Monday, June 12, 2006

Marathon of Homes

Sun we drove up to the beach to meet with our realtor.

We've been using to located homes in the beach community we plan to move to and Lee Ann has been emailing us the fact sheets and taking us to see the homes. One day a few weekends ago we went into 9 homes with her, plus about 5 or 6 more open houses without her. It was fun, but we found we needed to start making notes on the fact sheets for later reference, as some of the houses were similar and we would begin to forget which was which.

One of the homes we saw on our first outing with Lee Ann was a waterfront contemporary, located on a large natural pond. (I say 'natural pond' because many communities have man-made ponds no deeper than your knees, with a fountain in the middle.) This home had a bulkhead where you could keep a small boat. The view from the deck was stunning. However, the house was too small; probably only about 1/2 the size of our current home. Since the price was quite reasonable compared to everything else, I designed an addition for the house, to expand it to meet our needs and wants. Knowing there were many details that would have to be figured out and others who might also be looking at it, I tried to keep my expectations low, and we kept looking for something that might already be the right size for us and not need expansion.

With so many properties on the market, we decided to narrow our search to only homes that are waterfront or have a waterview. Lee Ann sent us 18 listings and we decided we wanted to see 15 of them... plus 2 other homes that were in the same neighborhood as one of the homes with a waterview... and we wanted to go inside the contemporary on the pond again to measure for the proposed addition. In case you're counting, that's 18 houses... in 1 afternoon. Lee Ann confessed that she'd never show 18 homes in 1 day to anyone else, but that from our previous tours she thought we could handle it. Armed with fact sheets and pen, we set forth.

In reality we didn't go inside all 18 homes. One was having the floors refinished so we were only able to drive by and look from the outside. The "view" was quite overstated so we scratched it off our list. Another house we were unable to get inside because the listing realtor did not leave the key as promised, but we looked at it from the outside and made plans to return the next day. Then one other house was under contract, so we disregarded it.

The majority of the homes with a "water view" were disappointing. Some had views of a small man-made pond with a fountain in it. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just wasn't what we were looking for. Then other houses with direct water access via docks or bulkheads were of such poor construction, so overpriced, or in such a state of disrepair that we could easily take them out of contention. These weren't inexpensive houses either. That reasonably priced contemporary with the bulkhead and stunning view of the pond for which I designed the addition seemed like our best bet - until we found out it had a contract on it.

Then I started thinking about another reasonably priced modular ranch on a waterfront lot in the same neighborhood as the contemporary. It was also small, and was horribly dated. I'm talking harvest gold appliances and busy linoleum in the kitchen, avocado bathrooms, small bedrooms, horrible carpet over plywood, and the clearest sign of a modular home: sheet paneling instead of drywall. It had a lovely view of the natural pond and was even less expensive than the contemporary. My mind drifted to what is done here in the DC area when the land is more valuable than the structure: they bulldoze the house and build a new one.

To me this was the ideal situation. The lot was worth the asking price in my opinion, and I felt confident we could negotiate it down even further. Designing a house to replace it would allow us the freedom to have rooms sizes that makes sense for us, where they made sense for us, and where they could take maximum advantage of the view. Although not certain, Lee Ann thought we could likely build a medium size house for about the same price as we'd pay for the lot, which was still in the price range we'd established. This seemed almost too good to be true! And you know what they say about things that are too good to be true...

Joe was not on board with this idea. He said he'd feel overwhelmed trying to design a house. "No problem!" I said. "I'll design it!" Then he said he thought it would be very expensive to have the house demolished and hauled away, although we have absolutely no information on what that might really cost. For some reason, he is just not into the idea of bulldozing the modular house (where absolutely NOTHING is worth saving) and designing/building a house of our choosing to replace it.

So, at this point we've now seen every home that is listed as waterfront or having a waterview within our price range, and we've got nothing to be excited about.

Since we have a place to stay up there, we do not have to buy anything soon. So we're going to just enjoy the summer at our beach house, and when Lee Ann sees something new come on the market she thinks we'll like, she'll let us know. Perhaps by the end of the summer the prices will start coming down and more waterfront/waterview properties will come into our price range. For now we are not going to worry or feel pressured to do anything until we both feel its right. Or until I can think of a way to convince Joe that I'm right.


. said... have more umph than me! I don't think I could do more than 4 or 5 houses in one day.

Bugsy (aka Joe) said...

Personally, I think you guys are insane! 18 houses! I could barely do 4 or 5 in one day without a stiff drink!

Ranch house, huh? Maybe a little Brokeback Lakeview? Ha, Ha!

tornwordo said...

That sounds like hard work! Ugh, 15 houses.

And are waterfront prices supposed to fall soon?