Author Topic: Homeowners: What initial qualities made the biggest difference over the years?  (Read 8614 times)

neo von retorch

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What things matter the most, and what has mattered less than you would have predicted?

ETA: Yes - I'm asking about factors you would take into consideration when choosing a home - the properties of the properties.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2016, 11:04:13 AM by neogodless »

MsSindy

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Your question is confusing.  Qualities of what?  You or the house?

meg_shannon

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I can't answer your question, but I'm interested in the answers too. We'll be buying a house in the summer.

I know for us, we're more concerned about the common areas layout (kitchen, living room, dining room). We don't spend much time in our bedrooms, and we like to have people over (no need for a babysitter and much cheaper than restaurants). And I don't want a lot of bathrooms to clean!

andy85

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Your question is confusing.  Qualities of what?  You or the house?
x2....qualities in what? biggest difference in what?

I am assuming you mean qualities in the house that made the biggest difference in quality of life/ease of ownwership...if that is the case then I'd say make sure all of the big ticket items are functioning or you have the resources available to fix these things...i.e. plumbing, HVAC, major appliances, roofing. If big things like that are up to snuff then the rest of it is just cosmetic and can be upgraded over the years.

AZDude

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Things you cannot change. Size of the yard, quality of the neighborhood, what the traffic is like nearby, and basic energy efficiency(ie: does it have huge vaulted ceilings and skylights on the western half of the house that heat up the living room to hellish conditions in the Arizona summer).

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Location, layout, and relationship of required maintenance to maintenance you don't mind doing. (Example - I don't really like mowing the lawn. So my small lawn is fantastic.)

nereo

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What's mattered most to us:  The location.  We can walk/bike just about everywhere and we have a giant park and grocery stores nearby.

What's also mattered:  The general layout.  I'm a big believer that a buildings layout can influence how you interact.  It's not too big, has an open plan kitchen/living room great for entertaining but nice nooks for just 1-2 people to feel comfortable.

What really hasn't mattered: most of the initial eye-grabbing stuff like fixtures and trim.  Some we've replaced or painted, others just get ignored or have little/no impact.

GuitarStv

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Location, layout, and relationship of required maintenance to maintenance you don't mind doing. (Example - I don't really like mowing the lawn. So my small lawn is fantastic.)

Yep.  This is a pretty good answer.


Location - because you can't move the house.  A nice place in a neighbourhood that's so terrifying that you are afraid to leave the front door without weapons isn't a nice place.  A nice place that requires a 90 minute drive to get to work is not a nice place.

Layout - A sufficiently determined person can fix a lot that's wrong with layout, the problem is that it's expensive and quite time consuming to do.  Much better to buy a place with a general layout that you like.

Maintenance - some people don't want to maintain a home.  That's OK.  It's why you can get a condo.

geekette

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Most things a personal but there are a few things we've found mattered (to us) that we would never even have thought of:

Flat driveway, with a morning sun exposure for the rare snowfalls around here.
A street with access from both directions for when road conditions/construction close outlet down.  There were people in our area who couldn't leave their development for 2 days due to construction on a railroad crossing!
Will you be driving into the sun for morning or evening commute?

iris lily

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Location: which, neighborhood, where in the city, the fact that is it city not suburb or even county. I love not having to drive drive drive.

Location of the house on the lot. In an ideal world I would have my big garden on the East side, not the Wwest side. Better for plants.

Since we made everything in this house ( it is a gut rehab) with the exception of ceiling height that was established by existing floor joices, I would say that almost everything is changeable. We even pushed back an exterior wall and built an addition. We determned where interior staircases go, where walls go, etc.

lakemom

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location, location, location.  Followed by basic form of the structure (solid foundation/walls/roof/plumbing/electrical/heating,cooling sytems).  Everything else is eye candy and can be changed over time.  Having enough bedrooms/bathrooms (or space to create them with minimal cost) to work for your family long term.  Our first home only had 1 bathroom and by the time our 4th child arrived the main reason we moved was for a second bathroom (#5 &6 arrived after we moved here).  Making sure the yard is big enough without becoming too big (the bigger they are the more time and money they take to maintain).

Basenji

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Pretty much what everyone else wrote. These were our personal considerations that we predicted and which worked out great with our current house, just as examples. Side note: we knew exactly what we wanted because we were in our 40s and had lived in a lot of different places/houses.

