First-Time Buyer Chronicles, Part 7: More Adventures in House Visits


Anna Marie ErwertWe looked for houses for several weeks, this in the heart of Portland’s winter, so that should tell you how intrepid we were, and how awesome our agent, who would meet us seemingly anytime we wanted, to unlock the door to our potential new home.

Oh, yes, we were eager. But it still took much longer to find that home than we expected. I mean, we weren’t that picky—at least I didn’t think we were—we had a list of 20 possibles on any given day. But then we started moving past looking at digital pictures to actually standing in and experiencing these houses. You just can’t tell if you’ll be happy in a place if you don’t spend time in it, and some of my favorite listings online quickly fell off the list once I saw them, stood in them.

Adventures in House Visits

Many times a house is just a lot smaller than it looks online. My man and I are both tall people and prone to jumping up and down when we get excited about something. Low ceilings are hazardous. But we’d never know a house had them until we got there, and bumped our heads walking through the hallways.  Other issues would be storage, too much DIY needed for our fledgling DIY abilities, or  scary/boring/otherwise unattractive neighborhoods.

We also ended up leaving a few possibly decent choices because the owners were there while we were looking. I personally cannot open a closet in a home where someone is still living. I feel dirty almost, like a voyeur.  I also have a really hard time imagining my stuff in place of current residents’ stuff. I don’t mind a nicely staged home or even a gently lived-in one.  But in those places crammed with stuff, where the idea that the occupants might be able to move it all seems utterly impossible, my brain just adds it all together: their stuff plus my stuff= borderline hording.

On one occasion, the current owner followed us everywhere, telling us about all her memories in each room, clearly on the verge of tears. Another occasion, the owner  “hid,”  trying to listen to anything we said or asked our Realtor®--we could clearly see his toes in the behind the door. I hope I don’t need to tell you: we did not buy either of these houses.

Our most comical visit was at a rather fabulous Craftsman bungalow near Portland’s hip SE Clinton neighborhood. It was occupied by tenants, said persons having apparently not been notified of our impending visit. We were in the basement looking at the wiring when a naked man came wandering around the corner, having—evidently—just showered in the downstairs bathroom and forgotten his towel.  This was just the beginning, for as we toured the backyard garden, we came upon another tenant relieving himself in a beleaguered flower bed, because he “didn’t want to bother us” while we were inside.  I began to feel there weren’t enough cleaning products in the world and the “crazy low price” ceased to matter.

Cement counters

There were also a series of successful home visits as well- a great kitchen with cork floors and an amazing cement and steel counter-top and sink (check this out in the photo. Really, so cool!); a great old Victorian with so many built-ins, we wouldn’t need to buy any furniture for storage; an immaculate farmhouse with fully remodeled art studio/garage space out back.  So many houses, so much charm, but in each case, something was wrong: the price of the house; the size of it; the location; the existence of a moldering oil tank; the lack of a backyard. We wanted to cut each of the houses we liked into pieces, pull out the best parts, and rearrange them into one new perfect home, one that met all our requirements.

Don't Despair...I Almost Did

I started thinking that as first-time buyers, maybe we needed to be more open to the idea of compromising—more compromising than we’d expected. What could we give up on that we thought we “had” to have? What could we let go? Or maybe, at our price range, winter just wasn't the best time to look. Should we wait until spring?

And then I found our house. And it was literally right in front of me.  But that story deserves its own chapter.

Stay tuned…

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