family, Ok here's what were gonna do


I went and looked at a house yesterday, and it’s got me thinking about the whole four walls and a roof thing. The basic needs in a home might be simple, but we all have the things that we just have to have, or the things we can’t live with. I loved the way the house I saw yesterday looked on the outside – it needed paint, sure, but that’s not a big deal (and definitely something I’d hire out). That it had the only bathroom on the second floor up a set of steep, narrow stairs was a deal-breaker. Although had the First Reader been with me for this walk-through he’d have been grumbling even before we got that far. The furnace in the basement was a gigantic cthuloid monstrosity with massive tentacles of ducts running everywhere up into the house. 650313a7e239c9b0a0fe696fc649a082110275148.jpgI have no idea what it burned, but it seemed possible that small children and furniture were not out of the question.

I like the character of an old house. I want good bones, and to be able to rip up the carpets (nasty, dirty, stinking things, and I don’t care if they are virtually new) and reveal lovely oak floors (which this house did have). The First Reader wants insulation, and heating efficiency, and everything on one floor. I want subtle details in woodwork and architecture that they just don’t build in these days. He would like to have no neighbors within sight of the house. All of those are good things. Whether we can find them in one house or not remains to be seen. House-hunting, like a lot of other things in life, is an exercise in compromise.

We’ve already made one compromise: we’re not looking for a place out in the country. We wouldn’t turn one down, but… the affordable houses in our price range are largely in town. And that’s not necessarily a horrible thing, as long as we can manage a decent fenced (or fenceable) yard for the dog. Walking to the library or school is nice, and with the Little Man approaching the age of work, for him to be able to walk or bike to work, or build a business doing lawns, that’s nice too.

What this process is forcing us to do is to consider what the bare minimum requirements in a house are: four walls, a roof. Bedrooms? Well, that can be worked out, but at least three. Four would be nice so one would be the Home Office. Bathrooms? At least one… (we’ve both done outhouses before, we really don’t want to do them again) but two would be better. Kitchen needs are basically counterspace, although I’d really like a window or two. I like lots of light in the kitchen, and enough room to work without requiring no more than one person in there at a time. Heck, we can lose the dining room and even a living room, if I can have a massive kitchen that will fit a table in there. In my house, the kitchen is the heart of the home.

I look at house listings online and have to wonder what the people who designed some of these houses were thinking. Did they assume that no-one was ever going to cook in that kitchen? Was there a trend fifty years ago to just say ‘we’ll all eat at restaurants and maybe TV dinners?’ And closets! Don’t get me started on closets and lack of any pantry space at all. I can’t live without a pantry. If there’s no pantry in the house, I will just have to create one.

Maybe that’s one of the things that attracts me to old houses. Women lived in their kitchens, back in the day, so they made sure they were spacious, well-lighted, and practical. Oh, not all of them, but the vast majority of the houses that were built a hundred years ago are better about kitchens than bathrooms. And bathrooms are another thing… the First Reader makes me laugh because every time we’ve had visitors to the rental we’re in, he shows off the bathroom. We’re both certain that the bathroom was an addition to the house: it’s old enough to have had no running water when built. It’s big, and oddly laid out, but it makes him happy because it’s spacious. Some of the bathrooms you see… you practically need to straddle the toilet to get into the tub. And this isn’t in a house that lacks for square footage. It’s just stupid-built.

So our list of heck-no’s includes no HOA’s, no only bathrooms on the second floor, no ‘shotgun’ bedrooms, no bedrooms that are only accessible through the only bathroom (the house yesterday had one of those, too). List of musts? A window in the kitchen, a fenceable yard, three real bedrooms (one on the ground floor) and a bathroom on the ground floor.

So I appeal to you, gentle readers. You’re a pool of wisdom I know I can draw from: what are your suggestions as we hunt for a house? We’re looking at the house to be ours for five years minimum, this isn’t the forever home if the plan holds. Just until the Little Man spreads his wings and leaves the nest. But I know that many of you probably discovered things about your domicile that you wished you’d have thought of before you made that commitment.