General location: for us, we wanted an older, residential, upcoming neighborhood with sidewalks, house near small shops, a library, grocery--schools didn't matter to us, we're DINKs. We did not even look at houses that were NOT walkable to a metro stop and/or bus stop and near enough to DC and to DH's job. Walkability/public transport was that important to us. Neighborhood near DH's work (I didn't have a job yet, but it ended up near my work as well). That is, I jumped at a job that had an office near our home.

Size and layout of house: Detached house, not a townhome. Not too large for our needs, only the number of rooms we really use everyday, layout is open in the public rooms. Nothing freakish in the way you access places in house. When looking at houses, we saw some crazy steep/narrow stairways, bedrooms only accessible through a kitchen; the layout should make sense and you can imagine yourself getting up, moving about your day.

House condition: Structure and basic systems need to be in good shape and not too old. For an a/c system that had some problems (which the sellers disclosed), we got a quote and asked the sellers to take that amount off the price (they did). We didn't want to have to redo everything, so we were happy to see a recently redone kitchen. On the other hand, we actually were HAPPY to see a really nasty bathroom because it gave us a chance to gut it and put in exactly the bathroom we wanted. Keep an open mind on condition.

Lot size and location: Not on a main road, not noisy, enough parking on street for visitors. We have a short driveway, so don't have to park on street. Lot has a nice set-back for front yard, not too close to sidewalk, backyard is large and gets enough sun all day to grow vegetables (if you are a gardener don't buy a place where you don't have any sun). Drainage: lot is on top of a slight hill, not at the bottom of the hill. We thank our stars for this all the time (there have been some issues with flooding down the street).

Not so important, what I didn't predict: minor aesthetics, paint colors, "ugly" things. Somehow over time the things I was sure I would replace have just not offended me anymore (or I can live with them). We replace things when they cost us in maintenance or problems. The roof was leaking, it had to be replaced; those ugly plastic shutters-nah, they stay.

Frankies Girl

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Gas line so we could have a gas furnace and gas range/oven. Hate electric for those and the cost savings is significant (especially in winter - our electric bill is like $40 and gas is like $25 but we live in the South so no really harsh winters usually). Oh and when we lost power for 2 weeks after a hurricane, could still cook on a gas stove using matches to light the gas.

Decent floorplan that used the space well. The less hallway the better (hallways are wasted space, so to me it screams poor use of square footage if there are tons of long hallways to get to different parts of the house). Open floorplan for the main living spaces. We also have a vault ceiling in the living and master which makes living in a very hot climate a bit more bearable.

Good location - near stores, restaurants and places of interest, nice and quiet neighborhood.

No corner lots. Realtors act like those are awesome to have, but that just means more traffic and noise and less privacy.

Mature, good quality trees. I loved our backyard because it had some beautiful silver maples and was dappled shade (so they didn't block all the light and still had a healthy lawn underneath) but then they both started dropping branches and becoming dangerous, so had to take them out. :(

Check in about who your neighbors will be!! Lived in one house with AWFUL people next door. Loud, lots of cars, dogs barking at all hours. Would be a good idea to visit the area on the weekend and after work/night to get a feel for the types of people living there.

Not have too dated an appearance. I don't mind painting or changing out fixtures, but wasn't into doing gut redo stuff. Just my opinion.

yodella

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So this is relatively minor but bothers me every single day: our house has very dark wood floors throughout, which means EVERY speck of dust shows, constantly, all the time. Food crumbs, cat fur, specks of leaves and grass trekked in from outside; those all show up too, but the eternal coating of dust is the worst. The house is less than 1500 square feet and has appropriately-sized rugs in every room so it's not like there are huge swaths of bare floor, and I think that's why I didn't anticipate this situation. When we want to do a thorough floor sweeping/cleaning (usually before guests come over) it takes my husband and I about 30 minutes with a broom, shopvac and swiffer-type thing to finish the job. If I had it to do again I would NOT install dark flooring.

Basenji

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Check in about who your neighbors will be!! Lived in one house with AWFUL people next door. Loud, lots of cars, dogs barking at all hours. Would be a good idea to visit the area on the weekend and after work/night to get a feel for the types of people living there.

