Maybe Matilda: House Hunting: And so it begins . . .

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

House Hunting: And so it begins . . .

I think I mentioned in a post recently that we’ve started searching for a house. This is something I’ve looked forward to for a long time and expected to be very exciting. I was right, it is exciting, but not so much in the “kid at Disneyland” way . . . more in the way that being chased by a rabid dog is probably exciting. We’ve had a few Disneyland moments, but plenty of rabid dog moments, too. Maybe house hunting is kind of like being chased by a rabid dog through Disneyland? Actually, house hunting with a plentiful budget is probably Disneyland. Our budget = rabid dog. There are plenty of houses on the market in our price range, but 90% are short sales (which makes me a little nervous—after 5 years of waiting to buy a house, I’m not sure how much more waiting I want to put myself through), and the 10% that aren’t short sales are generally pretty scary.

We’ve been renting for about 7 or 8 years now and you know, it’s starting to feel a little old. Renting has its perks--no repairs, no yard work, no snow-shoveling--but it certainly comes with its own set of issues . . . no options in style/paint colors/etc., Satan’s-minions landlords like we had in our previous rental, slow-moving [but very friendly!] landlord who hasn’t fixed our broken toilet in the 9 months we’ve lived in our current rental . . . you know the drill.

We took our first trip out with our realtor a few weeks ago and it was certainly an eye-opening experience . . . our eyes are bulging-out-of-their-sockets open now.

Our first stop was at a 150-year old ivy-covered stone house north of Salt Lake. I’m a sucker for old houses—one of the homes I grew up in was a 200-year old farm house in upstate New York, and I love the charm and personality that come with an older house. The MLS listing for the gem we looked at has been taken down so I can’t snag a picture to include, but I’m sure you can use your imagination. The pictures made the house look country-cottage-y-adorable, set in a big yard with a fence, and the interior shots looked spacious, bright, and welcoming. The house was near the top of our price range, but I was dying to see it, so it was our first stop.

I pictured Thomas Kincaid cottage charm . . . I got Scooby Doo haunted mansion. The house was a nightmare. The ‘spacious yard’ in the pictures turned out to be a little patch of dirt circled by a fence with half its slats missing. The inside was shockingly awful . . . dirty beyond belief (I actually said at one point, “I wonder why they gave all the trim this gray antique glaze,” running my finger over it to come up with a handful of nasty, 150-year old grime), ceilings that even we shorties could barely stand up straight in, a maze-like layout that had us lost and confused more than once, itsy-bitsy door-less-and-closet-less nooks that were billed as bedrooms, additions that didn’t line up or connect with the original structure (picture the floor just ending and starting up again, 3 inches over and half a foot higher), a staircase to nowhere (not making that up—a door in the wall that we expected to be a closet was hiding a staircase that went up about 6 steps and then just stopped). Even the realtor was shocked—he said he’d never, in all his years as a realtor, seen such deceiving photos on a listing. I still think it would make an amazing house . . . if a buyer is willing to put probably $50,000+ into repairs and updates and a complete cleaning overhaul. I am definitely not that buyer. Strike one.

After stopping by a few townhouses that I was not terribly impressed with, we looked at another house that I had hardly even wanted to see—the listing price was over $10k out of our price range and I didn't particularly want to fall in love with a home I knew we couldn’t afford.  But the house was amazing . . . it was in our dream neighborhood—the one we can’t actually afford but love to drive through, slowly and creepily, peering into people’s windows—and had everything we wanted in a home. Clean, spacious, updated, with plenty of room to grow . . . and it was a HUD home, which meant the government was just trying to sell it fast, so maybe we had a chance at it! We put in a bid as high as we felt comfortable going . . . and didn’t get the house. Not surprising, and we hadn’t gotten our hopes up too high, but of course that hadn’t stopped me from planning out all the decor, checking out paint samples, and window shopping for new furniture. Smart moves on my part, all around. Strike two.

