I've been looking for a house for about a year and a half ago; I was planning on buying one last spring, but then Intel stock tanked and I didn't think I had enough to do what I wanted, so I put it off until this year. In early May, the stock went up enough to let me pay most everything off and still have a 20% down, with some borrowing from my 401K plan, and having been browsing the market for a year, narrowed it down to a half dozen or so houses that were close to what I was looking for:
On May 11, I spent lunch driving around the latest batch of faxes from my realtor, and ran across 12765 SW Evergreen (Map, Tax and other interesting info [enter R-number R19795])
I could only look around the outside, but backyard immediately struck me as being very close to what I was looking for, just needed a little screening at the edges to keep out nosy neighbors:
On May 13, I went back with my realtor and took some pix inside; despite being 2900 sq ft and 5 bedrooms, the bathrooms are really tiny as is the utility room (I'll get some pix on May 28 during the inspection). And the way the rec area/family room in the lower level is setup, I only have room for a 12' wide theater, which is much narrower than the 15-16' I wanted. One suggestion was to just build it sideways, but that involved wasting most of the whole lower level.
I got prequalification approval from Washington Mutual on May 18, and decided to look at one last batch of houses with my realtor on the afternoon of May 21. The runners up can be found here. We also looked at the Evergreen house once more (taking a couple more pictures of the area where the theater will go), and I decided to go with it. The others were all much smaller, and while they had their charms, I really thought I'd be cramped in them. It was getting late, so we agreed to meet the next morning to do the paperwork for the offer. The house was listed for $192,500, so my realtor and I agreed that $185,000 wasn't an unreasonable offer. Because they're changing the rules on my 401K plan in such a way that would effectively prevent me from borrowing from it for a while (at least a year), we had a deadline of June 1 to get everything negotiated, so the offer had a deadline of Monday, May 24 at 8pm. Over the weekend, I kept hoping they'd reject it, as the Chestnut house was really growing on me, but by Monday I realized that in the Evergreen house, the wall along the deck in back could be turned into a window wall similar in nature to the one in the Ardenwood house, and that completely turned the tide. Monday afternoon, they countered with $189,500 (actually $500 better than the $190,000 I was expecting), and I accepted. When you're talking this much money, a couple thousand isn't worth quibbling over and I had a deadline.
Even though it's not perfect, for the theater, I've decided that I'll just go with a 10' screen for the theater and try acoustically transparent material for it, with the speakers behind, as most movie theaters do. I'll build risers for a couple of 6' sofas, and use the area behind the second one as an equipment/media area. If that doesn't work, I can still try a sideways version or convert part of the oversized garage. I think it'll work great though. In the skinny utility room, I can get a full size stackable washer/dryer combo and rotate it to face the long dimension so that one can actually get in and out of them, and that'll work fine. Ripping out an extraneous storage area in the master bath will make for enough room to breath in there also.
So the end result are the following plans for the place (not necessarily immediately, by any means, but in priority order) include:
Aug 2002: Well, that's finally starting to happen. Spending WAY too much on landscaping. I got bids on extending the deck and putting up a wall to the neighbors and they came in at $8k-12k! Plan B! I've got bamboo growing in pots that will eventually fill in, and I'm also looking at filling in the space with laurel.
Aug 2002: The hot tub did get installed that first summer. It's been very nice, but hasn't gotten as much use lately as it deserves...
Aug 2002: This ended up being the very first thing I had done, as it was best done before I moved in and the house *badly* needed new carpet. They really stank, literally and figuratively. I left it out of two rooms, the library and the office, as I planned to put hardwood floors in them. I even eventually sanded, finished and installed Brazilian Cherry moulding in the library. I plan to do the same for the office, but it's still waiting "scheduling".
Aug 2002: The big window air conditioner turned out to work reasonably well, except for sleeping, which I recently remedied with a $350 air conditioner in my bedroom. Much cheaper that $2-3k for a full blown system...
