Monday, January 25, 2010

Building From the Ground Up

We've seen about 30 houses now, and of those 30 we would have considered buying 4 of them.  Our budget is $340K or less.   The average home price in the city we want is $350 - $550K, and there are no cookie-cutter developments - only custom homes.

a.  Pinewood.  Beautiful home, but difficult location and priced high for our budget.  This home was gorgeous, but came at the beginning of our search and has recently gone under contract.  Knowing what I know now, I'm glad we didn't jump on this one.

b.  Ridge Top.  Gorgeous high-end finishes, incredible views, the best layout of any home we have seen.  Another at the top of our price range. . .lacking a garage, and a bit of a drive to get to.  We scheduled a second showing, however, only to find out that it too had just gone under contract.

c.  Fir.  This is the home that still has my heart: a bank owned property with an ideal location, the most stunning lot of any home we have seen, and a price that can't be beat.  As a bank-owned property, it had several $1000 in upgrades from the previous owner, and only needed a few $1000 in finish work.  Regardless, it came in on the low end of our price range.  My only concern with this home was the layout of the bedrooms upstairs: but that was not a deal breaker.  I still wish we had snagged this one sooner.  It came onto the market and sold within 14 days.

d.  Pine Valley
 This home had a ton of potential.  It was another bank owned property on the low end of our price range, not to mention the kitchen to beat all kitchens.  However, we ultimately decided the layout wasn't ideal and walked away.


Something Dave and I have been talking about is building a home from scratch. . .buying a lot with incredible views, and building the home of our dreams.  Done correctly, we think it can be completed in our budget and too our specifications.

I grew up in a family of five in a 2 bedroom home with a litany of septic, well, and interior issues.  Unfortunately the money to fix it was never readily available; the house was tired and dated.  However, as kids we had 8 acres of mountain land to run around on, and we spent our days outside not worrying about the embarrassing condition of our cluttered and messy home.   We forgot about having to drain the dishwasher into a bucket, having to take showers outdoors, and having to share an 8x10 room with my brother and sister.  It was far from a shack, so I can't complain; although before my mother kicked the habit her indoor smoking added to the list of reasons why I hated living in that house.

That said, however, I've been in that position and so the sheer thought that Dave and I can and will raise children in a spacious, well-appointed, and clean home is mind boggling to me.  I have found that because of the home I was raised in I find it that much more important to have a safe, clean, functioning home for our children. . .with acreage for them to run around on, of course!

Make no mistake: I am humbled by this opportunity.  

 If we were to build, we would be plotting our home along these lines.  I wonder if we can find something like this?  What about building for less than $340K?  Who knows.

2200+ square foot
4 bedroom, 3 bath
Additional home office and music room
Living room, family room
Breakfast nook & a separate formal dining room

We would take advantage of our local whole-sale builders warehouse to furnish the home with high-end touches and fixtures, including hardwood, tile, and vessel sinks.


Lots of angles, windows, and a giant welcoming entryway - a combination of these two homes.


I would love an over sized pine door

Outdoor Living
A fabulous deck and outdoor space, fenced dog run, incredible views. . . .

Not to mention a natural, grass free, wooded lot with rock outcroppings

Welcome mat. . . .
I would love a large, open, and welcoming mudroom area that leads to stairs.  I find front doors opening into rooms awkward - the stairs give it that definition and privacy I love.

The kitchen would be a chefs and hostesses dream - I love to cook, and we love to host.  So it would need to have expansive counters, tons of pantry space, a gas stove, double ovens, and a large sink.

I really love the light cabinets and the dark granite in this kitchen.  The layout was a dream.

Breakfast bar with high-end lighting and plenty of room for guests to mingle around a spread of food.  The stairs add a unique aspect to what is normally a one-level room.

LOVE this river rock back splash - would use just a strip of it though, not this much.

Living Room
 The living room would have tons of windows, vaulted ceilings, and a gas fireplace.

The TV room would be a separate space with a bar for entertaining.  LOVE this built in entertainment center with walkout doors to the outside (I don't like dark basements).

Master Bedroom
The master bedroom would be an eagles nest above the house - a stairwell leading to a loft overlooking the living room, entering into a master suite with a private deck and gorgeous 5 piece bathroom.

I love the idea of slate tile and a vessel sink. . .that with a steam shower and a walk through closet would be amazing.

