House Hunting


Nothing says, “Buy this one!” like staging a house with eleven dying roses and a half-eaten banana. I wish I could show you the photos of the houses we looked at, especially the one with a safari theme.

I thought house hunting was going to be fun like shopping for shoes, I really did. I thought we would look at a few good houses and then pick the best one for us, or at least the one with the best potential.

We’ve been renting for so long, and it’s been good for us, but the cost to rent is going up compared to the falling prices of homes for sale. Since we plan to be in this area for at least a couple of years, we think it will be wise to buy this time.

We’re looking in the fixer-upper price range. I was eager to find my home makeover “Before,” ready to look beyond wrong color choices and outdated kitchens. I paid no attention to the green carpet in the bathrooms. I knew to overlook anything that was a cosmetic issue and that everything looks better with a fresh coat of paint.

Photos of the houses in the listings were average. “They’ll look better in person,” Doug told me. “No one takes good photos of real estate.”

He was wrong; the pictures looked better. The pixelated images hid the nicotine stains plus the smell that lingered on our hair and clothes long after we left. I counted five cat carriers at one house. There was no hope for the homes with awkward floor plans and absent neighbors. I ran out of one house and headed for the truck while Doug and our realtor stood inside the house with no windows.

“I’ve never seen so much wallpaper,” the realtor commented at one point.

House hunting is like dating, but not in a fun, healthy style, more like the kind of dating that flips your feelings between hope and anxiety and leaves you waiting by the phone.

At least when I was in college I knew to date a guy for who he was instead of who he could be. (Rule #3 in dating: You can’t date his potential.) Now I’m looking for houses that need help because the worse the before picture, the better the makeover. I can’t view a kitchen without thinking about redoing the cabinets.

I need to look out for the houses that are all curb appeal and no substance.

I have a crush on one house, but when it doesn’t work out a few days later I’m daydreaming about another. I had a list of qualities that I was looking for, but I might be willing to settle.

We’re not looking for our dream house, just a good location to live for the next two or three years, so I thought I would be a properly disengaged buyer. I can’t believe the grip this house hunt holds over my heart and concentration.

House hunting is like going on 50 bad dates: it can make you feel a little desperate.

We did see an old, worn-out house that I’m interested in. It was orange and brown. I hope it works out; I’m not sure which I’m hoping for more: that this house will be it or that the house search will end.

House hunting is hard, but we only need to find one. If you’ve gone through this before, how many houses did you see before you found the right one?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. I know all too well how you feel! We just bought our first house last month and I felt the same way you did with every other house. Then this one was a no brainer. We were also in the fixer upper price range, but we lucked out and got a house where the owner just wanted out and to downsize into a condo. I know its an annoying roller-coaster, but soon enough it will be over with and you will be in your new house.
    To answer your question, we looked at probably 10 houses, put offers on 3 and obviously got one.
    I wrote about our search on my blog if you’re interested: http://www.thenotsobarenecessities.blogspot.com
    Good Luck!

  2. We’re going through the same process right now. Is it me, or is it worse because it just is so.hot.? I’m pickier than you are, I’m afraid – I think I can overcome green carpet, but when every other feature is the equivalent of green carpet, I just wonder to myself, “build?”.
    rachael´s last post…salt and light- hide yo kids- hide yo wives

  3. My husband told me the other day that the speculation is that housing prices will continue to drop over the next five years… To pre-80s boom pricing! Something to consider if you’re not looking for a 20yr stay.
    That said, we were discussing bc we might be moving in the next yr or so and are slightly underwater w our mortgage. (I’ve been obsessively reading your archives bc we’re likely to downsize significantly) So… Wanna buy an amazing house in central CT? =)

  4. i don’t even know how many houses we’ve looked at at this point. we’ve decided not to buy — 1, because we’re only sure we’ll be here 3-4 more years and buying only barely makes sense on that kind of a timeframe, and 2, we’re in one of the most expensive markets in the country (and on one income).

    most of the ones we looked at were various riffs on “decent, but not for us,” but there were a couple of ringers — the most recent had dust on every surface that was twice as thick as the carpeting, we went through one where the bathroom had literally been wallpapered with tinfoil, and the very first house we looked at felt like a ghost house, with missing windows and a plastic finger glued to one of the bedroom walls. awesome… =)
    katie´s last post…i’m a contributing author!

  5. We bought our first house 7 years ago. We were moving to a new town, so the search took place over two weekends with our 135 lb. dog in the car with us. The first weekend we probably looked at 12 houses. The second weekend we looked at about 8 more. We ended up getting the first house we looked at on that second weeked. It was the first day it was on the market, and we were the first to see it. We, too, were looking for a fixer-upper, but had to jump up our price-range slightly to get a house that made sense and was in a good location, needing only cosmetic work. We were planning on staying 5 years, and 7 years later we’re now expecting to be here at least 5 more thanks to the market. I am very glad we got a house that was big enough for the children we anticipated (and now have two, with more on the way).
    Joanna´s last post…Sinfully Good Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

  6. We are looking to buy for the first time, and I have been underwhelemd with the whole experience. It is draining! I, too, thought we’d look at some nice ones that might need a little bit of cosmetic updates. But what we’ve seen just needs more work than the property is worth, or just doesn’t fit our basic floorplan wishlist or whatnot.

    It’s kind of a giant pain but I have to scold myself that at least we can try to buy a house right now. We don’t HAVE to keep renting. But yeah, I’m looking forward to when we’ve found something.

  7. We looked at about 12 houses, and pursued one that didn’t work out because the owners wouldn’t come down on the price. We live in a small town, so there weren’t a ton of options. Maybe better that way, though!

    The one we ended up in is way better than the first one we thought we wanted–it wasn’t even on the market, but it had been the year before and hadn’t sold. We contacted the realtor to make an inquiry, and the owners were willing to let us walk through. It was so cool how it all worked out. We feel so blessed to be in this home!

    Hope you find something that’s a good fit!
    carrie´s last post…Special visitors

  8. We looked at over 170 houses over several months, didn’t find anything, and two years later we knew exactly what a good deal in our area looked like, and bought for $65k less than our previous top favorite house would have cost. Even if prices fall for awhile, our mortgage and escrow payments were the same as renting, and utilities have been half since we bothered to insulate.

    It’s important to keep in mind your total budget, including repairs.
    MightyMighty´s last post…Eating better for less

  9. This just may be the longest post I’ve ever read from you.

    No advice on this end, unless you want to buy our house in Maine. When we bought it we only looked at a few – sorry can’t be of more help.

  10. We actually went in probably 25 to 30 between open houses and private showings. And not one was a contender until we found ours, which we absolutely love. But we KNEW when we found the right one because we’d seen so many duds. Stick it out, and don’t settle because you feel pressured to choose.

    Also: Someone once told me that betting on horse races is not about picking the winning horse, but picking the horse with the wrong odds. If you can pick underrated horses to finish, you might not win a ton of money in one race, but you’ll do modestly well in the long run. I think the same is true of houses. You want to find the underpriced house, which is not necessarily the same thing as potential as a fixer-upper, though they’re usually related.

    • “You want to find the underpriced house, which is not necessarily the same thing as potential as a fixer-upper, though they’re usually related.”

      True, and that’s what we want, but I couldn’t think of the right way to explain it thoroughly. We’re definitely going for value, and the homes that have been recently redone are usually overpriced.

  11. Really, a house with no windows?
    Slackerjo´s last post…I Heart Shelving!

  12. I LOVE house-hunting — much more than shoe-shopping. (Maybe because houses don’t make my feet hurt?) We do look at a LOT, though, and it takes awhile. We just bought our third house. It’s nervewracking, but I really do enjoy it.
    Aimee´s last post…They’re Not Exactly Camera Shy

  13. Our first house hunt was really long. We had a small budget and not a lot of faith in our handy skillset, plus I had all those first time expectations. I think we looked at over 50 houses (poor realtor). We finally ended up buying a small new construction in an established neighborhood. It was all slab and studs when we bought it so we got to pick everything which was stressful in itself. It was great for us until we started planning our second child.

    The second house hunt was a totally different experience. We wanted 4 bedrooms in a very specific area. There aren’t many four bedrooms around here, so I think we had 4 to choose from in our price range. I hated our house the first time we went through it because it was all paneling, popcorn ceiling, blue bathtub, etc. However, we learned in our first house that we really are handy! Who knew! So we bought it and have been working on all the cosmetic issues. It looks like a totally different house now. It was a lot easier to know we really wanted and needed the second time around.

    My advice, for what its worth-love those fixer uppers. However, it takes a LOT of time to do those fixes plus for us it has taken quite a bit out of pocket. It was fun at first, but after a while it stops being fun. A year later we have done all the major stuff, but there is a LOT left. We plan to stay here for the indefinite future, but if I thought I would move in a few years it would not be worth it to us. I didn’t appreciate the ease we had in a new house before moving one with little projects everywhere.

