Saturday, April 7, 2012

Jumping Into Homeownership

Despite the cheesiness of "love at first sight" or "you'll know when you find the right one", I (Chris) can say that I knew the house on Avenue H was right when we first saw it. It was a 1938 bungalow (2 bed, 1 bath, 1000 SF) on a decent sized lot. Some of the plusses:
- Good curb appeal and new paint, despite lacking any sort of landscaping/grass in the front/back
- New roof
- New electrical
- Refinished floors

Essentially, we could tell that the house had a lot of potential. During the pre-purchase inspection however, we found out a couple of not-so-great things:
- The chimney wall had suffered a fire several years ago, necessitating a rebuild of that wall (and the reason for the new roof)
- The "refinished" hardwood floors were not in as great of shape as they looked. Instead of being done professionally, they had been over-sanded and stain-sealed. They also lacked a subfloor, and several spots were noticeably weak, creaky and drafty.
- All original plumbing
- Despite being mostly level, the house was sitting on the original cedar post foundation from 1938.

One of the largest problems however was that the layout was really awkward (and likely the reason it was still on the market). There hadn't been any major renovations, especially in the kitchen and bathroom, which shared a common area of the house along with an oversized laundry room that was somewhat out of place in a 1000 SF house. Sangeeta and I took turns with a pad of graph paper, some mechanical pencils and a bottle of wine trying to sketch out the layout pre-purchase. This is a rough approximation:

As you can see, there's an entryway, living room, and then a small cutout to enter the kitchen. The kitchen layout was awkward due to three points of access (living room, hall and laundry room), wasted space in the middle of the room (that was too small for a table, but too big to not be used) and a lot of the potential space was being taken up by the laundry and bathroom areas. The water heater and bedroom closet were also taking up a lot of valuable space right in the middle of the house.

We had been working with a contractor who was gracious enough to come to several of our potential purchases and assure us what we wanted to do could actually be done. We had dreams of ripping out walls and opening up areas to make the kitchen and bathroom that we wanted. The good news was that it was definitely possible, but like most projects, it's just a simple matter of money and time. The less of the first you have, the more of the second you need.

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