This time last year we realized, that although we love this house, it’s not working for us anymore. It sits on .34 of an acre (or something like that) and we have two ginormous dogs. Not exaggerating, one is almost 200 pounds, he really is a small pony, the other is around 100 pounds so not small either. This means no garden because there is NO room for one. This also means giant dog poop piles EVERYWHERE you step. And don’t you dare tell me I can pick it up and throw it away. You come over, and go scooping my friend. I have better things to do with my time. There are a few other reasons, but this is our main concern. Our boys need room to roam, and they need it ASAP.
So house hunting we went. And found nothing.
We discovered our house is amazeballs. It has big bedrooms and walk in closets, which you do not find. It is also in a great neighborhood. Which again, you don’t find often. In fact, last year we were driving by some land for sale when some weirdo tried to run us off the road! He said we were trespassing on his property. Even though we were on a public road…*insert eye roll*. That place was breathtaking, but not enough to live next to that wacko.
So in case you have never bought or sold a house, I thought I’d share the things we learned, after last year’s fiasco. I’d love to help other’s avoid the mistakes we’ve made, *face palm*. Some of them are pretty common sense, but easily forgotten in the moment.
Let’s get started.
- Get a notebook and pen, obvi, and take it with you! Make yourself a checklist of things you want to check for in each house. Write down what you love, hate, and do some measuring of areas that mean the most to you (ie closets, bedrooms, kitchen, even wall space). Write notes about the neighborhood and the land around the house.
I knew I needed to do this early on in our hunting process, but totally didn’t do it, because a) I honestly felt silly about taking lots of notes, and b) I also forgot to. I regret not doing this, you have no idea! If you are looking at multiple houses, you WILL forget which one had the walk in pantry you loved so much. The houses will begin to blur and you won’t remember which house had what attributes. Or at least that’s what happened for us! You also can’t count on pictures from the realtor website you are using, to show you everything/remind you. Sometimes those pictures don’t do the space justice! Not to mention, what you may find important, someone else didn’t and so didn’t take a picture of it.
I get that a checklist is a duh. You should know what you want in a house, you don’t need to write it down. But I’m here to tell you, when you walk into a beautiful house, your brain can go to mush with all those pretty things.
We toured a house two weeks ago that we fell in love with the second we walked in. The inside is open and beautifully decorated. It is nestled into some trees, so you can’t see the neighbors at all, and it has a fabulous view of a lake. It feels like you are secluded in a forest which I love love love! There were little touches like a wrap around deck, screened in porch, pet washing area, and so much more that had us jumping with excitement. It wasn’t until we left the house that we realized some major downsides. For example, there was very little space in the master bedroom for us to put up bookcases or shelves for my books. That’s pretty important to me. Another issue, it’s so shaded by trees that the only way for me to have a garden is to chop down a lot of them which would ruin the beauty of the property. Plus, it’s a major downsize. We’d have no room for guests to stay over, no space for our board games or craft supplies, etc. We didn’t even think about these things while there, because we were so in awe by how pretty it was. We even went back a second time, just to be sure. Again we were in such awe while there that we were like oh yeah we can make it work, only to come home, again, and realize that we’d have to sacrifice far too much for that house.
If I had taken notes, or had a checklist, we wouldn’t have had to waste a second trip. Lesson learned.
- Decide what you can be flexible on and what you can’t.
There is NOTHING wrong with downsizing and being more minimalistic. Most of us have way too much stuff that it actually makes us miserable, instead of happy. But if you are having to get rid of things, or even dreams of things, that matter a lot to you just for a few perks, make sure it’s a good enough trade that you won’t be miserable.
Take my books for instance. I own a lot of books! I’ve always had to have them split up in multiple storage bins because we never had the room for more than one bookcase. If I need to find a specific book, it’s a scavenger hunt even with labeled bins! Our house now has the room for buying/building shelves, we just haven’t gotten around to make it happen *sad face*. Because I read all the time, I really need a space for my books, it’s not just that I want it. For me, this is as non negotiable as having enough bedrooms for everyone. I can handle only having my most favorites novels up all the time, it would still suck monkey balls, but I could live with that limit if I had to. I’d however prefer to have room for what I have, with some extra space if I get more (though I try to buy mostly ebooks now because of my space problem) Poit is, I have to have space for my books somewhere or I’m gonna go crazier than I already am. No one needs that!
