1. The tear down with a giant lot
The sad thing is that the pictures didn't really share the full scope of work needed on the house - it's a total tear down. It looked like it needed work - but hey, that's what we're looking for. But man, in person: it was in rooouggghhhh shape. I'm not one for wanting to tear houses down (I'd always rather save a house), but this one I don't think could be salvaged. The house next door was also being sold (I think it had 3 acres if I remember correctly) and what the agents were proposing was someone (likely - SHOCKER - an investor) purchase both lots, rip both houses down, do all the due diligence to get it rezoned, environmental reports done, etc. and build a road between the two lots and develop several houses (5-12 depending on how you wanted to lay them all out). Boooooo.
Ultimately buying the land for that price and then basically having to rebuild a house was out of budget for us. And, we did the math and if an investor bought both places and had the team to get all the paperwork done before building started, you could really potentially make a killing (though you never know where the market will be in 2-4 years). So I'm sure investors were SUPER hungry to get both places and drove the price way up. The house is currently pending, so it'll be interesting to see what happens.
2. The new build the was built like shit
We were right. Well, let me correct that. Chris didn't crawl down into the crawl space and check the foundation, nor did he sneak up into the attic during the open house to see how safe things were, but, there was no attention to detail. The open house was CRAZY and people were oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over so much and all Chris and I could do was be depressed about how much whoever had built this house had ignored. There were thresholds for doors going outside that were backwards, really poor tile jobs, shoddy trim work, etc. - it kind of sucked to see. Also, it had been "cleaned up" for the open house with "fresh paint" that was just slapped everywhere. I hate seeing that - paint all over trim, nothing even resembling a clean line and drips everywhere. The part I never understand is how most people visiting open houses don't notice those details. We just couldn't believe it.
All in all, the house made us depressed. It was already priced higher than we wanted, but we know in this market it surely got a bidding war and we'll only know the final sale price once it's gone through (it's pending). I mean, I guess it's not my problem if people want to pay SO MUCH for a house. But that one definitely needed a lot of updating and repairs and neither of us thought it was worth the price for us. I'm sure someone happily snapped it up though.
3. The lot with 2 houses on it
This house is actually by another house we saw last time we shared in our house hunting. It's in a weird pocket neighborhood with only like 2 streets with houses on them. There are two houses on the lot, which is a little out of the ordinary, but could work (we could always rent one). The first house is a 2/2 and is very spacious, and the second house is a 3/1, but very cramped (it's actually a couple hundred square feet smaller than the 2/2).
We were excited to see this property because of the prospect of rental income and because the lot was fairly large, but something just wasn't right about it. We couldn't quite figure out how to make either house really work for us. The 2/2 had a funky layout without a truly functional living room - and I would WAY RATHER have a great living room than a great bedroom. And the 3/1 was so tiny and they had ripped out the kitchen. And, the "kitchen" was just fucking miniscule (like MAYBE 7x6). There was technically a "living room," but really it was just an alcove before one of the bedrooms. It was weird. We thought about maybe combining the two houses because they were so close together (maybe 15 feet away from each other), but that would be expensive. Then we thought about not really combining them, but having there be an outdoor walkway between the two and having the 2/2 house be the "living quarters" (knocking down a wall between the kitchen and the living room to give an ope floor plan) and having the 3/1 be the sleeping quarters. It was a snazzy idea, and we liked it, but there were things holding us back: neither of us could completely see ourselves living in the house very long. We liked the challenge of the project of making it work, and then we both concluded that we would probably lose interest and want to leave. And that's not what this move is about.
Then the other idea was to approach family about purchasing it as an income property. But, because the two houses are so close together, renting them independently of each other required them to be rezoned. And, the kitchen in the 3/1 house was never permitted (which was why the real estate agent suggested they remove it before it was put on the market), so it was technically a non-conforming unit. So, if we wanted to rent that unit out it would be wise to get it permitted. And who knows how much all of that work would have cost - in addition to fixing up each unit a bit to make them a bit nicer. Before we even seriously talked about it, it was pending. Oh well.
4. The house with crazy interesting architecture
I must admit, I kind of fell in love with this house before we saw it. It was the house I was most excited to see since the one we had our hearts broken on. I showed Chris the pictures and he was definitely interested. The house just had some great, original features
(all photos from here)
I'm a sucker for a house with original details.
The other awesome thing about this house was that it was 3 blocks from a major commercial area (Montclair for locals) and with good schools nearby. The lot was also fairly large. I was itching to get to the open house.
But, the second we walked into the open house, I knew it wasn't for us. And so did Chris. The photos give a great picture, but the house just felt very dark and gloomy. All the doorways were tiny, the layout was very strange, and it was in need of A TON OF WORK. The foundation needed to be replaced, the roof needed to be redone, there were drainage issues, one of the patios above the house was falling apart and was a serious safety hazard, the kitchen and bathrooms needed a ton of work...I mean, the amount of money that should be poured into this house easily exceeded $200k. Of course, you could have spent less and done a really shitty job, but this house was an amazing architectural gem and to toss cheap finishes, not properly repair it...it just made me sad. Someone really needs to pour their blood, sweat, tears and a ton of money to bring this house back to its amazing glory. And we just don't have that kind of money. Nor is it actually a house I could find myself really living in, which also made me a little sad.
I really hope that whoever buys this house really, really, really does it justice. It's an amazingly interesting house with so many great built-ins, little cubbies, and fascinating original details. Chris surmised that it must have been built for an eccentric millionaire because it really is quite an original home. This one is definitely one I'll keep my eye on to see what happens to it. I hope someone really takes care of it.
Well, those are the houses we've checked out lately. Nothing has really fit the bill. But we're definitely narrowing in on exactly where we'd like to live, and how we'd like to live, so that's progress that feels good. It's also nice that things are finally trickling back on the market. The unfortunate thing is the market is FUCKING INSANE here right now and houses are going for so, so, so much over asking. When we do finally find a house we want to jump into and put an offer on, the chances are it'll have many, many bids on it. We shall see what happens. Little football's due date is only getting closer and closer. We always like to add more on our plate :)