We’ve been passively house hunting for a few weeks now (driving around different neighborhoods, checking out pics on MLS, and popping into a few of them every now and then) and are finally getting around to writing about it. It’s amazing how frantically cleaning your own house and scheduling showings can distract you from actually blogging about the thrill of the hunt for a new place.
Part of our delay has also been deciding the best way to share this house hunting journey with you guys. We’d love to show every nook and cranny of each place, but at the same time we want to respect the privacy of each home’s seller (after all, unlike HGTV’s House Hunters these folks haven’t signed up to have their homes pluses and minuses publicly dissected for all to see).
So after much debate we decided to only share a (slightly doctored) exterior photo along with a description of the house’s pros and cons with thoughts on whether it’s a good fit for us. With that said, let’s start with the place we started calling “The Cottage In The Woods” that we recently toured. We found this one driving around getting lost in a nearby neighborhood and got crazy excited about it before knowing anything about it. Almost “we don’t even need to see in inside” excited. It really was that charming from the outside.
- Age: 1953
- House size: 1,905 square feet
- Lot size: 1.4 acres of land
- Bedrooms: 3
- Bathrooms: 2
- Old, modest and in need of some TLC
- Amazingly private lot that’s bursting with charm (you drive about 150 feet through the woods before you even see the house)
- Great neighborhood and schools
- Nice open living and dining room
- No en-suite bathroom
- Cramped kitchen (about half the size of our current one) with no room to expand
- 2 bedrooms on the main floor, one in the basement
- Low ceiling in basement (like I-had-to-duck low)
So despite having been won over by the exterior, the interior left lots to be desired for our open-and-airy loving hearts (and our I-don’t-like-to-touch-basement-ceilings heads). We’re all about taking a small compartmentalized house and blowing out some walls, but this specific layout didn’t seem very conducive to those kinds of changes as all. And the fact that one of the bedrooms was in the low-ceilinged basement complete with a dehumidifier (while we’d prefer to keep all the bedrooms close together and above grade so we can be near Clara and future kiddo(s) in their earlier years of life) left us feeling like this house would be “settling.” Thus our dream of living in this secluded little cottage in the woods came crumbling down. Oh well, on to the next one!
Altered exterior photo taken by us and edited thanks to our friend Photoshop.
Psst- Don’t forget about our big nerve-wracking appearance on The Nate Show this coming Monday the 25th (more details here). Fingers crossed that we don’t look like big starstruck geeks.
Rebecca @ the lil house that could says
We found our house via drive by. It’s definitely something I now recommend for my friends who are house hunting. We would spend Saturdays just joyriding all over the place, popping in open houses and getting an idea of what we wanted. At the time we weren’t even ready to sell our condo, so we didn’t have much pressure attached. It definitely helped us when we were ready to buy!
1.4 acres! You could have sold off little slices of Young House Love Landlord parcels to nearby serfs.
Haha, yeah the space is one of the perks of staying in Bon Air (our current house is on nearly an acre of land). We love the idea of having tons of outdoor space for Burger, Clara, and future beans/beanettes!
I am so glad to hear you guys say you don’t want to “settle”. You should really LOVE-LOVE-LOVE your home…especially since you probably spend 90% of your time there.
PS. Your ‘doctored’ photo looks like it could be a canvas painting. Are you guys channeling George Seurat?
Too bad :( Looks so charming! And 1.4 acres!!!
Julia M says
We have been house-hunting since JULY! We have seen over 60 houses (our poor realtor), I am looking for all the charm of an older home in a place where new homes are popping up everywhere. What gives?
I was wondering how you guys were gonna let us in on your house-hunting adventure … this is great! I respect the fact that you won’t settle just because you loved some of the house. I settled for my home 14 years ago and I’m still regretting it!
What a fun journey for you guys to be on – will all of your remodeling/design experience! It’s gonna be fun to see what you end up buying and what you do to it. :)
Have a great weekend!
