Getting A New House – What To Look For
I’m going to be moving at some point in the next 4-8 months. I’m doing the usual exercise of looking at a billion different houses with my real estate agent. This is the tedious part, spending all this time going through and looking at all the homes.
For most of my life, both as a married and unmarried man, I have moved about once in every 2-4 years. I’m getting a little tired of this, so with the next house I purchase, I’m putting a time frame of 10 years on it. That means, unless something very unusual and unforeseen happens in my life, I’m going to be staying in this next house for a minimum of 10 years.
During this time, I will be spending 1-2 months per year outside of the country, building up a non-American business empire to supplement my current businesses. After the 10 years are up, I’ll likely be moving out of the United States for good. I might still maintain a cheap apartment in the US so I have a place to visit, but figuring all that out is a topic for another time.
Because of this 10 year time frame, I’m being much more picky about this next house than any other I’ve looked at before. Ten years is a long time, so I’d better really like this next house.
Today, I’m going to lay out all the aspects that I’m looking for in an ideal home for me. These may or may not apply to you. This new house must account for the following:
• Me, an unmarried man, living alone, who doesn’t have a lot of stuff and tries to live a reasonably minimalist lifestyle (but not a true minimalist; I do have some fun electronics and other guy toys, and I’m going to be purchasing some new furniture for the new place).
• At some point in the next 10 years, it’s possible that I may be living with a woman, either full-time or part-time.
• My 17 year-old daughter is probably moving in with me in a few months and will be at my house for about 10 months until she moves out on her own. She’ll have her own car and a job (my two requirements for her moving in with me).
• The fact that when I’m not travelling, the majority of my work time is spent in my home office.
So with those aspects in mind, here’s an abbreviated version of the checklist of items I’m looking for, and why.
• Most important, top of the list, it must be a three bedroom, single level, detached home. Having an upstairs and a downstairs is stupid. On hot days with the AC on, the upper floor is too warm and the ground floor is too cold. If you forget something in your car you have to walk all the way back upstairs to get whatever you forgot. You have to constantly move furniture, the vacuum cleaner, and other heavy objects up and down stairs. Two levels costs way more money to heat and cool. The plumbing is more complicated. It’s harder to clean two floors and keep them clean. Etc, I could go on.
I’m not even looking at houses unless they have one level. A three-bedroom house is ideal; not too many to manage, but enough for future expansion if I end up living with someone or if my kids ever want/need to move back home for a while.
• Must have a large area for my home office. This can be either the master bedroom or an enclosed living room or living area which I can convert into an office. The largest room in the house must be my office, since that’s where I spend most of my time. I’ve budgeted $3k to remodel the living room area or to put a wall up to make the office area ideal, large, productive, and quiet.
• Must have a decently large, open kitchen. I’ve lived in places with small kitchens before and I always hated it. Kitchens can become cluttered very quickly, even if you’re a single guy living alone, and kitchens are also where people tend to congregate. I won’t buy a house with a small kitchen.
• Must be located far away from the city core, but not too far. This is a tricky one. If you live too close to your main big city, you’ll pay way more for the house, you’ll pay way more in taxes, the neighborhood will be more noisy (and likely have more crime), and the stats show that you’ll be more stressed and live a shorter life. All bad. I love cities but I don’t want to live full-time inside one.
Instead, I like to go visit cities whenever I want while living somewhere more peaceful. Best of both worlds.
On the flip side, if you live way the hell out in the country, you’ll waste literally years of your life constantly driving everywhere to perform basic, regular tasks. And you’ll probably get bored too. Therefore, I like to be out where the suburbs start turning into the rural areas, which is usually 40 minutes or so from the big city. That’s about right for me.
• Must be on a dead-end street or cul de sac. Less traffic and noise in front of your house. Safer too.
• Good siding, good roof. In the Pacific Northwest, where we get a lot of rain, these are pretty important. A new roof or siding can cost you upwards of $15,000 to replace, so you don’t want to screw around with that if at all possible. I’m only looking at homes that have reasonably new roofs and good quality siding (like cedar or cement).
• Bigger bedrooms. I’ve wrestled with this one my entire life. Maddeningly, most houses are built with large family rooms, large dining areas, medium-sized kitchens, and stupidly small bedrooms. This is literally the opposite of what I like and want. The bedrooms are where you put all of your stuff and hang out! These huge living rooms are only for watching TV (which I virtually never do) or when you have parties/gatherings at your house (pretty damn rare for me). I want a house that has a small living/dining area and HUGE bedrooms. This is hard to find, but I want to get as close to this as possible.
• Must be built on a north-south axis. No one ever thinks about this. A north-south axis means that the front and back of the house is facing north/south. If it’s facing east/west, the sun will be blasting into your windows all day long, first from the east, then from the west. Stupid. Unless you love being hot and having the sun shining into your eyeballs, you’ll never be completely comfortable and you’ll be spending a fortune on air conditioning and insulation. You’ll also be constantly opening and closing curtains and blinds. A lot of office buildings are set up like this too, and it’s just dumb. I won’t even consider houses built on an east-west axis (unless the house is completely covered by thick trees in all directions, but that’s pretty unusual).
• Ideally, the backyard should look out into a field or forest, not other houses. I’m slightly negotiable on this if the rest of the house is amazingly perfect, but I really hate relaxing in a backyard while staring at other people’s houses. Yuck.
Regardless of the house I purchase, I’m planning on approximately $12,000 that I’m going to have to put into the house to make it perfect for me. This includes:
• New carpet. Most homes have either crappy carpet or hardwood floors, which I hate. I know I’m in the minority on this one and people love hardwoods, but I think they’re uncomfortable to walk on while barefoot (I’m always barefoot when home) and make the house more noisy. A good hardwood floor is great for the kitchen and perhaps the bathrooms, but that’s it. I’m likely going to have to carpet the entire house.
• New paint. More often than not, I’ll find a house that’s perfect except that it’s painted blue or yellow on the outside and has crap like red or orange walls on the inside. Kill me. I’m assuming that I’ll have to re-paint the entire interior and exterior of any house I get.
• No grass! That’s right. No grass. Grass sucks. I have to purchase a lawnmower and gas and spend the rest of my life mowing and weeding (or paying someone else to do it), just too look like my neighbors? Screw that. If the house has any grass, I’m tearing it out and putting down bark dust, fake grass, a rock garden, or something else. I haven’t yet decided on exactly what I’ll do, but any of those are better than grass. Seriously, grass lawns are one of the stupidest ideas that society has ever come up with.
• Home office remodel. As I mentioned above, I’m assuming that I’ll likely have to put up a wall, door, built-in shelves, or other modifications to make my big home office exactly the way I want it. That’s where I spend my time and make my money, so it needs to be literally that…perfect.