What am I forgetting?

56 thoughts on “Houses

  1. I learned at an early age that an all electric house sucks. I have a gas stove, water heater, and gas logs. It makes me feel more secure. Make sure there are no community ordinances against cloths lines and gardens. I was very surprised to find out some municipalities have them. Some kind of decent storage space for those extras you don’t need every day, but that you use several times a year and for stuff you just can’t let go of for what ever reason.

    1. Very good point about the all-electric, and one we had already discussed: we’d like a house with a wood stove, or a place we could put a wood stove in (the house yesterday had two! fireplaces).

      And I’m going to be decluttering (again) but yes, storage space is vital. As is a garage/workshop.

  2. We did a hard-target online search when we were ready to buy a house – using many websites and looking at hundreds of listings. We lived in CO at the time, but we knew we didn’t want to live there. We eventually decided on Missouri and started picking homes. We’d find one that met our needs, pay for a home inspection, and then something would be wrong. That happened twice. Then we settled on a house and the home inspection was good enough for the price of the house, but that fell through. The next day, we found this house. It wasn’t perfect, but we’ve made it as near to perfect as we can.

    I guess my advice to you is 1) get a home inspection, 2) be willing to walk away if something’s not right, 3) have a lawyer look over all the forms before you sign anything, 4) be willing to take on a house with a few projects if it meets all your other needs, 5) hang in there, your house is out there somewhere.

    If you need any help, let me know. I’m an old hand at real estate searches.

    1. Thanks! Yes, an inspection is a must. My parents wound up with a house that had no inspection (because my father’s parents thought they didn’t need one) and it was a nightmare from the beginning. (Still, I cried when they tore it down)

      We’re in no hurry. We’re going to be going through the pre-qualification process for a mortgage, not simply a pre-approval letter, so we’ll be ready to move on the right house once that’s done. But I’ve been projecting May, even June, for us moving.

      Projects don’t scare me, I’ve helped with building and renovating a few houses as a kid and adult. I won’t touch electric, but plumbing I can do. Paint is a given. As is putting in laminate flooring if we wind up in a modern home with sucky carpeting.

      1. Making sure that those little projects – or semi-major projects, too – are really do-able. The one thing I hate about this place is that it is block construction. The expansion we really want (to give me an office that does not have to be trekked through to reach the pantry/utility room) is prohibitively difficult and expensive. It does not help that the back two rooms were an earlier owner expansion (a poorly done one, to boot) – so just making a bigger kitchen has the same problem.

        If we ever move, a prime requirement, besides a big or easily expanded kitchen, is for enough area (and compatible zoning, must remember that) to have a free-standing office.

        I’m fine with all electric here in Tucson, although a fireplace would be nice. Sitting here in shorts and no shirt, looking over at the thermometer – 85 degrees outside at the moment. (Please don’t hate me!)

  3. What I need and what I look for in a house/home? Hard to say really. The kitchen MUST be separate from the dining room. The dining room and living room can be open into each other, but the kitchen must be apart. Bathroom/s must be large enough for two people to move around in it without flying elbows. Forced air furnace heating (oil or gas, doesn’t matter really). Nice windows, and enough rooms for the number of people with an office/library space. Oh, and back to the kitchen, COUNTER SPACE! Enough space to set up a microwave, toaster, coffee pot, with enough space left over to prepare a roast meal and have a dish rack.
    Outlets, enough spaced out over the house so you aren’t tripping over extension cords or hunting behind furniture to plug something in. :/
    Okay, just wish listing now….

