Home-buying Series, Resources + Tools

I’m in Student Loan Repayment and Still Bought a House | Part 3: Look at Houses (the Fun Part)

**Disclaimer: All of the information included in this series of posts are a personal account of my experiences and my personal opinions. I am not a real estate agent, mortgage broker, financial adviser, or attorney.

I’m going to start this one off by saying that the first house we went to see was a doozy.

There are some TALENTED realtors out there with ALL the gifts. Initially, we were looking for a ranch house on the west side, further out in the country, with a good amount of space. We did end up finding a couple of these, including the first house we viewed in our house-hunting process. This particular house was located in a town southwest of the city, out in the farmlands at the edge of some woods on a creek. On paper, the house seemed perfect, and the majority of the drive out to see it was beautiful. The photos of the house were also amazing, with an open floor plan, remodeled kitchen, hardwood floors, walls of windows, sliding glass doors, and decks overlooking the woods. And even better, it was under contract but then suddenly went back on the market (which should have been our first clue).

WELL–we didn’t even set foot in the house because of how horrifying the journey to the front door was.

This is the part where reviewing the property taxes comes in useful. Are they much lower compared to the rest of the houses you’re looking at? Houses in less desirable areas will probably have much lower taxes than those in prime locations. The taxes on this particular house were nearly a third of what our current house’s are, if THAT tells you anything. BUT–even before we went to see the house, we decided to utilize Google Earth. We got sneaky and crept on the property and neighborhood from an aerial vantage point (even better if you can access street view). Do all the research you can and be as thorough as possible. 

I’m going to let you in on a secret–if there are five rusted out vehicles sitting on blocks next door and the rest of the houses in the neighborhood are priced at least $100K LESS than the one you’re looking at, suck it up and move on because there are bound to be more surprises in the overgrown weeds.

In a nutshell, the road through the neighborhood was so frightening, I wouldn’t even want to spend the night there by myself, much less go outside with my dog. If there are more than five confederate flags–OK, let’s be honest, one is enough–draped over various structures on a single street in OHIO, then I’m guessing it’s probably not any place that I want to live or raise my kids. Sorry, not sorry.

And that was just the road to the driveway. The big fancy wrought-iron gate only came up to my waist, the windows were original from the 1970s, the decks were much smaller, rickety, and slanted, the photos must have been taken in the winter when there were no leaves on the trees because the green space was completely overgrown, there was one side of privacy fence hiding the dilapidated house next door, and a big old propane tank (hell to the no) was smartly hidden behind a shrub along the stone wall.

Like, seriously, it was a MESS. We arrived before our realtor and we immediately called her and said we didn’t even want to look at it and we’d move on when she got there. Don’t feel like you “have” to view a house. If you know it’s not right, then trust your gut and spend your time elsewhere.

Remember that “feeling” I mentioned before? The one our realtor told us we would have when we walked into a house and knew it was ours? Well, we had that feeling a total of six times, but it didn’t necessarily stay.

The First Time

…The feeling came and went in a matter of a couple hours because we had vital questions about the house, but the seller’s realtor was a complete tool and was pushing us to make a “good” offer before he left on vacation for the weekend. Well, the joke was on him because we ended up not even making an offer and they had to drop the list price $10K before it eventually went under contract. In the meantime, our realtor found out that they had purchased the house only two years prior, listed it again, and it sat on the market for months.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again–THIS IS WHY YOU HAVE A REALTOR. They’re able to find these details out, which can give you an indication whether there might be something undesirable about the property that you have no way of knowing otherwise. Honestly, in this case it looked like the owners bought the house, tried to flip it, and ran out of money before deciding to list it again.

The Second Time

…Our realtor called us one afternoon and told us she would meet us at an address at 6PM because we HAD to see a house that had just been listed in a neighborhood not far from where we ultimately ended up.

We understood why when we arrived.

This house had only been officially listed for two hours and every other realtor in the area had the same idea. It was a madhouse. This one-story house on a corner lot with a huge backyard, deck, and fire pit looked like it had been remodeled and transplanted straight out of Pinterest.

Well, we submitted an offer $8K above listing with six other offers and someone swooped in and paid $200K CASH for it. The only way anyone else would have beat that was to offer $201K in cash!

The Third and Fourth Time

…The next two houses were both awesome, had large backyards, and were located in cute neighborhoods. The only major issue with each one was that they were further away from my place of employment than I would have preferred, so we ended up passing on them.

The Fifth Time

…The house was actually in the subdivision opposite of the one we now reside in! The house was located in the right area, checked off all our boxes, and seemed perfect. Yet, we just weren’t feeling it as much as we thought we would.

The problem was that there were NO TREES. If you walked out on to the deck, there was a yard (albeit not a large one), but you were staring at the bleak vinyl siding of every house surrounding you.

I’m going to be blunt here–that was fucking depressing. If I lived at that house, I would never want to go outside, and I LOVE being outside! Until we can purchase a home out in the country next to a forest, a yard with at least a few trees will have to do. Therefore, we ended up passing on that house too.

House hunting becomes exhausting after you’ve walked through 30+ homes without finding one you love, or finding one you love only to be beat out in a bidding war.

In between the good houses, you’re walking through houses with rotting floors, poorly laid tile, carpet in the kitchen (when was this ever a thing??), surfaces covered in dog hair, decks that look as if they were partially set on fire, formal living rooms that resemble funeral homes, and holes in the carpet poorly hidden by ugly area rugs.

However, even if you’re exhausted and, in our case, annoyed with driving back and forth across the city after work, don’t settle on something just because you want the search to end. Each home you see is one step closer to finding what you want and adding to or subtracting things from your list that you may not have even considered before.

Ultimately, we ended up finding our home through an interesting and unexpected series of events.

One Sunday, Stu was perusing Realtor.com and found our house, which had just been listed and had some great photos. On a whim, Stu suggested that we drive over to the west side and at least check out the neighborhood and exterior to see if it was something we would be interested in telling our realtor about.

If you know either Stu or I, you know that we don’t just decide to drive across town all willy-nilly and waste fuel when we were already driving hundreds of miles to and from work per week. But this time, we did.

After we pulled into the subdivision, we saw a sign for an open house and thought that there was another house for sale in the neighborhood and maybe we should check out that one too. However, it turned out that the open house sign was for this house! AND there was still one hour left of the open house! So, in a brilliant stroke of luck, we were able to actually walk through this house and speak to the owner, who was hosting the open house.

As soon as we walked in the front door, we knew this was our home. It had a great room with high ceilings that opened to a loft on the second floor. It had great lighting and windows that let in a lot of natural light. The master bedroom also had high ceilings and the master bath had also been remodeled and became one of the major selling points for us. It had a basement with enough space for our gym equipment as well as a yard with a pretty awesome deck.

And TREES. It also backed up to a retirement community with a view of their green space and driveways rather than another house leering over the backyard. We were able to ask a lot of questions and get a really good idea from the owner about how well this house fit in with our life plan.

Afterward, we got back in our car and began the drive back home. At that point, we immediately called our realtor and left her a message saying that we loved the house and we were very interested. We’d been around this particular block a few times by now, and we knew this house wouldn’t last long.

We were going to make an offer THAT NIGHT.

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