Tuesday, October 02, 2007

These Dreams

Sometimes it's fun to come face-to-face with one of your dreams. Other times...not so much. Consider the following stressful scenario Miss Tessmacher and I created for ourselves this past weekend...

There's a house in our neighborhood - like, literally 3 blocks from us - that has been for sale for quite a few months now. It is something we've taken to calling our Dream House, not only because it's a stunning place but because of the sort of lifestyle ownership of the house would represent. On a checklist of things that I consider essential for ANY Dream House, I would include the following:

• All-brick exteriour. (I've never cared for the shallow "I'm well-built!" statement made by houses fronted with brick, then finished off with cheap vinyl siding. That's the American way, isn't it? You know, pretend to quality you don't really posess?)
• 2-car garage. (2-1/2 is better, to allow room for lawn-maintenance machines & the like, but I'll build a shed if I have to.)
• "Elegant" apportions. (Tough to define, but I like things like built-in cabinetry, hutches & sideboards and the like. Same with fancy-schmancy lighting, lots of trim, hardwood floors, and so on.)
• Finishable basement. (I needs me a man-room for my drums & Kiss shit, plus I'd LOVE a family room that would eliminate the frickin' idiot-box from the living room. Hopefully, it would be a wide-screen PLASMA idiot-box, but still...)
• Play-yard, but not a show-yard. (Gimme some grass to play catch with The Rozzle, maybe chuck a few horseshoes...nothing I need a ride-'em mower for.)

'Kay. Got it? So, back to this dream house...built in 1910, nearly 3600 square feet of solid-brick goodness. It has been for sale for, oh, I guess maybe a year or so now. Original asking price of (gulp!) $259,900. HAH! Everybody sing along: "Dream o-on! Dream 0-on!" But then, a few months back, the sign grew a dangler teasing "Price Reduced!" And so it was: down to $229,900. Wow! And then a few weeks after that, ANOTHER hanger-on proclaimed that it was down to $209,900! Shit! A price drop of $50k! Times ARE tough in the housing biz!

That was all under Century-21. A few weeks ago, that realtor was replaced by ReMax, and a "Take One!" info sheet that included an asking price of...wait for it...$169,900. Wha-HUH?!? Okay, THAT'S a price at which I go take a walk-through! Sadly, a few days after espying that lowlow pirce, there was a proud "Sold!" banner hung over the listing sign, and just like that the place became someone ELSE'S Dream Home. Ah. C'est-la vie.

Except...maybe not, because walking to the farmers market this past Saturday we saw that the original ReMax sign had been removed (along with the "Sold!" sash) and, mysteriously, had been REPLACED with a NEW ReMax "For Sale" sign. I looked the house up on the internet and, shore 'nuff, here it is with that same eye-widening price of $170k. I called, found out from agent L that the previous offer had "fallen through" and the house was indeed on the market. With mom, Tess & Roslyn in tow I headed over on Sunday at 3:00 for a close-up of our Dream House.

Wow. What can I say? This house is drop-dead GORGEOUS! All of the above check-points were present, along with just oodles of character. The 3rd floor is a spacious 17x45 room that would MORE than accommodate all our music crap (instruments, music library, you name it). Three fireplaces, four bedrooms, hardwood floors throughout, closets in every room, a full basement with nearly 8-ft. ceilings...the list just goes on. Sure, the house was built in 1910 so it's not without problems. There is a fair amount of knob-&-tube wiring, although not nearly as much as I had to replace in our current house. Some of the brick in the basement is crumbling into dust, a sign that water has taken its toll over the decades. The laundry is in the basement, whereas we've gotten used to a main-floor laundry. There's a fair amount of exteriour wood that would need regular painting: the back porches, the pillars on the front porch, dormers on the 3rd floor and the underside of the wide eaves. But the damn place is nearly 3600 square feet, and it's simply a showcase house.

Add to that, it's SO severely undervalued. The problem is...it's STILL just a LITTLE out of our price range. Plus, the very thing that makes THIS house almost affordable, also makes it so that OUR house won't sell for what it's "worth." And, we're coming into the fall & winter, supposedly the worst selling time of the year. We did receive a VERY generous offer from Tess' dad...without going into details, lets just say that it's the kind of offer that is both stunning and a little embarrassing in its generosity. But the taxes on the Dream House would be a significant increase over what we currently pay, and the insurance would go up, and-and-and. You get the idea. It's like the guy who can afford the Corvette, but then realizes he can't afford the insurance to keep it on the road. It's not JUST the price of the house...it's the fact that utilites will go up, and a dozen other hidden costs.

We probably COULD make this happen, if we sold our house at a loss in order to gain instant equity in this showy house that's undervalued right now. And, yeah, we could probably bite the financial bullet and stop doing ANYTHING fun and/or extravagant in our lives...but is that necessarily a life worth living? Ultimately, this IS a Dream House...but that doesn't mean there won't be another dream. In the meantime, we're kind of doing with houses what we did with weddings: taking stock of what we like and don't like, and trying to make sure that when the time to live our dream really is at hand, we know what we want and can either find it again, or recreate it ourselves.


Blogger Steph said...

You know, I have gone through similar lusts with condos in the co-housing community here in Lawrence. One of my few friends here in Lawrence lives there and she and her husband were instrumental in getting it started. It's in this great, funky location, the houses are gorgeous and energy-efficient with tons of light, we wouldn't ever have stupid college boys for neighbors, our hypothetical future kid could run around safely with neighbors we could trust...the list goes on. And we could probably afford to buy one if we sold this place, but then we'd have to live like total cheapskates for years, and wait! We already do that. (Plus there are a bunch of other reasons pertaining to consciously choosing to live in a community that requires weekly meeting attendance.) I made myself drop the dream, at least for now.

For what it's worth, I love your house. You'd probably weep some bitter tears over leaving all that work you've done so soon, even if you were moving into the dream place.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Thanks for the call. Just trust your instincts on this one.

They will be right.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

If it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit. This house may seem a dream now, but you'll have more dreams in the future that the timing won't be off...it's like meeting a REALLY nice girl that is marriage material when you're in your early 20's. Would be a great person to be with, but it would be a horrible first 5 years...

9:54 AM  
Blogger Suze said...

You know, it's just a house. We love ours, but it's only about 900 sq ft and with bambino/a #2 on the way, it's going to feel pretty cramped pretty soon. But that's OK. We can't afford a bigger one in Madison (by the way, 3600ft for less than 300K sounds like an absolute bargain around here), and the housing slump means it would be harder to sell this one now, and, well, we'll just have to wait.

12:01 PM  

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