Jessica @ How Sweet says
Love that you are sharing – it is really cute but if the shoe doesn’t fit…
Our previously tiny (as in before we bought it 1100 sq. feet) rancher, had a really big master bedroom with 2 closets and modest but great sized bathroom with 2 sinks added before we bought it 10 years ago. We had a 1 year old and 3 year old at the time (still have them, they just grew!) That bedroom got us through 10 years of living in an otherwise small house. Kids don’t need as much space as you might think when they’re little. If you love a house, a small addition like that can be great. Now we have bumped out the back just a little, added a really big screened porch with fireplace, and a modest addition on the side with a bedroom, bathroom, and office. We have also reconfigured the inside. It’s going to be very very awesome when we are done.
Is there an actual legal issue with showing more of the house?
We don’t believe there to be a legal issue with showing more of the house (assuming we got them from MLS or Realtor.com and linked back), but we’re choosing to not share more out of courtesy to the sellers. We know that we wouldn’t appreciate someone blogging about all of the “cons” of a house we’re trying to sell so we thought we’d just do things this way instead.
mike @ the lil house that could says
dude, love this idea! have fun :)
I used to work for a real estate appraiser in NJ and bedrooms (or any finished rooms for that matter) in the basement are not included in the room count. Value is given for a finished basement but technically the house you looked at is a 2 bedroom, 2 bath. Unless appraisals are different in VA!
That’s what we thought too but they definitely were marketing it as a three bedroom!
Cait @ Hernando House says
That house looks really cute, but I’m glad you guys don’t want to settle. We found our house (with some help from my parents) driving around in a neighborhood we knew we liked and then we begged our, so here’s hoping you stumble upon the perfect house soon!
[email protected] says
Wow, from your description, it sounds like it would be more than settling. The cons seem to far outweigh the pros, and those pros are kind of easy to come by in many houses (except maybe the very private lot, which is a dream of mine to one day have, too.) Great compromise on showing us the house without actually showing it.
We were kind of lax about our house search and got the flavor of them from the photos on Zillow. If we liked what we saw enough there, we made the pilgrimage (from NY to NJ) to look at the places in person. Funny, the things the original owners leave out of the photos that you discover when you get there :)
We looked at so many house last spring! It was fun at first, but I was so glad when we finally found something that we actually liked! We were so sick of houses after a month or two!
Enjoy the hunt!
We are “kind of” house shopping and something that has really helped our aimless driving hunt is an app that we downloaded called zillow on our phontes. You can see the prices, houses that recently sold and mls pictures for most of the houses for sale. It’s been really helpful, happy hunting!
I’m sure that you’ll find the perfect one. And it doesn’t make sense to settle at all in this case, b/c you’re only moving in order to get a more perfect house than your current digs. BUT I’ve got to say- it is possible to move a kitchen. We actually did move our kitchen to a different room in our house, and we’re turning the kitchen into a small bedroom. We did the whole kitchen-moving ourselves, too, and the whole kitchen renovation cost us a little over $10K. I’m not saying that you’d want to do this in this particular house, but if you found one that was perfect other than that, you might want to. But we found that one of the downsides to these great little 1950s houses is the tendency towards teeny tiny kitchens located at the very back of the house.
yeah that definitely does sound like you’d be settling – sounds like the setup of your current house is more conducive for your needs than this one (other than the whole in need of TLC part). It’s so fun and exciting though so i’m grateful you are sharing it with us.
What are your deal breakers?
For us it would be a small kitchen with not enough counter space. We are in one of those now. Although it has a lot of cabinet space, the counter top space is very limited.
Also, noise. We would like a relatively non noisy (car traffic) area.