      1. Oh, I have no problem with an eat in kitchen. Great for informal dinners with the family. Trouble is that I have a special hate on for “open concept kitchens that can’t be blocked off easily from curious hands like toddlers. Let me just say that I like sharp knives. When I was apartment hunting a couple of years ago, every space had a kitchen with the only delineation between it and living room/dining room being the floor style. :/

  4. Ah where to start : master bedroom and a bathroom on the first floor. A sunroof or sunny place to sit and write ( with space for plants). A couple of other bedrooms, and separate bathroom. A room for books.
    Laundry, pantry room , replace that coal burning thingy. It would be cheaper to be on a naural gas line. House inspection! !
    Good water, no salt water softener. Septic tank inspection. Less than 15 year old roof.
    Outside : garage / storage. A place for a small raised bed garden ( who has time for a big garden) . Shade on south and west .Fruit trees established as newly planted ones won’t mature in 5 years. Go for berries instead. Porch? Grilling station ? Sit in kitchen, double sink? Established flowerbed/ photo opportunities ?

    1. Dreams, Dad, dreams! LOL – I’d love to have a place with fruit trees but they seem to be unpopular as you very rarely see them around here. Same with gardens, for that matter.

      Water and septic in Ohio are far more likely to be city-supply than independent, and that’s the case surprisingly far out of town.

  5. There are many things. An alternate/back heating (and cooking?) setup (fireplace/woodstove) would be nice… but having lived in places with ONLY wood heat, I’d only want it as the backup now. When we moved into this place we were able to re-wire the place for phone & network (MUCH needed) and added a few 20A circuits to a couple rooms. Had I fully realized the state of the original wiring, I’d have pushed to re-wire just about everything, as much work that would have been. Now it’ll just be hard with so much stuff in the way. And I’m the opposite.. electrical is no problem, but I really Someone Else to do all thing plumbing if I can afford it. I *can* do plumbing, I just loathe working on it. I might have better feelings about it had the original builders (or anyone since) put in proper cutoff valves at each sub-installation. I want to be able to pause and wash up, and I can’t if I have to shut ALL the water off to work on anything.

    1. You do not know social disapproval until you have lived in a house with three females – and a fifteen minute simple washer replacement turns into six-plus hours of tracking down reasonably priced parts for the entire fixture.

      That was my own fault, though. When I replaced the drywall around the bathtub/shower and re-tiled, I should not have been too lazy to go ahead and install cutoffs on those lines. But I’m apparently like you – I’ll snake new electric/cable lines all day long, but absolutely loathe messing with pipes and such.

  6. Neighbours! Don’t forget to check them out – even if the nearest are a mile away, you want them to be the kind of people you’ll be happy to know, and the kind that you can call on if you need help of any type. Perhaps preferably not the kind that will old drag races along the road you live in (unless you’d like to join in. We wre lucky, we moved into this house in 1972 and were always on good terms with all our close neighbours and nodding terms with the ones furtheraway , even when sone moved away the new people were good to know. Most of them came to my wife’s funeral and were very supportive before and after it. Some have been here even longer than us!

    1. It’s funny, I lived in NH in the Farm house for close to twenty years off and on, and never met the neighbors more than to say ‘hi’ to them. One side, I couldn’t even have recognized at the grocery store.

  7. We DID get an inspection, and the house is still a nightmare! I seriously considered hunting down said inspector a few years ago…..but it wasn’t worth it, no matter how frustrated I was (and am). My advice: even if the inspection looks awesome, seriously consider paying for an outside electrician and plumber to come through and look at everything.

    Our house passed inspection with flying colors. There were a few fiddly things, like, it was built before GFI outlets were required everywhere, but that’s an easy fix.

    Nobody told us that the majority of the house is plumbed in a recalled water pipe. Recalled because it randomly splits for no reason. We’ve been slowly replacing it as we can (and as it splits), but will eventually have to pay up big time to have someone crawl under the house and rip out all of it there and replace it. Also, see Orvan’s comment about lack of shut-off valves, our place didn’t have any either.

    The front deck put on by the former home-owners was attached to the house with 3″ nails. I won’t bore you with code details, but deck bolts are considered a minimum. Water got at the nails, and they rusted, the deck collapsed under us a few years ago. Thankfully it was less than 3′ high, so everyone was fine, other than not needing a stress test for the near future. They’d used nice heavy 2×10’s as all the support boards, and then used 3″ nails through one of those 2x’s, through the house wrap, through a piece of chip board, into the main beam supporting the house. So in other words there was a whole 1/2″ of nail supporting the house even before everything rusted.

