Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Be Safe and Practical or Take a Chance and be Adventurous?

The house sale is moving on in an orderly fashion. The home inspection has occurred, the warts fully exposed. Fortunately, no warts are too scary for the buyers. The P&S is in draft mode and should be finalized today.

Our attentions have turned to buying our next home. I've gone on two tours of multiple properties with my realtors (two women that work in a team). We've focused our search on the following:
  • condos, so a lot of the ongoing responsibilities for exterior and grounds maintenance is assumed by someone else
  • properties that will accommodate Skip's wheelchair, with no stairs outside or in (except to get down to a basement, which she won't need to do), wider doorways (desirable but not a must-have). This has eliminated a huge number of condos that have multiple living levels. In fact, just about every non-55+ condo in our preferred area has been eliminated due to disabled needs.
  • central Massachusetts, in and around Worcester. Property values are lower here than where we currently live, so we get more for our money. Also, it puts us closer to where my mom lives and the shops where I sell stuff.
  • Two bedroom homes so I have an office.
Having seen about 10 places in person, we've narrowed our search down to two places that are very different. We are having a helluva time trying to decide which one to go with.
  • Safe and Practical: This is a 1400 sq ft ranch-style attached condo in a 55+ community. Two bedrooms; the master is a bit larger than our current one, which I had hoped for. Two car garage, with 2 steps into the house from the garage, which can easily be replaced by a ramp. It's 9 years old, in impeccable condition. The bedrooms have wall to wall carpet that we'd replace with hardwood floors. The ramp and the flooring are the only mods I'd make. The community has a lot of green space, our unit is at the end of a long row of homes and would look out over lots of woods, has a deck on the back where Skip could look out at those woods and the critters living in them. Taking the dogs out would be a snap -- attach leashes and step out the front door. We met the husband of the couple that lives next door. He seems like a really nice guy. So what's wrong with it? Well, everyone in the community will be old! It's bringing out my ageist side. Also, the housing stock in the neighborhood is really beige and generic. Quite a change from our contemporary home.
  • Adventurous: this is a 1450 sq ft condo in a converted schoolhouse in Worcester. The schoolhouse was built in the 1890s and converted to condos about 6 years ago. The unit has a lot of WOW factor. Huge 4' x 7' windows, 11' high ceilings, some features leftover from the schoolhouse days including exposed brick and a chalkboard. The bedrooms are the same size or a little bit smaller than our current one. Taking the dogs out will be a bit of a hassle -- taking an elevator and then half a flight of steps (these are mini-dachshunds who don't do stairs) out the back to the designated dog spot. There's designated parking in the lot but no garage. The unit is set up beautifully if we ever wanted to hire live-in help. There are 9 colleges in Worcester, providing a great supply of young people needing a place to live and I could see it being relatively easy to trade housing for labor. The two bedrooms are at opposite ends of the space, a good 30 or 40 feet away. The master bedroom, bathroom and study are all separated from the main part of the unit by a huge old schoolroom door. The kitchen/dining room/living room space is an excellent size. Storage isn't the best in the place, so we'd buy some wooden armoire/cabinets for that. The schoolhouse is located right off the "restaurant row" of Worcester, with tons of options for eating and takeout. The neighborhood is well-maintained.
In re-reading my write-up, the 55+ condo sounds like a better option, but the schoolhouse condo still calls to me. Why? The space is beautiful. I like the lack of cookie-cutter sameness. It is definitely unique. I like city living. I was living in Boston when Skip and I met and we lived in Boston and a few surrounding cities until my parents made us an offer we couldn't refuse to move out to the suburbs to our current home, the house I grew up in. When visiting Boston for meals out or to attend theater or sporting events, we've often commented how we'd love to move back. To me, a city is more lively and is walkable. You don't need to get into your car for everything, even the simplest errand. I'm not sure we'll really have a more walkable setting in Worcester, but it's certainly more walkable than the 55+ community out in the exurbs. I just checked the walkability scores on Zillow. Our current home is an 11 - car dependent. The Worcester location is a 60 and the exurb is a 9.

We've decided to go back to our two favorites one more time tomorrow afternoon (well, honestly, Skip hasn't seen inside them, only done drivebys, so this'll be her first view of the interior). Following that, we're going to settle on one, even if it's by eenie-meenie-miny-mo, and make an offer. Either place will be a lovely next stop for the 2 humans and 2 dogs that comprise our immediate family.

