Mid-August, and we do our first trip to open houses with our realtor pal, F. We walk through the house a block away that has the funky yard, and she purses her lips at the 70s era kitchen. Even though she is wearing high heels and lovely crisp capri pants, she does not hesitate to climb or crawl anywhere.
We look at another house in our neighborhood, a tiny two-bedroom, with a huge (5000 sq. ft) lot, all flat - we can easily picture expanding. The previous owners have done the place a disservice, painting one bedroom deep purple, the other midnight blue - including the ceilings. The floors need refinishing, the kitchen needs updating; just cosmetic things, we tell ourselves.
But F. whips through the pest report on the counter, sees $30,000 of termite, dry rot and mold issues, and a sump pump under the house. She pokes sheetrock and walks carefully through the yard, finding what appears to be a sinkhole. F. looks up at us staring down at her from the deck. "This is a teardown," she says, without a shade of doubt in her voice. Asking price, $349K.
Our last house of the evening is bank-owned, and there is still an eviction notice from the last tenants taped to the door. The house looks 20s era, and our first glance inside fills us with hope. Beams on the living room ceiling, still wood-finished, and french doors into the dining room. I can't figure out the painting treatment they've done on the dining room wall until I get close and realize that it's mold. The kitchen still has the original-era tile backsplash - but they've tacked an additional room at the back of the house that slopes downward so much it could be a boat slip. There are old, neglected fruit trees out back, and we quickly find the cause of both the slope and the mold - the foundation is crumbling, and the gutters nonexistent on the side of the house, so water has been leaking directly into the walls. The outside of the dining room wall is bloated and obscene. Asking price: $379K.
I pat the house sadly and tell it we can't afford to fix all the things that are wrong with it. F. and I drop the Husband at home, and go to a swanky bar where I down two grown-up cocktails and am completely pie-eyed. This househunting is depressing.