell through after months of negotiations, or the buyer backed out, and being the steal that it is it's flying under the radar.

This is not necessarily a home that Dave and I would love. . .we're really looking for a simple, beautiful mountain property and not a mansion.  But the investment potential on this one is pretty much irresistible. . .these bank owned properties are something else!

This is an unfinished new build in a neighborhood full of large high end homes.  From what we can tell searching old listings online, it needs finish work in plumbing and electrical. . .and who knows what else.  It is possible that there is no flooring or cabinets, but it's hard to figure out because the listings are cryptic (no doubt because this is such a steal that they would get flooded with inquiries by potential home buyers.  What they are looking for are saavy investors willing to pay cash, not home buyers with tons of stipulations).

In any case, this home is on the market for $375,000.

Sounds pretty high for an unfinished home, right?

Not when you consider that this property was being built for sale as a $1,500,000 custom home.

 All of those zeros are not a mistake, this is supposed to be a $1.5 MILLION dollar property.

$375K is a wee bit out of our price range, but goodness it's hard to resist this one.  We talked about how neat it would be to live there for 6 months, tape a DIY episode of 'Cribs', do the finish work, and put it back on the market for $750K thus doubling our investment and giving us the cash we want to buy a house we love outright.  Dave said he'd put it on the market well under value because it would then sell fast and we'd still make a ton of cash in sweat equity.  I'm sure this home needs several thousand in finish work, however, so I'd be cautious about listing it 'too low'.  I'm curious to see how this one pans out, it *would* be a fun investment, but this is not a place Dave and I would live indefinitely.

Fun to think about anyways!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Eccentric STEAL!

In piggyback to my post below about the foreclosure home we fell in love with, we have another that has a ton of potential, showing us now what to look for.

This home has been listed for some time (the foreclosure below was on the market for only 8 days when it went under contract), so it speaks a lot to the power of photos.  All it had listed was the price (a steal, actually the same price as the other foreclosure) and this sketchy photo of what looks like a mess of a mansion-ette.

I looked at this one a few weeks ago and said. . .yyyeeeah. . .wow. . .ummm. . .

Gosh how wrong I was.  They posted 10 photos of the inside of this home last week, and just like that it's now under contract (boo!).  So Dave and I have decided that when these ridiculously priced bank owned properties pop up and look sketchy at first we HAVE to check them out!

Ok, so, this is another mid-remodel foreclosure.  It sold off an on since it was built for prices in the $450 - $700K range depending on the market.  Believe me when I say that they are offering this one at LESS than $300K right now.  These bank-owned properties are such a steal if you find the right property!  I mean, check out the instant equity in something like this. . .you buy it, finish the remodel, and turn around and sell it for $600K.  Cha-CHING.

Since I'm the diva when it comes to finding ridiculous deals on stuff, DH and I both figure at some point we're gonna land a house like this for the same price as say. . .a home that looks like this one below, which is being offered for $75K MORE than the foreclosure above:


But I digress.  I'm highlighting this mansion-ette because it's SUCH an interesting property!  If it wasn't under contract DH and I would definitely go check it out.  We should have contacted the bank about it before all the photos of the inside went up, because once people saw inside they jumped on it.

The kitchen. . .this home is FULL of angles and dark wood and stone.  It has a ton of character!  That is a chef's kitchen, and check out the green wooded lot out the windows.  WOW.   Like most foreclosures, appliances are missing but at the price you get these homes for a new $2000 refrigerator is an easy investment and provides that added opportunity to get what you want.

A really fun, rounded room contrasting all the sharp angles in and out.  The hardwood and everything appears to be in good shape.

Dave and I would not *love* this house - it's a bit dark and seems 'closed' in.  But for the price, it's worth finishing and capitalizing on the resell value!

The gorgeous master bath . . .again, might be a little dark.  But you never know until you actually get into the house.

As if this home weren't bizarre enough, this second bathroom is BEYOND weird.  To the point of being creepy.  But, again, you never know.

The listing says that there is an 8 foot waterfall in the entryway, and professional sound system throughout.  This home is basically a 'mansion' that needs a little love.  It's also extremely eccentric. . .not sure who originally built this place but heck, for less than $300K why not!   The bedrooms seem pretty normal, and I love the new knotty pine doors.

SO, since two of these amazing foreclosure properties have been listed for under $300K in the last month, our *hope* is that more come along and that's what we find to buy.

Fingers crossed!  I'm stalking the home sites waiting for them to pop up. . .it's fun, and gives me something to do besides play housewife, and is keeping me distracted from my increasingly persistent baby brain.  Oh poor Dave. . .

