Friday, May 10, 2013

House Hunting - The List of Must Have's

Four months ago Jon and I started the process of house hunting in the Seattle area. Had you asked me before we moved if we would still be living in a small apartment filled mostly with our packing boxes, I would have laughed at you like you were talking crazy talk. I guess the joke is on me, because we are still here in this apartment and still house hunting =) It's actually not so bad. Our noisy upstairs neighbors moved out and a nice, quiet lady now lives in the unit above us so we no longer hear people running and banging doors upstairs. We also love the dog park and it has given us the opportunity to meet a lot of neighbors who have dogs. Is it bad that we know ALL the dogs' names but not the human owners' names?  But in all seriousness, living here isn't that bad. We still want to find a permanent house to live in though.

As with any house hunt, there are "must have's" and "those would be nice" and "absolutely won't tolerate" items. It's not that we aren't finding houses that match our lists, it's that we along with 10 other people find the same house and want to all bid on it. Four offer rejections later and a rapidly increasing buyer-competitive market has us finally pulling back on the reins wondering if we are better off waiting for the market to balance out. In the meantime, we keep looking at houses and measuring each house against our three lists.

Here are our lists:

Must-Have's:
- Minimum 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom. Might consider a 2 bedroom if there is a loft or office space
- A fenced yard. We would love a huge, grassy, fenced yard but we will settle for a smaller yard if necessary. Must be large enough to throw a tennis ball to our dog, Tatum =)
- An open-floor plan or the structural architecture to knock down a few walls to turn it into an open floor plan. This is especially important for the kitchen. Our AZ house had a large open kitchen with a big island and we utilized that space so often that we really want something similar in our next house.
- A master bathroom that has 2 sinks or 1 sink with enough counter space. So many master bathrooms out here are very small and bathrooms are difficult to remodel in terms of expansion so a large enough master bath is a must.
- Close to Jon's work (aka, under a 30 minute commute in traffic, 10-15 without). Jon works in a really fun part of the Seattle Eastside and we find ourselves enjoying activities near his work often, so we don't want to compromise on location too much.

Those-Would-Be-Nice:
- A two-car garage. Unlike Arizona, two-car garages aren't as common out here. I think it has to do with the larger amount of townhouses and condos. We have debated about whether or not to make this a "must-have" or "would-be-nice" item, and finally decided that as long as there is enough in-house storage space AND a yard where we could put in a nice storage shed for bikes, yard tools, etc, then we would be ok without a two-car garage.
- Hardwood floors in the main living space and carpet in the bedrooms
- A wood-burning fireplace (I'm a sucker for the sound of crackling firewood)
- A covered patio
- A built in firepit (We used our firepit in Arizona ALL the time. It's a great entertainment piece when friends come over)
- Ceiling fans already installed
- A separate laundry room (many houses have a small laundry space shared with a 1/2 bathroom...not a big fan of this design).

Absolutely-Won't-Tolerate
- High HOA dues. Our dues in AZ were $40/month.  It's common for HOA dues to be $300/month and over out here, mostly in townhouse and condo communities.
- HOA pet restrictions.  Being dog-lovers and wanting to foster again as soon as we have our own house, we don't want to be restricted by an HOA that doesn't allow "aggressive breeds". If I own the house, I don't want to be told what kind of dog I can and can't own.
- Junky neighbors. Ok, so no offense to anyone, but Washington people love their RVs, trailers, campers, extra cars that don't work, etc. And they seem to love to keep them in their front yards. Of course, this isn't representative of everyone, but we have found quite a few neighborhoods like this. And not "bad" neighborhoods, just a mix of run-down houses next to well-kept houses. We want a neighborhood where we feel neighbors take some pride in their home ownership.
- Too much to fix. We don't mind buying a house that needs fixing up, even a few walls that need knocking down, but we draw the line at houses that have very costly repairs. We want a house that is livable, but that we can do DIY projects over time, such as updating a kitchen.

So for now our search continues. We have seen houses that we wish we hadn't wasted a 1/2 hour of our life touring and we have seen houses that we really liked but didn't get our offer accepted on. We are comforted knowing that it's all in God's hands and we are learning to be patient in the process.

Are you in the house-buying process or have you already gone through that? If so, what things would be on your lists?

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