Get your houses ready people cause here we come...
Here's the deal: We're looking in two basic areas. The west side of Ann Arbor (in 4 different school districts that we've determined to be the best fit for top ranking public schools, walkability and our price point), and the neighboring town of Dexter. Dexter is a "quaint" historic village 5 miles west that boasts great schools (as a district even better than AA), high level of walkability, easy commute to work & downtown Ann Arbor. Dexter also buys you quite a bit more for your money. We have also checked out Chelsea, MI which is a town further west (15-20 minute door to door commute to AA) which also has fantastic schools, high walkability, and lots of historic charm... so far we haven't found a house we think is the perfect fit there (no pics... that was this past Spring) but we have one house left to review there and we're doing that tomorrow. Pictures of that to come it's a gorgeous big stone craftsman house right in the heart of the downtown historic district. It also happens to be one of the cheaper houses we're considering.
And in case you are wondering, these houses range in price from 189K to 350K. That's a considerable price drop in housing since we moved from Ann Arbor two years ago. We're trying to be smart and buy the best deal we can get. Which has meant stepping out of our comfort zone to look at neighborhoods and areas we didn't know much about before. We're trying to get a house for about 100K less than we sold our house for in Ann Arbor in 2008. Asheville taught us a big lesson, and we never want to get a house at the top end of what we can qualify for again...as tempting as that can be. We're looking for a house we could cover on a social work salary should we have to (and social workers don't make much)... which is also the same as a house we can cover on Mr F's salary, while still taking Disney vacations and going out to eat. We're looking at houses pretty much the cost of a whole house LESS than the one we're selling in North Carolina. This was a very good move. Stressful, and a long time coming, but a very good financial move for us.
1100 sq ft 3 bedroom 50s ranch in Ann Arbor:
price: spot on
positives: good sized lot with sidewalks, updated kitchen, nicely finished, close walk to school & park, same street as good friends, best AA public schools
negatives: turns out basement was not finished as implied in ad and smelled of mildew, no central air, big lot but no usable play space, not walkable to town.
take away: Too much money for size, we've already outgrown it. Not right for us.
1900 sq ft 4 bedroom 70s colonial in village of Dexter:
price: spot on
bonuses: huge 1 acre yard w/ mature trees, pool & hot tub, good basic layout, across the street from playground and elementary school
negatives: no sidewalks, horrible kitchen & bathrooms, overall bad shape, deck falling apart, pool is nasty, no a/c!
take away: dump that would require 30-50K in upgrades. I want to like it because of it's potential, but just not in good enough condition to be worth the investment.
1500 sq ft 4 bedroom 50s ranch in Ann Arbor:
positives: recently flipped... all new bathrooms and hard wood floors, good sized bathrooms, new kitchen, huge basement partially finished just needs flooring, sidewalks, walk to school
negatives: no character, small boring yard w/ no trees, kitchen & eating space are awkward, feels like a rental, not walkable to town, not a neighborhood we'd stay in, not a school I know as much about... although rated well.
take away: awesome price for quality & size, but I'd like to own it as a rental not as a home for us.
1500 sq ft 3 bedroom newer (2000) ranch subdivision house in Dexter:
price: a bit over (but houses are actually selling for our target price)
positives: gorgeous secret valley in backyard with huge mature trees, nice decking, big basement, beautiful den, Kid thinks it feels "rich", neighborhood is family oriented with several playgrounds, walk to school, sidewalks, cul-de-sac location
negatives: mis-labeled... really only 2 true bedrooms... would have to use den as 3rd bedroom, finished space in basement is at back of house and not ideally located (have to walk through entire unfinished basement to reach it... not near walkout doors (?!?), ugly exterior, no a/c!
take away: the layout just isn't going to work, Kid is devastated
2500 sq ft 4 bedroom 60s ranch in village of Dexter:
price: a bit over
positives: HUGE 3/4 acre mature lot with large flat play space and tons of mature trees and perennial gardens, long flat paved driveway for bike riding, good layout with big bonus room over garage, massive dry basement, big kitchen, bus stop is at the end of driveway, neighbor runs a small home daycare with before & after school care (handy if needed), house has been meticulously maintained and updated and is high quality
negatives: no character on the inside... white box feeling, no sidewalks, half mile to town & schools... walkable but just barely, "older" neighborhood (as in old people... not kids), bathrooms and kitchen are functional but would update eventually. Carpet needs to be replaced in the bedrooms. House is one flight up from driveway/garage... pain with groceries, huge yard & driveway to maintain (mowing & plowing).
take away: great house for the price, unbeatable lot, good house for a family with kids, easy floor plan to live in, decorating could go a long way, when you get out of your car you immediately feel at peace... like a private park. Great house for now, but ultimately Mr F and I would probably move on to a historic home in the future.
1800 sq ft 3-4 bedroom 1890s victorian in heart of Dexter:
positives: fucking gorgeous... amazing original details... AMAZING... original lighting, stain glass windows, elaborate wood working, french doors, new electric, basement, garages, etc, 2 staircases (yo!), gorgeous landscaping, one block to the center of town (restaurants, bank, library, farmer's market, gym, shops, DAIRY QUEEN, center pavilion, etc)
negative: very busy street, big long lot but garages are placed midway with driveway going to back alley... eating up almost all the back yard... no play space, house was a duplex... need to rip out upstairs kitchen and eventually put in full bath (just a small bath upstairs (gorgeous full downstairs). Weird layout with hard to define bedrooms... tons of space & rooms but lots of sitting rooms (including upstairs) not bedrooms, downstairs kitchen can function but is too small and claustrophobic
take away: love the location in town for me... but not the street for the kids... worried about Baby in the little time we were there, gorgeous hard to find details, needs 30-50K to make the interior ideal... we would have to live in it awkwardly until we could afford to bring it to where we want it. Currently awkward floor plan but it has the potential to be our dream house (as in live in it forever).
1800 sq ft 4 bedroom craftsman in idyllic Ann Arbor neighborhood:
price: WAY over
positives: ideal location, close to good school, historic charm, great neighborhood, walkable to town (but close to a mile... so not everyday), good bones
negatives: needs lots of renovating... lots.... including demo... bathrooms, kitchen, floors refinished... not good condition, moisture damage in basement, small basement, tiny yard... no play space.
take away: this location is just not worth 100-150K more to us... it's just not, needs too much work and the yard is not big enough.
1800 sq ft 70s colonial in secluded western Ann Arbor neighborhood:
positives: surprisingly nice neighborhoody feel, close to nature preserve w/ lakes, sidewalks, quiet, close to good school, decent yard
negatives: neighbor's have above ground pool w/ noisy filter, THE HOUSE IS A FREAKING DUMP, can't walk anywhere but school and nature preserve.
take away: wow I'm surprised this neighborhood is so expensive... yet I'm also surprised at how nice it feels(neighborhood not house), this house is overpriced... I wonder what it will actually close at, an ideal house in this neighborhood might be worth it's distance from town... it feels really family friendly.
1500 sq ft 3 bedroom 1915 bungalow in idyllic Ann Arbor neighborhood:
positives: great neighborhood, close to good school, walkable to downtown (although at least 3/4 mile), family friendly
negatives: yowza a crazy dump inside, needs major renovations of baths & kitchen, no usable yard, weird impractical floor plan with basement bedrooms, no interior charm
takeaway: this guy is smoking crack... no one is going to pay that... certainly not us
So can you guess which two houses have made it to the 2nd round?