Thursday, June 28, 2007

NC Report

"I'm in es-ca-row!"
(Gilmore Girl's reference...) The short of it is, we are going through the closing proceedings on buying our first house. To see how we got to that conclusion, read on- if you are satisfied enough to know that we found a house, consider yourself done and move on. This is not a length that is for the weak of heart.

What a fool I am. What a silly, deluded, inexperienced girl I am. I was looking forward to my house-hunting trip as a delightful introduction to Charlotte, NC where I would have several viable options of houses to choose from. I planned on posting about 3 choices of houses and having my friends vote on them for fun, kind of like 'House Hunters' on HGTV. I have been researching Charlotte and it's real estate for more than 6 months. I felt I was more than prepared for this trip. Now I'm not that idealistic- I didn't expect to buy my dream house with a mere $110,000 budget, even though the Charlotte market is much better than anywhere else. I expected a small house, one that would need repairs and face lifts over time, but I also expected decent neighborhoods, odor-free homes to choose from, and a few viable options. Since I had been researching the market for so long, I emailed my agent Alison, with a barrage of houses I was interested in. I had several criteria that I had to keep in mind: Location, Neighborhood, Schools, Commute for Timm, the Ward, a garage/shop space for Timm, some studio space for me, and general Livability of the house. Unfortunately, most of this is difficult, if not impossible to determine online in a city you are not familiar with. I gave her about 30 houses, and with the ones I knew she would prepare, I was excited to get started. HMm. Turns out every single house I chose, without exception, was in the wrong part of town. Charlotte is really big- about an hour across. The first day she humored me by taking us to see some of my choices, telling me that she would not have chosen a single one of the houses that I did. Quickly I began to see why. We looked at a few of my choices before I acquiesced and turned the reins over to her. All that work for nothing! They were all in degenerating neighborhoods, and Charlotte was starting to look pretty bleak. That first day of hunting wore down my resolve, and then Sunday my parents and I decided to drive around and find all the new construction that was close to being within our budget. Lots of really cute otpions- bad locale. When the sales rep of the houses tells you he would not raise a child in this area or school, it's time to think again. By Sunday night I had only managed to see the slums of Charlotte, and my choices within our budget started to look really desperate. Suddenly I found myself thinking, 'What have I done? Oh, what have I done to my little family?...' I felt like I had set this plan in motion and now I was being carried away by the momentum as it spun wildly out of control, careening in directions I never imagined. My plans and visions of our lives in Charlotte were stained were distorted. Things were looking bad as I contemplated why I was leaving so many good friends and family behind to pursue...this. I felt helpless because we've gone too far to turn back. Oh woe is me, I was feeling a little sick.
We decided to see if we could qualify for more than we originally intended to see if our options improved considerably. They did- to a degree. Monday we started pounding the pavement looking at houses in that price point. The neighborhoods improved, but they weres till dirty, ill-taken care of, and many smelled. We ran the gamut from the ghetto to the upper crust. We looked at houses that were rank with cat urine, smoke and mold. We opened the door and as the wall of stank affronted us, turned around and left. We looked at condos, townhomes, foreclosures, single family homes, smelly homes, filthy homes, ideal neighborhoods and the ghettos. I stayed up almost every night until 2 am searching for more houses online in areas and price points I had never considered and researching elementary schools. By the last day, I had only found 2 viable options, and that was only under duress. The pressure was on, and I felt compelled to make an impossible decision. By this point we had upped our price point to 135,000 on the insistence of my dad who wanted to try and help. (I think they were frightened by our prospects-) There was a house I LOVED, in an iffy neighborhood. There was a house I really didn't like in a good neighborhood. No one house had ever met all the criteria we set before us. My standards were constantly evolving and my expectations lessening. The night before our last hunt we prayed that I would receive a clear impression as to what home was right for us. We had completely exhausted our resources.
After having another prayer the next morning, we headed over to meet Alison so we could go back to the two houses under consideration and really evaluate them. Imagine my surprise when she about 5 new houses for us to look at! They all looked like great options, but I've learned that a lot can sound great on paper with a thumbnail picture. We headed out, and immediately things were looking up. It's amazing what increasing your budget by 30,000 will do for you. As I looked at a few of them and tried to imagine their possibilities and determine how they met each of our criteria, the other 2 choices started to fall away. The 4th house we went to didn't look that promising on paper, as it was 139,900 and only about 1330 square feet. It looked kind of boring. This house was in Alison's favorite neighborhood of all. (Which is saying something based on the size of Charlotte and how many neighborhoods we canvassed.) I approached the door and was quite pleased. I slowly began to make my way though the house and went out onto the enormous deck that spans the entire length of the house. I descended the stairs to the oasis-like back yard and knew. I went back inside and toured the rest of the house-it had a one-car garage which was vital for Timm, and a finished room between the garage and the kitchen that was clearly intended for my studio. It still had 3 other bedrooms besides, and a big living room. But the huge sell- the neighborhood! It's not just a neighborhood, it's a community. First of all, it's beautiful and very well-maintained. The streets are a little bit winding and hilly, and tree-lined everywhere. The houses are obviously well-cared for in this established neighborhood. Just around the block there is the Olympic-sized neighborhood pool that looks like it belongs to an expensive club. There are 2 great playgrounds in the shade, and very extensive walking/running/biking paths that are beautiful and shady. They have a neighborhood directory with every one's name, phone number and address. They have pool parties and their own swim teams at the pool. Several members of my new ward live in the same neighborhood.This house finally met ALL of our criteria! But- it was listed at 139,900 and was just reduced. They were firm. We went back to the office to prepare an offer and crunch some numbers. It turned out that the interest rate had dropped from 7% when we calculated it a couple of days ago, to 6.25% so that a loan for 139,900 was barely more per month than 125,000. It was still doable for us, and they were able to get us qualified for that much even though days ago we didn't. We put in an offer, and after 2 negotiations, settled on 139,000 with the seller paying $2,000 in closing costs.
Whew! All in all, I couldn't be happier with the whole package- Locale, neighborhood, schools, lot, house, ward, commute for Timm... Finally. Now just cross your fingers that we make it through closing without any hitches. I don't think I can take it.
Here it is: http://www.allentate.com/AlisonMathews/DesktopDefault.aspx?pageid=108&pagealias=ATWAgentListingDetail&ListingID=1013910&ListingPosition=1&From=QuickSearchI will post some of my own pictures later. (and not write much.)