    When the deck came down we got our first good look under that corner of the house. The home inspector said he’d crawled under there and it was all fine, so we’d not been to worried……we should have been. The main house supporting blocks in that corner were about to completely collapse due to improper water proofing. Bad enough.

    But it also exposed an absolutely LOVELY piece of electrical work. An electrical junction, with no wire supports, no junction box, no tape on the junction, just wire nuts holding the wires together, hanging in the crawl space under the house. Can you say fire hazard?? Crawling under the house we found a 2nd junction in an identical state. Following the wires we realized it was the wiring for the security lighting that the former owners told us they’d put in. Following that train of thought scared us, because they’d ALSO built the living room addition…..pulling wall plates confirmed that the living room addition did seem to have an appropriate number of junction boxes, but who knows whats in the walls. But when we started checking the garage we realized that there didn’t appear to be a single junction box in the entire garage. We didn’t pull the security lighting, but I’m betting no boxes there either. Some electrician is going to make a mint off of us.

    And speaking of making a mint. The septic passed its dye test no problem. And the former owners told us that the tank was brand new, less than 5yrs old. No one told us that the leach field was an ancient grandfathered system. The ONLY thing the septic companies here will do is empty the tank. If it EVER needs more work than that it’ll have to be ripped out entirely and it’ll cost us WELL over $10k to replace it because it’s going to require a raised leach setup due to how the yard is setup and the water table and the soil permeability.

    Now sure, a plumber or electrician likely wouldn’t have caught ALL of the above. But the plumber would have likely caught the recalled pipe on sight (it was easily visible under the sinks). And the electrician would likely have caught the lack of junction boxes in the garage…….

    1. “o in other words there was a whole 1/2″ of nail supporting the DECK TO house even before everything rusted.” Cause even after double checking I still shouldn’t type posts before coffee

    2. Yikes! And yes, there are so many little things that it’s easy to overlook. Which is why I asked for input at this stage, before we’re seriously looking at houses! Thank you.

      1. So many things that nobody can catch either – until you rip out a wall, or a floor, or a ceiling, or all three. Watching that show “Holmes Makes It Right” is actually terrifying…

        1. Guy I know worked with Holmes on a project. Nightmare from start to finish I was told. All sorts of issues and problems that his boss didn’t catch or made worse. Luckily he managed to save the project and earned Holmes gratitude. Lot of those issues are far more common than expected. Not to mention, so called “home inspectors” that don’t inspect squat.

            1. Holmes on Holmes was really good … the one trouble that we had, watching – was that all the houses that he fixed (and fixed them gloriously, to be sure) were in Canada, and had issues peculiar to Canada. Basement issues, insulation for arctic weather issues. Would have liked to see him tackle a problem home in the southern portion of the lower 48.

      2. I’ve had a few folks tell us that we could have found the electrical and deck problems by checking permits with the town. And in some areas that is likely correct. Especially where you’re looking more in a larger city or town from teh sounds of it. In our case we’re rural enough that while permits are TECHNICALLY required, alot of homes have none on file. I don’t personally care if there’s permits, I just care if its done right.

          1. Even if no permits were required, make sure you get documentation on WHEN the house was built, in case they decide to institute permits and enforcement retroactively, as they did in Los Angeles County.

          2. Also, for private water sources, even for an established well or cistern — make sure the property has the appropriate water rights. Occasionally they don’t transfer, or don’t exist, or are limited in some strange way.

            Since I had unusual requirements that needed way more pawing through the market than normal, I encountered a lot of Odds… in one case the property had a good well, but its water rights were for use with cattle only, and specifically disallowed use for a home. Probably could have filed a new water claim, but it would have required drilling a separate well.. in an area where the water table could be as much as 1500 feet down (that’s a $150,000+ well).

