Adventures in house hunting

When we told friends and family that we were expecting, most people responded with, “Oh, that’s why you were looking for a new house”. But the truth is the search for a new house started before I was pregnant, and really did start with a bad habit.

That 7th Heaven house experience did get us thinking, though, about what we loved about that house, our current house, and what would be on our wish list if indeed we were going to take the leap into real estate shopping for the second time in three years.

We knew we had a pretty good amount of living space in our current casa. We also loved the privacy, the awesome home theatre in our finished basement (that husbandman worked so hard at to research, purchase and install), three good size bedrooms (generous, actually for the 1500 sq. ft house) and 4 – count ’em! – 4 bathrooms.

During our first house hunt we searched for a place that was part of a mature neighbourhood that had a large yard and privacy. What we found were really tiny homes with great yards and tons of privacy. Our exterior requirements were in conflict with our interior must-haves and our budget at the time. That’s why were so lucky to find a great place with tons of privacy, but a relatively small yard. The backyard backs onto next to nothing so we opted for privacy over lot size. You gotta make some compromises!

This time around, armed with a slightly larger budget, we thought we could probably find a yard and house that would suit our plans for a family and our desire to have a yard with mature trees. Our realtor agreed. So the search began. Our two main requirements helped us narrow down the neighbourhoods that were on our search list. Our twin cities have been growing rapidly in the last 10 to 15 years so many neighbourhoods are major developments (read clear cut) that have tons of houses in not a lot of space.

Here’s what we were looking for:

  • Mature trees/larger property (this eliminated our current neighbourhood)
  • A kitchen that had more working space and/or better floor plan – two chefs in our kitchen is one too many!
  • A place to seat 8 people for dinner – this could come in the form of a formal dining room, or an open plan that allowed you to use your every day table for more than a family of 4
  • Built between 1950 and 1990 – we wanted a little character and not just a cookie-cutter house.
  • 4 bedrooms (or 3 bedrooms with a place for an office)
  • A double-car garage

We were open to all different types of homes. We saw two-storeys, side splits, back splits, and bungalows. We saw centre hall plan, custom-built, colonial, and mid-century.

We thought it would also be great if the new house sported these awesome features (but they weren’t deal-breakers):

  • no sidewalk – you have to shovel your own sidewalk after it snows here and it’s a pain.
  • a master bedroom ensuite
  • a fireplace
  • a quiet street
  • a deck or patio
  • convenient (not within earshot) access to the expressway that connects the twin cities and is a main traffic artery

We weren’t afraid to tear down walls or do some renovating if the price was right. If the house was priced right at the top of our budget and needed a lot of work (like a new roof pronto!) then we just weren’t interested. I was actually quite interested in taking an older home and making it our own à la Sarah’s House. We saw a few contenders, actually, but some house features just didn’t meet our criteria.

By mid-summer, knowing baby was on board, we added one more item to our wish list, it had to be livable through a renovation. We saw one house that was HUGE and way under-priced, but needed a ton of work (the house was in foreclosure) and was not well-taken care of. But, I couldn’t live in a house with mould.

I think (wouldn’t you agree?) that this seems like a reasonable wish list. I promise you our budget wasn’t out to lunch, yet it took us nearly 40 houses to find “the one”. We have a very patient realtor (obviously) and we were also not willing to settle on just any house. In fact, we saw lots of “perfectly good” houses but they didn’t give us goosebumps and make me say “I love it! I love it! I love it!” over and over again like I did with our new home. We didn’t need to move so we were willing to stick it out to find the house that was going to wow us and meet all of the criteria on our wish list, not just check a few boxes.

Despite the fact that the journey to our house seemed extremely long during the process, we had a lot of fun along the way and it was definitely worth the wait. When you look at nearly 40 homes you come across some interesting things.

We saw:

  • a bathroom that looked like it was transplanted from a Las Vegas hotel room circa 1986
  • a main floor laundry room — actually scratch that, we didn’t see the laundry room because that’s were they kept their nasty dog
  • some interesting landscaping… “a well-maintained yard”? (That weed is growing through the door mat!)
  • two hookahs (in two different houses)
  • two of what we dubbed the “space-tube” showers (including one in our new house)
  • a few bedrooms that should have been counted as closets
  • a very nosy neighbour wondering why we were at the house, and was there an emergency?
  • more than one sunroom – why people?
  • a cement-enclosed upper-level balcony that had a view of nothing
  • a crawl space with wet paint still on the floor (and therefore on my foot)
  • a room/loft space to keep your beanie babies off the master bedroom (I think the listing called it a sitting room)
  • a house with no grass

Stay tuned… I’ll take you through some of the contenders and finally reveal “the one”.

PS: Two posts in one day? What!?


One thought on “Adventures in house hunting

  1. Pingback: The ONE « to london with love

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