After six months of looking and a few weeks of very frustrating contract-wrangling, we have finally acquired a house in Connecticut. Farewell, New York City, we’re moving to the burbs so the kid can have a yard.
So our house shopping process is nearly at an end. We close next month, at which point all we’ll have left to do is…furnish an entire house when we’ve been living in 1000 square feet or less for the last dozen years. That will prove to be its own adventure I’m sure.
For now I’m going to reminisce about house shopping, even though it wasn’t always fun at the time. While shopping, we saw:
-A house with an elevator. An elevator. Really. And the best part was, the house was three stories and the elevator didn’t go to the third floor. WHY WOULD YOU INSTALL AN ELEVATOR FOR ONLY PART OF YOUR HOUSE???
-A house that had a section of it designed by twin children and which was unusable for any other purpose.
-A house that had been added on to so many times we couldn’t tell what any of the rooms were intended for. It was basically all endless interconnected hallways. A great setup for a horror movie, but not so much for living.
-Multiple houses that had no yard at all because they’d filled the whole thing with a pool.
-A house with so much dogshit everywhere outside it was impossible to venture into the yard or even onto the walkways.
-A house with a Cirque-du-Soleil themed bathroom. As in, not just wallpaper, but built into the tiles.
-A house with a fake third floor. From the outside it appeared to have three stories, but the dormered third story was just an attic space, not usable.
House shopping is really an excellent lesson in people’s ability to delude themselves.
Radon in the basement! Surprise, there’s radioactive gas in your new house!
But when I look at a house in Connecticut that is four times the size of our Manhattan apartment, I expect the closet in the master bedroom to be, you know, a little bigger than the one in our apartment. Just a little.
HOW CAN YOU BUILD A HOUSE THAT LARGE AND HAVE SUCH A MIDGET-SIZED CLOSET? It’s not like it’s some old house, it was built in 2003! I’ve seen smaller houses with better closets in the kids’ rooms!
And of course these same people are asking approximately a bajillion dollars more than their house is actually worth. If there’s one thing I’ve learned house-shopping it’s that if an owner does one crazy thing they’ll probably do several other crazy things, all of which will make their house less desirable to everyone else. Like decorating their bathroom in a Cirque du Soleil theme.
Toddlers can enjoy looking at real estate. Mini-Marmot was happy as a clam with five people to pay attention to him and multiple houses to attempt to ransack, as well as five yards to run amok in. He didn’t freak out until the car ride home, when he screamed the entire way. I don’t know if he was just really mad about being stuck in his car seat, or if it was some kind of pent up screaming that he didn’t do on the house tour.
We went out around the city and saw different apartments in our price range. Most of them were dumps; the ones that weren’t either cost more than we were willing to pay or had some other fatal flaw - bad location, no closet space, that sort of thing. The place we bought wasn’t some stunning masterpiece, but as a place to live it’s been perfectly acceptable for the last five years. When we sell it, I imagine it will be bought by a young couple planning to have kids shortly - just like we were.
Now that we’re looking for a house in fancy Connecticut suburbia, it’s a thousand times harder. There are just so many choices, too many choices. Do we want to live by the water and take the risk that our property could lose value when the sea levels rise? Do we want to live in the swampy inland and deal with water in our basement instead? Do we want a big house to grow into, or a smaller cozier house? Do we want to make elementary school quality our biggest consideration? What about commute time? Do we care how big the yard is? If we buy a newer house in an older neighbor, will we be constantly annoyed by the older houses being torn down around us? Do we need a basement? How much sun does the house get? What’s the traffic like in the neighborhood? How many small children are there nearby to be friends with Mini-Marmot? Is there a playground in the neighborhood? Are the streets safe for Mini-Marmot when he gets a little older and wants to ride a bike around? Are we willing to buy a house that needs some work or do we want it to be move-in quality? What about new-builds that we can customize? How much are we willing to spend? Should we think of the house as an investment or just a place for us to raise Mini-Marmot and any potential future small marmots?
And unlike buying an apartment, most of the houses don’t immediately rule themselves out for being complete crap. Most of them are really nice - some embarrassingly so, as in, I couldn’t imagine living in such a nice house. Especially with a rampaging toddler. Every time we go out there to look at houses I think the answers to these questions become clear, but they haven’t at all.
1. If you choose to rent out your property, never ever ever ever rent to someone who owns birds. It had been more than a month since the tenants left that house and OH GOD THE STENCH.
2. People who list their houses for sale often have absolutely no idea whatsoever what their house is actually worth, and appear to pick numbers out of the ether.
3. Said people with house-price delusions are often batshit in other ways, and do things like renting their houses to bird-nuts and not bothering to have it powerscrubbed afterwards, or attempting to subdivide their property while failing to mention that in the listing for said property, or allowing their children to dictate the layout for their custom house such that a large portion of the house is unusable for anyone else.
4. If the house is on a swamp, every single photo will be shot from an angle that doesn’t show the swamp.