        1. ALWAYS get copies of ALL the permits for the property BEFORE you commit to buy, and a confirm from the city or county (get Code Enforcement to come out and sign off on it) that no other permits are required, so you don’t wind up paying a fortune and/or losing your home when Code Enforcement gets a wild hair up its ass and decides to enforce permitting even on grandfathered structures.

          This has been happening in Los Angeles County and a whole lot of people have been forced out of homes they’ve lived in for decades, and that were built back when no permits were required.

          By coincidence, just yesterday I ranted about this at some length under this video:

    3. There’s a new method of blasting crud out of old leech fields to avoid replacing the whole shebang — basically high-pressure cleaning that breaks up the solidified dirt around the drain holes. I don’t know how well it works (having instead moved away) but I was quoted something like $600 a few years back.

  8. In 1987 my folks bought a house that had some problems because it was the best they could afford at the time (we’d been living in a rental, but the actual owner passed away and the daughters who’d managed it for her wanted to sell it to settle up the estate, and there was no way my folks could afford to buy it). Dad started working on it almost as soon as they moved in, and the two decades they lived there, he always had a list on the bulletin board of things that needed work. As soon as he cleared some items off it, he’d discover more — including a doozy of wiring the submersible pump that could very well have burned the entire house down.

    He’s done some stuff at the current house, but as he’s getting older, he’s having more trouble doing stuff himself, and is increasingly hiring things out. However, my middle brother is now working on his own fixer-upper that he and his wife bought once they had their second child. He’s had to do some massive electrical work, including replacing the entire entrance and breaker box (which meant coordinating with the power company and the city inspector), and Dad helps him sometimes.

    1. I’m still up for projects, but the First Reader is looking at some of these houses askance, so I need to take that into consideration, too. Plus, I’m working two jobs, and realistically will continue to do that for the forseeable future, as I plan to write while building the science career.

  9. Whut? Nobody has yet mentioned a studio space? I ASSUME you don’t paint in oil. Lovely media, but it’s a HUGE mess that almost requires its own space for easels and the inevitable mess, in addition to ample natural light and room for large canvases. Upside to that is it can do double duty as a photography space for portraits.

    1. I’ve never tried to paint in oil, partly for those very reasons. I paint in watercolor (or digital!) because it’s very low profile. That being said, I’d adore my own studio space with soft north light and the ability to do botanical illustrations. Le sigh. Actually, one of the reasons a window in the kitchen is a must is for the food photography I dabble in to enrich my food blogging. I need good light for that, and the rental doesn’t offer it, so I know it’s a big deal to have in the next house if I don’t want to always be taking food outdoors to photograph it.

      1. If you wish to your digital skills, a reasonable alternative is to paint oil digitally and output the final product to a large printer that’ll handle canvas rolls and print giclees. You can customize each printed giclee with a few analog brushstrokes if you’d like to make them unique.Such huge inkjets are $pendy, but compared to adding or remodeling a room? Five grand is NOTHING.

        1. I’m working on increasing the digital skills. But, and I don’t want to sound whiny, I can’t sell the original art. I don’t know that investing in bringing my digital to market would be a good investment. The art I do sell is the design (covers) and dragons.

  10. I live on Galveston Island just off of the coast of Texas. It’s semi-tropical, laid back and has tons of Victoriana in homes and the Business District. Lots to do and see, something always going on. The oldest Library in Texas is located here. 12 museums and a tall ship, a new amusement pier and a major water park, great fishing, good beaches, cheap shrimp and very friendly people.

    The City of Galveston thru HUD has a program whereby a home or condo buyer can get $14,500. towards that purchase. It must be your primary residence, you must be mortgage/credit worthy, it can not be a ‘fixer-upper’, it must be located on the island, all of the money must be used at closing and you have to answer a lot of relatively easy questions in the booklet supplied and one internet test/quiz. Both of which are questions about houses, their construction, plumbing, electrical, roofing & other aspects concerning a house and it’s site.

