Thursday, January 20, 2011

The way to my heart is apparently secret rooms and bay windows

We've now looked at 20+ places, and have identified four that we might actually be interested in. To put this in some perspective, there are currently 94 properties for sale in our price-range in the region we would consider buying in. The problem is, each of the four we like has a serious flaw. Do we hold out for perfection?

On the one hand, you might argue that we should definitely hold out longer, because if four out of the 100-ish on the market right now are great, then given the speed of turnover in this city (properties are usually on the market for less than three weeks), more great ones should pop up soon. On the other hand, these four have all been on the market since we first started looking, i.e. nearly four months now. Nothing approaching the awesomeness of these has shown up in that time. (On the third hand, why the hell are the properties that rate so high on our scale of awesomeness precisely the ones that aren't selling???)

Anyway, here's a sneak preview, should you happen to care, along with pros and cons.

Three-bedroom ancient monstrosity, oh my:

This place is 4.5 km (2.8 miles) from university, has the biggest lounge and kitchen of any of the houses we've seen, and has a beautiful garden with a whole lot of weird little outbuildings that have been used as chicken houses, greenhouses and an artist studio. According to the building report, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it at all, despite it being over 50 years old. On the other hand, it has no heating (yet), no cooling, and yeah, that picture in the top right is the kitchen. (Oh dear.) It also has no plumbing for hooking up a washing machine (WTF). Geekman doesn't like the exposed brick "feature wall" in the lounge (top left), and both of us worry that that room would feel like a school hall, and be impossible to keep warm.

Three-bedroom-in-a-park, and yes it's mainly about the windows:

This place is much smaller than the one above, and really the bedrooms are kind of ridiculously sized. But potentially we could knock out the wall between two of them and make a large one. It has the most amazing bay windows in the dining room (pictured) and one of the bedrooms. The garden is gorgeous and has mature fruit trees. It backs onto a national park. On the other hand it's about twice as far from university as the one above. But on the third hand (or whatever I'm up to now), the route is on bicycle paths through parkland all the way. The biggest problem with this place is that the building report lists a LOT of small issues that would each cost no more than a few hundred or a thousand dollars to deal with, but that together add up to about $20,000 of work, not to mention being annoying to have to deal with.

Two-bedroom plus secret office, but the body corporate fees of DOOOM:

This place is perfect except that it has the world's tiniest kitchen (it looks big in this photo, but that space is doubling as the lounge too. Oh, and the body corporate fees are twice what any other townhouse I've seen charges. (The two properties above are free-standing houses, but this one and the next are not, which is nice because we wouldn't have to do our own external maintenance, plus townhouses have better energy ratings, but sucks because of lack of control over anything much, and because of the fees.) It also has three bathrooms for some inexplicable reason, despite only having two bedrooms.

But! It has a secret room! And the bedrooms are reasonably sized, the whole place has heating and air-conditioning, lots of storage space, and a little private garden/courtyard as well as access to a communal herb garden and outdoor areas. It's only 2km from university (1.2 miles).

I am so in love with this next place I want to marry it but it doesn't like my hypothetical cat:

This is the most awesome place ever. It is a similar distance from university to the previous one, but the route is entirely on bike paths through parkland. It is huge and funky and I have frankly never seen anything like it before in my life. I WANT. It also has a secret criminal mastermind lair! The kitchen is a tiny bit smaller than we would like, but the three bedrooms and lounge are enormous. There is even room on the landing to have a desk and bookshelf and pretend it's an office. The only flaw is, perhaps, a fatal one: it is not possible to have cats in this building. And one of the main reasons we are considering buying a place is to get a cat. Gah!

The lowest asking price of the four places (the no-cat place) is 25% lower than the highest one (the bay-window parkland place). Ancient Monstrosity is part of a deceased estate, so perhaps they are more likely to accept a low offer. Body-Corporate-Fees-of-Doom is kind of weird, as it went on the market last year at a stupid-high price, then was withdrawn, and now it is back on the market for auction, and the lower end of what the real estate agent tells us is really quite reasonable (and puts it lower than any of the others in this list.) As for No-Cat-Ville, we happen to know about an offer the seller accepted (which then fell through), so we have a fair idea that they would take a bit under asking price as well, making THAT one the cheapest.

Advise me, O internets! How do we make this sort of decision! Or do we keep waiting?


Vaulting said...

Clearly, you must smuggle the cat into No-Cat-Ville.

liz said...

I see you really only loving two of these. One is no-cats and the other is bay-windows.

Pretend you've decided to buy each and live there mentally for a day or so.

Can you live with no cats? Would you regret that?

Rebecca said...

I'm a dog person, but I'm totally offended by a place that won't allow you to have cats in a place you freaking OWN!

IF, and ONLY IF, the $20K is within your budget, I'd suck it up and deal with the work. After all, the best things are worth working for, and it's a gorgeous place. You'd love waking up there every day and your cat would love it, too.

Btw, you *do* know that home ownership is a real pain in the ass, right? Of course, I remember you having a great deal of problems with rental units. So, at least it would be *your* pain in the ass, and you'd have some control over it.