Wish us luck tomorrow -- that we can happily settle on one or the other.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Well, I haven't signed the P&S yet, but, for all intents and purposes, the house is sold!

Yesterday's open house was from 1-3. When we pulled out of the driveway at 12:45, there was a car parked on the street waiting for the open house, and another pulled onto our street as we were chatting with the realtor for a minute before leaving the neighborhood. Both those early birds made offers, along with 2 other couples.

In total, there were about 20 people/families who came by to see the house. A number of them didn't like the layout of the bedrooms for their kids, since there are 2 bedrooms upstairs and 2 downstairs. But the ones who did like it, as the realtors told us, were just in love with the place. With the beautiful wood, the contemporary design, the wonderful natural setting of the lot, the cul de sac street and our McMansion neighbors.

So, I guess I don't have to worry about how we're going to handle viewings, with all the challenges for Skip to get out of the house, because there won't be any. And, I don't have to worry about the process dragging on for months, because it only took 4 days to sell the place. We will have a July closing, so I don't have to worry too much about finding our next home, but it does need to move to the front burner.

Yesterday, Skip and I drove around Worcester, a mid-sized city in central Massachusetts, doing drivebys of about 6 condos we're interested in. I even got to go inside one 55+ condo townhouse because the next door neighbor offered to show us around. Right now, we can't decide if we want a 55+ condo built within the last few years (surrounded by green space, but very "beige"), a loft in a reclaimed mill (truly mid-city, a setting we haven't been in for over 25 years) or a regular condo beside water (will this place really be accessible without major work?). I'm going on a field trip with one of our realtors (they work in a pair) on Wednesday to actually look at some of these places and see if I fall in love with any of them.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Open House Today

Skip, the girls and I are heading out of here at 12:30 to make way for our first open house. I'm hoping it's an active time for the realtors. If the action around our house the last few days is any indicator, I suspect a lot of visitors will tramp through the house.

On Friday, when I was out of the house, someone knocked on the door. MW answered, and a stranger stood there, saying he was looking to buy a house in our town. He asked about exits and handicapped accessibility. MW directed him to today's open house and he went on his way. Yesterday morning, we saw people out on the street peering through the trees at the house. Then in the late afternoon, someone drove up the driveway and quickly turned around and left.

I try to be realistic and recognize that waiting for your house to sell is typically a waiting game, requiring a good amount of patience, something I don't possess in abundance. So, I alternate between talking myself into a patient state and then bouncing back into a happy, hopeful state -- that we've priced the place attractively and get an offer right away.

Can't wait to hear the feedback from the realtors later this afternoon!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's a Go!

Today, our house goes on the market. We have an open house scheduled for this Sunday.

We live in a community west of Boston. When my parents moved here in !958, it was quite rural. Now, it's a very, very expensive town without many open spaces for building left. I just did a search on MLS (real estate listing service) and there are about 150 single family homes for sale in our town. Forty of them are listed at $1 million plus! The most expensive place is offered at over $3 million. You have to get about two-thirds of the way through the list to get to houses in our price range. Sadly, a house lot is listed for about the same price as our house!

There's a lot of houses now that are bought and torn down and replaced with the biggest McMansion the lot can support. Many homes here in town are split levels at about 1500 square feet, similar to the first place my parents bought here 50+ years ago. These are instant tear-downs. So, some neighborhoods are now a patchwork of brand-new monsters surrounded by half-century old homes in a bit of disrepair. After all, why bother to do any work on your house if you know the minute it's turned over, it's plowed under?

Fortunately, our house does not fall into the tear-down category. It's a unique house, architect designed. Also, it's a contemporary. I checked the MLS listings. Right now, it's the only contemporary in town on the market. Every other house is a colonial. Our realtors tell us that contemporaries are "destination" houses. They attract their own pool of buyers. So, we've got some good things going for us. In addition to the contemporary design, the most important feature is that we're "reasonably" priced in a town where home prices are typically stratopheric.

So, here's hoping someone falls in love with our house soon. It's exciting to finally be in the market.

Below are some pics ... We've got the place pretty spruced up. I don't know why I didn't take any pictures of the front of the house, but here are a few to show off how cleaned up and cleared out we are. The first 4 are different views of the living room. The fireplace is made from an old stone wall in town. The screen in the fourth picture separates the living room from the foyer. The patio is all cleaned up and the bridge for Skip's wheelchair between garage and house is newly stained. The yard, while it doesn't have much grass, is all cleaned up and the fence has been stained. The dining room abuts the living room and the fireplace is open to it as well as the living room.