It Figures. . .

Well, I never thought I would say this, but Dave and I found a home that tops that beautiful Pinewood house.  On the direction of our real-estate agent, we drove by on Saturday before scheduling a showing.  The home is a bank-owned post foreclosure property being offered well below it's market price: a complete steal.

We went to the neighborhood which is a quiet, paved, mountain area where houses are generously spaced and location is ideal.  It would shave 10 minutes off of Dave's commute and I could still have students coming to the house.  Armed with only a photo we drove the street looking for it, noticing several very expensive custom homes decorated with Martha Stewart-inspired wreaths and beautiful lighting.  We drove by one large beautiful house for sale with a Sotheby's sign out front, and we laughed about how it was likely way out of our price range.

At the end of the street we turned around, thinking we had missed the house we were looking for.  Coming at it from the other direction, we realized our mistake: the Sotheby's house was the one on our list!

We pulled into the drive way and our jaws dropped to the floor mats.  Dave asked again, 'how much are they asking?'

With my mouth still open, I said the price. . .

'WHAT?  That has to be a mistake'

'No, Dave. . .it says right here. . .bank owned property, that's correct'

Now, understand that our townhouse is going to go on the market for roughly $20K less than this home is being offered at.  This house is a steal, it's like robbing the bank.

As soon as we walked in, we were ready to place an offer.  The home was built in 1967, and was mid-remodel when it was foreclosed on.  They are offering it at the mortgage balance price, forgetting about how much it was originally purchased for ($75K more) and about $80K in updates.

That said, parts of it are so so gorgeous, and other parts need finish work.  There are rooms needing paint, the carpet needs to be replaced, the addition of a laundry chute was never finished, there is moulding missing in random places, the new deck-turned-sun room has exposed drywall that was never taped and finished. . .but there is new hardwood, new doors and windows, new stucco, new roof, new deck, and even a hot tub in the back and the makings of an outdoor kitchen.

The home is peaceful, serene, and so beautiful.  The floor plan is open and bright, and the home feels large and opulent despite it's bargain bin price.  If we put another $50K into updates and finish work, this home would still be within our budget for a home.

The master bath was stunning, and opened up to a huge walk-in closet.

We loved this home, and our agent had a hard time getting us to leave.  Both of us visited every room two or three times, chattering together about how we would finish it and where we would put our furniture.

So, we came home and talked about it, asking our agent to contact the seller about placing an offer for the home.

 She called us the next day to say that on Monday (the day we saw it) the house got three offers and was already under contract.  It's no wonder at that price. . .but I still felt a heavy heart when she called.  We really liked this home, because unlike the Pinewood house it's not stretching our budget.  Not only that, the finish work would be ours and ours alone, and the location and lot are ideal.

I'm so sad.  Dave said not to get atatched to houses because this is what happens. . .but gosh, are we going to find something like this again?

Our agent wants us to put our townhouse on the market.  My concern is that it will sell, and then we are forced to move into whatever house we can find on the market at that time.  Now that we've had a taste of the bank-owned foreclosure market we're really wanting to find something like that again. . .and who knows what will be around when our townhouse sells.  It's a sketchy game that I don't like playing.

Well. . .we'll see what happens.  Nothing on the market is catching our eye now other than the Pinewood house, and unless they will accept an offer $60K below what they are asking we have both decided it's not worth the stretch.  Plus, we both love the idea of finding a home that needs finish work we can do ourselves.


Dave says to watch. . .the foreclosure house will be finished and put back on the market for $150K+ more than it was purchased for.  I'm sure that's true . . . it's just frustrating.  We wanted that house.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sad Day

I found out today that my Grandmother is not expected to make it through the night.  

For years, we have been waiting for *that* phone call.  Every time we have visited her in Wisconsin we thought we were saying 'goodbye' for the last time.  In tears we would leave the nursing home and return to wait for the day we would hear was officially her last.  Several times we were put on alert: she would have pneumonia and surely it would be too much,. . .but she always bounced back.

This time it's for real.  My Great Aunt Barbara is holding vigil waiting for the rest of the family to come and say goodbye, and quick as that plans are in the works to liquidate her furniture and belongings.  

What really bothered me was that I didn't expect the reaction I had when that phone call came.  We've been expecting it, I thought I would be sad, and think of her, and just be normal. . .but instead I broke down into tears.

