Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The perils of real estate shopping

I've been reading a lot of blogs recently about people shopping for a new home. Having spent two years finding our current home, I think I have a little experience in this area. You want to hear my real estate pet peeve? Six little words. "Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed."

If I went shopping for a sweater and found one that was labeled "100% wool - information deemed reliable but not guaranteed", do you think I would even look at it? How can you begin to evaluate the merits of a house if you can't be assured of the basic information? The whole process is based on the seller hiding as much as possible and the buyer trying to find out what the seller isn't saying. One poor blogger had to find out from the house inspection that the whole place had to be rewired! Not "new wiring would be nice" - "had to be rewired". You think maybe that little tidbit should have been in the seller's disclosure statement?

My husband and I have been contemplating whether we should move now that we are retired. This house is older and needs updating, and is noisier here than when we bought it (we're on the corner of a street that's gotten busier and busier). I had thrown out the idea of townhouses or condos for consideration since we hire the yard work done now, and neither of us is Mr. or Mrs. Green Thumb. After dinner we have been driving around our area of town looking at the newer developments.

Most of them make my husband gag, and I'm not much more tolerant. Pretentious, over-ornamented little crackerboxes, covered with vinyl siding and faux stone, gables sticking out everywhere, on a lot the size of my driveway. And, by the way, priced twice what I could get for my all-brick single level 2000 sq. ft. house. For all of this you get to drive twice as far as I am now to the grocery, doctor's office, stores. Using $4.00 a gallon gas. I don't think so.

We did find a new development of townhomes that was all brick, located in a handy area and didn't immediately make us avert our eyes. Several were for sale, so when we returned home I looked them up online. The price made me wince, but if they were really new, 2000 sq. ft., all brick units, maybe I should take a closer look.

The on-site sales office in the model unit was supposed to be open every day, so I visited yesterday. When I arrived, there was a sign on the door saying the agent was out showing a house, and listing a number to call for assistance. I called, got her voicemail, and left a message that I was at the office and would hang around a while - please call back and let me know if and when she will be returning. After getting rather warm waiting in the car, I got out and walked around the development, and then returned to the office. I tried the door, and to my surprise it was unlocked.

Fine, I said to myself, I'll get to take a look at the model without the agent breathing down my neck. Not to mention waiting in the air conditioning. I had my camera in my purse, so I made photos while I poked around. There was a stack of xeroxed floor plans on the credenza, so I took one of those, too.

It seemed rather small. I know what 2000 sq. ft. looks like, and it wasn't this. Oh, the finishes were nice, the high ceilings were attractive, the layout was pretty good, but where was the rest of the house? After mentally rearranging the furniture multiple times, I realized that we just couldn't make it work for us.

This morning, I looked at the MLS listings again for two of these three bedroom units - same footprint. One says 2000 sq. ft., one says 2100 sq. ft. Remember, information deemed reliable but not guaranteed? Where did the other 100 sq. ft. come from on the second one? I pulled out my copy of the floor plan. No dimensions, but I had paced off several of the rooms, and could calculate the size. I couldn't even get 2000 sq. ft. if I counted the garage and the screened porch (which you aren't supposed to, btw - only heated areas). This crap is what makes me hate real estate agents. Just tell me what size the darned thing is. If you had said "About 1750 sq. ft.", I would't have bothered looking, I would have known it was too small. Drat!

If they can't even be honest about the size, what else aren't they saying? Don't they feel at all guilty for doing this kind of nonsense?


Suzan said...

Amen, amen!!

The Calico Cat said...

Another peril of buying "new" is that to keep their profits up, they are using cheaper stuff... As in be prepared to pay for upgraded cabinets and to replace the windows...

The Calico Quilter said...

Calico Cat,
I expected that too, but the standard cabinets were by Welborn and were cherry (quite nice) and the windows were insulated vinyl clad tilt-in double hung sash windows that seemed to be good quality. Ditto the appliances and the fixtures. Lighting fixtures were also nice. I had no gripe with the quality I could see. But behind the walls......who knows? I'm sure corners were cut.

Elaine Adair said...

Oh my, the dreaded moving plan .. I guess you should do it now, while you still have the energy, before you get to decrepit (!!) like DH and I are feeling much of the time.

I applaud your courage to even consider the project!

Mad about Craft said...

The last time I moved was 16 years ago, it took us a year to buy the house we are in and sell the one in Sheffield, I haven't wanted to move since.