We outlined what we’re looking for in this post so anything that’s the polar opposite of a few of our parameters (no potential to create an open floor plan, bedrooms that aren’t together, not old enough or in need of enough help) is a deal breaker for the most part.
it’s a shame you had to rule out Forest Hill bc you can certainly get a lot of house w/ alot of charm for your buck! we just bought our first casa over in FH and love everything about it! from our terrific neighbors (most w/ youngin’s under 4 like ourselves), proximity to the river and parks. the school thing could be an issue, but there are sooooo many families here you’ve got to think we’re all facing the same issues. my husband, for example, is a teacher in a rva private school as well as an alum. he and his sister were both on financial aid all 12 years. my in-laws say that is the best thing they ever did for them. hey, you could always teach one class on blogging or design at said private school and get a nice little faculty discount on tuition ….just a thought :)
We based our house hunting area not only on schools but also on proximity to family and lot size, etc. So while we love Forest Hill it was just too far from John’s sister’s house (where we drop in nearly every day) and also didn’t offer the same large wooded and private lots as Bon Air. But it was definitely a contender for a while!
rd shugart says
Whatever you do, don’t settle. I wasn’t crazy about the ranch we’re in (it finally went on the market beginning of Oct.) when we were looking at it, but in our case the pros outweighed the cons and it was quite the steal. 5 and 1/2 years later, I’m still not crazy about it, in spite of all we’ve done, and it has never really felt like home. Sounds strange but true! You live and learn, I guess.
Another question – it seems like at one time you guys would answer emails with design questions or am I making that up? :) I have a painting question …
Yes, sadly there just aren’t enough hours in the day anymore (with a baby, a house hunt, a house to sell, and hundreds of emails filling the ol’ inbox). Feel free to leave a comment with your question on a painting post though- we do our best to respond to every single comment we receive!
It would be neat if you could sort of recreate the interior of the houses using that floor plan maker thingy. That is if you have the time.
Then we can see exactly what y’all are talking about (while still maintaining privacy) and what improvements you would make to it or what you love about it already.
We actually tried that (both with floorplanner and with bad hand drawn sketches) and it just got too complicated instead of short sweet and simple. So we figured our bulleted list was the easiest way for you guys to digest the highlights and the cons to see why what we’re thinking.
Ami @ beyondpeasandcarrots says
I have done this already a couple times… fallen in love with the outside of a place, only to have my heart broken when I saw the inside.
Meredith K A says
My 2nd cousin and her husband took their 1-yr-old and 3-yr-old daughters to ALL SIXTY of the houses they visited before picking one a few weeks ago, and she said it worked out really well and the girls actually for the most part enjoyed the experience of seeing all the houses! Especially the 3-yr-old, who learned some fun lingo such as “this room is trashed” since some of the homes they toured were forclosures. So it’s fun to hear that you’re taking Clara along with you, even if she’s still too young to have an opinion!
I too definitely thought that basement rooms couldn’t be counted as bedrooms, but perhaps it has something to do with whether there’s a viable escape route in case of fire? Did they have reasonably-sized windows down there? Yeah, I totally agree, even if it is legit I’d probably never be interested in a basement bedroom and would much prefer to have all the bedrooms in one place on one floor!
Looking forward to more house hunting posts! Are you guys planning to look at any foreclosures? Any that you’ve spotted so far?
We have looked at a nearby foreclosure – details to come!
I just want to write a little plug for showing more photos of a few of the houses down the road. I don’t see why you couldn’t ask the owners to see if they care and then show a few photos of the inside when there is something more to actually show. The way I see it, the owners of the houses you will be seriously looking at (i.e. homes that have seen better days) obviously don’t take much pride in their home and read your blog or else their houses would be way cuter/nicer! Other blogs I read put for sale homes on their blogs all the time and as far as I can tell nobody thinks it’s a big deal. I seriously doubt the sellers will object to you showing a few inside pictures of homes that are really interesting to show. I don’t care about this house because it was definitely blah, but I would love to see more pics of the insides of the more interesting ones.