Now we NEED land the most. We’d love 5+ acres, we’d prefer one with a house but are ok with the idea of building. Finding a property that size in our price range, in a nice location appears to be impossible. We still hope that something that size will come up. But we know that we can ‘make do’ with only 1.5 acres and still be happy. It would give us enough room for the dogs, for a garden and the kids to play, which are the most important requirements. But we cannot go under 1.5 acres, no matter how pretty the property is.
- Research the neighborhood thoroughly.
Talk to you realtor as well as people who know the area. Find out what every day life is like! Drive by during busy times of the day, when it’s raining/snowing even.
A few times we saw pictures of a place and asked to go see it. Only to learn that since the satellite had scanned the area, a poultry farm had been built right next door. Those STINK and can even make your house and water smell horrible! Not to mention it’s not a good area for people with allergies, like me. Being near poultry farms is a major no for us. Remember the land I mentioned above with the crazy man that ran us off the road? It had a hill at the back of the property, creating a beautiful little meadow at the bottom. The realtor, and owner, assured us that the land never flooded. It just so happened that it rained over a three day period right after we saw the property the first time. We decided to drive by to see for ourselves how it handled all the rain. We still don’t know, because the road washed out and we couldn’t get to it! If we hadn’t checked that day we would never have known that the road routinely washes out. And, if we hadn’t driven by it the third time, we wouldn’t have met the weird neighbor.
Also, there are places that seem like low traffic, then when school lets out, or business shut down for the day, the road become packed with cars. Especially in our little town! If you, like me, hate bumper to bumper traffic, then this is a crucial detail to know ahead of time.
- Give the house a chance, even if the pictures don’t look nice
This one is a hard one for me but I’ve gotten better at it. I like pretty things, and when I see a picture where the rooms look dingy, I tend to skip the house. Like I said, I’ve been working on this and we’ve been giving places a chance even though we aren’t thrilled with the pictures. Sometimes I’m right and the house requires more work than we can do/afford, sometimes though it turns out to be really nice its just horrible photography skills. Don’t be like me, if it meets other requirements give the house a chance and go see it in person.
- Get you kids involved!!!
There are people that think we’re crazy for including our kids in this process. Personally, we don’t understand why you wouldn’t. Bo and I aren’t the only one’s living in the house, we won’t be the only one adjusting, or downsizing if it comes to that. Moving is a major adjustment for kids anyway, so having them involved makes the move less scary. They’ll know what they are moving into, they can map out how they want their room set up, or what flowers to plant where. It gives them some stability in the middle of chaos! Plus, they can tell you their doubts about the location or the rooms in the house that you might not be thinking about.
The house we just saw that I mentioned above, with the wrap around decks, that set among the trees but was too small for us? The house is technically three stories, the first floor is actually foundation and crawlspace due to a sloping lot. Anyway, two of the bedrooms are upstairs (technically the third floor), there is a landing/walkway upstairs, between them. Both sides of the landing is open to the first floor, there are windows EVERYWHERE. I’m the only one terrified of heights in this family, so if this landing was going to bother anyone, it would be me. I love it, it is totally gorgeous and feels like you are living in the trees. However, when we toured it the second time, with the kids, both were terrified of both how high it felt upstairs and that you could see under one of the bedrooms. They said it looked like that bedroom floated above the kitchen, which made them worry they’d fall through the floor. I never would have thought that would scare either of my kiddos! Bailey was visibly upset and avoided the upstairs after he noticed this. Jocelyn would go upstairs, but she did so super slowly and talked about how scared she was. If we got this house, one of them would have to be upstairs. If we didn’t involve them in this, and bought this house, our kids would have been living in terror. It’s one thing to help them work on their fears, but living in a place you are terrified of, is a form of abuse in my book.
Not to mention including them, is a major life lesson! Teaching your kids about the difference between wants and needs, positives and negatives of a property, compromising, so on and so forth, will come in handy when they go through the situation themselves later in life.
There ya go, all the things we’ve learned about house hunting so far. If you can come up with any other tips, please share them in the comments!
Next Episode: Things we’ve learned about trying to sell our house.
See you next time!!