These are some Oak Park…

These are some Oak Park houses in our price range that have open houses this Sunday:

1. 2.

3. 4.

  1. Has sort of a bland, modern interior; it'd feel oddly like moving to another condo, I think. Also, lots of light wood, which I do not love.
  2. Stucco exterior, also not a favorite. But dark wood interior in kitchen, etc. Possible.
  3. Another bland one, and I'd prefer multiple floors. But the fact that it's a ranch, in Oak Park, makes it notably cheaper than it would be otherwise, for the square footage. (Oak Park definitely does not tend towards ranch houses.) So a bargain, maybe?
  4. This is more the kind of thing I'd been thinking of -- a Victorian with lovely wood and art glass. But the fireplace is decorative only, which is tragic.
There are many others that we're more interested in, but that we need to schedule appointments to see. Like this wacky one, self-described as a Neo Classic Revival Victorian, whatever that means. The interior decor is hideous, but I'm reasonably good at ignoring that as irrelevant. Instead, please note the art glass windows, built in buffet, 2 fireplaces, elaborate millwork and 3 outside porches. I don't even know what millwork is, but I'm pretty sure I'd like it. Mama want.

My main concern with the particular house right now is whether it has enough outdoor yard in back -- we'd ideally like a fenced in (or fence-able) backyard with room for a) a playset, b) some grass for child and dog, c) a sunny vegetable garden. I can do flower gardening in the front only, if need be, but if the backyard doesn't have room (or sufficient sun) for a, b, and c, it's a problem.

Plus, the price has come down $100K since they listed it last fall, which makes me sad for them, but happy for us...


Given that we're still three weeks away from listing our own place (it'll go up post Memorial Day), and that we need to sell our place before we can buy a new one, I'm not sure it makes sense to start making appointments now. But going to some open houses to start getting a feel for the possibilities isn't totally unreasonable, right?

Also, is it crazy that we're thinking of just using Redfin for our house-buying, rather than going through an actual realtor?

8 thoughts on “These are some Oak Park…”

  1. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I know, it’s totally mad. 🙂 There are lots of others in contention, though. Will keep posting as I have time.

  2. It’s remarkable to me how much the layers-of-gables exterior look of #1 appeals to me–every time I see a house like that (while I’ve been looking for houses), I think “That’s what a proper house should look like.”

    I tried to tell myself that the exterior didn’t matter nearly as much as the interior, but I was only somewhat successful in convincing myself.

    Anyway, that’s not actually relevant to your entry, just a side thought.

    I do rather like the exterior look of #5 too. And yeah, nice porches.

    I got curious: MW11 says millwork is “woodwork (as doors, sashes, or trim) manufactured at a mill.” Does that mean as opposed to by hand? I’m not sure.

    If you find a place now (before selling your place) that you really love, you could make a contingent offer. Might be unlikely to be accepted, but could be worth a try if you do find a place you really really want.

    But even aside from that, getting a feel for possibilities is, I agree, good. Jay and Holly looked at something like 50 houses before they bought theirs, iIrc.

    I don’t know anything about Redfin other than what I just read on their About page, but fwiw, here are some things that I’ve liked about having an agent:

    * Can take me to look at houses during non-open-house times, using key in lockbox.

    * Can give me advice all along the way, including negative opinions of specific houses (which I assume Redfin won’t give you). “This house has apartment buildings on each side, which will probably reduce the resale value” and such.

    * Can give me the benefit of experience in talking with other agents, understanding contract language, figuring out how much is reasonable to offer, etc.

    * Has access to data (like number of days on market, and whether it was on the market before) that I don’t have access to, though Redfin may provide such details.

    * General soothingness of having someone I trust, who’s an expert in their field, helping me out and watching my back and providing info and reality checks and such.

    Also, doesn’t the buyer’s agent get paid by the sellers?

    Anyway, y’all may not need or care about any of those things; just saying that’s been my experience in my house-hunting.

  3. I love #5, I think that it would be a money sink, but it looks beautiful.

    For smaller houses I do like the ranch style, staircases take up a lot of space.

    My last house was stucco. I would never do it again, lots of upkeep. I like 3 and 4.

    Agents can be helpful, but since you’ve purchased a house in the area before, you probably know the ropes. I think that they can be a buffer between you and the other side if things get tense (I sold a house to another faculty member and basically told my agent to tell his agent to cut the crap and sign on the dotted line before I took them to court. I’m sure that she cleaned it up, I was too annoyed to do so.)

    Good luck with this adventure. We love our new house!

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Jed, if you click through the houses, you’ll see some of what Redfin offers; it’s pretty extensive. Among other things, you get a lot of the data you’re looking for (possibly way more than a realtor would give you), plus a Redfin agent to show you houses if you like, plus a chunk of cash back if you buy through them. The cash back is because you won’t be getting the traditional discount for selling from your realtor representing your home. I’m not sure I understand it all, but it seems to roughly make up the difference.

    What’s not clear to me is if there’s a limit on how many houses a Redfin agent would show you (it appears to be six at a time, but beyond that?).

    I haven’t ever actually had a realtor I particularly trust — that would be nice! So far, I’ve pretty much assumed their priority is to make as much money off me as possible, which is in fairly direct conflict with my best interests pretty often.

    But I do think you get some advantages with a regular realtor — if they’re also representing your home, they can help coordinate buy/sell timing. And *maybe* they’ll have a better sense of market value than you do, or of other local factors — although Kevin does some pretty seriously extensive research on this stuff. 🙂 But as Cathy points out, they can help with difficult negotiations.

    Probably we’re going with Redfin, at least initially. We’ll see.

    Cathy, I’m not a big fan of ranch houses, and they also don’t really fit into the neighborhood, which is mostly Victorians, Colonials, and English Tudor style houses in the north end, and a fair bit of stucco on the south end. That ranch house would definitely be an oddity!

  5. We used a buyer’s agent and since we were first timers without much experience, she was very helpful to us. She was able to advise us on things like what was reasonable for us to ask to have fixed from the inspection. However, mindful of the issues you brought up, we gave her a slightly low-balled maximum house price (anticipating that she would show us things higher than our stated price range) and we maintained a fiction that there was a second, less expensive house we liked almost as much as our target house (re-visiting it multiple times) so that she would be telling the opposing agent that if we didn’t get a deal we liked, we’d walk away and buy the second, cheaper house (from which she would get a smaller commission than if she helped us get a good deal on the better house).

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