  14. Oh, good luck! Sounds like an adventure :-) Glad you’re sharing little bits here, and I hope you find the right one soon!
    Eliz. K´s last post…sweet summer jam

  15. The idea of a house with no windows is totally creepy. Ick.

    We looked at maybe 10, and had that “this is it!” feeling when we looked at our current home. We’re still here, five years and two kids later. I love it and want to stay forever, except it is a duplex and our poor tenants downstairs have to hear our noise throughout the day. We’re currently doing a very passive search for another house. I don’t know how we’d ever find as great a house as this first one. Sigh…
    Katherine´s last post…Looking for a new read

  16. Wait a sec — a couple of years? As in 2-3 but no more? In that case, it really might not be worth it to buy and fix something. Real estate might continue to fall or just stagnate, and you have to factor in the realtor’s commission on your new sale price. I am sure you have thought about all that, but I wanted to just emphasize that if you don’t think you’ll be in that house for very long, renting might be less stressful and better for your bank account!

    • Don’t worry, we’ve considered all of that. Our situation is a bit different from the usual which is why the 2 year timeframe works for us. We’ve watched that very closely which is why we rented for so long before.

  17. More houses than I can count. BUT…there is hope. We made a list of things our home “had” to have and a list of things we would “like” it to have. In the end, we scratched off most of the “have to haves”, but we DID end up with a brick home complete with a large fenced in backyard (perfect for our then-2-month-old St. Bernard puppy). So lists go out the window after a while of looking at house after house, but here’s the encouraging part. When we walked into OUR HOUSE, we knew as soon as we walked through the front door. There were baseboard heaters and a tiny made-no-sense kitchen, and a back room that should never have been added on and only one bathroom…but it was perfect and it felt like we had come home. You know the feeling you got when you knew he was “the one” – we got that same feeling with our house. Ten years later (and a whole lot of sweat and tears), we still love it, it’s still us (even more so) and we’ve been able to get many of our “must haves” installed in this house. Keep looking…YOUR house is out there. And in the end, no matter where you buy, YOU turn the house into a HOME. Blessings!
    Carrie´s last post…Thankful For – 431 – 440 The Anniversary Edition

  18. Oh no. . . we are just about to start looking for a house. You’re making me nervous!

  19. I drove around a lot I mean a lot, a lot & we looked at 9, but bought #7. I knew when we walked in that this was it- I think now it might have been that this was the only one with open curtains! You’ll find your space I’m sure but yes it is like the worst dating ever!

  20. Oooh this might be a good reality check for me. Wherever we end up next we might look at buying since we’ll be there a few years, and I’ve had my own daydreams looking at places I could strip wallpaper and add some molding of my own! This doesn’t make it seem too fun, though! Good luck and I’m curious to know how it turns out!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Weeks 34-35

  21. We looked at over 50 homes with a 4 month old and 4 year old in tow. Our realtor was a saint! We ended up getting in a great area, but less house (not necessarily a bad thing when utility bills show up every month or we have a home repair)! It was so completely frustrating, but I’m glad we held out for the area we wanted, kept looking, and were willing to compromise on what we wanted, to get what we needed.

    • I would much rather have a small house in a great neighborhood than a grand house in a bad neighborhood. You have control over what you do to your house, but you can’t change the neighborhood.

      • Very well said! We live in a mediocre area and with the good deals on houses, have a nightmare neighbor…single gal with 2 kids and 4 or 5 single men living with her. You can imagine the language, drama and parties–could be a frat house . We’ve been looking for over 4 years for a house; with your comments, it might be better to sacrifice space to have a more orderly neighborhood. Loved your post.

      • Actually, you can change a neighborhood…by being who you are! What decaying neighborhoods need is families with a heart for their community. We bought a house in a sketchy neighborhood for this very reason and it has been one of the most incredible experiences of our lives because God is doing a NEW thing here (not just b/c of us of course!).

  22. This is House number three for us. The first one was the only one we actually looked at, saw a ton online. It was a mess, true fixer-upper. We worked on it until we sold it. The next one was a normal buy. We looked at a few neighborhoods and houses. On to this house, we only looked at online and only looked in this neighborhood (great school). So the floor plan was kind of a surprise. My husband and I seem to be unconventional when it comes to buying homes. Many people think we are crazy. That’s ok we have been happy with every home.

  23. If you want something to make you laugh during this process, check out lovelylisting.com- they show the world’s worst real estate photos along with hysterically funny captions. :-)
    KaseyQ´s last post…Schedules- Chore Charts- and Other Summertime Fun!

  24. Wait, if Rule #3 in dating is “You can’t date his potential,” I’m dying to hear rules 1-2 and 4-100. I just realized that I’m totally pining over someone’s potential. Ack!

    • Rule number one is “never date a man you wouldn’t marry,” or that’s what my mama taught me.

      We were lucky, bought the first house we looked at. We looked at a few others, but came back to this one — the price was right, it had a good garage for my husband, was in a good neighborhood, and had a sheltered backyard for a garden. It needed work, but it was structurally sound.

  25. I think house hunting is like speed dating. I only wish all the houses could be in the same room. We are closing on the sale of our old home tomorrow. For us, whatever house we buy I need to be prepared to live there a long time. We ended up being in this 18 years which was about 10 years longer than we thought.
    Good luck on your search!
    waysidewanderer´s last post…Summer Daze

  26. One house we looked at (had an appointment too) had dirty underwear lying on the bathroom floor!! Not a pretty site!!

  27. Forgot to mention an open house we went to (new construction in foreclure) had 2 toilets that did had not been cleaned nor flushed in months!! It was a filthy mess. I would have thought that even if the water had been shut off (we’re guessing that was the reason for the UGLY mess in the toilets) the agent would have found some way to clean this mess up. It was actually a health hazard!!!

  28. When we moved here 3 years ago, we thought it would be easy to find a house that suit our needs. It took us 5 months to find a house. We almost signed on one after looking for 3 months but the financing people wouldn’t approve it.

    I’m kind of surprised that you want to buy when you’ll be gone in 3 years. We had this house for 1 1/2 years and we’re still getting use to it. It takes a while. Neighbors in houses bought are a little picky about who they consider friends in the neighborhood. When you live in a rental community you can find out almost immediately who the friends and fos are.
    Glynis Jolly´s last post…Snowed Under Part Two – Strategies That May Help

  29. My sister bought her house a few years ago. She says they looked at 20 plus houses before they settled on this one and it needs work still. But its in a court and there is a nice backyard that also backs up to a park. So keep looking your home is out there :)
    Adrianne´s last post…Travel

  30. We looked at 8 houses in person, put in offers on 4, had 3 offers rejected, and ended up loving our consolation prize house. We relied heavily on online information to narrow down our search, with substantial help from our excellent real estate agent whose idea of the good life is very similar to ours. Even with looking at only 8 houses, we found one with a stream in the basement and a pile of dirty laundry covering the stairs in another – yuck. The best advice I can give from our experience – look for good bones, avoid houses with structural problems, and consider where you will be able to plant a garden, if that is a priority.

  31. We househunted in the Houston area at the very LOW end of the market. Looked at everything and was like…eh. We saw a new one online and my husband went to look at the house. The pictures were awful.

    The house? Great! We put an offer on it that day and it was our wonderful house till we had to move out of state.

    Don’t rush it…just like dating, you can’t make yourself “Fall” for someone/something. Keep your eyes on the market– check the MLS daily. Check out everything in your price range (within reason)…and you’ll find something.

  32. Uuuuuuggggghhhh… Are you sure you didn’t steal this post out of my thoughts? I totally feel for you! We are running up our lease on the 31st of July, will be moving to a temporary location, and I have a 6month old to talk care of while we move (twice) and house shop. Has not been fun. Desperate is spot on.

  33. janevir says:

    I’m veering from the question, but couldn’t help but comment on the stickers on the apples! That is one of my pet peeves. They come off immediately when I get home from the store.

  34. Well, we have almost the opposite deal going on right now…. we found the perfect house, & we were not looking.
    We have always dreamt of the perfect cottage on the lake/ a weekend place… with a room for each of our 3 boys & thier wives a few bathrooms, large living areas… we stumbled on it a few weeks ago. We had hoped to wait a year or so, when everything else was paid for, but this came along… It is a foreclosure, It is HUGE, & needs a TON of work… & we offered them less than half of it’s current value & it was accepted. It is too good of a deal to pass up… but I fore-see work, work, work & a LOT of scrimping to make it ours…. & seriously… who are these people that live in such a mess??
    Good luck on your house-hunt…
    Kathy´s last post…On the Road Again

  35. My husband and I are realtors–and buyers ourselves. We’ve taken around a lot of buyers to look at homes. I don’t know how many went home with headaches because they found the process so overwhelming! We’ve also seen the inside of a lot of marriages!

    Perhaps part of the reason is that expectations have to meet reality. And it is also a testing of priorities. Often something has to give when confronted with reality and it can take some soul searching to figure out what is truly important and what can be compromised.
    To help with the decision process whenever we show a house we often ask them when they are done looking at it right then whether it is a ‘yes’,'no’ or ‘maybe’. It helps to clarify things a bit as they go along. Also like mentioned above, when you look at a number of houses you know when the right one comes along and can be a lot more comfortable with your decision. Also it is good advice to make sure you are making a good financial decision if you only plan a short stay. Look at your possible ‘exit’ plan–is that feasible and does it fit with your priorities? Try to buy so that if you need to sell in a short amount of time you can.
    When we bought our first home we needed space inside and outside but couldn’t find it until we looked outside the geographical area we were considering. The Lord worked it for good–within a few months my husband’s job at the time switched locations and suddenly he was much closer to work! So it is helpful to keep in mind that the Lord can see ahead to your future needs.