This is the Grandmother that always called me 'Chrissy'.  I'm not sure she ever knew that wasn't my name.  She used to draw koala bears and owls on my birthday cards and mail them too me, she was very good at drawing and is her one showcase talent.  I have always remembered the family reunion 15 years ago where she tried to climb the jungle gym at the playground to be with the children. . .she was so frail at the time but still had all of her spunk.

There is a photo of her in her teenage years, proof positive of our relation to each other as I am the spitting image of her younger days.  

I know that she has not been healthy, and she has lost a lot of her mind as she rarely remembered us when we would visit and was quick to forget things that happened.  It is comforting, that said, to know that she is surely now going to be in a better place.  At the moment she is still with us, but her hours are numbered.

Grandma Lorienne Jiles


Christmas Cards!

Dave and are admittedly a *little* behind getting our Christmas cards finished and mailed, but it's worth it to me that they go out looking amazing.  This is the ONLY Christmas card we can send out full of wedding photos, and we fully intend on taking advantage of that!  Right now I have some basic white card stock to print these on, but last night after Dave saw the montage he has decided that we should 'upgrade' to a more shimmery designer paper.

Using some of our favorite photos, I made this montage that will be printed inside the card on the upper half.

Loved this font for the text inside and out!

And on the front, our absolute favorite shot

Once we have the paper I may add some cute little snowflakes or glitter or ribbon - we'll see what it looks like!  If my car wasn't broken down (grrr) I'd go to the paper store and go crazy with envelope liners and everything, so fun. . .but maybe a little over the top.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

House Hunting Day!

Yesterday Dave and I got to go look at five houses with our real estate agent Sarah.  She is so sweet, and the poor girl is 8 months pregnant with her third child but had no problem traipsing around in the snow and cold with us.

All five homes are within $30-$50K of each other in price, yet  are so very different.

Our first stop is the house I'm saving for last in this post!

The second home we visited was one that I really wanted to see.  It was a home with unique architecture in our price range on a lot amongst million-dollar homes, and appeared as though it had a private yard with a mountain feel.

Once we stepped inside, however, it was quickly apparent that it was not our house.  The layout was really bizarre and some of the walls up the stairs and in the loft had glass in them so you could see through to other areas of the house - in my opinion it looked cheap and tacky.  The stairs were not solid: which looks cool but is a complete safety hazard for toddlers.  In the kitchen the cabinets and appliances were dated, and if we're going to spend money on a house like this we don't want to tack on an additional $15K + in updates.

The 'private' lot was shared with homes on either side precariously close (if one caught on fire, this one would be in danger) and there wasn't a lot of privacy.  This was definitely not our house.

The next home we visited was in a great location map-wise, but was right on the main parkway in the city so there is a lot of traffic, dirt, and noise.

 Before the mountain views out the windows were power lines and rooftops, minimizing the homes future resale value.  This house was a fix-and-flip that appears inside to be unfinished.

 It has a gorgeous 5-piece travertine master bath, but the other bathroom is in serious disrepair.  The closet doors remind me of those sketchy apartments that we all lived in in college, and the kitchen felt crooked and poorly done, and the cabinets were cheap plywood and falling apart.   The photo is very deceiving; the refrigerator is even falling apart, not to mention filthy.

Overall the house was uninviting and cold, not to mention the horrible driveway, lack of a yard, and baseboard heat adding insult to injury.  Speaking of a lack of attention to detail, the concrete forms were never taken off of the supports on the deck, speaking to the homes likely poor and quickly done construction. As we came out of the house I nearly tripped coming off the stairs, which violate code with a two-inch higher stair at the bottom.  This was not our house, and even our agent said it was majorly overpriced.

Down the street was another home we wanted to see, a mountain-inspired home on the hill being sold by it's original owners.  In photos it looks like a clean, well-kept modern home with great views.

For starters, the home has a very distinct old smell to it, but is well laid out with a beautiful stone fireplace and tall windows.  For some strange reason they used very old dirty furniture to stage this home. The kitchen appears to be a modern dream kitchen, but in reality the cabinets need to be re-stained (they are severely worn out), and the pantry is in really poor condition.

The master bedroom has holes in the walls and the bathroom needs some work.  There were no blinds, and this house is lacking privacy so new window coverings would be an added expense.  The carpet is filthy, and in the basement are two very small bedrooms painted in various shades of teal and pink.  It's also very dark downstairs and has a morbid, creepy vibe in addition to some odd corners and spaces.  The garage had a very pungent sharp odor like mold or dead mice, sealing the coffin on this house for us.  We couldn't wait to get out of it!

