3/27/2013

A HOUSE HUNTING WE WILL GO

Lake Superior sunrise.

An exciting new adventure has commenced. My husband and I, along with our son, have begun the search for a home up north in Duluth, Minnesota - a city along the shore of Lake Superior. It isn't a home that we'll be living in, although someday I hope to achieve my dream of living near the "Ocean of the Midwest". This house will be an investment property for us and a home for our son. At least we'll have a place to visit anyway. We have a pretty modest budget for this venture and equally modest expectations, knowing that whatever we buy will most likely need some work to bring it up to par. But even with that in mind our first look at properties has been discouraging. It may be a bigger challenge than we expected to fit our expectations to our budget.

We walked through nine property showings with a realtor on Monday. Here are a handful of points I learned from that experience.
  1. I appreciate my house now more than ever. Our house is nothing special but it is a boatload nicer than most of those we saw. I don't think I'll take it for granted as much as I have in the past.
  2. The outside appearance of a house is no indication of what it will look like inside. It's usually much worse inside, although sometimes surprisingly the opposite. 
  3. Lipstick on a pig. I know sellers want to present their houses in the best possible light, but paint and staging can only go so far if the house hasn't been maintained well. 
  4. The basement tells it all! That's where you'll see the scary electric wiring, old plumbing, sagging floor joists, cracked and leaky foundations, and all manner of fire hazards. It's also where you should wear a hard hat because beams, heating and vent ducts, light fixtures, and low door thresholds are typically going to bean you if you don't pay attention. 
  5. Bring a flashlight to peer into dark corners. Expect anything! 
  6. Pay attention to the number of electric outlets in a room. Old houses don't have many as a rule, resulting in some creative and frightening solutions involving extension cords and octopus-like outlet strips.
  7. Do-it-yourself home remodeling is a popular thing these days. But if someone doesn't have the knowledge, skills and patience to do it right then they shouldn't do it!! 
  8. Glossy red paint on walls is never a good idea...ever!
  9. The city by the lake is built on a steep hill that's often compared to San Francisco, only with snow. The further up the hill you go the more snow they tend to get. The shorter the driveway the better, unless you love shoveling. The temperatures can also be much colder in winter, and hotter in summer, the further from the lake you are. 
  10. Location, location, location. A discarded syringe lying in a gutter, a viciously barking caged Doberman (hello Milo), or extra locks on doors are usually not good selling points. 
  11. Raspberry patches and space for a garden are extra selling points! 
  12. A view of the lake is nice, but also translates into a higher selling price. There are always plenty of free public places to go to enjoy the lake. Also, it's a BIG lake, so you'd have to go out of your way to avoid seeing it on a typical day.
  13. The city allows parking on just one side of the street in many of the residential areas on the central hillside. It changes from one side to the other every Sunday. If you want to drive down a narrow street lined with high snowbanks on Sunday, when the transition is taking place, forget it. There will be cars parked on both sides and it will be like trying to thread your car through the eye of a needle. This is especially true in student occupied neighborhoods near the university where every house seems to have at least four or five cars per house. Also, your guests will have a hard time finding a parking spot.
  14. Don't make any hasty decisions. There will always be another house tomorrow, or next week, or next month. 
Duluth, Minnesota hillside
via The City Birds Photo Blog
I will be sure to keep the search updated as we go forth with this project. It will be interesting but I look forward to being able to spend more time up north in the coming year. Wish us luck.



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