Formal Dining
The formal dining area would be open and inviting with lots of windows and a gorgeous mountain-inspired light fixture

I love the idea of having a sun room to read books and relax in

Bonus if it can also house a hot tub!

Some of the things would be added later  - high-end finished such as crown moulding and a hot tub would be touches we would add through the years to bump the property value as we had the money to put into the home.

It would be painted in shades of pumpkin orange, creamy tan, brown, sage green, red, and olive (think Autumn in the mountains).

Ahhh. . .we can dream :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bank-Owned Beauty

We fell in love with and lost a bank owned property last month.  It gave us this grand idea that we could find a beautiful foreclosure home and walk away with a mortgage not much more than our current town home.

This month, a new one came on the market that had previously been listed as a short-sale.  Sadly, the owners lost their home to the bank and it was being offered as a REO property.  When we had seen it as a short-sale, it did not interest us.  They had a few photos of the living area painted in eccentric colors, and just in general the home looks a bit tired and worn.

How wrong we were.

Not bad right?  Especially for $298K.  Zillow estimates this home is worth $350K - $475K.

After the home foreclosed, an agent hired somebody to paint all of the walls eggshell white: so there are no yellow, orange, or red spaces and it is a blank canvas for what is asking to have custom designer colors.

It was built in the 60's, but the previous owners had done a lot to bring it into the new century including a very chic, modern, and gorgeous remodel of the kitchen.

Not to mention the breakfast nook and bar, tigers-eye granite counter tops, custom tile back splash, recessed lighting, maple cabinets, double convection oven, pantry space, 3 foot wide drawers, and 5 burner gas stove.

. . .droool. . .

This kitchen is the reason Dave and I had a hard time deciding that we would *not* be putting an offer in on this house.  Well, this kitchen. . .and the mud/sun room, formal dining room, and living room.

Again, ignore the color.  It is now eggshell white.  The light fixture is surprisingly modern and elegant in person, as is the tile which looks dated in this photo (hence the reason we overlooked this home when it was offered as a short sale).  This is the formal dining area, and I to the right of it an open, wasted space that is begging to be closed off and turned into an office.

The living room is a large, open space with a vaulted ceiling, moss rock fireplace, and sliding glass door to an outdoor patio.  The carpet is new, and the white walls are begging for a creamy shade of tan and one brown accent wall.  The 'mantel' is a pine tree sliced in half: gorgeous and simple.   To the right of the fireplace is a sitting window just begging for some beautiful pillows and plants.

Downstairs is a large room with French doors and a separate entrance that would work beautifully as a music studio.  Ignore the pink carpet that has also been replaced.

 In the basement is also a large laundry room with a randomly placed toilet, and that is where this home starts to fall apart.  Instead of a full bathroom downstairs, they have a toilet placed in the corner which in itself is kind of creepy.  Back upstairs some other issues are addressed: more reasons why we will not be placing an offer on this home.

This gorgeous hardwood room with a fireplace is considered a family room (despite the fact that there is a family room in the basement in addition to the studio room and laundry).  We can't imagine any other use for it than as the master bedroom, which would involve some strategic remodeling.

This layout of the home in the bedroom / master family room is as follows:

See the problem here?

a.  The master / family room is wide open and doesn't have much in the way of closets or bathroom access.
b.  Bathroom #2 is a teensy little sink and toilet, so the only shower in this 3000 square foot house is in bathroom # 1, which looks like this (needs updating, bad. . . ).  It's hard to tell in this photo, but the bathroom is a mess.

So, looking at it strictly from a practical standpoint, this home would require some renovation to make the bedroom area really truly work.  With two children running around (someday), this set up does not work well.

SO. . .our thought:

So, it's a lot of work.  The home is beautiful and move-in ready, but what we decided was that really we had been sucked in by the price and that gorgeous kitchen.  It was making us look past things that really are deal-breakers: that is, a lack of bathrooms, goofy layout, a messy yard, and no views whatsoever (lending to a closed-in feel).

We can do better, we know it.  I may not get a kitchen that beautiful , but I'm glad we aren't settling. . .because with this house (as much potential as it had), we would be settling.

Ahhh. . .we'll keep looking.

Sunday Home Tour Adventures

We have been looking at house after house and getting pretty discouraged; today our tour of 5 homes left us anxious and frustrated.

