Only kind of like HGTV

Not too many people in our town know this, but we are actively house hunting.  Our pool of possible houses is minuscule (as in, there are three options right now) because we’ve decided to limit our search within a particular first-time buyers’ program.

Here’s the breakdown of our options:

House 1

one-story Cape Cod near downtown area (2 bdrm/1 bath)


  • cute; potential curb appeal
  • convenient location (ten-minute walk to the library, very close to elementary school)
  • fenced-in yard
  • nice living area
  • full basement
  • backyard has a lot of potential
  • easy to make homey
  • fireplace
  • back porch
  • lots of character


  • only two bedrooms/one bath
  • big basement will need work to make part of the space “livable”
  • backyard needs major work
  • no dining room
  • bathroom has ugly/dark tile
  • house at intersection of two busy streets (resulting in traffic noise and awkward driveway)
  • backyard clearly visible from neighbor’s upstairs bedroom windows (no privacy)

Verdict: While I found myself falling in love with the house itself (it is shoebox-like in its squat boxiness but is cute!), the lack of a dining room and extra bedroom was a huge minus, since we often have guests.  The deal-breaker was that my in-laws checked the place out and noticed that the two huge trees in the backyard (which significantly contributed to the place’s charm) looked unhealthy and probably would need to be cut down, which would be a significant expense and take away so much of the place’s natural beauty.

House 2

Split-level in neighborhood close to downtown (3 bdrm/1.74 bath)


  • LOTS of space, which means room to grow and entertain
  • huge backyard with interesting topography
  • fireplace
  • back deck
  • laundry not in basement*
  • convenient location (ten minute walk to library, ten minute bike ride to class)
  • nice neighborhood


  • corner lot; side of house by busy street
  • previously had been a rental, obviously not updated/well-maintained
  • tiny kitchen; no space for a dishwasher
  • yard would need to be fenced (expensive!)
  • place doesn’t have much character
  • layout a bit awkward


Despite the unattractive exterior and slightly awkward location, we had gotten to the point where we were getting excited about the house.  Then we got a tour of the interior and were disappointed.  The previous owners bought the house for their children to use while in school, and it clearly looked like a rental.  Nothing was updated and the downstairs bathroom and family room would need work to make them usable.  Ideally, the kitchen would be redone, too.  Frankly, the entire place just looked like it would take a lot to make it seem homey.  The woman who showed us the house alluded to the challenges living within a mixed (rental/fraternity & sorority/owned) community.  The yard, while promising, needs work and we’d probably not be 100% comfortable with A playing outside on her own unless we fenced the yard in at least on the street-side.  We haven’t ruled out the house entirely, but I’m not convinced it’s the place for us.

House 3

Ranch in quiet neighborhood north of campus (3 bedroom/1.5 bath)


  • location (very quiet neighborhood, five minute walk to elementary school
  • house is probably one of the least expensive in the neighborhood, which can be an advantage in terms of property value
  • private (fenced-in) back yard
  • cute detached deck
  • spacious garage
  • nice living room
  • basement is partially finished


  • house has obviously not been well-maintained
  • location (further from campus; longer commute to school/work/daycare)
  • roof needs to be replaced
  • kitchen needs major work
  • the only “extra” living space is in the basement, which feels very removed from the rest of the house
  • front yard and driveway are at a slant
  • since it is a resale in the program and not a new purchase, no additional work will be put into it before we would move in unless we pay for it ourselves

Verdict: When we arrived at the house for our tour, we smelled dead animal by the front of the house.  I was hoping that wasn’t a bad omen.  The woman from the Land Trust who showed us the house told us that the previous owner had left her furniture behind when she moved so that it would sell better.  Dude.  Bad idea.  It was gross.  The woman had left dirty towels in the bathroom, dirty sheets on the bed, food in the refrigerator, inspirational quotes taped to the kitchen cupboards.  P noted that it seemed like the previous owner had done everything WRONG in terms of how to show a house to potential buyers.  Basically, she took her clothes and left.  Beyond that, we really liked the yard and the garage and the living space.  There is space in the kitchen for a dining area but the cabinets and counters are laid-out incredibly awkwardly.  The entire interior needs a fresh coat (or three) of paint and the basement, definitely a work in progress, seems like a daunting project.  However, the price is significantly lower than House 2, which means that we would have a bit of money left to finish some of the projects before moving in.

*my American dream


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