Thanks for your feedback! We thought long and hard about how to share our house hunting adventures (and of course we expected that we’d receive requests for more photos even after explaining our decision). But this method is definitely what we’ve decided to stick with because it feels best to us. Plus it allows us more time to keep hunting for the perfect house (instead of spending those precious moments hunting down permission to share homes that we’ve decided aren’t even right for us in the end). We hope you understand!
Jenn L @ peas and crayons says
I think there’s a better house out there for you guys — some con’s can easily be turned into PROs but tiny kitchen, no master bath and low basement ceilings… kind of a deal-breaker.
Sidenote- I glanced at the blurry house pic really fast and though there was a DEER standing in front of the house. HAHA!
Best of luck!!!!!
Haha, a deer might have sealed the deal!
Not sure if I should hope you guys find “your” new home quickly, or that it takes some time so we can all enjoy the hunt with you! We found our home after looking at 4 others….very quick. When I hear about people looking at 60 plus houses, I can’t fathom it! Hopefully you will find a happy medium. Enjoy!
[email protected] says
So excited that you guys are going to share the house hunt! What a great compromise you came up with.
[email protected] Hand Me Down House says
I absolutely LOVE house hunting — so I’m loving that you were able to give us just a little glimpse of what you guys have seen! :) Too bad the inside left you wanting more — hopefully you’ll find the perfect YHL House soon! :)
Thank you for sharing! I’m excited to see where you end up.
@Jenn L I saw a deer too!!!
For a second I thought you guys were announcing you were going to be on the show House Hunters… that would be so much fun to watch.
A tiny kitchen would have been the deal breaker for me! But it does look charming!
This is probably a dumb question, but what if you find your DREAM house for an AWESOME price? Will you jump on it, even if your house hasn’t sold yet? And what if you get an incredible offer on your house and you haven’t found your next one?
I’m still living in my first condo, but I sometimes wonder how people accomplish the transition.
We would pounce, baby! We can’t technically close on a house until we sell ours (since we need to out the equity in our house towards the new one) but we could make an offer on a possible dream house with a contingency in it (basically a clause that says we must sell our house in order to close on that house). Then we would have to cross our fingers that the sellers of that home would accept our offer instead of throwing it out in favor of an offer that doesn’t have a contingency.
Ok. I can’t help but notice that you both keep saying future kiddos, beans/beanette, etc. Are you hiding something?..specifically in the mid section?? I know Clara is young but ya never know. I’m sorry to sound nosey I’m just dying to know! :)
No!!! We actually have medical advice to wait at least two years between beans. I had some complications with Clara and we’re more than happy to enjoy her for a while before adding to the pack.
I saw Martha’s post re the basement bedroom. Do you know the rules regarding using finished basement areas in square footage? Could it vary by state regulations?
It definitely could vary by state, although here we thought basements had to be “above grade” but perhaps it has to do with windows and emergency exits too!
Melissa G. says
I love house tours. We aren’t moving for at least 2 1/2 more years, but I still love browsing home on Realtor.com. It gives me an idea of what I should expect for our price range. We’re trying to narrow down where we want to live, right now we’re thinking Tennessee or Florida. Then we have to narrow down the neighborhood by school performance.
I loved that link you posted for finding good schools, it’s definitely helping me decide which city and state would be best.
We are house hunting right now too. And let me just say that a “large yard” is on our list and we are hoping for more than 0.12 acres. Hahaha. Yes, we live in New England. I would die for over an acre! :-)
Good luck with the search, I think you are doing it all the right way (not showing people’s houses, etc.).
Hey, Meredith KA- My mom used to take my brother and me with her when she was house-hunting. The sellers’ realtors always got a kick out of hearing a 6- and 8-year-old ask questions about square footage and the age of fixtures! We used to set up “open houses” in our garage and invite the neighborhood kids to come visit our house that had a skateboard for a bed and plastic crates for living room furniture. I wish my imagination were still that great! :-)
Marie Elena says
What an adorable house – Too bad it wasn’t perfectly fixable! My husband and I bought a house a year ago so we’re not going to be looking at any new ones anytime soon, which bums me out a little! My husband’s sister and her fiance just went through a house hunt so it was fun to live vicariously through them, and now you guys! Thanks for sharing, and best of luck :)
[email protected] Banks says
wow this is my dream house. My husband and I are also looking to buy a home, newly weds :) this one is so charming
@ Melissa….i browse realtor.com too, but haven’t been finding much, do you know any other good sites?
