tom callaway (spot) wrote,
tom callaway

Searching for a place to live

In case our lives weren't stressful enough with a baby on the way, Pam and I decided that it would be the most sensible thing for our budget if we sold our condo in Arlington and moved. Our criteria are pretty simple:

* 3 Bedrooms
* Master Bedroom must not be smaller than what we have now (10x13).
* 1+ Bathrooms (with an emphasis on the plus)
* Some land for Pam to go wild with Gardening/Chickens/Nature
* A basement that I can stand in, which is either finished or can be finished

Now, we're not rolling in dough, and Pam says I'm not allowed to make counterfeit currency anymore. What this practically means is that there are a lot of houses in the Boston area that meet this criteria, but we cannot afford. In fact, it really means that we're priced out of every town on the T, and that we're heading to suburbia. We know we're not going to get a super-awesome new house with our budget, and we're willing to put some sweat equity into it, but... well, so far, we've not had any real luck.

We've been looking at houses for a while now, both in person with our buyers agent, and online. Here are some observations I have gathered from our exploration to date:

* First, here is a translation dictionary of realtor terminology to English:
- Has potential = Is a dump
- Lots of potential = You may need to burn it down before you could live in it.
- As is = If it can be broken, it is broken, and you should not even consider asking for it to be fixed.
- Contractor's Dream = Your contractor will be able to retire once you pay his bill.
- Estate Sale = You get to keep all the rotting junk that is filling this house from floor to ceiling.
- Close to major roads = This house is actually in the median of 495.
- Close to public transportation = The Commuter Rail runs through your backyard.
- Great for first time home buyers = Only an idiot who didn't know any better would think this is a good deal.
- Great for kids = Kids don't need ceilings above 5 feet.
- Subject to bank approval = Short sale.
- Subject to seller approval = House is haunted.

* If you're selling your house, you should clean it. All of it. The number of houses that we have seen so far where the owners clearly gave up on cleaning sometime in 1987 has been staggering. It makes it practically impossible to think about what it would look like with my stuff in it. My gag reflex has been triggered waaay too often.

* Dogs destroy houses. We've seen several houses with cats, but none of them were at all damaged). Every house we've seen with a dog has suffered serious injury including:
- Scratched floors (tile, wood, laminate, you name it)
- Eaten, stained, or otherwise violated carpet
- Doors which have been shredded as the dog made its way to freedom
- The lovely smell of urine
- The yard is almost always a mixture of mud pit and dog shit.

* Smokers destroy houses. I don't care what you do, short of a flamethrower or a controlled detonation, that smell isn't coming out.

* The combination of smokers and dogs is lethal. We should put captured terrorists in those houses until they talk.

* Don't be home when your house is being shown. Also, don't have anyone else at home when your house is being shown. If I feel like I'm trespassing, I'm not going to give it any serious investigation, I'm just going to want to get out of there. Also, it tells me that you're not really serious about selling your house.

* A toilet with no walls around it in the basement is not a half bath. It's just a toilet.
* An inground pool where the sides have collapsed is not a pool. It's a landfill.

* Don't put laminate countertops on the kitchen walls.
* Don't put a fridge intended for a large restaurant into a kitchen the size of a chinese take-out box

* Perfectly level floors are a plus, but a slight bump here or there is okay. When the head of the bed is 6 inches higher than the foot, you've done it wrong.

* Storing books and magazines in massive piles for 30 years in an unfinished basement room with water damage and dirt floors is a bad idea.

* The following colors are never appropriate:
- Teal
- Lavender
- Neon *
* If you have any of these colors in use in your house, paint them before you put it on the market.

* Your master bedroom should not be:
- In the basement
- In the living room
- In the attic
- In the garage

* You should never pave your backyard.

* If you have a shed-like building on your property, make sure it looks nice and is in good repair. If it looks like it might blow over with the slightest breeze and give everyone in the New England region tetanus, you should get rid of it.
- One house we saw had a ramshackle shed like this in its FRONT YARD, with a fence going "through" it in the middle.

* If any of the following rooms in a house is not pictured in the online listing, beware:
- kitchen
- bathroom
- master bedroom
- basement

* If there are two sump pumps running 24 x 7 and french drains in the basement, it isn't a house, it is a submarine.

* Online listings suck. I'm having to go to at least two sites, if not more, to determine the full range of useful information.

House-hunting like this is disheartening. Whenever I see something nice, I have to look for the horrible thing that I've overlooked, like the ruptured septic tank or the chupacabra in the basement. But, we will persist! There has to be a mostly decent and affordable house in MA for us... right? Right?
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