Sunday, August 9, 2009

further adventures in housing

I forgot my camera again. I know, it's really not right. But being resourceful, I have pictures anyway.

House #3 (last weekend were houses 1 and 2)

Here is the first house we looked at. It's just a block or two from the most recent "my house," and differs in that it's rather more expensive, has a smaller yard - and everything is already done. (Which I think cuts both ways.)

One of the problems with everything being done is that it is a temptation. Both my DH and I were smitten, but we couldn't do anything rash even were we so moved because it is just too expensive. It has been on the market the better part of a year, and the owners have dropped the price 7.7% (total, over two price changes). My very rough rule of thumb is that all houses in the DC area are initially offered at 20% over fair market value. If this house dropped a total of 20%, it would almost be affordable. I am sure at that point I would find a way. So we'll have to wait and see.

Anyway, on the inside it was amazing. The people who own it have (IMO) exquisite taste. They apparently had a collection of antique furniture already when they bought it, and it shows. They also went for very regal colors - a general dark red and yellow-gold palette. It works really well, but I just think it's a little grand for my taste (also, I tend to like blue). For example, the living room:

That's ornate wallpaper border AND crown molding. Oh, and on the left of the shot, you see the mantel of a non-working fireplace. There's another in the dining room, and a third in the second bedroom. As meticulous as they were with restoration, I'm surprised they didn't get those running again. I think I would. Also, if you can't tell, it's actually a rather small living room. The ornate love seat at right works, but I wonder about our sectional. I like old-fashioned, but I'd like a comfortable living room.

The dining room, on the other hand, is quite large (maybe bigger than the living room?). It has a longish table (seats six?) and a large ornate buffet and an occasional table and several other things and doesn't look remotely crowded. Definitely passes the Christmas test.

Two owners ago apparently added an extension onto the back, in which they built a large kitchen. I think the current owners are responsible for its design, which I think is awesome:

It has a dark red ceramic tile countertop. Not what I would have chosen (if I have to gut a kitchen, I'm leaning toward silestone that looks like slate - it's not granite, it's pricey but you can do your own installation because of the nature of the stone, it's friendly to dishes and can take hot pots, and I found a discount place, of course). But tiles are a historically appropriate choice I believe, and I think they do look lovely. They've also got stainless steel appliances (sigh), including a wine refrigerator (good grief!). The house does have natural gas - they may have hooked that up. The cupboards are white-painted with an antique glaze - which is exactly what I would do if I had to do cabinets. (Wouldn't have done a parquet floor - I just think wood floors in the kitchen would be too vulnerable.)

Actually, one of the charming aspects of the house was how many of the pretties were things I am interested in myself. Another thing they put in the addition was a downstairs full bath off the kitchen, and it has a 4' - or maybe 54" - clawfoot tub. I've been looking at those; the 4' are hard to find, and expensive. I'm impressed with the owners' shopping skills!

And the upstairs bath has octagon-and-square tile - which is on my list of items for which I've found prices in case I need to redo a bathroom in period style (though their white tile is probably more period than the tan I found). Oh, and one of the things I fancy for my imagined library is a Chesterfield sofa (while I'm spending thousands of imaginary dollars, maybe a pull-out!). They had a Chesterfield-style chair in the room where I would put the library (see below).

Upstairs they chose quieter colors - grays and blues for the walls. The master, for example (it has a tiny closet, BTW, and there's one upstairs full bath - no master bath. No surprise, of course):

My notes in general:
  • gorgeous decor. But it would be nice if I could do it and choose my own.
  • love the kitchen. Plumbed for gas - great.
  • attic: has a full-sized one, but accessible only by pull-down stairs. Hmm. Tricky to finish as bedrooms?
  • fully-finished basement: still lots of storage; "family room" pretty small (but could be a guest room); 3/4 bath very nice; tiled area with cabinets but no sink just confusing.
  • yard: smallish. Beautifully landscaped though. Two-car garage = score.
  • extra room downstairs, the "parlor": good place for a library with the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
  • bedrooms: really there are three upstairs. To be four as advertised, either the "parlor" (which has a closet) needs to be a bedroom, or the finished basement has to count. It's a big house, but if we did end up with lots of kids, it might be the least flexible...?
  • Expensive.
  • if we don't buy it, I need to make notes on their redecorating strategy...

