Tuesday, April 2, 2013

House Hunting: The Beautiful Disaster

So, the Beautiful Woman and I have been thinking about moving. This is... involved. Complicated. Difficult.

If it were just a matter of changing houses, it wouldn't be all that complex. Hideous and painful, sure, but not especially complex. But, of course, we're not just selling our house and looking for a new one on a whim; we have priorities. And criteria. And scruples. And probably a few other things that also make this more difficult than it strictly needs to be.

The desire for More Space is what got us off our butts and into the process of doing this, but it isn't actually the most important quality in any prospective New Homes. No, that honor goes to school placement. Firstborn, you see, doesn't attend the school that happens to be closest to our (current) house. Oh, no. We looked at that school, and while its Principal was making a valiant effort to clean it up, it was still extremely chaotic and hugely disorganized. So I camped out like the world's most rabid fan in search of concert tickets, and got him a transfer to another school, also nearby but vastly better run. And, honestly, I have no compunctions about doing that again...

...But no amount of willful self-sacrifice will help if there aren't any transfers available when Secondborn's time comes around, and the number of available transfer slots has been decreasing year after year.

So our ideal situation is a house for sale, in the neighborhood that feeds directly (and automatically) into that particular school, with enough rooms for the four of us and - if needed - my parents, and a small but serviceable pool.

To that end, we've been working with a realtor and keeping an eye on the listings. Last night, we went to look at our first... prospect...

The listing looked pretty good. It mentioned that the place needed some work, but the pictures were sharp and flattering, and showed a lot of nice features: built-in shelves in the living room, a central patio/picnic area, brand new fence, and like that. So we showed up to tour it.

Oh my stars and garters, I don't even know where to start. Well, okay - the doors don't fit right. It took our poor realtor five minutes to gimmick the front door open, and she had a key. Which might have been embarrassing if it had been in any way her fault, but the moment we got the door open... No. Just no. The living room had the nice built-in shelving in place. It also had great gaping lines where the decorative ceiling beams had been torn out but not replaced. The door to the pool took me three tries to open; I had to find the right way to shove it so that I could open the deadbolt - and when we went to leave, I was seriously worried that I was going to tear the latch off trying to get the deadbolt closed again.

One of the bathrooms was... "unfinished". No wallpaper... no sink... no bath... no toilet... just a small, blank, L-shaped empty room.

There was a small wet-bar area. On one wall was an intriguing little wrought-iron decorative grating. The wall behind it was deeply indented - I think the term is "punched in". Somebody had looked at that, um, "dent" and just hung the decoration over it and hoped nobody would notice.

The pool was like a demilitarized zone. Okay, I exaggerate... but only slightly. But, you know, a really lovely fence only makes up for so much of a pool that needs to be completely resurfaced and probably replumbed as well. The water was, at least, basically clear - so I assume the pump was working. Mostly. Probably.

The crowning touch, though, was after we'd looked through the house and discussed both What We Liked About The Layout, and What We Found Perfectly Appalling About The Condition. Our realtor, by the way, agreed with our basic assessment and actually added a couple of points that we hadn't even considered. We'd come back to the living room, which - on further inspection - appeared to have some water damage in one area of the ceiling. It had a nice big fireplace, which I liked, and I'd gone to look at the built-in shelving. (I'm an English Major. We accumulate books the way Philatelists accumulate stamps. Shelves are very important to us.) I wanted to see if it had been added by the current owners, or if it was original.

So, while I was looking at the way it fit against newly-repainted wall, I felt something drop down against my ankle. It was my own fault; in the course of looking, I'd brushed against it.

It was a brick. Well, it was half a brick. Apparently my presence beside the edge of the hearth had caused it to make a break for freedom.

I fitted it against its other half, and set the whole thing back on the mortared surface. It sat there quite amiably; apparently it only moved if you happened to, say, breathe in its general direction.

Here's the thing: if I were a fixer-upper sort of guy, and if the owners were willing to accept a bid at roughly one-third of their asking price, this might be a reasonable deal. But I am soooooooo (SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO) not a fixer-upper, and I'm sure they're hoping to make back more of what they (likely unwittingly) paid for the place, and on the whole I just don't need the grief.

So this one's a no-go.

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