    1. I live in Houston. (Well, slightly west in Katy.) Galveston has “good beaches” only to those that have never seen a real beach. They are alive and well in local Chamber of Commerce brochures, though. 🙂

  11. No advice here, really – but I am collecting up an assortment of plans for a retirement house in the Hill Country when I have sold enough books to purchase my own private hill there …
    1500-1700 feet, deep porch around at least two sides, single story, two maybe three bedrooms and a study/library. Don’t particularly need a separate dining room, but eat-in country-style kitchen…
    My own domicile, built in 1985, needs work now, since it was built by a general contractor and I don’t know how carefully the original owner kept after the work done. In pretty good shape, but I have already had to replace the HVAC and the hot water heater. A bathroom and kitchen reno is next… and also, the garage door needs replacing,
    I am always reminded of Dave Barry’s saying – that a house is merely a square hole in the ground, into which you pour money…

  12. I’d say don’t use a house inspector; in my experience, they don’t know any more than you do (and sometimes less). Find an experienced remodeling contractor instead, the kind who handle the whole gamut from cellar to roof, and get them to give the house a once-over (might not even charge for it). They can also give you a cost proposal for any needful repairs or defects that you can use to negotiate against the price.

    That looks like a coal furnace, tho hard to be sure when you can’t see if it has a hopper. Cheap, efficient, really warm-feeling heat, and messy.

    Electric heat has the problem that electric rates can be politically volatile. I know people in Ontario (Canada) whose all-electric heat bill leapt from ~$100/mo. to nearly $700/mo. in a single season, thanks to recent “green” political BS. Similar instant rate hikes happened in MT following Montana Power’s so-called “deregulation”. And in Boise in 2013, electricity to heat a small modern modular in midwinter was $500/mo. Problem is the amount used very rapidly hits the max rate, and then the bill goes up exponentially.

    Propane never feels truly warm, and can be prohibitively expensive. When I had propane heat, I figured out that heating just one room cost around $3 to run the furnace for 10 minutes. I’ve heard of rural propane bills that hit $1200/mo. during a hard winter and when gas prices are high (propane price tends to be tied to gasoline prices), and that was for a modern, well-insulated house.

    Now I have natural gas, am heating roughly five times the space and keeping it somewhat warmer against much colder winters, and even when it’s -30F outside, the highest bill is $90/mo. Yeah, no contest!

    There are some interesting new designs in pellet stoves, and in wood furnaces that sit outside the house (reducing the risk of a house fire) but run like a forced-air furnace. If I hadn’t lucked into a place with natural gas, I’d be looking into that!

    As to my ideal house… that would be with a Roman-style atrium. Otherwise, anything classic and conventional of layout; I *loathe* “ranch”(who thought it was a good idea for a stickbuilt house to have a layout like a singlewide trailer?) and tract-type houses, even the fancy ones. My sister the modernist architect described my 1950-model house as “quaint” and I was like — well, yeah!!

  13. We have worked steadily to make the outside of our house free of repeating maintenance.
    Vinyl siding. No it does not look like traditional wood siding, and we don’t spend a bunch of time looking at the outside of the house.
    Windows. Yep, vinyl replacements, same reasoning as above.
    Trim. Either flashed with aluminum, or when deteriorated, replaced with plastic wood.
    Exterior maintenance tasks that have to be repeated periodically take your time, take your time and money, and/or take your money.

    Also, having a garage is awesome for repairs and keeping at least one car out of the elements.

    And be aware that overthinking this can result in what I heard someone say, “Analysis Paralysis.”

    1. Until you get some serious hail. Then you will be replacing your vinyl siding (at least on the upwind side), which suddenly sports hundreds of penny-sized holes. (Also, it tends to get brittle with age and sun, then breaks at the slightest bump.) And after the insurance companies fund a season of hail damage repairs, up go the rates!

      Dunno about other insurance companies but State Farm gives a substantial discount for having a Class 4 metal roof, precisely because it’s immune to all but the most drastic hail. (By the time hail does more than mildly dent a metal roof, it’s stripping the shingles right off an asphalt roof, and maybe punching holes in the plywood to boot.)