11 comments:

Karli said...

Jessie,

That one looks perfect for you guys! love the picture of the living/kitchen area. So bright and cheery. I know you will make it look awesome and love that you will each have your area where you can be creative.

Good luck with the rest of your trip!

Karli

mom said...

As I have said before, turn first to prayer! Hot dog. And for the record, I'm tired too......

mom said...

Btw, congradulations!!!

Hannah said...

So glad it all came together- wish you could have come to that conclusion without the ghettos and smelly houses though. Good luck and congrats!

Kim said...

Your new house looks adorable! (I'm jealous of the community pool...)
And, although the house looks cute as it is, I'm excited to see how you (with the help of your mother) make it look even cuter.
Congrats!

charlotte said...

Jessie I'm so excited for you and Timm! Timm told me on Friday that you were pretty discouraged--I'm so glad things worked out for you. Yay!! (Btw-Bella was great the whole weekend!)

charlotte said...

And I totally got the GG reference :)

Claudissima said...

jessie you have a superb way of writing...delightful really. sometimes you have to go through many apples to find the perfect one...congratulations

michelle said...

Woohoo! You're in es-ca-row!! I'm so glad you finally found the right one -- the whole scenario was so familiar to me, and I was really hoping that the miracle would happen. A wood floor -- nice. The deck looks so fun. Love all the established trees, and the neighborhood sounds delightful. I can't wait to see how you make it your own!

Sharon said...

what a great house! It looks so fun! It has everything you wanted.

Jill said...

I'm so excited for you guys, what a great house! It's so darling and sounds like it's in a fantastic area. Wow!

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