This is a good point. We lucked out having really great neighbors who are now our friends. I'm not sure how I could have perfectly predicted that, but I could at least tell that the houses next door and up and down the street were well maintained, lawns mowed, signs of loving ownership, but nothing too flashy. Evidence of solid, frugal-type people. And that has turned out to be correct. We also knew from voting results in local elections and demographics of the neighborhood that the general income levels and political views were likely to be aligned with ours. Definitely visit the neighborhood on off hours and walk/drive around. I learned a lot just by strolling up and down the street.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2016, 07:52:44 PM by Basenji »

GuitarStv

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Eh.  Neighbours are a crap shoot.  You could have the greatest neighbours in the world who decide to sell the day you move in.

Basenji

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Eh.  Neighbours are a crap shoot.  You could have the greatest neighbours in the world who decide to sell the day you move in.

Agreed, I was brainstorming, or maybe more like wishful thinking. I guess we just got lucky.

Mrs. PoP

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Location, layout (very efficient and open!), natural light, lots of livable space outdoors - our screened in patio is about as big as the rest of our house and we use it a lot year round. 

Another big one - no HOA. The number of complaints we hear from friends and family about what their HOA is doing reminds us constantly how glad we are that we didn't compromise on this requirement on our list. 

justajane

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Best parts about our house:
Location in walking distance to a small downtown and to our kids' schools. We moved in here before we had kids and just lucked out about the schools.
Incredible neighbors. Really kickass. We rotate houses every month and eat together once a month. We have a yearly block party. I love these people.
Deep lot that enabled us to add on to the back of our house.
Sizable living area and common rooms

Worst parts about our house that we didn't really anticipate:
Lack of insulation in the exterior brick walls. No real way to remedy this.
There have been at least six trees that we have had to pay to remove to the tune of thousands of dollars. First time home owner eyes didn't even notice them.

Parts that mattered to us when we bought that really don't matter:
Light fixtures - why did I even care that they were ugly? Still haven't replaced them and don't plan to.
Kitchen is from the 1990s or earlier. So what? I don't even notice anymore.

Basically our non-negotiables were spot on and I would use them again. They were: Must have a dining room or eat-in kitchen (believe it or not, many houses in our price range didn't), must have a drive way, must be on a quiet street, must have a decent sized lot, must be in a neighborhood with sidewalks.

goatmom

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1. Ability to resell.  I know you will live there forever, but plans change.
2.  Wish I had thought through all four seasons at my house.  Our driveway is terrible in the winter.
3.  Noise levels from traffic/planes/trains.

Dusty Dog Ranch

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From personal experience, avoid homes with heavy masonry chimneys in the middle, especially if they are anywhere near clay soils and a high water table, and/or in earthquake country. If you can find a place with good solar orientation, you can save a lot on heating and lighting bills (research passive solar design for more details).

CU Tiger

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Location - which for us meant close to the amenities we value, like public library, grocery, church, not too far from friends. Beautiful neighborhood where we can walk our dogs every day.
Size of house and yard. The house is small, but perfect for the two of us. We like to garden, but wanted a small yard.
Affordability. This was important to us, because we had no plans of this being a starter house. We are here until we move out of the area or some other situation makes a move necessary. And we wanted to be able to afford our mortgage without feeling stressed. Editing to add that we bought much less house than we could "afford" - which is how we are mortgage free less than 15 years.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2016, 04:52:45 PM by CU Tiger »

Midcenturymater

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We love our neighbourhood. Safe, green, and friendly. Actually every day we walk back from walking our son to school we feel so happy we went for location.

There are some features about our house we live...mid century ones. But essentially it is a well planned rectangle with small bedrooms and three big family rooms. Yard not huge but the kitchen leads out into it which I love.
Location and the feeling you have on the house for me. Oh we like detached and private too which we have.
Small bathrooms and bedrooms fine.

We have a room with wood paneling that we have got used to.pre][/pre]

dess1313

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essentials like number of bedrooms, and bathrooms are essential to choose early on.  you can change your paint color, but its very hard to add a whole bedroom to most houses.  same with garages.  some places you can add on to, some you cant. 

do you want to maintain a huge lot, or keep it simple as possible? 