  14. That furnace is just like the one that was in the basement of my grandmothers house. It was a coal / wood burner without any fan to help the heated air move, it relied on the warm air rising, thus the overly large ducting. It was installed around 1920. Her furnace had a chain drive apparatus that let you open the draft from the first floor. There was also a valve near that apparatus to let water onto the top of the firebox, this would increase the humidity in the house. In the early 60’s a oil burner was placed in the door of the furnace, so that it did not burn coal or wood anymore. Around 1968 natural gas was made available and that monstrosity was removed for a modern hot air furnace.
    Whether burning coal, wood or fuel oil it was one of the most inefficient furnaces ever.

  15. One story for everything is nice if you can get it – if not now, as you grow older.

    That was my wife’s hard condition after our first place (2 story condo) – she *really* didn’t love the stairs when she was pregnant. So our criteria when looking for houses was “what’s the nicest one-story home we can afford in the area we want”. That it came in a neighborhood we really like, and within walking distance of hiking trails we love, was an unexpected bonus.

    We’ve been in our current house for 20+ years now – one story, 4 bed, 2 bath. Except on the rare occasion when both our daughters are home the extra rooms get little use these days – we’re usually in the kitchen or living room when we’re not in the master bedroom. But it’s nice to have room for guests, or just putting things away out of sight.

    We were lucky – our house (early 60’s Cliff May style ranch house – though I’m pretty sure the design was a knock-off) was built with good materials for the day. We’ve been slowly upgrading (tore out the carpets in most rooms 15 years ago, put in double pane windows shortly after we bought it, added more insulation to the attic, and – last month – replaced the roof with a new one that will probably outlast us. But we’re planning on retiring in place in another 6-10 years, so money spent now on good quality improvements will – hopefully – reduce the need to spend money later.

    1. I’m still building my career, which I why I don’t think this house (whichever house we finally settle on) will be the forever home. After the kid is out of school and we have an empty nest I anticipate another move.

  16. Both houses we bought got new siding and windows the next summer after we moved in. Definitely didn’t pay for themselves in value on the first house, but the comfort factor made it worth it for us.

    Electrical wiring outlets is the small perpetual itch for us. Which rooms and walls have 2 prong and which 3 prong outlets. A small thing to watch compared to the other electrical nightmares people have shared.

    You may be aware of the $30K storm damage last October that is turning this year into the “year of the internal house move” as we re-allocate rooms from one function to another. A lot of cleaning, throwing out, and re-energizing spaces that had fallen out of use in the 14 years we have been here. But It is fun, and we expect to stay here another 15 at least.

    Which is my segue to my real advice — to know what is the limit of your ideal “30-year” house. The societal pressure is always to buy more and bigger if you can afford it. But what do you really want in a house? what is the final, ultimate expansion that you really don’t need to go beyond? If you don’t decide on that now, you can very easily miss it and sail on past into something more than you intended or ever expected to do something with.

    We never intended to find that house when we went looking for #2, but since we’d already decided on our limit, we recognized it when we got it, and have been glad to stay. And curiously, even though in one sense we are re-doing a huge portion of the house following the momentum applied by the storm damage, it all still fits within that same vision we had of our “ideal” house from when we first bought it.

  17. My mother always said, Buy a house and remodel a bit at a time over many years. I was 59 when I bought my first house…many years was not an interesting option. All was done at once. It all turned out well, so far.

    Interesting experience. When I bought the house, the kitchen zone was strange. The carpenters took something out and I noted the wall verticals were 1x2s. I said to the general contractor ‘those can’t possible be structural. He remarked that in some new houses it is. I said we have to find the structural walls, which are not in the expected location. No. No structural interior walls. There is a 12×12 steel H beam in the ceiling and 2x12s perpendicular to it, reaching to the outside walls. Ditto in the floor, though that girder was visible at that point, because it was below the garage ceiling. I took out all the walls and have an open kitchen, cabinets and a built-in breakfront now installed on three sides, above the double garage, sothe kitchen si the size of the double garage.

    This was the only significant change of plans relative to start.

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