I had a realtor to my home on Saturday after which we went to see a few condos. The tour of my house went fine, he seemed to like my house well enough, liked what I've done with it and thought that it showed well. Of course the real information will come from the market analysis that he'll do, so I'll know more once he's done that number crunching. He did say that the market has picked up some and that he is seeing the most activity now from first-time buyers, which I think may be an advantage for me. Mine is the type of place that appeals to the first-time buyer, I think. It's a 3-bedroom, 2.5 bath house for an entry-level price, It's in a complex where lawn care and plowing/shoveling is provided and it's one of only two properties in the complex that has a fenced-in backyard (one of the big things that appealed to me, as a buyer). Larry (the realtor) also said that right now the rates are relatively low which is also helping to motivate buyers, the tax credits that are available now help too. So, it will all come down to, first, what asking price his analysis comes up with and then, whether there is someone out there who is willing to pay it. I'm not desperate, I don't have to sell, so I am in a pretty good position in that regard. Whether I even put it on the market will depend on that market analysis though, so I should have a decision about that in a few days or so.
After all that it was on to see the condos. I am really only interested in properties in this one complex. I figure that if I'm going to go to all the trouble and expense to move, I want to be in a very specific location. This place is located about three miles down the road from the barn where I board Ruby. It's also only about fifteen or so minutes from work, so this is probably the most attractive part of it for me. Additionally, however, the townhouses are quite nice, and there are some great advantages to the property like extensive walking trails, river views/access and a swimming pool, among other things that appealed to me.
The first property that we looked at was the nicest. It had been somewhat renovated with new flooring -- beautiful Australian cyprus in the living room, slate hallways and kitchen (I LOVE slate, always wanted to do some slate flooring in my home), stone tile floors in the bathrooms and high-end, lovely berber carpet on the stairs and upstairs. There are two good-sized bedrooms and a loft area in the master, which would work for an office, a little den or perhaps as a location for my treadmill. This unit also has a finished basement with a walkout and a very large laundry area. There are a few things that need some work, definitely the kitchen needs some upgrading and new appliances. And the bathrooms could use a little upgrading too, although, not really a huge necessity, a big renovation wouldn't be needed on the bathrooms, a little facelift there would work wonders.
The second property was the exact layout as the first, only without the renovations and without the basement/walkout. It was nice to have seen the other property first, to help to have a vision for how this one could possibly look. However, it's hard to get around the absence of the basement/walkout space. This one only had a crawl space for a basement (the laundry was a stackable on the second floor), so the overall useable square footage is much less. The asking price was also about 25K less, so that's a big thing to consider.
We then saw one or two (I can't even remember, I'm already losing track and it's only been one day!) with an alternative layout. This one you enter into the living room, the kitchen is at the back and the glass doors and deck are off the kitchen. In the other units, you enter into a hallway, the kitchen is off the hallway and then the hallway opens up into the living room, with the glass doors and deck off of the LR. The units with the LR in the front are smaller and more narrow, the bedrooms are smaller and there is no loft in the master bedroom. I definitely preferred the other layout, I found it much more spacious, felt that it flowed much better and I preferred having the deck off of the living room. One of these was obviously a bank-owned foreclosure and was an absolute MESS, so it would need a ton of work.
Lastly was a unit that Larry had been unable to get access to. It is still occupied and the listing realtor had not responded. But we took a walk by it anyway, to see the location and I have to say that I was intrigued when I saw how it was situated. This unit is my preferred layout and it looks out over the walking trail (the trail passes right beside the deck) and the river just beyond that, so it seems like it could be lovely. There is no walkout with this one however, so there would be a tradeoff (and I haven't seen it yet, so I don't have an idea of what shape it's in).
So, overall, I liked the first place the best as it is move-in ready and I loved what they've done with the flooring. It's got the most space and having the finished basement/walkout would provide the most flexibility and options. It is the most expensive, however, it is also empty and has been on the market for 30 days (and counting) so perhaps there would be some negotiation possible there. Also, the argument can be made that the kitchen needs some work, so, despite the upgraded flooring throughout, it still should not be commanding top dollar.
After thinking awhile about the properties that I saw, I think that I've decided that I am not interested in the second layout option (kitchen in the back). But whether I can live without the basement/walkout is still on the table. If there is a huge price difference and there are some other advantages (like the view and immediate proximity to the walking trail with the unit I didn't see), then maybe I can get over having that extra space. I still have to think about all this. I CAN say however, that a few things have stuck in my mind since yesterday.
* The lovely, lovely hardwood, slate and berber flooring in that first unit. I keep thinking about how nice the place was. (Yes, I'm shallow, always going for the appearance).
* I loved how all the units have forced hot air (from a town gas line! no oil or propane delivery required) and central air.
* LOVED the walking trail. I just think that I would get so much use out of that. I especially keep thinking of how nice it would be to right beside it in that one unit.
The more I think about it, the more I think that my quality of life would be improved by moving to a place in this location. The proximity to the barn is one of the biggest advantages. I'm losing about an hour a day driving back & forth and I can tell you there are plenty of days where I've talked myself out of it for this very reason, not to mention those days in the Fall when I just run out of sunlight. Also because of the access to trails (both on the property and town & state trails very close by), I would have more time and ability to get the dogs out for decent walks or runs. Less wasted time driving, more stuff immediately available. These places are going to be much more energy efficient -- my current house has electric heat (UGH!) and because there is no duct work, central air is not doable. I cool it adequately with a ductless, split-system A/C, but it would be nice just not to have to deal (I worry about the maintenance of the external duct thing on the outside of the house). The condo units would be smaller than I have now, but I think perfectly adequate for my needs. And certainly if I want to renovate something (like the kitchen), it will be a lot more doable with a smaller space anyway. I know people who live in these condos and I have not heard one negative thing about it, so I feel pretty good about it so far. So, I don't know. Bottom line is, I don't hate where I am, but I think my life would be better there. So, I've decided to continue to move forward. I'll see if the market analysis stops me cold in my tracks.