    Keep us updated!

  36. I absolutely agree with Kacie above. If you are just going to live in a house for 2-3 years, why? On top of the expenses she mentioned, there’s also property taxes and home owner’s insurance. Plus your own appliances, house upkeep, lawn upkeep, etc. If I was just “planning” on being there that long, I would think it would be much smarter to rent. But, then again, maybe I’m missing something or don’t know the whole story. Good luck, though!

    • I didn’t describe the whole story in this post, but I think it will be fine, and two years is probably the minimum.

  37. I realize homes a lot of times come with their own appliances (at least in the kitchen), but there’s repair bills or replacements if they break down.

  38. What a timely post! We are in the process of house hunting and it really is the pits. In a city like ours, where real estate is a premium, looking for the right family home is an absolute nightmare. Every time you see one you really like, which is not often, someone else is faster at making it happen or it’s completely out of your price range. Finally we found something that felt so totally right and we’d made an offer the next day. It all happened in 4 days because we knew, from experience, this was the only way we could get it.

    However, despite the month of torture house hunting, we have found our dream home (ok, it needs a bit of work but we both had that ‘feeling’ when we walked in) and payed a reasonable price ($150k less than we thought we’d have to spend to get something we really liked) and I’m over the moon.
    Francesca´s last post…Book buzz- Alfie and the Big Boys

  39. Michal Crum says:

    Don’t judge the half-eaten banana. Or the wilted roses, for that matter. We’re trying to sell our house right now, and with a two and four year old, it’s really difficult to get the house all clean at once!

    Well, I guess we’re all preaching to the choir, but I too am very curious why you would consider buying for such a short period of time. It seems with the market the way it is, you would have to be putting a huge downpayment down and financing for a 10-year mortgage, but knowing you guys (via your blog that is, not for real!) you’re probably doing just that!

    I looked at tons of houses when we bought. It was not “love at first sight.” But we have turned a fixer-upper into something we love, and we have learned a lot in the process, mostly about power tools, money, and contentment.

    • In our circumstances and location, it really only would take a year to break even compared to what we would be paying in rent, but ours is not the conventional situation.

  40. Just make sure there is no mold. That was a costly mistake on our part. Our last home also had a lawn that previously was a parking spot and we never did get it looking nice again- what a pain. Good luck in your shopping. I’m happy to rent for awhile…
    Tamsyn Sapckman´s last post…Rain- rain- go away- piano chords are here to stay

  41. I’m terrible at always judging by the cosmetic stuff! But my hubby is a former realtor, and always reminds me just to look at the ‘bones’ of the house!
    Jessicah´s last post…park time

  42. We have been considering building or buying for over 3 years now! VERY FRUSTRATING! We’ve made offers on 3 and none have materialized. We have a specific set of criteria though and it’s hard to even find potential, let alone “the one”. I hope you do better than we do!
    Kelly´s last post…Repurposed Dish Soap

  43. If you are going to be gone in three years is it really worth buying? Are you sure you’ll be gone in three years? Don’t settle for anything that you can’t possibly live in forever…we are living in our “not forever” house and I hate it (yes, I feel that strongly about it). We should have continued to rent, even though this was a “good deal” (we’ll see if it is a good deal when we eventually, hopefully sell several years down the road). My biggest regret is letting my husband talk me into this house.

    • I know what you mean about being in a non-forever house – it’s the pits ;( We bought sooner than we had anticipated becaues we absolutely hated our rental home & I was nervous we would get priced out of the market since things were still shaky with where the housing market was going. Stupid decision. We could have just as easily found a different rental home & stayed another year getting to know the area & really pondering the type of home we were looking for. Live & learn!!
      Vicki R.´s last post…Picture this

  44. We looked at 23 one day, picked one, made an offer that was verbally accepted. By the time we went to sign the offer in the am they got an equivalent offer with no contingency. We were devastated. We looked at 2 more houses. The second was the one. Not our dream by any means. BUT even 4.5 years later (yes we bought in the grossly inflated market). I am confident we got the best bang for our buck in the market we were shopping in. That first house was too expensive and had horrible parking. Thankfully we’ll be here for quite awhile so we are not terribly overwrought that our home is now likely worth less than we owe.

    Good Luck in your hunt!!!!
    Heather B´s last post…Mukilteo Lighthouse

  45. The first home we bought was the first and only home we looked at or considered. That’s pretty unusual, but we bought it from a family friend. This time though (we sold in November and are thinking about buying again this summer), I have a feeling we’ll look at an overwhelming number of homes. And I don’t think I’m excited about that.

  46. @Liz, for sure, I agree. The market is way too unstable unless you are going to be there for a while. And it costs ALOT to sell.

    @Connie, I am shocked at how much it costs to keep up different things! the yard, the deck, the roof! much less appliances and taxes and insurance, etc. So easy to call the landlord.

  47. Not sure you are really looking for advice, but from someone who bought with the intention to sell 3 years later, we found that location was much more important than the house itself. Yes, you still have to live there, and obviously you don’t want to make yourself miserable picking a house you hate only for its location, but we unknowingly made the right decision several years ago and still talk about how thankful we are for that now. If we had bought our #1 pick in a less established location, we’d still be waiting to sell it, versus the 2 weeks it took us to sell our #2 pick in a very desirable neighborhood.

    For what it’s worth…
    Tracey´s last post…Just One Thing

  48. We just bought a house. Just as in a month ago. If all the paperwork works out as it should, we can move mid-September. We didn’t see many houses. Frankly, we weren’t even looking for one. We had a couple of years ago, but were very disappointed about prices. Here in Belgium, didn’t drop at all. It’s impossible for a working young couple with very little savings (I moved out right after university), to buy without the help of their parents. We did it. My father made the downpayment, but we were able to get the loan for the total price, so we should be able to pay him back right after the bank pays the house. Then of course, we’ll be paying back the bank for the following 30 years. (Well, a part for twenty years and the other part for thirty years).
    We found this house because the best friend of my husband bought two years ago in that same street. We were wondering how prices were in that neighbourhood. Suddenly they called there was a house for sale in their street. We looked on the internet, found it expensive for our budget and it seemed too small. We went on honeymoon, and joked that if it were still on sale when we’d be back, we would have a look. It still was there. We fell in love. I tried to talk my Husband out of it, because I was afraid we couldn’t afford it until we’d stretched it very hard. I wasn’t willing to compromise on everything. But then they almost immediatly accepted our offer, and we bought it for the price we were sure we were able to get a loan for. So we did it. And we are very happy about it, though the traditional paperwork will take another two months from here.

    So actually, we just “fell” on it. But… a house has to ‘feel’ right. It’s important to see the possibilities, but you have to feel as if you come home when you walk in.

  49. We looked at lots and lots of houses. It takes a while to find one you are willing to live with/work with. Also keep in mind, you may intend for it to be your “first” house, but it could end up being “the” house you live in for the rest of your life.

    If you think you’ve found “the” house, take a second look, only bring someone else with you. It’s always good to get a second opinion of someone who isn’t in the market. They will see things you won’t.

    Before signing papers, look a third time. Hey…this is a big deal, don’t rush and it’s okay to back out if you decide you made a mistake.

    We bought our 950 square foot home as a fixer upper first house. Because of layoff, bad economy, etc. etc. we’ve been here for 18 years. We have 8 years left and our house is 100% ours. Our house payment started out at $525, we refinance to get a lower interest rate and to cut some time off our 30 year loan and now pay $800. We still couldn’t rent cheaper than that.
    Anita´s last post…Of Friends and Fish

  50. Oh…and our house payment includes taxes and insurance. Something. Taxes have gone up since we bought our house too. Something to consider as well.
    Anita´s last post…Of Friends and Fish

  51. I know very well what you are talking about… I felt exactly the same 17x – 15x when I rented a flat (it was ONLY a flat) in our country + when I relocated due to work, abroad… and 2x when looking for my own FLAT, and later my own HOUSE.

    Summarizing my own estates:

    FLAT:
    it was in 2004, I was hunting 6 months…. and saw approx. 50 flats which were out of my expectations, eventhough at least in 36 cases the pictures showed a normal, acceptable condition, size, location, room/space arrangement, etc. The reality was different. When I entered one of them, it was old-fashioned, but somehow I felt immediately that this is the one I really want, eventhough it needed a full renovation from scratch. I bought it, forced the price decrease by 32% and I was satisfied. 4 years later I fully renovated it, now it is an excellent place to live. It was a good choice.

    HOUSE:
    it was in 2008, before the crisis came to EU – for us, the worst time period to buy estates. Prices were extremely high, and the situation with houses the same as in the case of flats few years ago. New houses were almost useless (I wondered wether architects could imagine to live there?), older houses absolutely terribly furnished and solved… Finally I bought a house where the number of compromises was acceptable. I finished the installations of bathrooms, kitchen, and rooms, garden, garrage… it was more expensive than I expected, but that time it was the only one solution to have a place to live normally. I am still satisfied, of course, it caused me some financial troubles, specially when the crisis reached us, but I still think it was a good choice.