Which brings us to this past weekend. Our realtor was out of town, so we thought we’d just drive around to get a feel for some different areas and maybe drive by (creepily, of course, that’s how we do it) some homes on the list of places we wanted to check out when our realtor got back. As we were driving, we spotted a for sale sign in front of a home that we hadn’t seen in the MLS listings . . . it was in a decent-looking neighborhood with a pretty-okay-looking exterior. It wasn’t an amazing house, but I saw potential. We hopped out to grab a flyer—the price was near the bottom end of our budget—and saw that the home was vacant and shoppers were encouraged to take a peek. We looked through all the windows and decided the previous owners must have moved out mid-renovation . . . all the carpets were ripped up, doors were missing, etc.

No big deal—if we got at at or below its listing price, we could afford to put some serious work into the place. I was actually a little excited at the thought of all the renovations—for the price, we could not only snatch that house up and remodel it to be exactly what we wanted, but we’d probably still come out with extra money bouncing around in our house budget. The backyard was what really sold me—it was set on a corner lot and had a spacious, beautiful yard, fully fenced with a garden in one corner, a stone walkway and patio. I pictured myself setting Forrest free in that gorgeous yard while I sat inside eating cupcakes and watching Ellen. It was a lovely moment.

We called the listing agent twice without hearing back from him and started to get anxious—what if someone else had snatched up our bargain house? What if someone was signing a contract for it right now? In typical fashion, I was already planning the new floors I’d put in and shopping around for outdoor furniture for that amazing backyard, working on my garden layout (I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever owned in record time, not sure why I thought I could handle a garden).

Last night, we finally got a call back from the listing agent who was very excited to hear from some interested shoppers. He and Jeff had a long phone conversation—well, it was long on the agent’s end. Jeff got maybe two words in while I watched his expression morph slowly from excitement to horror. Wonder why that house was such a bargain?

It was a meth house.

A meth house.


The agent was telling Jeff not to worry—the previous owners were just recreational users! It’s okay! Just recreational meth users! They weren’t making meth! Just using it for fun! No worries! It’s cool!

And the meth-lab-tester-people had to tear out all the carpets because they tested positive for brain-damage-inducing meth levels! No biggie!

Oh, and the druggie previous owners also stripped the house before they left! There are no toilets! Or sinks! The furnace is gone! The water heater, too! It’s just an empty, hazardous, life-threatening shell of a meth house! When would you like to come see it?!

Strike three. The search continues. I can only hope that this weekend’s showings keep up this streak of rabid-dog-chase excitement, because I sure would hate to get bored by this whole house-hunting thing. It is just as exciting as I had imagined.


  1. hang in there! you should have seen our house when we bought it. although i wouldnt recommend doing what we did. it has been A LOT OF WORK! good luck and the perfect or nearly perfect house is out there for you...even if it is a crack house this time.

  2. Can't wait till we can enter the buyer's market. Good luck! Your dream house will come soon,

  3. If it makes you feel any better, my husband and I found our dream house, and then waited NINE MONTHS for everything to finalize. We are military, and we were newly-military at the house searching time, so things took a little bit longer. On a positive note, we got the house, and nine months really isn't that long if you think about how long you'll live in that house. I think that I'm probably close to being the most impatient person alive, and while it was my imaginable hell waiting, it was worth it in the end. Maybe a short sale wouldn't be so bad! Hang in there, though- it will all work out in the end, and the waiting won't seem as bad as it was when you were going through it :-)

    1. NINE MONTHS?! You're kidding me. Ever since having a baby, I measure everything in pregnancies--you waited AN ENTIRE BABY'S WORTH OF TIME. Good point about the time reference though . . . if we live in it for 15 years, waiting 1 doesn't sound so bad. But I'm sure that 9-month wait was still agonizing!

