Ooh, we got hit with…

Ooh, we got hit with some serious buyer's remorse this morning. Both Kevin and I slept really badly, tossing and turning, wondering if we'd made the right decision in agreeing to buy the Grove house.

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...

Ugh. I'm not sure that helped at all. Any thoughts? We could still pull the offer this morning, or potentially after inspection, I suppose. It's so hard to tell whether this is just buyer's remorse, fretting about opportunity costs and the massive depletion of our purchasing power, or if there's something really wrong about deciding to buy the Grove house.

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.


6 thoughts on “Ooh, we got hit with…”

  1. Catherine Shaffer

    It’s a lovely house, and I don’t think you are wrong to pay a premium for the location. I live close to shopping and libraries and loved it when my son was small. (Still do!) Is there a park nearby? Even if you have a nice yard, a park is wonderful to have a park close for kids.

    The only caveat I see is the budget. It looks like your house was built in the 1920’s. These are great houses. I live in one myself and they are built to last. But the repair costs are always always always going to be more than you expect. Unless the house has had everything updated, including the plumbing, furnace, and all of the wiring, you are going to be bombarded by “little” repairs on nearly a monthly basis, so make sure you account for that in your planning. There are also some big ticket items that you could run into. If there are any trees on your property, you may have to pay big bucks to remove it or trim it. Homeowners often get stuck paying for repair of the sewer line from the house to the street when it suddenly and without warning collapses. You may discover hidden water or insect damage. You may find that the basement leaks or the water heater suddenly dies. Etc. Etc. Not trying to scare you off. We’ve navigated these “surprises” with our house and we wouldn’t change a thing. But if you’re already paying as much as you possibly can for a mortgage it can be stressful.

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    The Grove house was built in 1896. Old! So are all the others, though.

    Kev is too fiscally prudent to let us go to our actual limit, so I think we can handle periodic unexpected things, as long as there aren’t too many at once. And according to the list the homeowners gave us, in the last few years they did update all the plumbing, etc. — I think the only old thing left is the hot water heater, which is still working fine, but will probably need to be replaced in the next few years. If the inspection matches their list, we should be in reasonable shape on repairs, I think.

    And yes, there’s a park across from the library — both a big grassy park, and a toddler playlot with sand and jungle gym-type stuff.

  3. I don’t have any wisdom to offer, but I find it hard to believe that with two small children, you wouldn’t walk to the incredible library and its accompanying park. 😉

  4. For what its worth from a complete stranger I think you have made the right choice. Two years ago my husband and I spent 9 months looking for a house. In a nutshell we ended up buying a house that was edwardian not victorian, is a semi not detached, has a garden on the “wrong” (east) side, and has less rooms than our previous victorian! BUT IT NEEDED NO RENOVATIONS. Our budget is pretty tight too and we did buy some new furniture etc a bit at a time but the location and great condition of the house were absolutely worth it. I can’t imagine dealing with renos (without kids) and after all the drama you guys have been through think of how nice it will be to sit back and discuss for weeks exactly where your favourite lamp should go.


  5. Catherine Shaffer

    Sounds like a good deal. Updated plumbing is huge. How’s the wiring? Of course there will be stuff you didn’t know about or think of. We moved in and it turned out that the roof over our enclosed porch had huge holes in it that had been cosmetically fixed. The buyers either didn’t know or lied about it, and our inspector didn’t have x-ray vision. Fun times! But you know brand new houses seem to have nearly as many repair issues as these older homes. The roof we replaced was the *original* tin roof from 1924. They don’t make 80 year roofs anymore! I can’t believe all of the houses less than ten years old I see getting major major repairs, even new roofs! As long as your budget is not overextended, you’ll be fine. Enjoy the house!

    (Replacing a water heater is no biggie.)

  6. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I don’t think we’re overextended. 🙂 Although I may feel differently when I have to live for a year without a pretty formal dining table and chairs…

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