Aug 2002: This turns out to be problematic: the backyard is higher than the water system, preventing backflow valves (required) from working. I'm planning on running a hose up to the middle of the backyard and connecting it to a distribution system from there. Someday.
Aug 2002: After getting the moulding done last fall, I decided I wasn't going to fit in the office, and ran network cables up the wall in the office, through the attic (what a mess!) and down the wall to jacks in the dining room and the nook off the living room that is serving as my main office, with the "office" being a server room and work area.
Aug 2002: This will probably be a squirrel cam, if I ever do it. It's very low priority.
Aug 2002: I can't believe I'm still putting up with this bathroom. It's the next major expense this house will see.
Aug 2002: This turned out to happen very quickly --- I got a nice projector on ebay for cheap. At 150 lbs, installing it was not fun, and ignore the high quality screen in use at the start ;-) Later, Burr and I installed a raised floor to give the theater "stadium seating". Eventually, it got carpeted and is pretty nice.
Aug 2002: The dishwasher also got replaced virtually immediately. The inspector said that dishwashers that don't get used tend to leak, and I wanted a good, quiet one anyhow, so I just went out and bought a new KitchenAid.
Aug 2002: I looked into doing this soon after I moved it, but it will require some structural supports and the bid estimate was on the order of $20,000. Well, *that's* not happening soon! And now that I'm using the nook as an office area, it's not too practical either.
I went to the Washington County Land Use Dept. on May 25, and looked up the building permit and subdivision surveys. I was hoping to get more, but that's all they had. In particular, they don't have house plan records for houses that far back (it was built in 1970). I guess they keep them online now or something. I did find out that the property is 70x110 square, and there's a 5' easement along the back for cable and phone (underground). That concerns me, as they may decide they need to dig up my back hedge, but I think it's unlikely.
Also, the seller sent me the property disclosure saying that they don't know if any of the paint has lead in it or not, as was expected. No one I know's going to eat it anyhow. The one thing of interest was that during the floods of 1996, water seeped into the basement somewhere. They had it grouted and sealed, and have had no problems since, but we've never had rains like that again either. I've asked for more information, but it doesn't sound like it was a big problem. That might be why the carpet in the basement seems newer though.
On Friday, May 28, I met with inspector Cory Hay, recommended by Jeff Kondo, and went through the house inspection (pictures). He pointed out a rotten stump that was full of termites and needed to be removed, a small bit of dry rot in a soffet, a crack in the fireplace that just needs sealed, the water heater is starting to rust and is about 15 years old, the furnace needs serviced, the gutters are completely shot (rusted out), the kitchen and bathroom exhaust vents attic tubes had fallen off so they were venting into the attic, and a roof valley support was a 1x1 instead of the 2x4 it was supposed to be, allowing a sag. He didn't check the dishwasher because the house had been vacant for a while, and apparently dishwashers need to be used regularly or the seals dry out and need serviced before they can be used again. It looks original and I plan on replacing it anyhow though. Basically, a bunch of little stuff that one would expect in a house almost 30 years old.
I made the mistake of letting my real estate agent set a $500 limit on what I would have the seller do, so it's basically fix the dry rot, fix the attic support and vent problems and have the furnace serviced. The gutters and other stuff I'll have to do. Oh well, it's all small potatoes compared to the amount I'm spending on the whole thing.
On June 10, we had the re-inspection, and though they did an imperfect job of putting in a new vent (apparently one of the bathroom vents never did go through to the roof, only into the attic, and they had to put in a new one), everything is basically ok. On June 11th, the appraiser went through and said things like "wow this is a big place" and "he got a good deal", so that sounds pretty promising. Washington Mutual wanted the report back by Monday the 14th, so they're hot to trot; after that, it's just the underwriter's blessing at WM, and then my 401K check (where I'm getting some of the down payment) needs to arrive. Closing could happen within a week!
June 22: It's a done deal! Signed yesterday, pick up the keys at 3pm. It's Mine! All Mine! Well, mine and Washington Mutual... Let the money drain begin!