The first home was a run-of-the mill cookie cutter development house that epitomizes everything we hate about American yuppy life.  It's jammed in next to the neighbors, offers wonderful views of roofs and power lines, and is so 'picket fence' that I started to think it might be the place to buy.

I can see why people move into homes like this: they are spacious, clean, and feel so rich.  It was a nice home, and an exceptional price (if it's not under contract in 5 days I'll be surprised), but not really our style.

I mean, I could see making it work. . .and feeling happy and cozy.   But I can also see feeling very . . . well, sheep like!  It's just so expected, so typical.
On the contrary, we did really like this room in the basement

But the backyard was just. . .not natural?  I don't know, this home was nice but I couldn't see us living in it.

Another home was an unfinished remodel with building materials included.

We thought it was worth checking out but it was another mess of a property.  The owners were in way over their head: they had put down hickory floors and never finished them, so they lay completely raw on the floor beat up and abused from months of construction traffic walking through.  The kitchen plans were laid out nicely, but the bones of the kitchen were still plywood.   The bedrooms were a mess, and 'unfinished' does not begin to describe the condition of several bathrooms, a sun room, and a greenhouse full of plants that seemed to get more attention from the homeowners than the house ever did.

Not to mention the bad juju - but I digress.

We visited another home that was pretty beat up and smelled really strongly of cat pee, and one other we couldn't gain access too because the previous showing agent had broken the key in the lock and not done anything about it.  That home looked pretty shabby as well.

Then came the home that made us say 'hmmmm. . .actually. . . .'

That said, this home ^ ^ ^ deserves a post of it's own.  We won't be purchasing it, but it *is* a promising and neat property: the update potential in it is interesting and worth a look.  So, onto the next post!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Well Darnit. . .

Yesterday I had the pleasure of touring one of the most beautiful homes I have ever seen.  It felt like a million dollar home, yet it lacks the million-dollar price tag.

It is priced less than the beautiful mountain home we fell in love with previously:

Not only that, it feels bigger, has higher end finishes, has better views, and an incredible layout.  However, because of it's location up .4 miles of single lane dirt switchback road it is priced low for it's appearance.

This home is priced lower than the dirty one mentioned in the post below, and lower than the dated one mentioned in the post before that.

Here she is!  Sigh.  This home is practically maintenance free: there is no lawn, the exterior and windows were finished using expensive materials and exceeding required standards, and the south facing windows bring in so much light and heat that there is little need for artificial lighting or keeping the furnace on during the day.

Onto the tour!  The front door welcomes guests on a porch with stunning views and a tile base that screams 'high end'.  The entry is a large space with custom tile, and a view of the entire middle floor.  The homeowners have used custom paint throughout and I love the pine trim and mountain feel.

The middle floor is soaked in sunshine, has a built in gas fireplace, wood floors, and vaulted ceilings.

The kitchen is a chefs kitchen with a pot rack and beautiful details in the cabinetry and back splash (river rocks).   There is plenty of pantry space and everything is spotless.

The main floor also has a custom bathroom with deck access to the hot tub, done up in my favorite color of burnt orange.  Swwooooon.

The master suite is an eagles nest on the third floor of the home: it is the only room upstairs and is so private and beautiful.  At the top of the landing is room for a lounge chair: our children would not be allowed upstairs!

The master suite has a private deck and a large bath with custom tile.  Gorgeous.

Downstairs is a family room with a built in-entertainment center and room for a ping-pong or pool table.  It has a walkout onto a third deck, a large laundry room, another bathroom, and a room with a wooden ceiling and track lighting that is just begging to be a music studio.

There are 2 more bedrooms that I can't remember - the home has so much to offer that it was overwhelming to look at.  The layout is spacious, clean, and well decorated: I've never seen anything so gorgeous and welcoming.  It's high-end without being pretentious, and low-priced without needing work or being in poor condition.

But the caveat.  At $390K this home could be in our price range, although it's still a bit higher than we would be comfortable paying and still have money going into savings each month.  We would be banking on the fact that the sellers are motivated and maybe willing to accept a lower offer.  The big deal breaker, however, is that there is no garage.  With Dave getting up at 4.30 am and needing to trek 45 minutes to work, we need a garage for those days when snow may try to bury the cars. The good news, is that there is room for one on the large flat driveway, and building one could be done for less than $10K.

Getting this house is a HUGE stretch, so I'm just going to dream about it. . . sigh.