It's not too late to back out of the purchase, and we're worrying that we're paying too much for a house that isn't big enough. Or rather, we're pretty sure it's big enough, but it's not as big as what we could potentially get for less money.
It's so hard to calculate the intangibles. They say in real estate, it's location, location, location. In a lot of ways, that's what we've chosen to pay for -- the ability to easily walk to an incredible library and its accompanying park, and to a nice downtown shopping area, and to the train. The question is, would we actually use that? With two small children for the next several years, how helpful would that be? Maybe we'll end up just staying in our house almost all the time, in which case we've drastically reduced our monthly budget for nothing. Or maybe we'll get completely stir-crazy with two kids, and will be dragging them out even in the midst of winter, walking almost every day, and then we'll really appreciate these options (and will incidentallly get into better shape, what with all the walking).
Maybe a cost-benefit analysis would help:
- Clinton house: cheapest, and a romantic Victorian, but needing a ton of repairs; would have to live through a major master bathroom renovation soon, and a kitchen remodel not too far in the future; initial price is about $200K lower, but at least half of that will be eaten up immediately by repairs. I do love the stained glass (but that can be added to other houses), and I somehow don't love the original honey-toned wood, though I think I should. Across from big school, on same block as big apartment buildings, just generally less kid-friendly block. Not as close to downtown, but adds a feasible walk to the Blue line, which is good for commuting to work. Larger lot, so more garden space. In middle of nasty divorce, with a husband who doesn't want to sell, so who knows what kind of additional problems would show up in trying to buy it. Could totally imagine him trashing the place before leaving.
- Scoville house: cheaper than Grove, about $100K lower, but would almost certainly need some repairs, so call it $50K lower. Would want to do a bathroom remodel pretty immediately. House has bigger rooms, and one more of them. (Which we're not sure we actually need, and I rather hate having rooms going unused/sitting empty, but still.) Location is not quite as close to downtown, but still decent. Not super-fond of the family room; something about that room bugs me, but it's hard to pin down what. Layout feels less convenient than Grove house, but again, hard to pin down why. Larger lot.
- Wisconsin house: cheaper, about $100K lower. In pretty good shape, we think, although Kev found a lot of black dust in the wall of one of the basement rooms and wonders what that is. Mold? Has renovated away a lot of the charm, but left a light, airy house in exchange. Location is close to Blue line, good for commuting, but far from downtown, libraries, parks, etc. Kind of in the middle of nowhere, in terms of walking, although of course, Oak Park is a 5-10 minute drive across, so if you're willing to hop in a car, you can be anywhere in the village pretty quickly. Larger lot.
- Grove house: expensive -- our budget would end up close to what it was before moving, which was on the tight side (although totally do-able, and still including plenty of childcare). So buying furniture would happen slowly, ditto any repairs or renovations. Really nice layout; it somehow feels very livable. Smaller rooms, but I think not too small -- I'm pretty sure 11x9 is still big enough for a boy's bedroom, and 13x11 is big enough to fit a twin-size canopy bed for Kavya. Assuming there aren't too many radiators or closet doors in the way. I'm fretting that I'm not positive there's room for a piano on the first floor, or at least not without blocking a window, which would be upsetting. I think there is, but it's impossible to tell from the one photo they have up. And because there's no alley behind the house, part of the reasonable-sized lot gets eaten up by a driveway to the garage -- and because of Ellie, we'll need to put in some kind of fence separating the garage/driveway from the yard, with a gate that would likely be a nuisance when dealing with groceries and/or small children. There's no grass in the backyard right now -- a play structure, a little stone bench around a tree (nice), and a bunch of patio. I could dig that up and plant grass, though not sure how much that would cost. The third floor den is really pretty small -- would it get too hot up there? would we use it? (Although the second floor one is quite large, it doesn't actually close off -- would that make it much less functional?) Etc. and so on...
Of course, all of this is modified by my being entirely sick of this entire process and wanting to just be done with it, rather than eating up another week or two trying to bid on a different house. The nesting instinct is strong, and I want to unpack, buy furniture, and paint, dammit. The thought of staying at Daniel and Anne's for longer than necessary, or worse, actually renting for a month or three or six and essentially moving twice is utterly exhausting. But I'm trying not to let those emotions influence a big decision that should be made thoughtfully.