The last home we saw was one Dave really wanted to visit, and I knew from photos that I wasn't terribly interested.  It also had a funny odor too it, not to mention the most unwelcoming entryway with the front door leading right to the laundry room before opening into the house.

Inside the home had a very small kitchen, and more of a 'closed' floor plan.  We knew within seconds of entering the house that we would not be interested, but inspected it anyways simply out of curiosity.

Of the 4 homes we didn't like, this one was the cleanest with only some dust and flies because it has been sitting staged and empty.  I can see this one being a great home for the right people, but for us it just wasn't right.

Now onto the piece de resistance!  I've mentioned this home before, but now that we've seen it we have more to think about!  A month ago, Dave and I got sucked into a short sale home in our city (see this post) and really thought it was such a beautiful and special house.  No doubt we would have loved it: it was simply gorgeous, unique, and had that great mountain vibe we are looking for.  But hands down, our latest obsession goes above and beyond anything we could imagine.  It looks, feels, and shows like a $500K+ home, but isn't.  The owner has had the home on the market since January, and has dropped the price by $130K since, including a $5K drop the same day we came by for a tour.

Our *thought* is that the home isn't selling because on a map it looks like it's in a bad location (we thought it was too but went to see it anyways).  In truth, it is only 4-6 minutes from downtown.  The problem is that the drive in snow would require a good vehicle, and we imagine that several prospective buyers have been turned off by the (paved) mountain road up to the property.  It is very likely that the current owners want out for the same reason: we asked the daughter (who was home alone sick) and her answer was that her family simply wanted to move closer to Denver.  Dave and I were both raised in the mountains and don't have a problem with a bit of a snow drive: the neighborhood and location are definitely not a deal breaker for us.

Ironically enough, the paint colors in the home are very similar to what we currently have in our townhouse.

I've mentioned this before, but for clarity I'll mention it again.  The kitchen is beyond incredible!  It has a pantry, beautiful cabinets, and a gas stove.

On the wall in the kitchen is a built-in chalkboard.  This home is BEGGING to have children raised in it.

Across from the kitchen is a breakfast area.

There is also a formal dining area, and the sweeping views and tall windows continue throughout the house.  The whole main level is very open and inviting, with several doors leading to the wrap around deck.

The living room has a fireplace with an insert, and more fabulous views.

The entry is a split level, which in most homes I don't like (you come in the front door and have to make a decision which way to go. . .up. . .or down. . .) but this entrance is so grand and open I can't resist.  I wish there was a better photo of it - it's in the for corner of this picture.

The master bedroom is open and has it's own private deck, a walk in closet, and a 5-piece bath with a separate W.C.

The walk out basement is a really cozy separate family room for the TV and comfy furniture.

It also has two bedrooms and another bathroom (there are 4 bedrooms total in this house), one of which could be used as a music studio for my private students.

Outside, the home sits on over an acre of wooded property - it is a dream for Dave and I and our future children.  There is a fort, lots of trees and rocks, privacy, and incredible views.

I'm not sure if Dave is going to want to place an offer.  We both agree that this house is perfect for us: he crunched some numbers and found out that based on comparable properties (price per finished square foot averages) in the area this home *should* sell for $30 - $50K less than it's current price, putting it within reach.  He is saying that we should make a very low offer and then bargain back up to a price that is basically on the edge of our range.

The problem here is the cost of moving: closing costs, inspections, commissions. . .it all adds up to a significant amount.  What I told Dave though was that no matter what at some point we will have to move. . .if we can get a property like this one for such a low price, it may be smart to make that move now instead of waiting for that time when our (not even born yet) toddler is more independent and we need  more space.  This home offers instant equity if we hold onto it long enough as the market bounces back, and marketed correctly (only 6 minutes from downtown, immaculate condition, etc: all things the current listing agent fails to mention) has tremendous resale potential.

Our agent says 'well, it's only the first home we saw, we'll see tons more, so let's just sit on it and put your house on the market and see who bites'.  Personally, I'd rather make an offer!  She thinks that the seller, like most sellers in Colorado, won't accept a contingency (a contract obligating them to sell us their house *but* place it on hold until our own home sells) however it appears that this family doesn't have a home to move into themselves.  They may want a contingency like that to buy some time and find a home they'd rather move too, further confirming my belief that this may be our house.

I can see our furniture in it, imagine our children running around there, and feel myself cooking in that kitchen.  The price is incredible for the home and what it is, the current market is just perfect for buying homes we would otherwise never afford.  Remember that this home we love is the same price range as the other four in poor condition. . .it's mind boggling.