House #4

It was supposed to have an open house. The listing site still says "open Sunday 1-4." But when we got there, there was nobody there. So we peeked slightly. Though it's the same age as house #3 (very beginning of the 20th century), it has an unusual design - the facade is dominated by a "sleeping porch," which apparently dates to a time when there was no air conditioning but people still liked sleep and disliked mosquitoes. (I think my DH is biased against it because of the facade. But he concedes it has to stay on the list.)

I think I would have to decide whether a sleeping porch was the best thing ever once I had one, or whether it was useless and just crying out to be converted to a walk-in closet and master bath. (This is the only house that offers space to add these things without sacrificing a bedroom!)

It has a working wood-burning fireplace in the large living room (that's also the front room - no foyer). Oddly, it's the first house on the list whose fireplace is currently fully functional, though of course they all have them. It also has an addition on the back - the exterior shingles are sort of questionable with the rest of the house and DH hates them (this means he gets to learn how to replace them), but it's got a lot of space and a wood stove:

The kitchen: like the cupboards. Like the pass-through. Like white appliances. Redo everything else.

In general:

  • large living room and family room means one gets bathed in built-in bookshelves (probably the family room above, since the wood paneling has to go anyway).
  • 3BR upstairs, apparently 1BR on first floor (wonder if that's a reasonable bedroom situation?)
  • oil heat...wonder if there's a gas line anywhere nearby? Wonder how much they pay to heat the place?
  • full unfinished basement means a bit of expansion potential. No idea whether it has an attic (the exterior photo suggests maybe a crawl space?). I'd kind of like an attic for more potential bedrooms.
  • good-sized yard; driveway but no garage (which is fine).
  • kitchen is a substantial project. If it's an OK size (and I'm not a living-room-sized-kitchen person), not a problem.
  • decent-sized dining room helps with the Christmas test.
  • on the market close to a year; taken 9% off the original asking price. Unoccupied, and faintly neglected. If they took off another 11%, I think we could swing it.

House #5

How's this for strange: I called the listing broker's cell phone on Friday around 4PM. As anyone knows who's shopped for a house, unless she died, she'll return the call within 45 minutes. She hasn't called back to date. But it looks like this on the outside:

Its facade has won it major points with my DH. I admit, I love wrap-around porches too. The siding is vinyl (which is OK), not wood (house #4 is wood). It's ten years older than houses 3 and 4 - it's the only one on my list so far from the nineteenth century, and I admit this exercises some fascination for me.

General information: it costs the same as house #4 and in fact is just down the street from it. Similar-sized yard. It has a 1.5 car garage (bonus). Also oil heat; same questions as above. Like house #4, it has 1.5 baths (house #3 holds the record with 3 baths), but it has only 3 bedrooms. (Houses 3 and 4 sort of have 4 bedrooms. Houses 1 and 2 really do.) It has a separate library and family room and living room - sounds like one of these could be a first-floor guest room. It has an unfinished basement, and my eyeballing of the picture above says that it has a full (unfinished) attic too - probably only full height in the middle, but still potentially another bedroom or two (plus the basement?) in case we should unexpectedly have a large family. Oh yes, and houses 4 and 5, but not house 3, have first-floor laundry rooms/alcoves. Just crying out for green bead board!

Also, it was listed rather recently. It's been occupied recently but I believe it isn't now. If the pattern holds, it will sit on the market a while (especially if the realtor's recent behavior is any indication of how aggressively it's being shown. There's only one picture of it on the web!). And they will have to drop the price. And it will my price range! I do expect that the inside needs a bit of work (definitely an additional bathroom), but at the right price, I don't think that would be a problem.

