Your Dream Home: How Do You Know When You've Found It? (Part 2)

Thanks to all of you for your questions and interest with respect to my last post.  It has been a busy day but I did promise to post about our new house today and it is finally the last thing on my "to do" list before I call it a night.

As you know, we had narrowed our search to four houses.  Here's a recap of the four (copied from my last post):

  1. The first house we saw was amazing. It was huge, located on an attractive cul-de-sac (a BIG plus for Corey, since he could already imagine our kids riding their bikes on the street!) and it backed onto a ravine... perfect for nature lovers like us! The kitchen needed work but it was huge and I had to stop myself from imagining how I would renovate it while I was there. It was our favourite house of the evening.
  2. The second house was not quite as large as the first house but it had a deeper yard. The house had more charm (old architectural details) but it was less open-concept so the rooms seemed much smaller than the first house. It did have some potential and I preferred the neighbourhood to that of the first house. It did not have central air but was otherwise a decent option.
  3. The third house was detached (a huge plus for us) and priced a little lower than the others. The layout seemed awkward to us and it smelled like cats. Still, there was plenty of space on the main floor and several different rooms. It had a garage (Corey loved that!) but there were several steep steps leading up to the front door. I'll confess that I pictured my clumsy self with a stroller one day trying to figure out how to get a baby up to my front door without slipping.
  4. The fourth house was in one of my favourite neighbourhoods. I know house prices in this neighbourhood are expected to rise and there's plenty of green space around and almost a small town feel! While the main floor was smaller that the other houses, the kitchen was huge and had space for a large island. This backyard was my favourite of the four. I was a little disappointed to learn that the basement was only partial (the front half of the house) and I felt vaguely uncomfortable while inside the house. I'm not a superstitious person by any stretch but this house just didn't feel good to me. That being said, I usually try to make decisions using logic.
Many of you guessed and I loved hearing your responses.  It is such a personal decision and it really is difficult to tell which house suited us best without seeing them.  I always hear that buyers will choose a house based on emotion and then use logic to support their decision.  For us, I noticed that we used a process of elimination... but when I examine our process, I do think that we eliminated houses based on emotion and then found factual support for our decision.  Here's what I mean:

We both really wanted to love house 4 (or "haunted house" as some of you referred to it) but I just couldn't shake the bad feeling I had about it.  I liked it best on paper but I just couldn't consider it seriously.  We ended up deciding that we really did want a full basement.  The fabulous backyard was neutralized by a funny smell wafting in (we think) from a local factory.  Before you guys start calling this the "smelly, haunted house" I must say that we probably just saw the house on a bad day.  I suspect the offensive odour is a non-issue 99% of the time.  Had we really been interested, we would have returned the next day.  Also, I am fairly certain the house isn't actually haunted.  I suppose we'll never find out for sure though...

House 3 was also really exciting on paper.  However, the driveway was so narrow, I was nervous that it would never accommodate a larger car.  Corey thought otherwise but he also thinks I'm a good driver so...  I also wasn't crazy about all the steep stairs leading up to the front door although I did say to Corey that if we loved the house, the stairs would be a source of exercise and if we didn't like the house, they would be a burden.  I think the interior just didn't make sense to us in terms of function.  There was space, but we couldn't wrap our heads around making it work.  There were also only two bedrooms upstairs and this was our minimum.  We decided to pass on House 3.

House 1 seemed like a larger version of House 2 and the selling features trumped those of the other three houses.  I think that after seeing House 1, it was difficult for us to properly assess the other houses.  It was big and fairly open and the bedrooms were very large.  I remember being upstairs and feeling my logical side fly out the window as I thought about how I could picture our future children in those rooms.  The one drawback was the yard.  We loved that it backed onto a ravine but the actual yard consisted of about three different elevations and would likely have required permits and heavy landscaping at some point in the future.  Still, we had fallen in love and were excited to make an offer.  I even spoke with the listing agent before we went to bed.