Do you plan on having over guests often?  would the area be big enough to house 5 or 10 or 20 people?   would the layout make it difficult to host?  what about spare bedrooms for when guests come, or family is over for the holidays?

kitchens are important too.  make sure the layout works for you.  small kitchens/no storage make it difficult and cumbersome

Having a bathroom on your main floor that isn't a private one is nice.  i'm in a 2 story condo and the 1/2 bath is amazing to have

each person will have a different want.  plan on having kids soon?  make sure you have those couple extra bedrooms. and look around for what is available for schools

got lots of stuff?  where are you going to store it? maybe there's a place with a huge basement rec room, or an over sized garage.

a lot of this depends on you, your partner, and where you plan on going in life. 


FINate

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We've been at our current house for 13 years. Another vote for location here:
  • Short walk to great park with playground, sports fields, bocce courts. Frequent location of festivals/events.
  • Less than a mile from single track mountain bike trails through redwoods and oak forests. Lots of good road biking around.
  • Easy walk to well maintained neighborhood library.
  • Walking distance to groceries, movies, restaurants, coffee shops, gym.
  • Safe neighborhood, with greenbelts, no through traffic (neighborhood has one point of ingress/egress)
  • The city we're in allows open containers, so we can enjoy a beer/wine at the park while playing bocce or whatever.
  • Mild climate.

The only thing we really worried about with the neighborhood before purchasing: small lots and small yards. Although I sometimes yearn for more space in the yard, it has not been a big issue overall. In many ways it's a benefit -- less yard work and we can easily hop over to a greenbelt if the kids need to get energy out.

We've also been very happy with the layout. Open floor plan downstairs (kitchen, family room, dining room, living room). Bedrooms and laundry are upstairs. We don't have to haul groceries up stairs (ok, not that big a deal) nor do we haul laundry up/down. This also has the benefit of keeping most of the mess upstairs.

You can't change location and layout is prohibitively expensive to change. Everything else is less important IMO.

justajane

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essentials like number of bedrooms, and bathrooms are essential to choose early on.  you can change your paint color, but its very hard to add a whole bedroom to most houses.  same with garages.  some places you can add on to, some you cant. 

We bought this house assuming we would add on. That's why the deep lot on our house was essential. We turned a 2 bed/1 bath house into a 3 bed/2 bath with the capacity for a larger family room in the newly dug basement with a roughed in half bath. It ended up being cheaper than moving, since 3/2s appreciate far faster then 2/1s. I actually think if you have the capital (banks won't always lend you the cash) -- and a Mustachian should in theory -- adding a bedroom and a bath can be a great thing. You can come out ahead, if you don't ruin your yard in the process and you plan to stay for at least a decade after the project.

What's good about it is that you don't overbuy, i.e. you buy the house you need to start with and the lower mortgage associated with it and then don't have to pay all the fees and costs associated with moving when your family grows. Just an alternate perspective. You really have to think ahead if you want to add-on.

zolotiyeruki

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What's mattered most to us:  The location.  We can walk/bike just about everywhere and we have a giant park and grocery stores nearby.

What's also mattered:  The general layout.  I'm a big believer that a buildings layout can influence how you interact.  It's not too big, has an open plan kitchen/living room great for entertaining but nice nooks for just 1-2 people to feel comfortable.

What really hasn't mattered: most of the initial eye-grabbing stuff like fixtures and trim.  Some we've replaced or painted, others just get ignored or have little/no impact.
This is spot-on.

I would add one more thing:  quality of construction.  I really appreciate the 2x6 exterior walls in our house.  I *don't* appreciate how the builder cut some corners on sealing the building envelope and installing a single HVAC unit for the entire house.

Along with the layout thing...one of the things that bothers me about the layout of my house is that there are areas that are inefficient uses of space.  Like the oversized landing at the top of the stairs, the master bathroom that could be 30% smaller without losing anything, or the upstairs bathroom that's big enough to be split in two.

nereo

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Along with the layout thing...one of the things that bothers me about the layout of my house is that there are areas that are inefficient uses of space.  Like the oversized landing at the top of the stairs, the master bathroom that could be 30% smaller without losing anything, or the upstairs bathroom that's big enough to be split in two.

