Saturday, December 19, 2009


So, Jeff and I have continued to look at houses, and there are two that I like right now. One is a smaller ranch (way cute and move-in ready) (House A) and the other one is a large house (two stories and a basement) that needs work (House B).

So, House B (just under 2,000 square feet) needs about $20,000 to $25,000 worth of work but is listed at $40,000 less than House A, which is just under 1,200 square feet.

House A has a gorgeous, flat, fenced back yard. House B has a hill, half of it wooded, with a brook at the bottom. So we couldn't do anything in that yard. It also has a swimming pool that needs a lot of help (House B). Jeff is convinced Jill would roll down the hill and hurt herself severely. There is a small side yard that is flat. And it is on a cul-de-sac, so there is the street (haha) to play in. House A is on a somewhat busy street. It's not super busy, but it's not inside a neighborhood; it's on the outside of the neighborhood, the edge.

House A: 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, eat-in kitchen, living room, laundry room, 2-car garage, storage shed

House B: 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, front room, dining room, eat-in kitchen, family room, 2-car garage, and a basement with three rooms, large hallway, and a laundry room.

House A was built in 1991, and House B was built in 1977.

They both have fireplaces. House A has a concrete patio, and House B has a two level wood deck.

Ultimately, we have to decide whether House B is worth the hassle of doing all that work and the lack of yard and whether House A is worth living in such a small home without very much room to grow.

I should probably share more about what kind of work is needed on House B. It would require about $10,000 to $12,000 to have three full foundation cracks (one of which you can stick your hand in) repaired and the entire foundation water proofed. There is mold that needs to be chemically killed and removed and plumbing that needs to be repaired. All of the carpet needs to be ripped up (possibly the pads as well) and new carpeting put in. Some drywall will need to be replaced, and there is mold on the outside on the soffits. The deck was built incorrectly, with the wooden posts on top of concrete that was not put in a hole. The dirt has begun to erode from under the concrete and the supports have slipped. The repair will require hydraulic pumps, digging holes, and pouring concrete in  backyard that is on a slope. This is not included in the cost since it would be done by us. Some dry walling will need to be redone in the basement. Everything will need to be painted, flooring and stairs will need be fixed. Including completely removing all the basement stairs to shift the stringer back to its original position since it has shifted at least an inch and a half. It snowed today, so we don't know what kind of shape the roof is in. So, without knowing about the cost of the roof and the pool, it is about $20,000 to $25,000.

None of the other homes we've seen have been appealing. There is, of course, also the option of waiting and seeing what else comes up, but I think there aren't many people who start to sell a home in the winter. Winter seems, to me, to be the slow season for real estate, and we definitely want to be in a home by May. (I would honestly like to own a home much, much sooner than that.)

So, do any of you have any thoughts on this? Either from having purchased a small home? Or purchasing a home that needs work? What worked for you, what didn't, etc.? I am very interested in hearing your opinions and learning why you feel that way.

Thanks for the advice!!


  1. I think with Jeff's man power I would totally go for the fixer. But then again, I am really sick of moving and the bigger house appeals because of that. Not to mention, more house for less money if you're willing to work!

  2. if you are in a position where you can... you may as well fix up the big house!!
    buuuuttt.... my husband says mold in a basement is a scary thing and TOUGH to get rid of... he would always be afraid we may have missed a spot and it would grow...
    i love love love the other house i think you guys are looking at. love it. and not work to be done... unless you wanted to add on another room behind the kitchen someday :)
    good luck

  3. Decisions, decisions. At first I thought you should go for the larger house, but then after I read all that would need to be done I was all for the beautiful move-in ready house. I read the post with Zach and he said not to mess with foundational things and the mold is way scary, especially with a baby. It could really make her sick if they don't get it all out. In the summer with small children you are going to love a backyard so that is another plus for the cute ranch style house. You have fewer maintenance issues with a newer home. The fact that the bigger one is older leads me to believe there will be other costly updates/repairs down the road. Although the idea of a fixer upper sounds appealing and fun, I would definitely go with the move in ready home.

    Let us know what you decide. This was a really fun post to read. I felt like I was watching House Hunters. :)

  4. I would go with house A...just because the mold in house B. It can be nearly impossible to get rid of! Plus, an older house may have more and more problems as time goes on. So, house A is my advice! It sounds really good still! Three bedrooms and two bathrooms, I think, is a great size for a starter house!

  5. We've seen a lot of this too in our house searchings, and it's so tough! House B sounds nice but those are some VERY substantial fixes and I would be nervous about dumping more and more money into it to make it livable.... foundation cracks and mold are pretty big issues.

    Of course, it's also scary to buy a house that doesn't give much room to grow as a house is a big commitment and you plan to live there more than a year or two...I would go for House A if you have to pick now, but you never know what might come up as you keep looking. We've been looking since September and trying to figure out what would work and what we could be happy with, and the house we're signing on THIS WEEK (yay!) popped up out of nowhere and is a perfect fit for us.

    Best of luck!

  6. Well, obviously some things are more important than others, so I would list what your priorities are and find the house that has the most important points that you are looking for in the house: big backyard? deck? dining room? cheap and affordable? small and easy to clean?
    I think if you really want it, you should just buy the one that is more expensive, but if you don't want it, just get the smaller house...if you plan on more kids in the near future, maybe you should go for the big one.
    Those are my suggestions. :)

  7. I personally like older houses for several reasons, and one of them is that most newer houses are built very shoddy. But with all the work that needs to be done on the bigger house, I wouldn't buy it. The costs for all of that will probably well exceed what you have listed as what you think it will cost, because once you get in, you will find a lot more wrong with it. I don't know about your bank, but our bank wouldn't even finance a house in that kind of condition either. Those are some pretty big problems, and when we bought and moved into our house it was nice that it was all redone and we didn't have to do anything to it at all. Some of our friends were always having to do things to their houses which might be somewhat fun but also very expensive and time consuming especially when you have a baby. Not to mention harmful to live in, especially with the mold. Ultimately it is your decision though so I hope you guys pick which one you can both live in and love and make it home!

  8. Hey Meems!

    Dave has done framing on houses and house inspections for industrial hygiene, and he says that those problems you mentioned are biiiiiiiig problems. In my opinion, it sounds like you'll have to put more money into either house anyway, but house A would be way more worth it. House B, like everyone has said, will be a huge hassle, and even if you THINK you got everything fixed, there's always a chance that something got overlooked. I'm kind of thinkin' House A, especially if it has a nice yard. I say that because, yes, it might be smaller, but if you need more space and if the yard permits, you would be able to build onto it... but only as you need it, or acquire the money for it.
    ...but that's just me. :)

  9. BY THE WAY, I was telling Devin about this new house that you like and Jeff doesn't so much, and he agreed with me that, in our opinion, that's the best house. :)

    Just wanted to let you know.

  10. I think you should give it a month or two...Spring starts really, really, really soon and more people will be putting houses on the market! Get something you love...don't settle for something that's just ok :) Make sure there is plenty of storage space in the way of closets me, you will appreciate it...


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