We saw the three houses,…

We saw the three houses, and I think house #2 is out of the running. It has many good features, including a gorgeous butler's pantry, but the kitchen is not only outdated; it's just too small, and I can't even figure out how to renovate it to make it functional. Right now, the fridge is jammed into the pantry. Sad.

But the other two houses are just beautiful. The interior of the Beautiful Gunderson is much prettier in person than in the photos. The owner does professional restoration, and he's kept his house in gorgeous condition, a fabulous example of the Craftsman style, with tons of details that enhance the look. The renovated attic (master suite) and basement (guest suite) are a little more generic, but that's probably to be expected. I think we could move in there with no problem, and need to do very little to be happy there. It's also plenty big enough to suit our expected needs.

On the other hand, I'm afraid I've just fallen in love with the Mad Hatter house. It's also much prettier in person than in the photos. These people need to get better photographers. It's huge -- they haven't even bothered to finish the attic, and it's still a ton of space -- something like 5000 square feet. Large rooms and plenty of them. And it's just full of medieval-style details; fleur-de-lis art glass windows everywhere, including on interior pocket doors, for example. If the previous Victorian was like walking into a Jane Austen novel, this house is more than a little like walking into a castle. It's got a wood-burning fireplace in the living room, and a gas fireplace in the master bedroom. Even the murals (of which there are quite a few too many) include one I might be tempted to keep -- one room comes with walls painted with gryphons and magic-themed bookshelves; totally adorable. I could rave about the positives for quite a while -- and it's listed at quite a bit lower than the Beautiful Gunderson. But there's a but, of course -- it'd need a lot of work.

Not only would we want to paint most of the interior walls (and that's a lot of walls), but the exterior is overdue for a coat of paint, which may well be around $30,000 all by itself (due to all the fancy Victorian detailing and the hugeness of it), and need to be re-done every decade or so. At least one bathroom sorely needs to be redone, for another $10K, and two others could use some help too. (Of course, that does give me an excellent excuse to redo them all in gorgeous (expensive) stonework and really enhance the medieval feel. :-)

There are a ton of Gunderson-style homes in Oak Park, so if we don't get this one, there are going to be lots more that would work almost as well, or better. Kevin does want to look into at least 3-4 more that are high on his list. But there are very few large Victorians on the market in our price range. This one's been sitting a long time, but as recent experience has shown, that doesn't necessarily prove it's going to stick around. I wants it.

Overall, if they're willing to come down a good chunk in price, we could perhaps end up with the Mad Hatter house costing about the same amount initially as the Beautiful Gunderson, in order to get it into good shape. So that's okay. And it'd cost a bit more every year in taxes and the like, which we could probably live with, though it'd mean tighter budgeting. But Kevin is concerned that although their realtor has assured us that it's in excellent fundamental condition, with a good roof, foundations, etc., that maybe it really isn't. Maybe there are all kinds of cracks and warped wood and other problems, the sort that Victorians are more prone to than Gundersons. Maybe this house will turn into a classic money pit.

Maybe Kevin is just fretting because that's what he does. But I'm hesitant to urge him into what might be a foolish purchase, just because I want to live in a castle. Right now, even with needing to get a bunch of work done before we move in (mild nuisance), this house still looks like a steal to me. But maybe it isn't. I get emotional about these things, and then it's hard for me to think clearly on them.

On our condo sale, we spent quite a while thinking about it, and decided to go with a counteroffer, somewhat against our agent's advice (but with the advice of realtor friends of ours). It just seems too early in the process to settle for such a lowball offer, even if the condo market around here is supposedly quite slow. We'll see what happens.

5 thoughts on “We saw the three houses,…”

  1. You’ll get a home inspection, I assume, no matter which house you decide on. Get a good one. Actually, we had a really thorough guy do ours, if you want the info.

  2. If you’re worried about the structural soundness of the Mad Hatter house, see if the owners will let you have a home inspection done prior to offer (at your expense). If it’s been on the market awhile, they might let you….

  3. I’d try for the Mad Hatter, a house you really, truly love. It sounds like you’d be able to do the work in increments (inside), in some ways. And it will add to the eventual resale value to have it done up nicely in a style that fits the house style.

    Just make sure you find a really, really good home inspector and talk to the neighbors.

    Wishes she’d waited for a house she fell in love with.

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Lori, we’ll take that inspector info, thanks!

    Kirsten, hadn’t thought about the possibility of an inspection before offer — good point, will discuss with Kevin.

    Catherine, I’m not sure how much we should worry about resale value, given that we’re hoping to be in this house until we die. Or until the kids are well grown and gone, at any rate, so a good thirty years or so. And Kevin loves both houses equally, I think, so I feel a bit odd about tipping it in the favor of the one I love more. But maybe that’s okay. 🙂

    I don’t really understand how talking to the neighbors is supposed to work. Do we knock on their doors? Feels intrusive…

  5. It’s very standard here in MN to make an offer contingent on the house passing a thorough inspection. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are no penalties – you just withdraw the offer based on the inspection & that’s it. You’re just out the cost of the inspection. Might be different in IL, but worth checking into.

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