Sounds like you are describing my sister's place.  She has an entrance (foyer) with big lofted ceilings and a 9' high door.  Two people can stand in her bathroom with their arms stretched out and spin around in a circle without touching each other or anything else (yes, we actually tried this).  The top of the stairs has a weird overhang/landing that the cat loves but that no one has every, ever set foot on.  It's all designed to give an powerful initial impression (maybe "this is luxurious!") but so much of the space is unused/underused.  Despite having 2x the square footage and probably 3x the cubic footage of our place they feel cramped and want to move (to an even bigger home).  I'm certain if you traced everyone's footsteps for a week you'd find large areas where no one ever walks.


justajane

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Along with the layout thing...one of the things that bothers me about the layout of my house is that there are areas that are inefficient uses of space.  Like the oversized landing at the top of the stairs, the master bathroom that could be 30% smaller without losing anything, or the upstairs bathroom that's big enough to be split in two.

Sounds like you are describing my sister's place.  She has an entrance (foyer) with big lofted ceilings and a 9' high door.  Two people can stand in her bathroom with their arms stretched out and spin around in a circle without touching each other or anything else (yes, we actually tried this).  The top of the stairs has a weird overhang/landing that the cat loves but that no one has every, ever set foot on.  It's all designed to give an powerful initial impression (maybe "this is luxurious!") but so much of the space is unused/underused.  Despite having 2x the square footage and probably 3x the cubic footage of our place they feel cramped and want to move (to an even bigger home).  I'm certain if you traced everyone's footsteps for a week you'd find large areas where no one ever walks.

Yeah, I love my small bathrooms and small closets and lack of a foyer. It means no space is wasted. We use every square inch of our 1600 sq ft home.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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We were so thankful to not have a two-story foyer yesterday when a lightbulb went out in the fan in our front room. Just took a stepstool to change, not a ladder and a telescoping suction-cup pole. I hate two-story foyers.

partgypsy

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The biggest difference financially, is choosing a house you can live in, and not have to move 5, 10, 15 years out. This can include a location and neighborhood you don't mind living for the indefinite future, a house with the right number of bathrooms and bedrooms. The less times you move the better the cost-benefit of home ownership.

I wouldn't mind if our house was a little bigger, or at least had a bigger backyard. But we really like our location (walkable). We would have to spend another 100-150K to get a little bigger house in the same neighborhood, so we stay.   

mak1277

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I don't enjoy home repair, so for me it will always be mission critical to buy a house that is "move in ready". 


iris lily

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Along with the layout thing...one of the things that bothers me about the layout of my house is that there are areas that are inefficient uses of space.  Like the oversized landing at the top of the stairs, the master bathroom that could be 30% smaller without losing anything, or the upstairs bathroom that's big enough to be split in two.

Sounds like you are describing my sister's place.  She has an entrance (foyer) with big lofted ceilings and a 9' high door.  Two people can stand in her bathroom with their arms stretched out and spin around in a circle without touching each other or anything else (yes, we actually tried this).  The top of the stairs has a weird overhang/landing that the cat loves but that no one has every, ever set foot on.  It's all designed to give an powerful initial impression (maybe "this is luxurious!") but so much of the space is unused/underused.  Despite having 2x the square footage and probably 3x the cubic footage of our place they feel cramped and want to move (to an even bigger home).  I'm certain if you traced everyone's footsteps for a week you'd find large areas where no one ever walks.

Yeah, I love my small bathrooms and small closets and lack of a foyer. It means no space is wasted. We use every square inch of our 1600 sq ft home.

I have to say, I like the trend I am seeing for small bathrooms these days. Houses have a LOT of them but they are small.

In my neighborhood the trend was to make giant ass bathrooms when rehabbing a Victorian house in the late 1980's and through the 1990's. So people designated the big room at the end of the hall for a bathroom that contains a giant tub with jets. That no one ever uses.

Midcenturymater

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Yes we also bought the house we will live in fight through family life. The previous and only owners added a big family room on the front in the 70 s.

So technically we are in a 4 bed with 2 kids. But we use it as a den and the back sitting room is where we work at the computer, listen to records, read. Total luxury.

We also bought with a view that Maybe our kids will stay local for college and thus save all that money you spend on accommodation. The three sons who lived here did exactly that in the 80 s when college probably cost less. I had to work through college to avoid getting into debt and it was pretty exhausting juggling study and work I quietly envied the kids whose parents paid for them, lolling around with all their spare time.

But that taught me to be super efficient with my time so it was beneficial in that way.

1680 square feet to us is decadent. In the UK 900 to 1200 is pretty standard for a 3 bed home and everyone manages just fine. But it is so nice having that little extra space in my opinion.