I think I mentioned in a post recently that we’ve started searching for a house. This is something I’ve looked forward to for a long time and expected to be very exciting. I was right, it is exciting, but not so much in the “kid at Disneyland” way . . . more in the way that being chased by a rabid dog is probably exciting. We’ve had a few Disneyland moments, but plenty of rabid dog moments, too. Maybe house hunting is kind of like being chased by a rabid dog through Disneyland? Actually, house hunting with a plentiful budget is probably Disneyland. Our budget = rabid dog. There are plenty of houses on the market in our price range, but 90% are short sales (which makes me a little nervous—after 5 years of waiting to buy a house, I’m not sure how much more waiting I want to put myself through), and the 10% that aren’t short sales are generally pretty scary.
We’ve been renting for about 7 or 8 years now and you know, it’s starting to feel a little old. Renting has its perks--no repairs, no yard work, no snow-shoveling--but it certainly comes with its own set of issues . . . no options in style/paint colors/etc., Satan’s-minions landlords like we had in our previous rental, slow-moving [but very friendly!] landlord who hasn’t fixed our broken toilet in the 9 months we’ve lived in our current rental . . . you know the drill.
We took our first trip out with our realtor a few weeks ago and it was certainly an eye-opening experience . . . our eyes are bulging-out-of-their-sockets open now.
Our first stop was at a 150-year old ivy-covered stone house north of Salt Lake. I’m a sucker for old houses—one of the homes I grew up in was a 200-year old farm house in upstate New York, and I love the charm and personality that come with an older house. The MLS listing for the gem we looked at has been taken down so I can’t snag a picture to include, but I’m sure you can use your imagination. The pictures made the house look country-cottage-y-adorable, set in a big yard with a fence, and the interior shots looked spacious, bright, and welcoming. The house was near the top of our price range, but I was dying to see it, so it was our first stop.
I pictured Thomas Kincaid cottage charm . . . I got Scooby Doo haunted mansion. The house was a nightmare. The ‘spacious yard’ in the pictures turned out to be a little patch of dirt circled by a fence with half its slats missing. The inside was shockingly awful . . . dirty beyond belief (I actually said at one point, “I wonder why they gave all the trim this gray antique glaze,” running my finger over it to come up with a handful of nasty, 150-year old grime), ceilings that even we shorties could barely stand up straight in, a maze-like layout that had us lost and confused more than once, itsy-bitsy door-less-and-closet-less nooks that were billed as bedrooms, additions that didn’t line up or connect with the original structure (picture the floor just ending and starting up again, 3 inches over and half a foot higher), a staircase to nowhere (not making that up—a door in the wall that we expected to be a closet was hiding a staircase that went up about 6 steps and then just stopped). Even the realtor was shocked—he said he’d never, in all his years as a realtor, seen such deceiving photos on a listing. I still think it would make an amazing house . . . if a buyer is willing to put probably $50,000+ into repairs and updates and a complete cleaning overhaul. I am definitely not that buyer. Strike one.
After stopping by a few townhouses that I was not terribly impressed with, we looked at another house that I had hardly even wanted to see—the listing price was over $10k out of our price range and I didn't particularly want to fall in love with a home I knew we couldn’t afford. But the house was amazing . . . it was in our dream neighborhood—the one we can’t actually afford but love to drive through, slowly and creepily, peering into people’s windows—and had everything we wanted in a home. Clean, spacious, updated, with plenty of room to grow . . . and it was a HUD home, which meant the government was just trying to sell it fast, so maybe we had a chance at it! We put in a bid as high as we felt comfortable going . . . and didn’t get the house. Not surprising, and we hadn’t gotten our hopes up too high, but of course that hadn’t stopped me from planning out all the decor, checking out paint samples, and window shopping for new furniture. Smart moves on my part, all around. Strike two.
Which brings us to this past weekend. Our realtor was out of town, so we thought we’d just drive around to get a feel for some different areas and maybe drive by (creepily, of course, that’s how we do it) some homes on the list of places we wanted to check out when our realtor got back. As we were driving, we spotted a for sale sign in front of a home that we hadn’t seen in the MLS listings . . . it was in a decent-looking neighborhood with a pretty-okay-looking exterior. It wasn’t an amazing house, but I saw potential. We hopped out to grab a flyer—the price was near the bottom end of our budget—and saw that the home was vacant and shoppers were encouraged to take a peek. We looked through all the windows and decided the previous owners must have moved out mid-renovation . . . all the carpets were ripped up, doors were missing, etc.
No big deal—if we got at at or below its listing price, we could afford to put some serious work into the place. I was actually a little excited at the thought of all the renovations—for the price, we could not only snatch that house up and remodel it to be exactly what we wanted, but we’d probably still come out with extra money bouncing around in our house budget. The backyard was what really sold me—it was set on a corner lot and had a spacious, beautiful yard, fully fenced with a garden in one corner, a stone walkway and patio. I pictured myself setting Forrest free in that gorgeous yard while I sat inside eating cupcakes and watching Ellen. It was a lovely moment.
We called the listing agent twice without hearing back from him and started to get anxious—what if someone else had snatched up our bargain house? What if someone was signing a contract for it right now? In typical fashion, I was already planning the new floors I’d put in and shopping around for outdoor furniture for that amazing backyard, working on my garden layout (I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever owned in record time, not sure why I thought I could handle a garden).
Last night, we finally got a call back from the listing agent who was very excited to hear from some interested shoppers. He and Jeff had a long phone conversation—well, it was long on the agent’s end. Jeff got maybe two words in while I watched his expression morph slowly from excitement to horror. Wonder why that house was such a bargain?
It was a meth house.
A meth house.
A METH HOUSE!!!
The agent was telling Jeff not to worry—the previous owners were just recreational users! It’s okay! Just recreational meth users! They weren’t making meth! Just using it for fun! No worries! It’s cool!
And the meth-lab-tester-people had to tear out all the carpets because they tested positive for brain-damage-inducing meth levels! No biggie!
Oh, and the druggie previous owners also stripped the house before they left! There are no toilets! Or sinks! The furnace is gone! The water heater, too! It’s just an empty, hazardous, life-threatening shell of a meth house! When would you like to come see it?!
Strike three. The search continues. I can only hope that this weekend’s showings keep up this streak of rabid-dog-chase excitement, because I sure would hate to get bored by this whole house-hunting thing. It is just as exciting as I had imagined.