But when you've been looking for a house for ooooooh three years and still haven't found the one you can afford and want to live in - it's less like entertainment and much more like a burdensome chore. I've never cold-called for a living*, but I imagine it's a lot like this. Knock on door, take a look around, wait for fatal flaw to appear ... and then walk away saying, well, maybe I'll have better luck at the next house.
Initially, when we started looking, it was just as the real estate market was coming off its peak - so we looked at lots of fun McMansions with all the bells and whistles, usually with pitifully small lots next to streets even busier than the one we are currently live near. Many of the bells and whistles were things we didn't really value (built in wine cooler!), while others struck me as either a safety hazard or a cleaning nightmare (leaded glass windows on door to the family room!), depending on my mood.
Also, the sudden, precipitous drop in asking prices was offset by a sudden, precipitous rise in interest rates, so we couldn't really afford any of them anyway.
So we waited, and poked around from time, and waited some more.
The market finally stabilized (sort of**) and interest rates came down and we started looking more actively again.
The first house we looked at seemed perfect from the listing: You know what they say about real estate - location, location, location. Unfortunately, literally everything else about the house had to change, starting with jackhammering a backyard out from under a layer of concrete (low maintenance landscaping!), moving walls on the second floor to create the number of bedrooms we needed, and also moving walls on the ground floor, although we couldn't quite figure out how - but that brand-new bathroom they'd put smack in the middle of the room wasn't going to work for me and had to be removed.
I did decide that the quiet cemetery behind the house was a vast improvement over the noisy street we currently enjoy, but I'm not convinced the rest of my family agreed.
We were excited when another house came up in that same neighborhood, on a nice, quiet dead-end street that didn't back directly up to the cemetery, and rushed over to see it. In the listing it looked like there might be power lines behind the house, but, as I said to our very patient realtor, I don't mind power lines as long as they aren't directly over the house.
Can you see what's coming? Sure, I knew you could.
I commend the owners for taking what some would consider a design flaw (giant power line poles right in the back yard) and making it almost a virtue (attaching basketball hoops to the poles and putting a playing court in the yard). That house was fun to look at, since the downstairs had been completely renovated and added to and contained no fewer than eight pinball machines, in addition to a movie theater, pool table, poker table, and full bar. Yay for fun people! I felt like quite the party pooper when we passed on the house.
Other fine design features we've encountered include:
- A house completely re-floored with bumpy rock-type tiles. I mean, completely: the kitchen (goodbye plates!), living room, dining room, hallways, stairs (seriously - careful on the stairs). This house had the added virtue of having the formal dining room located up the hall from the kitchen, so if you actually used the formal dining area, you would have many opportunities to accidentally rid yourself of unwanted china.
- A house whose numerous additions including a four-car garage, but more important, a rec room with full wet bar whose primary design feature was a vintage grand piano turned on its side (keys toward the floor). That house had a movie theater too - painted completely purple, with a Jimi Hendrix-meets-Star Wars decorating scheme. Also, what is it with basketball courts in the backyard? Note to anyone who thinks this is a good idea: We short women will pay less for this "feature," not more.
- And last but not least, The Cave. No, not a man-cave, nor a Batman-themed house, nor a house built in a cave. No, this house, which gave a whole new meaning to the word "custom," contained an actual cave: The end of an old mine shaft, which connected directly up to the completely finished basement. Rather than wall it off (why be dull?), the owners converted it into a shower, and then decorated the entire rest of the downstairs in a Gold Rush theme.
*Thank you, dear lord.