    2. Hahaha... oh Rachel, if only I were kidding. It took forever. Like I said though, it was completely worth it. We love our house, and I'm glad we didn't settle for one that we didn't love as much because it took a little longer, but yes- it was definitely agonizing.

      By the way, I am crazy about your blog, and I think you have the cutest family. And this may sound like a strange compliment, but I LOVE your blogging voice. Or, I suppose I love the way you talk normally. Oh, and your hair! Either way, I look forward to seeing your posts when I log into Blogger, haha.

  4. Oooooo, ooooooooo... I have a title for your reno blog..."Home Sweet Meth Home". I LOVE it!!

    At first I was like, well maybe you could get it professionally de-methed or something. But then I'd be afraid of drug seekers showing up in the middle of the night. Scratch that.

    Hopefully the perfect house pops up soon! Or at least your search continues to provide me interesting stories...

  5. Oh dear, that does sound nightmarish..hoping the rest of the house-hunting is more of the "Disneyland" excitement variety;) Can't wait for part 2!

  6. Not going to lie, this made me laugh out loud. Mainly because of the Meth house paragraph, but my husband actually sells foreclosures for the bank and it is kinda scary. People put cement down the drains and all kinds of craziness! People.are.weird!

    The other reason I laughed is because we are moving this weekend across the country to stay in a house that's not ours until we find a rental in which we will have to pick in a matter of weeks and I can only imagine the things I will find being that the ONLY rentals we can find are on craigslist. My husband is an avid craigslist user trading and buying musical equipment and he isn't dead yet, BUT that doesn't change the fact that they made a whole move about a craigslist killer!!

    Good luck in your house hunting! Not all foreclosures and short sales are meth houses'! We have seen some AWESOME deals come through! So you just have to wait for your diamond in the rough!

  7. Loved your take on it all... You CRACK me up... and a meth house sounds just too cool--you'd never need to sleep but you just might lose all of your teeth...

    Good luck in your search. You'll know it when you see it (and all the pieces will fall into place, too)! I learned that buying a house was not nearly as glamorous when I was the one having to do it, but living in a house of your own is pretty awesome.

  8. I am so glad you stopped by my blog and commented because otherwise I would have never found this gem of a post! I read the entire section about THE METH HOUSE aloud to my husband. Hilarious.

  9. I remember looking when I was lookign for houses with my husband. I was astounded by some of the crap we saw. Basements caving in,a camping stove in place of a real oven/stove, one house only had one bathroom in a two story house... in the basement... the unfinished, creepy, giant spider nest basement. YIKES! I think if its a meth house they need to have it printed right there on their little flyer! Good luck sweetie!

  10. I don't know how true it is, but I heard that a house that has been a meth lab will always be dangerous to children and pregnant moms. I know this wasn't a meth lab, or at least I hope it wasn't. You will find the perfect house for you, just don't get discouraged. All good things just take a bit of time. After all, it does take around 9 months for a baby to develop and be born. =)

  11. I remember one house we saw that had a homegrown, overgrown go-cart track in its yard, and the kitchen was squishy. Linoleum floors that were yellow and old and bubbled up and SQUISHY. It was also listed at the top of our price range, so definitely wasn't very encouraging. But you will find your house. Our current place was listed on a Wednesday, we saw it that Saturday and got it in a day, I think. When it happens, it happens :-) Same story with my condo - you'll know it when you see it! Keep the stories coming, I'm living vicariously!!

  12. This sounds ridiculously familiar. You'll find something perfect, although sometimes it doesn't feel like it. We've gone through the HUD process a few times and it's definitely easy to get your hopes up. The first house we bid on, we lost by $500. $500! That was a heart-breaker. I hate blind-bidding. Our current home is also a HUD and we ended up bidding higher than asking and getting it for $500 more than the next bid. It's just a crazy process, in my opinion.

    As for short sales, we haven't had much luck with them. We've tried several times and never actually got to closing. It must happen, but I truly don't know why they call them short sales. There's nothing short about them.