    My recommendation is: always listen to your intuitive feelings. If you don´t feel something positive in some house and if you cannot imagine to live a normal life there, don´t buy it – because this will never change.
    If you feel that it can work, let yourself some time to think about, visit the house more times at various hours (morning, evening, etc…) to see and feel how your opinion changes… and if you still think it could work, go for it…

  52. Lisa- Domestic Accident says:

    We look at over 20 houses before we saw the right one. I thought house shopping was very much like wedding dress shopping. When you find the right one, you just know. Maybe it needs some alterations, but you fall in love just the same.

  53. Karin in England says:

    House hunting was the hardest thing we ever did, massive sympathies coming your way, that constant oscillation between hope and despair was so exhausting. We looked at about 40 houses over the course of a year and I thought it would never be over. But to give you hope, we found an unimaginably perfect one after I had completely given up. Good Luck, you deserve it.

  54. My husband & I live in rural Maine in a community where we moved 25 years ago to raise our daughters and to sail. Those priorities have totally shifted now, and one day a few months ago, we looked at one another and realized we were free to leave. Is there a problem? We just finished building our dream house–small, foot-thick walls, solar, big organic garden, absolutely beautiful! And fully paid for. Nonetheless, we both feel intuitively that we should move, that we should not stay out of fear, that we will find more opportunity in a larger community with a university. But I am really going through internal shifts as I wonder if I can possibly live in a rental for a couple of years, maybe without a garden. Here we designed everything exactly as we wanted it, we realized our vision. Our friends have envy and admiration and privately, probably think we’re nuts.

    • gail, i wish i was moving to maine so i could buy your house!! our dream is a straw bale home, off the grid, massive garden, etc. hopefully in 10 more years we can begin making that a reality. and after a long debate between the northeast or the northwest, i think we’re settled on moving to the northwest.

  55. We looked at 10 houses. But I did a lot of drivebys before hand to elminate houses. So we considered 20-25. Sometimes the house might be cute but the neighborhood is definitely not. We knew we needed to stay in the town we were living in because both our kids were in school there.

    realtor.com was my online source for checking out things to see if we even wanted to visit. Google earth is a good resource too (’cause you can see the giant landfill next to the cute little house).

  56. wow, this was timely reading matter for me and I’ve devoured it and gotten totally awake now this morning. We’re on the selling side…(almost)..but memories are fresh from when we bought 7 1/2 years ago, our first home after living overseas all our lives. I keep remembering what sold me on the home and hoping that will somehow make it sell again.

    We didn’t look at too many–maybe 8-10, but my husband liked them ALL!!! I didn’t even know about bones. (nor did he) We considered a fixer upper and the Lord spared us, thankfully, because my husband can’t. (What were we thinking?)

    Now, looking at your dead rose picture, I smile. We’ve got the bones and good paint to freshen and we’ve replaced all those knobs and faucets, etc., but I’m studying all I can find online about staging, because there are 28 homes for sale in this neighborhood. It’s probably the best little middle-class neighborhood there is around here, but what do people think? –like, what’s wrong with it that everyone’s moving? (in our block 3 have retired and so are we). No one is biting, so I’m glad to see there are people out there who really are looking. (but I also read the comments from those trying to sell)

    I realize your situation and I get it– rent being so high–Doug being able to fix things so well– I’d say, keep looking and just breeze past the yucky ones and give it a couple more weeks. It’s out there, somewhere, cause this really is the buyer’s market. You’ll find it!

    I bet you want a yard for the kids??? I know you’ve done without for ages, but I’d think that would be part of the search. Am I wrong?

    (P.S. we’re building in the country by our son and his inlaws in Tenn where there’s 11 acres and we’re going ahead. We’ve counted the cost without selling and still doing it.)

  57. Five years ago we sold our house in less than one week. We moved in with my in-laws for what we thought would be a couple of weeks while we house hunted. Five months and many houses later, we found the one where we now live. It can be fun at times and discouraging at others. Hang in there! You will find the right one. Good for you that it’s a buyers market. I can’t wait to hear all about your new home!
    Laura´s last post…3 Practical Ways to Simplify Your Life

  58. We looked for our current house for 2.5 years! We kept renting because we couldn’t find anything that could become ours, either in turn-key condition or one that needed to be renovated. I’m not joking when I tell you that some of the foreclosures we looked at had dead animals in them and one or two we couldn’t even step into the basement b/c we were afraid of what might be down there based on the condition of the rest of the house.

    It was a horrible, awful, obsessive experience that I’m thrilled is over with! And don’t even get me started about the nightmare of going under contract, negotiating inspection issues, and closing.

    When we bought our first home, I found it in 3 days, and I don’t remember anything bad about the closing. Then again, it was new construction, and I’ve heard that’s a lot easier to buy!

    Good luck in your search. My heart really does go out to you since I was just there.

  59. I know this is about houses … but Rule #3 made me laugh out loud. Can’t wait to share that one with my college aged daughter. Priceless.
    Susie Davis´s last post…Creating Life Balance

  60. Wishing we were in the buying game…but your post brings perspective that even that has its downsides, so thanks!
    Michelle´s last post…No Books but Plenty of Wailing

  61. How timely! Our house just went on the market here outside of Boston yesterday!

    When we purchased this house 15 years ago, we looked at probably close to 45 houses before finding this one. Old house, some things fixed up (main bathroom, gorgeous wood floors), some things needed to be redone (kitchen, paint stripping, painting, yard) BUT the light was wonderful and it fit us well and has been able to grow alittle with us as we’ve had our twins. We saw it on a Sunday open house, went back on Tuesday after work and knew right away it was just what we were looking for. I will warn you that fixing up a house is ALOT of work and money but worth it so you can get what you want.

    The search for the house we are purchasing has taken almost 3 years. We have a very specific list of wants and needs since we don’t “have” to move. Real Estate in our town goes very quickly and there was only one other house that we put an offer on in all that time (fell through, crazy owner) BUT it was good that we waited because the house we’re moving in to is far better. It is in the next town north of us so that was our one big compromise but it’s only 14 min from where we are now, and our kids will not have to change schools.

    Don’t loose heart, keep looking, stick to your wants but be flexible and keep that vision!

    Good luck!!

  62. MelissaT says:

    We looked at over 30 houses as first time homebuyers. When we asked our realtor if that was common, she said most people only look at 2-3. I guess we got our money’s worth on her commission!

    If you’re only looking at living in a house for 2-3 years, why do you want to buy one? It doesn’t seem like you would get your money’s worth after paying all of the taxes and fees.

  63. My husband and I looked at EVERY house in our price range that was in the area (close to 50 houses total), except one! That one we had requested to look at on 3 different occasions and the day/time we wanted to look never suited the owners, finally our Realtor pressed the issue and got us in and THAT IS OUR HOUSE TODAY! It was worth the wait and worth the frustration, so try to be patient!

  64. Suzanne says:

    The best house for you right now is out there. House buying is a real roller coaster ride. Fasten your seat belt and try to keep your chin up.

  65. Stephanie says:

    Another idea to house hunting is to look at bank web sites for foreclosed properties “IF” you are looking for a fixer upper type of house. You will also be surprised at the houses that are move in ready.

  66. The best part of that staging mishap to me is the price stickers on the apples.

  67. We looked at hundreds of houses over the course of a year. Part of the reason why we had to see so many was that we find oje, but then wouldn’t be able to close in on our condo, then baby arrived early, then stock market crashed. It was a rough time.
    Jessica´s last post…Happy Fathers day- exhausted baby-makin-momma

  68. Heather says:

    Oh goodness I feel you! We were in your shoes just over a year ago; I thought house hunting would be a fun, carefree experience. HA! It was so painful.

    One place we looked at had EVERY room except the bathroom covered in paneling (yes, even the kitchen). Not the real wood paneling but the 1970′s-oh isn’t that cool, faux wood paneling.

    In the end we only looked at five houses. That is because we had to buy on the very low end of the price spectrum in the Boston area and when we started we came up with a list of hard and fast non-negotiables (i.e. need to be able to bike to work, must be on transit, must be able to walk to grocery store and a coffee shop). This seriously limited our list of potential houses. I am so glad we stuck with that strategy because we can change the house but not its location.

    We ended up buying the second home we saw. At first I liked it and Steve was not sure. He is an artist and the paint colours were atrocious so it was hard for him to see past the baby poo brown kitchen-and the brilliant purple siding to the solid wood floors, dry basement and solid build. However, after three more houses with less structural integrity we were back to big purple.

    One year and eighteen gallons of paint later I am so thrilled. We have come to love the purple exterior and because the house meets all of needs in terms of the lifestyle we want to live it is truly a home.

    • The house we are in now was straight paneling everywhere too. Just makes me wonder when that ever looked attractive. It was too expensive to pull all the molding and put in sheetrock so we had all of the walls floated and sanded. You can’t even tell now that it is painted over, but it was a LOT of work. We painted walls, trim, ceiling, cabinets, EVERYTHING! We are still not quite finished-it is like the never ending project. Even when when get all the trim I still have to do all the doors in the house and then the kitchen cabinets. I mostly try not to think about it.

  69. We saw at least 30 houses before choosing our home now. I know what you mean about people not putting their best foot forward. We’ve seen abandoned undies sitting on the bathtub. Remnants from backed up sinks. If this is what you are showing everyone, what in the world are you hiding! Good luck.