It was only the next morning that I woke up knowing that we were actually supposed to buy House 2.  Once Corey looked at my hastily gathered research (it was early and I still had to get to work.) he was on board as well.  House 2 was similar to House 1 (although smaller) but it's located in a neighbourhood we prefer.  House 2 doesn't have central air but it does have existing duct work.  Corey and I have decided to sacrifice an immediate kitchen renovation so that we can have a gas furnace and central air installed before the summer.  We actually discovered some bonus features which were not on our original list.  Here's what we ended up with:

  • Price (we wanted our mortgage payment to be similar to our current mortgage and maintenance fee total to ensure that we weren't overextending ourselves)
  • Freehold (detached, link, semi or townhouse)
  • Minimum 2 bedrooms
  • Excavated Basement
  • Neighbourhood (we were pretty general here and had narrowed our search to include several Toronto neighbourhoods)
  • Backyard (even a small yard was fine but we wanted some outdoor space of our own)
  • Parking for at least one car
  • Not on a busy or main street
  • A 3rd bedroom
  • A large kitchen
  • Central Air
  • 2 full bathrooms
  • Detached
  • 2-Storey
  • Garage
  • Deep lot with room to extend the house
  • Main Floor Family Room
  • Living Room Fireplace
  • Original Hardwood Floors
  • Attic (with potential to renovate)
So we managed to find all of our "needs", some of our "wants" and a few added "bonus" features and we consider ourselves to be quite lucky.  The house is a 1926 semi-detached with a parking pad but no garage and we have decided to compensate for the lack of garage by treating ourselves to a remote car starter this winter.  The kitchen is not large but it is certainly adequate and we will renovate it once it suits our budget.  The central air will probably be the first big improvement... and it will not be a DIY!  I've actually already started gathering quotes for the work.

We now have a HUGE list of projects which we will complete as our time and budget allow.  To give you an idea of some of the first few, (besides the central air) here's a peek:
  • Corey will need to update some of the electrical work.  Not a glamorous task but necessary and important.
  • We discovered original hardwood underneath the laminate and carpet.  Who has two thumbs and is excited to use a floor sander?  This girl! (I say with my thumbs pointing at my chest.)  Corey is skeptical but I'm going to attempt this project on my own.  I'm still not sure whether I want a dark, light or natural stain.  Our current condo has light floors but the dark dog fur really stands out against it.  Feel free to weigh in.
  • The upstairs bathroom is wheelchair accessible.  (Actually, the entire house is and we plan to donate the wheelchair lift and stairlift.)  We had considered just finishing the shower nicely but decided we wanted a tub.  I found a fabulous clawfoot on Craigslist which was being sold by a couple in Trinity Bellwoods who were also refinishing a 1926 house.  They had an extra clawfoot tub and I just couldn't resist.  It seemed so perfect finding a tub from the year our house was built!  It will need to be painted but I already have some ideas.
  • We have a lovely front porch which we would love to enclose to create a mudroom.  It would give us some storage for coats (the house does not have a coat closet) and I think we may have finally found a home for our church pew which currently resides in our dining room.
  • The back yard is begging for a new fence and some trees.  We want to plant some trees right away so we can enjoy some shade in a few years. 
  • Since I'm not budgeting for a kitchen renovation just yet, I'm thinking of purchasing a lovely hutch (A friend and client of mine is selling one and she was sweet enough to offer it to me.  She said it could use a "fresh coat of paint" :) ) and painting it white.  It would offer me some extra storage as well as a chance to display some of my pretty dishes.  The existing cabinets seem to be in good condition (although not my taste) so I'm thinking of painting them white and changing the hardware for now.
There's plenty more to do but these are the projects we hope to complete begin fairly soon.  Thank you all for the support and I hope you'll enjoy joining us on our renovating adventure.  I'm sure there will be mistakes, temper tantrums (me, not Corey) and plenty of fun along the way!
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