In any case, best of luck with everything.

StyleyGeek said...

Yeah, the no cats thing is more complicated than just a ban on them (although it is totally common in this city to have no-cats rules even for owners). I don't want to go into the details here, but it totally would not be possible, even smuggled.

Liz, I have been playing that game for the past couple of weeks. I can't figure it out.

Rebecca: I think you are right about that one being the best choice. (Although I totally change my mind about this every five minutes.) It is the only one where the problem is solveable, given application of money. No cats, high body corporate fees, or bad design of a building can't really be fixed.

The 20k can be within our budget if we deduct it from the amount we plan to offer :) My only worry then is whether something just as nice withOUT the $20k worth of work to be done will come on the market.

And yeah, I know home ownership is a pain (for some people anyway, and it seems a bit of a lottery whether you end up with the low-maintenance place or crazy-maintenance place). But the thought of that is starting to be less scary than the thoughts that go through my head every time our landlord increases our rent. (Which is now 13% higher than it was two years ago).

LJB said...

I want to hear more about the no-cats thing... because everyone NEEDS to have a cat... and because the last house is looking good and I would totally buy it.

StyleyGeek said...

Well, if you insist:

the no-cats thing is that there is no way for a cat to get in or out of that place (it's the second and third floor of a building, and there is no direct door to the outside).

So it would have to be an indoor cat, and Geekman absolutely does not believe in indoor-only cats (or even in cats that only have access to a small garden).

I know all the arguments for and against, and for what it's worth, I'd be happy enough having an indoor-only cat (well, I'd get two to keep each other company), but I don't want to fight about it with GM, and the fact that he cares so deeply about cat happiness is one of the things I love about him.

The reason I didn't explain it in the post is that I really don't want to get into the "can cats be happy indoors" argument, especially since it would feel to Geekman like I was trying to get the internet to side with me against him.

Grace Dalley said...

Ok 2 things:
1)I'm with GM on the "cats-need-to-go-outside" thing. They love outside so much. I remember when my current cat had been sick and the vet had told me to keep her inside for 3 days (and I mentally answered, "Yeah, right! Even if that's physically possible, she'll be miserable, and she'll make *me* miserable!"). When I got home with her I let her outside and she was quite wobbly but she went out on the lawn in the sun and sat down and watched stuff and she just looked so happy.

2) Beware houses that sit on the market for a long time. At some point you will want to move elesewhere, and you want a house that's easy to sell. And if the one that needs a lot of work done is a bargain, and an opportunity...why aren't other people trying to get their hands on it?

Unless you're in a big hurry, I'd keep looking.

StyleyGeek said...

I think that's probably good advice, Grace. But at least with a couple of these properties, I think the reason they have been on the market so long is simply that they are overpriced (by about 20%). And there is no way we would pay full asking price for them either. So when we consider making an offer on them, we are talking about a very low offer, and then in the future we would also sell it for actual market price rather than seller's imaginary price :)

In the case of the bay windows place, I think it is being marketed badly. The listing is playing up all the attributes that would make it attractive to families, but the bedrooms are way too small for a family with kids to be interested in. So I think they are getting the wrong demographic walking through. If I were them, I'd be putting up different photos, and not talking so much about how child-friendly it is.

StyleyGeek said...

Oh, and I don't mean that the asking price is 20% higher than what people might pay - I mean it's 20% higher than the highest asking prices for similar properties, which makes it more like 30-40% higher than what people would actually pay!

StyleyGeek said...

Finally, in the spirit of spamming my own comments: the bay windows place is neither a bargain, nor an opportunity. It's an overpriced pain in the neck, quite frankly. But it's in an awesome location and SO PRETTY! :)

But yeah, thanks for the objective viewpoints. It's hard to see past "pretty" to "sensible" sometimes.

Nicola Rowe said...

How you feel about being in a space makes a HUGE difference to your wellbeing and quality of life. You really seem to like the no-cats place (and it looks gorgeous, so I'd go for that. A hypothetical cat weighed against a real apartment wouldn't carry much weight with me.

Then, look for compromise solutions: could you install a very narrow ladder (so narrow no human could climb up) outside? Could you get an indoor dog, like a shih tzu?

Other than that, I underscore Grace's great advice.

StyleyGeek said...

We don't like dogs. Ugh.

And honestly, if we aren't going to get a cat, we might as well keep renting. The number one reason we want to buy is so we can have a cat. The number two reason is that we are sick of rent increases and paying tax on the interest on our savings. But when we do the figures it is not 100% clear that buying is financially a better decision than renting.

So really, it's all about the cat :)

jillheather said...

I have always felt there are two kinds of cats: the ones who want, more than anything else in the entire world, to go outside -- these are, generally, called "females" (with a subgroup of "males neutered past puberty") -- and the ones who do not care even a bit about getting more outdoors than they can get on a balcony ("males" and "old cats who are finally getting lazy", with the subgroup of "every cat in the world when there is snow outside").

Keep looking -- you'll find a place that you aren't wondering about, that is clearly the correct place to own.