  70. We bought a house that had “potential” and we’ve been living it for the last 15 years. We’ve done so much, but boy do we still have a long way to go.

    I really want to move to a house that doesn’t have potential, but just is. Finished. Done.

    Hope you find the right fit soon. Loved the dating analogy.
    Bonita´s last post…Write Your Own Stuff First

  71. It’s my first time posting as I am new to your blog. Reading your post reminded of the time I literally had to step over doggie doo when walking through a prospective home. We’ve only bought two houses in our 19-year marriage. The first one we purchased in just one weekend of hunting before relocating here. It was easier than buying a new pair of shoes. The second one took us about 18 months. I was so thankful our realtor was one of my best friends because I was able to warn her that it would be LOTS of houses before we knew which one was ours. It got to the point where I could actually mentally draw the floorplan out in the driveway before we went in. In the end the Lord provided a great house that was a 3-bedroom ranch converted to a 2-story sitting on 11 acres of park district land that we don’t mow. No other house like it anywhere. Perfect for our family as we often entertain large groups of people. Keep plugging away. The right one will come along.

  72. Forgot to mention the worst house we saw had mirrors all around the toilet. So you can see yourself ‘on the thrown’ from every angle. No thanks.
    Jessica´s last post…Happy Fathers day- exhausted baby-makin-momma

  73. As someone with some experience in home staging, Rachel you are so right when you say selling and buying a house is like dating. Too bad so many people don’t dress their houses up for that all-important first date!

  74. House hunting is the pits – never want to do it again – just make our house work!!! Really it was disastrous: We wanted a classic, older house with interesting nooks and crannies… they took us to loads of modern builds, still being built… with tiles on all the floors and walls and security gates on all the windows and doors, just call it prison!!! We found our house by going for a walk and taking a closer look at a house that had been on the market for a lonnnnng time… the seller was eager to take any offer.
    A couple of years later we tried to sell, our house is definitely a family home, they didn’t bring a single family to see it!!! Only very old people that weren’t comfortable with the stairs or single “lock up and go types” who just didn’t want a huge family kitchen!!!
    We quit and decided this is our home for life!!! Never want to sell or buy again – it is just too much work!!! I would rather give our house away and never look back but folks might think that is a bit insane!!!

  75. Rebecca says:

    Back in 2002(?) we spent some months looking at houses, and it was so depressing. The peak of the bubble (here in California), and everything we could afford was hideous, and everything we liked we couldn’t afford. I called it off after three months, too bummed out to waste more weekends.

    Fast forward to 2011. After years of renting, we decided to look again for a house to buy. We found the best realtor in the world, and spent all of two weekends looking. She previewed every house before showing us, and had us list pros and cons after every visit, plus rank every house we’d seen. We saw a total of 8 houses. House #5 was a winner, and we made an offer, accepted, and we’ve just moved into our very first home this week. I started out dreading the whole process after the first experience, but in the right market and with the right realtor, it was actually fun.

  76. We are in our 4th house and this one is because we downsized from a too large home to 1500 square and it is too large also.
    1.) Look at your finances; how much do you have down (20%), how much are you willing to spend versus how much to repairs just to move in (carpet cleaning, deorderizing, paint for the square footage, etc., how much can you afford (31% of your yearly take home pay), don’t forget taxes, utilities, home owners fees, lawn care and all the little things you have to include in a house.
    2.) How many feet do you actually need? can you live in comfortably? that will suffice for a growing family versus the one you have now? The average home is 1600 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths; so do you need all that room? Sometimes you don’t and sometimes you need more.
    3.) Check out neighborhoods and relate your concerns to a realator——no smoking home, no animal home, do thins and your look will be simplified. Know what you want before you buy and ask a lot of questions; go to the county appraisal district for previous owners, was there a murder there, how many sex offenders in a square mile radius—-these questions are hard to ask but they are necessary. Real estate people are interested in the bottom line and will withhold important infomation from you so ask.
    4.) Close your eyes and see yourself in the house later and now. Walk through the rooms, make a copy of the rooms by taking a pad and making a drawing, look in the attic and basement, around the foundation for cracks and holes or filled in anything new that has been done to ‘fix’ a problem.
    Good luck.

  77. House hunting can be fun if you aren’t pressed for time. I’ve been in this house for 10 years, and the hunt to find it took about 4 months. Saw some doozies on the way- but the best house I saw was one that had an apple pie baking in the oven and the whole place, although older, was immaculate. The neighborhood was too far from my job, so I didn’t buy it, but I often think about it.

    In my opinion, Location is #1. Floor plan is #2. Size is #3. I bought when the prevailing “wisdom” said to get as much house as you could afford. Bosh! I should have bought a one-level house with a mudroom. Instead, I got a two-story that has space I don’t even use.

    I’m trying to sell, but no one is interested in a house with freeway noise and garage-band neighbors. I could lower the price, but then I wouldn’t have enough for the down payment on the cozy condo that I’ve been eyeing for 6 years and just had a $40,000 price drop…

    Anyone interested in 1770 square feet near Portland, OR?

  78. Katherine K. says:

    I’ve always loved your blog, but today you really offended me–what is it, exactly, about five cat carriers being in a home that makes it inherently unlivable? While my cat carriers are all neatly stored in the basement on shelves, there are seven of them. One of each of our seven house cats. Yes, we have seven cats. Interestingly enough, we only sought out ONE of them. Just one. All the others turned up on our doorstep after irresponsible owners turned them out or failed to look for them when they wandered too far from home.

    I didn’t want seven cats. I still don’t. But unlike a lot of people, we believe in being responsible for animals that have been domesticated by humans and are now treated as disposable objects in our increasingly negligent society. We’re doing our part, obviously those homeowners are as well and perhaps you should consider judging others less and doing your own small part to help with pet overpopulation instead of making waspish comments.

    Housecats aren’t quite on the same level with nicotine stains. It’s easy enough to throw out your cigarettes, but what exactly do you do with adult cats that nobody else wants? You can’t just turn them out and hope they’ll be okay. At least you’ve given me food-for-thought: should we sell our meticulously clean house any time soon, I’ll be sure to move our cat carriers off the premises . . . I’d hate to be judged for a small pile of plastic boxes.

    • I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. When I made that comment I was thinking about pet owners who aren’t as meticulous.

  79. Denise C. says:

    We had plans to have one built in a neighborhood that was just going up. Long story short with that, the builder had no trouble taking our money and not building our home. Luckily we fought, got a release of contract and our money back. The first house my husband and I bought was in April 2003. We found a spec home in Murphy, TX that was neat. A little big for just the 2 of us (plus our 2 dogs). We looked at it 4 times on one Saturday before putting down earnest money. Our second home (the one we live in now) is much better for us. We’ve been in our neighborhood 5 years (rented 2 previous townhomes). This one was also looked at 4 times, over 2 days. The layout and kitchen are what sold me. I’ll never forget when our realtor called the seller’s realtor and said an offer was coming. The seller had 2 other ones come in as well. Ours was first, and he liked that we had been in the neighborhood for some time. Offer was accepted and we closed Sept. 2010.
    I’ll say this, both times I had panic attacks when signing all the paperwork. My husband and I went over the numbers A LOT, still seeing it on a legal piece of paper made my stomach do flip-flops. In the end it all worked out, and will work out for you as well. :)

  80. we saw over 50 homes (some were drive-bys, no very quickly!) within a 5 mile radius. It took 4 months, but our home now was worth it! Even with the 2 story black and floral wallpaper . . .

  81. We looked at houses on and off for five years before finding our gem 18 years ago. It needed a good deal of work, but the bones were sound. Happy hunting!
    Lori in PA´s last post…Wise Words Wednesday: Quotable

  82. I can relate, though not completely on the same level as house hunting. I’ve been apartment hunting for the past month and a half. It’s been so exhausting. I don’t know if I should just settle for something that I’d be okay with living in or keep looking. I don’t want to seem too picky and then end up not finding a place at all. But after a month long search, I’m getting weary and I’m losing hope that I’ll ever find exactly the apartment that I want. This is my first apartment after graduating college so it will be a place that’s completely my own. Is it too much that I want something that I can feel completely at home with??
    Leslie´s last post…Fabulous on Fridays: 10 Skin Care/Make Up Products Every Girl Should Have!

  83. I only saw one house — the one we bought. I knew from looking for rentals how many dogs there are out there for every one house we would consider living in. We had talked about buying for so long, my husband knew what I wanted in a home. We made a written list of what we were looking for, and he set out looking at houses with his realtor employer (it was a better time-arrangement also, because the owner of the company he works for was also a realtor on the side, so while they were out doing jobs, they could stop and look at houses — and I didn’t have to drag the 6 small children out daily). After a while, he found one that fit a remarkable number of our priorities. He came and picked us up to see it, and we signed the pspers on the spot. We got a great deal on it, and we’ve lived here for 7 years and I still love our house. It was a good way to do things for us.

  84. Hey now, we have 5 cat carriers and 5 cats. Our house is cleaner than a lot of the ones we visit! New friends don’t believe us when we say we have 5. Good reminder to hide the carriers if we ever sell, in case someone gets judgy.