Since we couldn't see the inside of the houses, we walked around the neighborhood. As indicated in a previous post, I had done my homework with the aerial photography and knew where I wanted to go. The (not for sale) house I coveted isn't as enticing in person - it's beautiful, of course, but it's two stories, not the two-plus-attic I expected. (Part of its fascination was the huge rambling-ness.)

But the area was even lovelier than I imagined. Tons and tons of trees; tiny near-silent streets; a giant community field had a pickup football game, apparently all town residents enjoying a Sunday afternoon. On the edges there are some huge old houses. We stopped a couple walking their dog and they told us how much they love living there. And yet it's super-close to the metro - I could get to work without difficulty! And street after street of historic homes - it aced the Christmas test. I thought I would never dislodge my DH from house #3 (I think I was right to bring him to see it though. Now I can use it to point out what the fixers could look like, and you have to see one that's too expensive just to get an idea of your boundaries), but he loved the area of houses 4 and 5 as much as I did. We decided we'd buy our house (maybe house #5??) and then tell all our friends :).


  1. I love the town charm you are describing with the towns residents gathered to watch a tag football game. How neat is that? Sounds like a quaint area (house #5) where everyone knows each others name. Quiet streets sound appetizing too. Just like I read in novels. hmmmmmm....I live in a little town but it has grown...lots of people coming from the city (like us) and making it like a suburbia. Actually there are a lot of corn fields around us. We are still technically called a rural town. Anyways...I hope you get a chance soon to see house 4 and 5 from the inside. Oil heat huh? I could not begin to fathom how much the habitants pay (or paid) to heat their homes. I would have thought in this day and age they would have changed over to gas a long time ago. hmmmm... I wish you lots of luck as you continue on your house hunting...and thanks for sharing your adventures. (I hope the said realtor was on vacation and not really dead. Let us know if she calls you on Monday). :)

  2. My comments from Melissia VANISHED - I have no idea what happened :(. But I have to ask: you said tile from the "big DIY stores" is of lower quality. Does that mean Lowe's and Home Depot, or where? So if I want Dal-Tile, I should find a licensed distributor or something? (I bet there are some near here.) My slate and silestone finds are from the manufacturer, but I admit for ceramic tile I was looking at the big stores (at least to set price-points, I guess). And, I can't believe you have a pie safe AND a piecrust table in your garage! (Where did you find them??)

  3. Contestant #3 was very appealing and from the photos looked very well done. Very cool to get to go on virtual house tours with you!

    I'd be a bit wary of unfinished basements in 100 year old houses: they are, as a rule, cellars. In that rarely would one want to live down there. But that also depends on the material used in the foundation (around here it's fabulously porous limestone) and the way the basement is set up. Most of the basements in old houses in the steamy Midwest are somewhat creepy, damp, and mold-prone.

  4. Wow, lots of forays into the housing market! I have to admit, I like #5 the best :) Keep us posted!

  5. I like all of the houses, but house 5 is cute. My DH always wanted a big proch. They have a sort of charm and they're very inviting. I noticed house 3 also had wood floors in the bathroom. It looks nice but I'd imagine would have problems with water.

  6. Finally making my way through all of your new posts, and I'm loving the house pics and plans! Have you heard of Rasmus? It's an online auction site for the DC area, and although you can never predict what they will be auctioning, you can find some really great stuff if you keep an eye on it. We found ceramic and marble tile for sooo cheap, oriental rugs, antique tables, and they have lots more.
    Oh, and congrats to your DH on his new job! His new travel sounds like what my hubby's former job was like in the military - he traveled 3 weeks every other month. It's rough, but I picked up a couple hobbies and made it through...

  7. I am very much impressed by your blog, you can find more Wood Bedroom Furniture that suites your budget.