Saturday, July 19, 2008

House shopping.....

......or, rather, subdivision shopping. We have been driving around the city after dinner these past several weeks (with a few ice cream stops for rewards) looking at newer real estate developments. Without looking for actual houses, we are taking the pulse of the subdivisions, seeing how busy the streets are, what the houses look like, how many kids are playing in the middle of the street (you think I joke), are there sidewalks and lights, etc.

The thing is, we want to decide whether to fix up the old rancher and stay here, or buy something with less maintenance and in a quieter area. In the house shopping arena, we have several strikes against us: we have to have a one level house, and not only a one level house, but with a minimum (preferably no) steps to enter the house. We also need to have room for the humongous TV and home theater setup, his computer desk (including surround sound and sub woofer - and here I am satisfied with just a laptop!) and my home office stuff as well as quilting stuff. So we can't easily go smaller than the 1907 square foot ranch we have now.

Actually, if you compare apples to apples with this house and a new 2000 square foot house, you come up short on the new house because of all the walk-in closets, and enormous bathrooms, and sun rooms that seem to sprout in all new construction, all of which eat up room and don't mean a lot to me. Oh, I like a big closet as much as the next girl, but I've seen closets as big as whole rooms. And how big does a bathroom really need to be? Those huge jetted tubs are ho-hum to me. I'm a shower girl. What a waste of space.

I have been combing the MLS and finding new development to tour, and sometimes we just pick a major road and drive, zipping into any interesting side streets. Using that plan, we came upon a townhouse development on the north side of the river that seems to have possibilities.

An aside - where I live, you are either north-of-the-river people or south-of-the-river people. Almost no one I know looks upon them as interchangeable. Darned if I understand why. Where I live, and where this new townhouse development are, seem pretty comparable to me.

Anyway, in this development, there are three three-bedroom townhouses for sale. Two are being sold by the original owners, who only lived there 3 or 4 years (why do people move so much?). The third is the model home and is still owned by the developer. It is technically a townhouse, but it is freestanding, no common walls. A real plus to this former brief apartment-dweller, who was almost driven to distraction by neighbor noise. We're going to look at the model home tomorrow and see if a townhouse is a possible for us. I've peeked in the windows and it's got a killer kitchen, but I'm just not sure if it's big enough.

There is another possibility. This builder is starting a "garden homes" development up the street from the townhouses, which are all basically free-standing town homes. The HOA takes care of the outside maintenance like at the townhouses. This is a little pricey, but looks like it has real possibilities. I spoke with the real estate lady today and she is going to email me the plot map and house plans (which I haven't received yet because I suspect she's waiting to set eyes on us tomorrow to decide if we're good for the money!). I'm looking forward to seeing the house plans, because this may be just what we need.

If we go the route of fixing up our house and staying here, the only danger is increased noise. Our little metropolis has an airport with only two runways - the one that is in service, and the spare. The main runway is parallel to us and we don't get any noise from air traffic. However, and this is major, when the main runway is out of service for repairs or such, they use the alternate which puts the planes' approach path right over our house. It's loud, even though the airport isn't that close. It's just in our end of town. If they ever decide to use the alternate runway daily, we are screwed.

The upgrades our house will need, such as replacement windows, will ameliorate the noise somewhat, but it's not a good thing. As is it, on Reserve weekends, we get a lot of military air traffic noise; the helicopters are the worst. There is talk that the Reserve is going to relocate their airstrip, but that may only allow the airport to expand here since they won't have to share it with military craft, and that's no improvement.

These are tough decisions. We're going to have to drop major money on this house if we stay. Replacement windows, new driveway, new garage doors, interior painting, carpet, new vanities and flooring in all the bathrooms, a screen porch or somewhere to sit outside that you can reach without descending a precipitous set of concrete stairs with no handrail out the sliding door in the den. Also rework the front steps so we can add a ramp later if we have to. The house is structurally sound, it just needs a lot of cosmetic updating. We painted and re-carpeted when we moved here in 1993; we replaced the kitchen about five years ago, re-roofed and repainted the outside about four years ago; replaced the heat pump last year. After living here fifteen years, everything needs a little brush-up. Not to mention my yellow bedroom, which I liked fifteen years ago, but is wearing on me now. And the wallpaper in the guest room which must go.

Decisions, decisions. This house has been a good one, and I don't want to jump into a situation where I'm seduced by a pretty new facade. Not to worry about my husband in that regard; he absolutely does not allow emotion to influence major purchases. I've seen him drive a car dealer nuts because he refuses to get pulled in by a shiny new vehicle's charms. He's the same with houses, so he is the official voice of sanity!

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