Anyone who knows me knows I make decisions logically, and, I like order or compartments for things, but I do like to change things up and allow for creativity. So, right there, is a recipe for overthinking. Most especially when it comes to big things. Like buying a house. Or not.
My plan was to finish out our current lease, then find another place to rent for another year or so, all the while getting to know our new area a bit better and work toward buying a house after that. That would also give my husband time to settle in to his new job and be sure it sticks (learned experience and long story). And, the fact is, I’m not working outside the home right now and it would be financially better for me to be working before we finance another home. This then flows into my job search dilemma, where do I search for a job? And do I search for a job after we find our next place to live, or before, so I know where to look for a place to live? Back and forth, forth and back, my mind wrestles.
My husband on the other hand would like to buy a house and has a pile of reasons that make sense to him, and frankly, other people. So my husband did what he does that moves me to action, he started shopping for a house. Alone. He has been known to do a good job but still, nothing makes me want in on a project more. So here’s our list house and location requirements, so far:
We’ve decided to base what we can afford on one income, and to seek a 15 year fixed rate loan. We still need to secure a loan but the lender on our last house has been in contact offering to lend again. I do need to shop loans. Also, we decided what we will put as a down payment. Ths narrows our price range.
We currently live a 90 minute commute to work for my husband. Last night it took him 2 1/2 hours because of traffic and accidents. He said that the most he wants to have to drive is 45 minutes, and that would be my maximum commute time as well. That narrows down where we look.
We want a single family detached home with a garage or enough of a lot to build a garage shop for Bob. He likes to build things, or make sawdust as he says. I like the idea of him being away from the house making noise and dust. This also means the neighborhood we live in has to be amenable to saw and sander noise on the weekends. (I like to be considerate.)
We’d prefer ranch or rambler style with 1 floor living. I’d like to come straight into the house with groceries or whatever I’m carrying. I’d also like smaller rather than bigger square footage. My goal would be to clean the house in a couple of hours on Saturday morning, so around 1500 square feet would be ideal.
We bought our last house with the idea we’d have guests a lot. We didn’t. The only thing I desire in a new house is one guest room, and space for sewing and computer.
My husband wants at least 2 bathrooms, I’m not that set on that idea. I figure bathrooms can be added which would add to the value in the end.
Lot size ideally is not less than 1/4 acre but bigger would be nice to put space between my noisy husband and the neighbors. I imagine gardening so some sun would be nice, but I also have come to love having tall trees around. A bigger lot gives us some options.
Winter factors in the back of my mind:
Having shoveled a ton of snow this year, we may consider the length of a driveway, sidewalks, as well as public or city plowing. But more than that, I’m concerned about insulation in a house, and the heating systems.
I have created a login at realtor.com and created custom searches with our requirements. I am able to get updates on my saved properties and get alerted when new properties are posted. I started this months ago to get a feel for the market. How fast do things sell? What areas are active? I’ve also been able to see prices drop or change. This has given me an idea of the market.
I look at craigslist.com but find it too chaotic and most of the properties I’ve been interested in have been listed on realtor.com
zillow.com is interesting because they have a cool mapping feature where you can get more of an idea of what’s available for sale as well as the history of sales, and also values in neighborhoods.
google maps has a feature that links to real estate sale information. For instance if I google an address of a house for sale, it will often suggest a link for information on the property which usually has more than what realtor.com has. The satellite map function is great and I also use the terrain feature since it can be hilly or mountainous in Virginia. The other useful thing is the streetview function. Not all areas have streetview yet, but enough do so that sometimes that’s a way to eliminate or keep a property in my list. A house across the street from a factory or a pig farm won’t be a keeper.
So we ARE looking for a house to buy. Our goal would be for it all to magically happen by the end of our lease. I start looking with an agent today. And I am keeping a list of rentals on the side, just in case.
If you have any tips, particularily about buying a house in Northern Virginia, I’d appreciate the information.
I had a list of 9 houses to check out and plotted out a Google Map route of 7 of them for a total of 127 miles. I had to adjust the route and backtracked when I missed an address so my total miles for the day was more like 186 including getting home. Of the 7 houses I was able to eliminate 5 of them. One of the remaining may already be under contract, leaving 1 viable house.
The main objection to the 4 eliminated were roads, or lack of them…they were actually NOT paved with asphalt or cement nor 2 lanes wide. Most were a single lane wide and worse than gravel, more like mud or dust roads. Beautiful stacked brick fences lining pastures, beautiful stone houses, etc, gorgeous barns, but horrible horrible roads. It is just shocking to me how bad the back roads of Virginia are. My PT Cruiser will never be the same.
I’m glad I took the tour of the countryside. Now I know a few more things about locations. I’m also glad I didn’t bother a realtor with looking at those houses that were just not right. I’ve said it before, but my new home state is just beautiful!
Photo: Ayrshire farm manor house, Upperville, VA, photographer is Ron Patterson. My husband works on the farm as the Meat Plant Manager. See more farm photos, click here.