Steph's Great House Hunt
Topic: Indianapolis Living
When my girlfriend and I decided to buy a house together, I expected it to take awhile, and I planned to write a series of articles about it like Mike did while searching for his first house. I thought it would be cool to do something similar, but from the perspective of a couple who were already each homeowners whom came to the hunt with different experiences and desires.
We expected our house hunt to take all year, really. For one thing, my girlfriend is notoriously picky about houses. While looking for her first house, she saw 115 properties. Her realtor even offered to let her move into her own house while she looked, because her lease was running out and she couldn't find what she wanted.
Eventually she fell in love with a great Cape Cod on the east side of town that she's owned for 7 years. I on the other hand, tend to fall in love with every house I see, because I can always see the improvement possibilities. I'm too embarrassed to admit how many houses I made offers on when I was searching for my current DIY renovation project home. But I absolutely love the neighborhood I live in, and since finding a already-renovated house in historic Herron-Morton Place in our price range is notoriously hard these days, I didn't expect to find anything that captured my imagination. I was trying to keep an open mind, but the idea of living in a bland ranch or newer construction didn't grab to me. And neither of us found the idea of living the suburbs appealing.
Stumbling Into the Right House
First, we put together our list of "Needs, Wants and Dreams" to clarify what we had to allow for, and what we need to remember while looking. Making the list helped us talk out ideas and understand each other's point of view. The list was long. Really long. You can see it here. But that helped us come to consensus about what we wanted pretty quickly, and avoided a lot of the fights other couples sometimes have about what's important in a home. It was a bit discouraging, though, because we didn't expect to find something that fit all the criteria soon.
Then we started to browse through for sale houses on mibor.com (Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors). Being able to search for houses online seems to speed up the house-hunting process. I imagine having to rely on a realtor to translate requirements and hunt down houses would have taken much longer. And looking for houses online is actually a great deal of fun. I enjoy doing that even when I'm not looking for myself. (Actually, I think I like it more under those circumstances.) If only Mibor would improve their search functionality, this would be a perfect site. I'm frustrated that you can filter your search by whether the house has a basement, but not by whether it has a garage. It was fascinating to sit my realtor's office and watch her do similar searches on the MLS listings sites that realtors have access too. They have much more flexibility and range of search capabilities.
In my search through Mirbor, I noticed a house in Old Northside neighborhood that was just outside of what we had targeted as our price range. I immediately put it in the "interesting, but doubtful" category. Old Northside is the historic downtown neighborhood just south of mine, and it has much larger houses and more of them are completely renovated than in Herron-Morton Place. Most houses are more than $200,000, and I've long thought living there was completely out of reach.
I drove by to see this prospect. At I wasn't all that impressed by the outside (it's much plainer than my Victorian-era first home) but the street was very nice, and because I'm enamored of downtown historic neighborhoods, Old Northside was really attractive. We put it on a list of houses to see, but I was more intrigued by a house in Cottage Homes neighborhood that seemed huge and had a separate space we could rent out to a tenant.
We went to see the house in Cottage Homes and the house in Old Northside on the same day. The Cottage Homes house was eliminated immediately because it required too much renovation, so it was on to the Old Northside. As soon as we walked in, I immediately fell in love. The outside might have been a bit plain, but the inside was beautiful. Original french doors. A fantastic fireplace. Hardwood floors. A loft above the master bedroom. A balcony in the back. Two bathrooms. And no real "DIY" required. I fell hard.
But Is this Really Right?
But my girlfriend had her doubts, so I doubted too. I knew I got enamored to quickly, so I was cautious. We ran through the list of Wants and Needs -- and most of them were met. But we worried about the price, and Stephanie was unsure of the layout. The roof needs work, and so does the siding. We found it way too quickly -- people look at an average of 40 homes before they select one. We decided to look at others.
So we rounded up a list of 15 other houses that fell roughly into our price range and criteria. We chose from all over the city, so we could find out if my desire for a downtown house was handicapping our efforts.
Our Realtor Sherry took us on a one-day, whirlwind tour of ten other possibilities, and we realized that they were either much smaller square footage for the same price, or they had some impractical aspect (busy street, no parking for friends, not enough storage) that ruled them out. We kept going back to the house in Old Northside.
What About Crime?
Another handy online tool to use in house hunting is Indygov.org's Crime View maps of recent crime reports online. You can search for an address or neighborhood and see a list of different types of crimes over a set period of time, like the past few weeks or months. They display a map of the area, and description of what crimes occurred.
We discovered that our new neighborhood was pretty safe. And we discovered some other neighborhoods that we thought were great had some pretty iffy crimes nearby, which is really enlightening.
Pulling the Trigger
So we made an offer, and eventually worked out the details. It turned out to be a much simpler process than we ever imagined. It's possible that's because the housing market in Indianapolis is favorable to buyers right now, or because we learned a lot from our previous experiences with purchasing. But in all, it was a much quicker process that either of us imagined it would be, which was both good and bad -- because now we have to finish moving, and sell my house. But that's another story.
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