Tuesday, January 3, 2012

So this is Suburbia?

House Hunting Tip of the Week: Get Over Dirty Grout and 1994 Floral Wallcovering
Focus on the three L's (location, layout, lot size) and do not get stuck on the three C's (color, cleanliness, condition)

After our wedding in April 2010 and moving into our 1100 square foot  South Buckhead apartment we made the decision to buy a home in one year.  When it came to renew or terminate our lease we realized we needed more time.  We signed for another year, and I became obsessed with researching, Zillowing and budgeting.  Seriously, I have spreadsheets out the wazoo, InDesign & PowerPoint presentations of decor and renovation ideas, and I can give you the test scores and percentage of children on free & reduced lunch for every school  from Brookhaven to Milton.  Well, now it's January 2012 and we still have not found our house.  Buyers market my booty.  Now every market is different, but this is the start of our search for the quintessential suburban home in Alpharetta, Georgia.

We did the educated thing and called three of Dave Ramsey's ELP's (endorsed local providers). One had an office way far away, one seemed flighty, so we met with the third option.  She was nice and experienced, and as Dave says, "has the heart of a teacher."  She gave us recommendations for mortgage brokers, but we went with a recommendation from a friend, and then we went through the prequalification process.  All that researching I did was paying off...

(Bankrate has several calculators and Dave Ramsey - Get Finances in Order can assist in making sure you can really afford it.  No, this is not an advertisement it is just some information that I found helpful.)

We made our list of homes to see, but unfortunately she never had time to take us.  She suggested her teammate, and then her teammate never got back with us.  It was mid October and I was becoming nervous, so I contacted selling agents directly, and four listings in row came back to tell me the house just went under contract.  Now I was simply annoyed.  Finally I received a call from a selling agent who still had the listing available, and we set up an appointment.  As I was driving from our city apartment to suburbia my breaths became short and quick, my chest tightened and I was on the verge of a complete anxiety attack.  "Suburbia is in Timbuktu (okay, like 24 miles north).  I've been driving for hours (only 30 minutes).  We are going to have to eat at Applebee's (no, there are plenty of non-chain restaurants).  Am I going to have to shop at WalMart? (Settle down, there is a Target,  a Whole Foods and Publix).  Will I need to drive a minivan and gossip about tacky neighbors at the HOA meetings? (Just chill out - now you are just being ridiculous)."  Then I turned down a street with a ball park on the corner, and sidewalks on each side of the road.  The neighborhood clubhouse had a Craftsman look with a large pool, grilling areas, tennis courts, and another little nature park.  "Well isn't this precious.  We can walk the kids to softball and baseball practice" (we aren't even trying to get pregnant yet...I just like to get ahead of myself).  The labored breathing subsided, I turned into the driveway of the home and pulled out my two page evaluation form.

Sidebar: Yes, two pages.  If you know me or have read my "Reason for the Blog" then you know my profession is interior design.  When commercial projects are completed there is generally a punch list.  A punch list identifies any issues like incompletions, incorrect executions, or damages.  I am a contractor's worst nightmare.  I notice EVERYTHING, and I can be rather "sassy" with my write-ups.  I decided to take this approach when searching for a home...I was not expecting my emotions to take over though...

My husband and I walked through the home and for the most part like it.  It is a foreclosure, so some work needed to be done, but it seemed to be cosmetic.  I try to not thing about the three C's: color, condition, cleanliness because these are changeable.  Instead the focus should be the three L's: location, layout and lot size.  While some layout issues can be modified it is usually expensive, and unless you are looking at a mobile home you can't change your location and your lot size.  We left thinking, "we like the location and love the cul-de-sac lot, but the layout is not what we want.  Plus, it's not the deal of the century."  So we decided to keep looking, and perhaps we should try the realtor thing again...

So this is suburbia...park in the neighborhood

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