    As for meth - it can't be that hazardous, can it? ;) Just kidding. Keep your head up. You'll find the perfect thing.

  13. You have to kiss a lot of frogs...

    Our first home search ended in my disheartened surrender. We would look up houses that sounded so great, our lovely realtor would set up our visit and I would leave depressed. After enough of these visits, we decided to wait for a while.

    Our next round didn't start off on a good note either. It seems our budget meant that we had to find a diamond in the rough or an absolute dump. We went to one place that was described as FHA qualified, but our realtor was horrified when we saw it. It had no closets, half of the roof was leaking into a large trashcan (tastefully set up with plastic sheeting stapled to the ceiling to guide water from the hole to the trashcan). My daughter was about 16 months old, so we always made sure to carry her through the homes (so she wouldn't get into anything). My husband had just passed her to me as we entered the large bathroom. He took a step forward and quickly jumped back. He'd felt the floor "sink" beneath him. It would have been concerning on the ground floor, but it was scary since we were on the second floor. It turns out there was a hole(!) in the floor that had been covered with a screen door(!?!) and a carpet scrap. If he'd been holding the baby...

    Our realtor was livid, as were we.

    We saw some houses with potential, but finally we saw *our home.* I fell in love in the first room. It was the first place that I felt safe letting our daughter walk in. It had details that reminded me of the homes we both grew up in. I can still remember the sound of my daughters feet on the hardwood floors and her giggles as she ran from room to room. I actually cried a little. I saw lots of updating to be done, but it spoke to me. There are times I wish we had a bigger house, but this home has been so good to us.

    I hope your search ends happy and soon. Just be sure to check the floors first. :)

  14. That's as bad as the apartment we looked at when Todd was in graduate school. We said a quick "No, thank you!" when the agent kindly offered to patch the bullet holes the drug dealing former occupant had left behind!

  15. We just got into our first home short-sale style. It took us six months from offer to close, so not quite the NINE MONTHS listed above, but once you get past the first month of waiting, it's not so bad. That first month was AWFUL, though, because I had deluded myself into thinking that "ours will go through quickly. Because it's us! And we're awesome!" Mmmmm, not quite. But yeah. Don't fear them. Just prepare for them. ;)

  16. I was laughing pretty much throughout this post. But let me just quote my favorite parts. "Satan’s-minions landlords..." bahahaha! And this one, "I pictured myself setting Forrest free in that gorgeous yard while I sat inside eating cupcakes and watching Ellen" I laughed quite a bit with that image in my head. And then you found out it was a meth house! That's even more hilarious! I'm sorry you guys are having a rough time. You'll find one!

  17. How did I miss this gem of a post? Sorry you're having such a hard time with this house hunting stuff. If you need any help scouring I'm your gal. Sometimes I'll hop on there and browse houses that we can't afford and stalk the houses for sale in our neighborhood to see how they're priced... and to see the inside. Our home buying experience was hella fast. Met our Realtor on a Tuesday, looked at houses on Saturday, and put an offer on our house on Tuesday. One week.

    Not to freak you out or anything, but your meth house reminded me of something. I'm a super cautious Dateline watcher so I frequent our state sex offender locator website every few months or so to make sure a Creepo McCreeperson hasn't moved into our hood. We had a registered sex offender move into the apartment next to ours a few years ago. True story. I whisper yelled my new found information to Brad so the guy couldn't hear me through the walls. If Utah has such a tool I suggest using it when searching for potential homes. Meth and sexual predators: definite things to avoid.

  18. JUST recreational meth users?! Oh my word. No big deal!
    There are definitely a lot of deceiving house listings out there. We are talking about starting to look for houses and I can just imagine all the junk we'll have to wade through before finding a good deal.

  19. Its' really great that you knew about the previous owners were drug addicts, I hope they changed their ways already. Thanks and good luck in looking for a new place to stay.
    ny rehab center


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