  85. Sorry – no house horror stories here. If my real estate agent didn’t care about me, I would have bought the house I’m in sight unseen. Which is a log house & the logs are stained orange. (The walls & floors are wood also & the same color.) I thought “Ugh how to decorate THIS?!?” I looked at the color wheel & found my two favorite colors were the contrast to the orange – purple & green! I prefer contrast when it comes to color so this was more than a perfect answer for me. All that to say – DON’T GIVE UP – there is hope!

  86. I soooo feel your pain :( We bought our home 4 years ago in a town of 50,000 people. I thought surely it could not take that long. Hoo boy – I looked at over 60 homes!! Hubbs & I are not “handy” when it comes to fixing things up & in this case, many of the homes had been “tinkered with” in terms of changing things. A garage that someone had built a room in so then it was 1-car garage…a toilet and a bathtub that did not fit well in a bathroom…no doors on any of the rooms – argh!!! It was so incredibly frustrating & I had to look at most of them by myself with my 18-mth old in tow. I completely agree with your analogy to dating – “Marriage” in the home we’re in now is so peaceful & the thought of ever having to delve into that world again gives me the heeby jeebies!

  87. One more thing – people seriously need to get a grip about being “offended” by a blog post. If someone has been reading your blog for longer than 2 or 3 posts, then they should know by now that you are not “judgy” or uppity in any way. It’s your blog & if you think 5 cat carriers makes you go “hmmmm”, so be it!
    Vicki R.´s last post…Picture this

    • I have read this blog for a long time and commented on it enough times that I think Rachel can understand I am not really calling HER judgy. She had also popped in on my old blog a while back, so has seen my sense of humor now and again. The comment was to her, and I forgot momentarily that no matter what rapport a person thinks she has with a blogger, other readers are also going to judge that comment. If Rachel took my comment in any other way than the rib-nudging way it was intended, I would be sorry, but also a little surprised. This fact of being misunderstood by other readers actually keeps me from commenting quite often. Perhaps I should have emailed my comment. Rachel, I am sorry if my humor was lost in translation.
      Visty´s last post…Family Portrait Project month 17

      • Don’t worry, I wasn’t offended. I was being judgy, but if I didn’t get to voice my own opinion once in a while this would be a very boring blog. I don’t expect all my readers to see everything my way.

        On a practical note, since Visty I think that’s where you were going with your comment, I do think houses sell better without evidence of indoor pets. I used to have a cat, and that one sweet cat wreaked havoc on the inside of my house, so as a house buyer I worry when I see multiple pets inside. My cat went to stay with someone else when I put my house on the market since I was away at work all day.

  88. That picture is too funny and this post just made me smile. Maybe because I totally know the feelings you expressed? Hope you find the “perfect” place soon!
    Lydia´s last post…Birthday Freebies

  89. We looked for 6-8 months before we found anything that didn’t smell of cat pee and have a gravel alley in the backyard. *sigh* I thought we’d never find a place.

    Then one day we did. It was priced to sell and truth be told, had a stinky office/enclosed porch that scared off the other buyers. We got the house and immediately ripped out the carpet, drapes and anything else that held any smells. We painted and opened windows and brought in boxes of baking soda.

    Now that room smells like a clean laundry room.

    Sorry it’s taking so long, but keep looking. And you’re right, it is just like dating. Crappy.
    Tami (Teacher Goes Back to School)´s last post…Song of the Day

  90. Here’s a thought: what did the houses look like BEFORE they cleaned them up for showings. Gag. Take heart, after a good cleaning and lots of white paint, almost any house can be a nice, cozy home. Well, except some of the houses on Hoarders. Only a match and some accelerant will rise to that occasion.
    Juliet´s last post…Deather

  91. Lindsey says:

    We bought our house 2 years ago, and spent many, many hours looking at awful houses. We upped our price by $10k and finally found the perfect house. My best advise is identify the neighborhoods you would like to live in, especially with young kids. No sense buying a house in a neighborhood you don’t feel safe in :)

    That being said, when we walked into our house (the last one of the weekend) we knew it was The One. Same went for the building we bought to renovate & rent. Looked at several then found our gem and knew it was the one we wanted.

  92. Frances says:

    We are still looking for a house! We’ve been to about 50. I’m so disengaged from it now! Like you, we’ve been looking in the fixer upper price range. We made an offer on a farmhouse with some land that needed a lot of cosmetic work due to some bad renters. I believe it had a “grow room” upstairs because I’ve never seen so many electric outlets in one room and the ceiling under that room had significant water damage! Someone also decided to get real creative with the paint. In the bathroom the ceiling was painted like a swirl of blood leading to the fan. The dining room was splash painted. The rest of the walls were really torn up. We offered what we thought was fair given the condition of things. They refused our offer though. That was a year ago and that house still hasn’t sold. I’m glad we didn’t get it now. My standards have gone up a bit.

  93. Our home for the past 12 years is a house that I declared “I would never want to live in” because it “looked like a big box” when they were first built and I was a newlywed. A few years later, that box didn’t seem so bad!

    The owners of the house my parents have lived in for 16 years now sent us a video of the house while we were still in another state. My mom wasn’t home when we watched the video..but we all howled in laughter at how tacky the place was. The video broke before my mom got to see it…but I told her not to bother. It turned out to be a well built house that looked fine once they replaced the carpet. She is still stuck with the outdated gold drapes, but it is “Grandma’s House” and well loved by all her grand-kids.

    I guess just be careful about saying you’ll “never” live in a house-it could just be your future home :)

  94. Thanks for the post, it gave me a good laugh. We are currently looking for apartments to move to in Prague, while we are in the states. Each night we eagerly look through the listings online hoping for “the one”. It gets kind of tiring and we wonder “How will we ever choose?” So I can sympathize with your house hunting woes. Hopefully you will find the one that fits.
    Jessica Brammer´s last post…God of the Air

  95. Uhmmm, we decided for a tight budget in order not to have a mortgage, so we looked at these (flats or semi-independent with 2 bedrooms – proper houses are expensive in Italy)
    - horrid flat at 5th floor with huge crack in the floor
    - ok flat with small kitchen
    - pretty semi. on 2 floors but small
    - new flat with kitchen and living room all in one and neighbour dog barking all the time
    - lovely big flat with awesome floor tiles but too much work to do
    - nice flat with very big bedroom – we were about to buy it but the owners changed their mind!! :/
    - big flat with flaws
    and…
    - a triangular-shaped semi-independent house on 2 floors, bedroom with balcony, in a nice area. The pics in the ad were horrid and we didn’t expect much. Well, guess what, the place was lovely and it was love at first sight. The peculiar shape is interesting and not even hard to furnish. Living room downstairs is big, the bedrooms cozy, the walls large, keep the house cool in summer. :) That was serendipity!

  96. Songbirdy says:

    Not to scare you, but we first looked at a duplex and had it bought… but that fell through because it was listed as a legal conforming duplex and it wasn’t… had to take them to court to get our deposit back (sigh!)

    Which turned my husband off that town…

    So we spend 3 months looking every Tuesday in another city closer to husband’s work. Minimum 5 houses every time… Hubs was being very picky. Put in an offer which the seller rescinded… later learned the roof blew off that house a week later (phew).

    Finally looked at 1 house in city of his employment (which I had pushed for *all* along) and… bought that house that afternoon.

  97. Michele says:

    We are currently waiting to go to settlement on our 3rd home. It can be an exhausting process. We looked at a lot of homes over the last few months until we found what we wanted. It can be very hit or miss with online photos. Some hide things (smells really get me) and others don’t show the house well at all. The house we ended up going for had terrible online pictures and I wasn’t even interested in looking at it but my husband really wanted to. I sure an glad we did! The last two house we lived in were fixer-uppers (and old –the last being over 100) so I was really just wanting something with good bones and not needing a lot of work beyond basics. We found a home with beautiful hard wood and tile floors, neutral walls and newly renovated bathrooms. I can work with that. :) Now we are dealing with the government bureaucracy and the nitpicking they do now compared to buying a house several years ago. Closing has been pushed back yet again because of another -out of the blue- requirement. Like I said, it can be exhausting!

  98. love ya Rachel, but I’m not as confident that buying is the right choice for you. You should be planning to stay in an area for at least 10 – 15 years before buying. I know prices look cheap now, but we’re not in the clear yet. And, of course,this might be a bit self-interested – because I’m worried that if you have more space you’ll be less of an inspiration to the rest of us nomadic city-dwellers!

  99. I know you’re not asking for this, but it just got me thinking. I live in a home with two kids, and I love the space and not having neighbors on the other side of the walls and below and above me – BUT, sometimes I get jealous of those in apartments! We bought a new home, and so our time has been sucked up with finishing the basement, landscaping, mowing the lawn, and we still have yet to build a fence and a deck. It’s my fault, for not wanting an older more established home, but just something to consider. I don’t know how much free time you’ll want to put into your home, but I sure wish I had less to do on mine!

    • I feel ya! Our home was new too. I feel the pressure to keep it maintained to the standard it was in when we bought it. We outsource the cleaning and the landscaping but somehow we still spend a lot of time on it.
      April´s last post…This stuck fear in my heart…

  100. Yikes! I hope you don’t have to suffer through too many horrible possibilities before you find the right home for your family.