I wonder if it's been overlooked by other buyers simply because it's our home and has been waiting for us to come along and snatch it up.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Homes to Swoon Over. . .

As I've mentioned before, Dave and I are *tentatively* in the market for a new home.  We've spent countless hours online scouring real estate listings for that perfect gem of a house - the home that combines a great interior with picky home-buyers, great location with a great lot (that's harder than it sounds), and modern updates without the modern price.

Not an easy feat.  With the exception of one home, we find fatal flaws in everything we look at.  I love to cook and we love to entertain, so a large well-equipped kitchen is an absolute must.  We won't settle for a home that requires thousands in updates, or one that has too much of a yuppy cookie-cutter development feel to it.   Several homes in the city we are looking in are right off the highway (too noisy and dirty), have no yard (deal breaker), or are in sketchy hilly dirt road neighborhoods where next door the collection of crap is the 'piece de resistance'.

Location is paramount, as Dave has to get up at 4.30 am for work and the typical mountain commute just doesn't make sense.  The tricky part, is finding that elusive mountain property, with views, in the city.   For what we are going to spend on a mortgage (and considering that this is not our first home, not a starter home, not a way to get our feet wet. . .but rather our home where we will raise children and  ideally live for a decade or more) we reserve the right to be extremely picky!

Our price range is right on the edge between 'small custom upgrade home' and 'so close but no cigar, here are some listings for a few homes with a view that need a lot of work'.  They might have the view but not the modern feel, or they have the best lot with lots of rocks and trees but are located too far south.  Maybe it has that gorgeous kitchen we dream of, but is right on the highway.  In any case, the city we are looking in (based on it's proximity to Dave's work) is a pretty expensive area of Colorado and that is obviously not to our advantage.

Ahh the perils of not being able to justify the mortgage unless the house is absolutely stunning. . . .

One home we found that really got our attention has been marked down $125K from it's original listing price.   That's a HUGE drop, and puts the home within $40K of a reasonable price for us.  The question is, would the seller (after such a huge loss) be willing to come down further?  Not likely, but we'd like to dream.  In our wildest dreams the seller will be so desperate to get out of this house (does a $125K drop sound desperate to you?) that he'd take us up on our ridiculously low offer.  I won't talk specific finances here, but lets just say that our offer ($40K below the current list) would be about half of what this home sold for 10 years ago.

Even at the current price it is a complete steal, and for one lucky buyer there is automatic equity in this home if they have time to sell it for full price.  It sounds like the current owner doesn't have a lot of time!

Perfect, quintessential mountain property: no fences, no golf-course lawn to care for, amazing views, blue sky,and a naturally landscaped yard dotted with pines, aspens, and rocks.  THIS is our dream property.  It's the perfect serene place to raise children; a safe neighborhood, paved road access, built-in-fort (it's on the property!), and close to town and schools.  Dave and I imagine the kiddos running around all day in the trees and enjoying the fresh mountain air: it's how both of us were raised and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Without a question this IS my dream kitchen.  It's a far cry from our current dated kitchen where the dishwasher blocks half the cabinets and there is never enough counter space.
This is open, has a natural feel, and is set up so well.

A warm, open, and inviting living room.  Perfect for entertaining, and perfect for family time.  Lots of windows and a large accessible deck are an absolute must, and this home fits the bill.

This home has both a formal dining area (here) and a breakfast area

For comparison, this second home I don't love nearly as much, yet it's current list is just $30K less that the one above.  It's really interesting how real-estate works!  This home is right on the highway and has no yard, but it's within walking distance of a park.  It has incredible views, but in my opinion that's about all it has going for it.

Very pretty log-cabin type feel
But the baseboard heat?  That may also be a deal breaker for us - it's dangerous and inefficient.

Smallish, but nice kitchen.  Again though, why pay for this house when for almost the same price we can get the one above?

I guess I'm just shocked at home prices right now.  Colorado is one of those areas that got flooded with California transplants that drove the home prices up.  Anything in a more reasonable price range ($250K or less) is run down, in a bad location, or would require so much in repairs we would be looking at a much larger investment.

Dave is the spreadsheet king, and he has all of our finances mapped out so that he can change numbers based on the mortgage amount and it will tell us how much we will spend and put into savings.  It's nice to see the numbers work, and know exactly what the top of our price range is no matter how perfect the home is.

We go house peeking on Monday with our agent, and I'm sure I'll come back with an interesting report!