I totally agree with the method you’ve chosen to show the houses. I can see where some homeowners might not want to read things on the internet about the homes they’re trying to sell. This way, your readers still kind of get to house-hunt with you but the homeowners’ privacy is intact.
Good luck with the house hunting!
regarding square footage and basements…
a realtor can market or advertise a house how they choose (or at least that is what they do)
i would say a large percentage of realtors include any finished basement square footage in the total square footage amount…that is misleading in some ways.
for SF to be considered it must have heat source and be “above grade”…..split levels and tri-levels have living square footage on slab and on crawl…both spaces are considered above grade…
in richmond, especially older neighborhoods alot of homes have basements. the general rule is 3 of 4 walls need to have windows and be a certain footage above the ground level to be considered above grade….most would not meet this requirement…some ranches on sloped lots do.
this house in particular is a 2 bedroom home in the eyes of an appraiser
finished square footage is not all calculated or considered the same, but if a basement has been finished to the same quality as the main level, has windows, and normal ceilings, it is obviously still usable space….this can also be an issue with finished attics, which is common in older homes.
in any market, with potential resale kept in mind, i would be wary of buying a 2 bedroom home….unless of course that is typical in your hood,area……2 bedroom condos, townhomes are much more typical
In last Sunday’s New York Times I came across the 2010 concept home of the year, which I think you would love. The 2010 version reflects the a modest footprint — just 1,700 square feet. I really enjoyed looking at it and it helped me think about what kind of layouts my fiance and I are looking for. If you haven’t yet seen it, take a look! http://www.builderconcepthome2010.com/
Thanks again for including us on your process of finding a second house! My husband and I definitely fell in love with the outside of a few houses only to be very disappointed with the inside.
Heidi H. says
Ooo, I really love posts like this. Please keep doing them! I hung on every word.
& kudos to not giving into the outside charm & just settling. It would have been VERY hard for me not to– that’s one cute house!
Lonely Wife Project says
What I would give for a secluded cottage in the woods with 1.4 acres of land. We live in San Diego, so we have about 10×10 feet of outdoor space available. *sigh*
Hi guys! I love that you’re sharing this process with us. House hunting is both fun and exhausting!
You guys are probably on top of this, but I saw that you mentioned a foreclosure (in fact, it’s probably annoying to have all these people point out things that you already know, lol) so I apologize if I am repeating what others have mentioned!
But with all of the foreclosures that are now being halted, have you guys considered the risks? I have read several stories of previous owners now seeking legitimate legal rights to take their homes back from the individuals who bought them at foreclosure (because their forceclosure was falsified, or so the claims go, etc). I was just wondering if this is something you’re concerned/thinking about?
We want to consider everything (and just love looking at houses no matter what they are) but we definitely take those things into account when it comes to deciding whether they’re right for us!
House Bella says
When we were looking for our house this spring we looked at so many, probably too many in fact! It got to the point where I could walk into the main room and say “no” and we’d walk out. Luckily, there were plenty that we got past the main room. :)
I found it particularly challenging to look past the “stuff” in people’s homes, some were just disgusting. I think one of the downsides to the current market is that some people HAVE to sell – even if it’s not a short sale or foreclosure – and just aren’t caring as much as they might have otherwise. Not you two, of course, your house looks great!
Jenn from Much to My Delight says
Over here in my little “basement apartment in Queens”, a “cottage in the woods” sounds like absolute heaven on earth. I am so excited that you guys are moving so I can start watching your renovations from the get-go!