    I’m excited for you though – I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, and know some of the challenges you’ve run into with apartment living. While home-ownership has its own challenges, I imagine you’ll enjoy having a place that’s truly your own to fix up as you please.

    We’ve been living (together) in our house for three years (my husband owned it a little while before we got married) and have had such a blast making it really feel like “home.”

    I hope you find something soon – I can’t wait to hear all about it!
    Amy´s last post…I did it!

  101. I have to echo Jen’s feelings that sometimes I’m jealous of apartment livers. Don’t get me wrong, I love our house (a fixer upper we bought 7 years ago and have been fixing up ever since); but so much of our time and money goes into things we never had to worry about when renting. We spend our weekend oscillating between desperately trying to finish projects, kicking ourselves for even starting, and planning what we’re going to do next. I’d love to see how you deal with all this, which is a totally selfish reason to wish you luck with finding the right one! Honestly, though, our house has also been great. We have a backyard for a garden and sandbox, we have a basement for family members in need of a place to crash.

    We did the majority of our house hunting online and only looked at the places that were really promising. I remember being in tears at what was available in our price range and then this one just appeared and was perfect. Ours was the only house we made an offer on and except on Sunday night at 2am when we’re still knee-deep in a project, I don’t regret it. Our next door neighbor looked at over 200 houses and seems just as happy with hers. It’s a whole new hobby and lifestyle. We still have a small space (950 sq feet officially) but its all ours to do with as we like. We’re putting down roots and planning on keeping it forever.

    I’m sure whatever you’ll do, you’ll end up with both relief and regrets but in the end it will all work out for the best. Happy hunting!
    Anne´s last post…A New Plan for Our Lives

  102. Andrine says:

    I have bought many homes. Location and price range seem to narrow the field then I always just get a gut feeling of “this is the one.” My last house I really felt it and our offer was turned down in favor of another one. I was crushed. A week later the realtor called and the other people pulled out of the deal and we got our home. Fate. I knew that was where I was to be. Good luck with your search, don’t stress and just listen to the house.

  103. are you buying in Europe? How exciting! No advice, but best wishes!
    peggy´s last post…OOTD-Date Night wearing Erin Fetherston and More Nautical

  104. AK Mama says:

    We looked for YEARS until we hit the market..at fixer-upper prices as well back in 2009. It was winter in Alaska (which means we couldn’t really see the yards all that well). We finally found a house with a mother-in-law apartment tucked in to the bottom. We bought it since anything else we saw made us cringe and shuffle our feet. We fixed up the apartment, rented it and are working on our section of the house. Panelling is down. Doors, windows, paint, fireplace shelves. We are swimming in projects…and it feels good to see the work we accomplish. Especially with no knowledge of DIY repairs or remodeling. Good luck in finding your diamond in the rough. I know you’ll find it. You’ve made things look far more beautiful than they started many times over in your home.

  105. House hunting is definitely NOT for the faint of heart. WE spent a year looking before we found our current house. Thankfully, not a fixer-upper this time–at least not structurally. It was built in 1971 as a model home, had one owner and is in pristine condition on the inside. Yes, as in everything is original to the house. It’s like walking into 1971 all over again. But it least it has new windows, great insulation and new siding.
    Marie´s last post…Digital Scrapbook Special!

  106. Alexandra says:

    I looked at 87 houses. I kid you not. I searched from January-July of 2009, before we found one in our price range whose state of disrepair didn’t exceed what we could afford to fix. I’m glad though, because we ended up finding a ridiculous deal on a gorgeous brick colonial with a stream running through the back yard.

  107. Scott L says:

    We just bought our house at the end of May. The search took 3 months. We checked out probably 200 houses with drive-bys and research, toured around 30. I said the same thing as you, “I thought this was supposed to be fun.” I think there is just so much uncertainty in the housing market it’s hard not to second guess yourself. Also, I blame HGTV for giving everyone unreal expectations(both sellers and buyers) about a home’s ‘potential’. You’re not buying potential, if it’s a hot mess it’s a hot mess. Luckily for us we found our house, and managed to close, when we did. I was about ready to call it quits for another year.

    • You really blame HGTV for telling buyers to look at a home’s potential? I find it to be the exact opposite. HGTV doesn’t look at a home’s potential; if the house isn’t staged correctly and doesn’t have granite and stainless steel appliances and a “master” with it’s own bath, then it’s completely unacceptable. I blame HGTV for making people think that the house has to be “perfect” in every aspect.

  108. I have experienced to rent for few years when I was still studying. And I haven’t experienced in house hunting because my parents own a house. But I think it is fun to look for house. I hope that you could be able to find the house that you really like.
    Daniel L.´s last post…Infographic : gagner de l’argent sur internet

  109. I understand how you feel, as we have also recently been through this. Hang in there . . . like us, I’ll bet you’ll find the most “perfect”, imperfect place to call home!

  110. I’ve read most of the comments and am amazed at the number of people who have lived in several houses and many of whom seem to be upsizing. I find it interesting that these people read a blog about living simply.

    When we bought our house 16 years ago, the realtor’s mantra was “location, location, location.” We went with that and bought less house in a better school district, with no intention of it being just a “starter” home for us. I hated when people assumed that was the case. We’ve been happy there and have made improvements over the years, and we’re 8 years from being mortgage free.

    Based on your previous trip to Italy, sounds like you’re used to small, so why not start there and go for a really great location rather than a specific type of house?

  111. Rachel, I smiled when I saw this post, because we just finished unloading our things into our first home. I thought about how you’ve always written about how apartment living is totally doable, which is what we’ve done for the past 4-5 years as well, but it was funny to see that you’re moving into a house soon just as we are too.

    Anyway, I like the analogy of house hunting to dating. If this analogy is true, then our house hunting process was pretty much an arranged marriage. My husband just got accepted to law school this past spring in Kansas, and given that he still had a job to finish out in California (and I had just had baby #3 in the spring) it was almost impossible to go out and even find a house to rent before June. We also had a deadline of needing to be in KS by July 1 in order to qualify for in-state tuition. We thought we would just hope for the best and do a crazy rental hunt at the end of June, but my in-laws offered to go and look at homes for us and basically finance the whole thing and rent the house to us. Wow. It was a great blessing to be able to live in a home without the headaches of house hunting or closing dramas, etc. But, along with it came different people’s ideas of what a great house is. Thankfully, my in-laws have great business/home-purchasing sense and bought a home with good bones, a huge basement, and a massive (think 4900 sq. feet, fenced) backyard that even has an herb garden. There are things that I will have to learn to get used to for the time being, like the varnished cabinets that hang down between the kitchen and living area with western (think Bonanza)-style handles, but things that already tell me that this is where we were meant to live.

    I don’t think that I would have loved this house at first glance, but the more we are here, the more I love the space, flow, and light of the place. Going from a 2 BR/1 BA to a 3 BR/2 BA with a full basement is like winning a million bucks for us.

    Sorry this is so long, but I just wanted to share. I’m going to start blogging again soon so that I can post stories and pics of how we are making a life with what we’ve been given.

  112. We looked very hard (5-10 houses a week) for almost 5 months. It was hard, but we loved our realtor because she understood the city and us. Our long search helped us to assess houses quickly and we sometimes only spent a minute there when we spotted a dealbreaker. In the end, we bought a 3-unit house from a slumlord in the PERFECT location and started fixing it up. We live close to everything we love (family, market, church, park, library), in a neighborhood that has improved since we bought our house. We live in half the house and rent out the rest.
    I spent the first few months hating this house because I didn’t have the vision to see its potential (despite that informative house-hunt – you are so right, houses are at root emotional things). But it really is the ideal house for us in so many ways I couldn’t even see at first, just like my husband! In the end, it is a leap of faith and a willingness to grow into the love. And then you have a home and your heart is there.
    Margo´s last post…Why Do We Go to Family Reunions?

  113. We bought last summer, after 14 years(!) of renting. We only looked at a handful of houses, due to limited selection in our village/price range, and I think the one we bought was the 2nd one we saw. Aside from the “must-haves” (old, brick, # beds/baths, etc) that it met, I was won over by the brass doorknocker (engraved “HURRY”) on the powder room door!

  114. We bought the first house we’d looked at in a year and a half. On a whim we walked into a builder’s spec home and fell in love. We couldn’t sleep the night we took to think it over. We were there when the office opened the next day. When you know, you know.

  115. Five years ago, we decided to sell our four bedroom, 2.5 bath house and move to a better neighborhood. We spent six weeks fixing up the house, painting every room, scrubbing and restaining the kitchen cabinets and adding new fixtures. We planted new scrubbery and plants in the front yard, etc…The house sold in 15 days.

    So we started our house hunt. We knew the general area we wanted, which was a great start. After ten houses we had found “the one”. It was the first day of the house showing and we put in an offer. The buyers believing that their house was unrealisticly worth more than we offered, turned us down flat without a counter offer. We were devastated!! But we keep on looking because we wouldn’t have a place to live in thirty days.(after the closing of our house)

    After six more days and twenty more houses, we found another house, not quite perfect. It needed to have wallpaper removed in three rooms and the carpet needed replacing throughout but the floor plan was perfect and the neighborhood was more than perfect. The house was on a golf course and the view was spectacular. We put in an offer and after two counter offers we got the house. We have lived there for five years and it turned out to be the better of the two houses after all.
    The funny part of the story is that after we had moved into the new house and started to get settled, we got a call from our realtor. The owners of the first house that we put an offer on were now ready to accept our offer and called to see if we were still interested. Apparently, we were the only offer that they had received in the 45 days since their house went on the market. We obviously turned them down flat without a counter offer. This was the start of the down turn of the economy and it took them TWO YEARS to sell their house!!
    So this is a good lesson to both buyer and sellers…..don’t be afraid to walk away from a house if the sellers are not resonable!! and sellers don’t over estimate the value of your house. It may have great sentimental value to you and be “worth” a lot but the buyer doesn’t see that “worth” they only see the price comparable to other houses in the same area and same condition.
    House hunting is a great challenge but I believe that if it is meant to be, it will happen. So keep an open mind and just imagine how the house could look -not how it appears now.

  116. We looked at about 30-40 apartments before finding the one we eventually bought. You will know when you see it. It will be an easy decision. Love your blog!

  117. I just walked this path buying my first home. I looked at 25 homes and put an offer on the one that finally had the space where I wanted it. It was a little bit higher then I wanted but not at the high end of my price range. The book Home buying for dummies was invaluable to me. Write down what is must have and would like to have. Also make sure you have money put aside for the unexpected after the move expenses. I am still getting hit by some of them. I have come to the conclusion that home buying is like having kids. Everyone will tell you that it is the most exciting time of your life and once you have done it you think to yourself what have I gotten myself in to….and hopefully are happy with your home too. Good luck!
    Becky D´s last post…More baby steps on the pool

  118. We looked online and did some drive by looking for about 6 months before we started looking with realtors, and then it was a few more months. It was absolutely depressing looking at what was in our price range for several months… old, nasty split levels with back yards that looked into parking lots, for instance. Our first realtor told us that we’d have to settle for that. We didn’t sign a contract with him. Our second realtor was better. By that time, we’d seen a lot of different houses in the neighborhoods we were interested in, and we knew mostly what was available.

    The day our house came on the market, we were there. It was a fluke… a bigger house in a neighborhood of mostly smaller houses near some very nice neighborhoods. The identical house, built the same year, in a neighborhood practically across the street would’ve cost us about $20,000 more. We made an offer the next day… before it’d had a chance to be shown at all that weekend. It was accepted. The owners had done the major fixes, like replacing the roof and the HVAC in the past couple of years. There were cosmetic fixes needed, but nothing big.

    I would wait and be patient if you can. A fluke might come along for you. And I’d also look very carefully at the finances. Buying and trying to sell again in a couple of years has caused nothing but financial trouble for everyone I’ve known that has done it, so yours would have to be a pretty unique situation for you not to lose money.
    Ellen´s last post…mama musings…

  119. Be careful about buying a home for only 3 years. Most of the people who recently got the FTHB credit the government gave out will be looking to sell their homes around that time and it may depress the market further…

    They also say if you aren’t planning on staying 5-7 years, don’t buy because you won’t be able to make back the money you spent on closing costs…

    Just something to think about.
    South County Girl´s last post…Turning down work leaves a sour taste in my mouth…

  120. I have seen over 200 condos in the last year. It is all about location, option to have parking (much in my price range doesn’t), and that it have a “real” bedroom.

  121. We just bought our first house a month ago, after almost five months and over 30 houses. For us location was KEY, and we looked at just about every house in two neighborhoods. We also considered a fixer-upper, but quickly realized that most houses in that category have been neglected beyond the surface level. We just weren’t interested in replacing sub-flooring and tearing out plumbing.

    Our realtor gave us some sound advice: You aren’t looking for a house that you can live with, you’re weeding out houses that you can live without. And one day, there is was – the house we couldn’t live without! It was actually in a neighborhood we hadn’t considered because most of the houses were beyond our budget. Indeed, it is a smaller house for the neighborhood, but very well maintained and generously priced.

    Our house fits our needs perfectly. We are still finding delightful little surprises about it, and can’t help wondering if God didn’t design it with us in mind. :) Good luck on your search. I hope y’all find one you can’t live without!

  122. we just moved to a small town and have a 7 month lease. If we like it we’ll start looking to buy next year. I would really love to be in our own place but the thing that frightens me is trying to sell the house again if we wont to move back to the city.
    Maggie´s last post…The War You Don’t See

  123. Jenny Fretz says:

    Okay- so I got lazy and did not read all of the comments and I sure you have thought of this route- but in our area there are a lot of foreclosed homes that are going for incredible prices.

    Your example of the house with no windows makes me think of a house that we just bought to fix up as and use as a rental- as we have been working on it, we have realized that it was built room by room- there are seriously brick walls in the interior of the house with remains of framing for windows for when they were exterior walls! It is the craziest things and we have never seen anything like it and honestly hope we never will again! We have removed more bricks out of interior walls than we want to but….it was a good deal and it will be nice when it is all over!
    Good luck with the house hunt, I try to look at it as an adventure whenever we are going looking otherwise I just get frustrated and then the back and forth of counteroffers in agonizing when you really want the place! But there is always other fish in the sea!

  124. Alexandria says:

    Not many – we seem to have real estate luck! We have bought 2 homes which were easy to find and great deals (far more than we expected to be able to afford).

    If it were me, I would kind of feel like maybe it wasn’t working out for a reason. When things are “right” they just happen quickly for us. If not, I would probably sit back and wonder if I was really ready to buy. Just a thought.

    (For example, the last time we house shopped, the realtor told us he had never had such picky clients. We didn’t end up buying anything – and was for the best that time).

  125. When we bought our first house, I toured a house that featured odd 4×4 sections of checkboard floor in the middle of carpeted rooms, complete with spotlights on those sections. The master bath featured wallpaper with naked people. Most of the furniture was gone, save for an ornate red velvet and gold couch/bench thing. I left there fairly certain that the place had been some sort of prostitute’s house!

    House hunting is frustrating, but SOOO worth it in the end when you have a place to call your own. Good luck!

  126. 2 1/2 years ago, we moved here from out of state. We had driven through the area one day on the way to visit family for Christmas, and had our 5 month old daughter with us. We had 3 hours to look. We’d done our homework before and took forever to find a real estate person who actually believed our low budget. The houses that looked pretty on line or on Zillo were duds – cheap cosmetic repairs or lots the size of stamps or hill billy neighbors. But, we got lucky, the real estate lady was friends with a couple who she knew were getting a divorce and were most likely selling the house. They’d already moved out, but it wasn’t yet on the market. So, she took us by, we peeked in the windows and took in the huge amount of yard work needed… And we left. Told her that this was the type of place that we were looking for – please let us know if they put it on the market. We finally got to go inside of the house an hour before we closed on it. It’s far from perfect, but is a fixer upper (or an up-dater as I like to say as we’re not taking down any walls) and was in our price range. The good thing is, with our updates (and thank heavens for Habitat Re-store) it should sell fairly quickly when the time comes. It’s at the lower end of the houses in this subdivision, so people like us who want to live out here but who can’t afford the nicer houses will hopefully eat it up!
    clothespin´s last post…Gram’s Cookbook – French Buns page 10

  127. My husband and I have been in our new home for less than one month. We looked at 7 or 8 houses and were lucky to find the home we fell in love with. We were able to pick our closing date, give our apartment 60 days notice they required, and with the current market we felt very blessed and lucky with interest rates, etc. There are only minor changes we still need to make like paint, fixtures, etc. I’m especially excited about the spacious yard with room for a garden, and the fact that we have ample space to start a family.

    I think your criteria might be a bit tricky and I can imagine the sweltering hot weather makes it difficult. But, don’t lose faith. I am confident you guys will find the perfect place with diligence and patience!

    P.S. This is my first comment, but I love your blog.

  128. We once looked at a house with a sign on the door instructing us not to let the pet boa constrictor out. I didn’t go in! I think our realtor did just because he was curious . . .

  129. We bought our first house 2 years ago. Because we had a pile of law school loans and consumer debt, we were lucky that we could buy anything at all, but buying was (and still is) cheaper than renting in our part of the country. Anyway, due to our financial circumstances we could only look at a limited number of cheap houses and we didn’t have the funds to really fix up anything. So we looked at maybe 40 houses and ended up buying the very first house we had looked at. It was funny how our perspective changed as we looked at more and more houses (and saw more and more issues with subsequent houses).

    So we wound up with the 1960s split level that had “good bones” although the exterior is lime green (still haven’t painted) and has an old bathroom with a tub (no shower) and an wall oven that is original to the house. (There are other old things too, but too numerous to mention). However the people that we bought the house from were the original owners and obviously took good care of the house even if they didn’t have great decorating taste. The longer we have lived here the less I care about cosmetics and the happier I am that we just have a house that thus far hasn’t caused us a ton of trouble. And wouldn’t you know, the “sputnik” chandelier in our entryway that we laughed at when we moved in, is now in style. Glad I didn’t take it down. :)

  130. We’ve been through 2 house hunts together, and both times were draining. The 2nd time through I thought “I’ve done this before, I know how hard it can be, it’ll be easier” — but it wasn’t! Something about imagining yourself living in that new neighborhood/house/city is just exhausting.

    I love the home you picked, and wish you the best as you settle in.