Your dream house

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Your dream house

I've got houses on the brain right now. We realized last week that there's nothing stopping us from buying a house. We've always moved around a lot due to the military, but neither one of us has any obligations that mean we *have* to move anymore. The only thing stopping us is basically my own wanderlust. I've never really thought about settling down somewhere before. I've never really loved any of the areas the military has stuck me enough to consider living there full time on my own.

We decided that Georgia is a decent place to put down some roots since we're going to be here for my husband's job for at least a few more years and buying a home will be so much cheaper than renting has been. We've been living in a 100+ year old, 3000 sq ft house with 100+ year old insulation. The rent is pretty high, but it's the utilities that are a bitter pill to swallow. We average about $400 a month to keep the house at 78 degrees and that's just electric. Yikes.

As we've started looking at houses online we've started to formulate our wishlist and the list of things that are absolute deal breakers. Obviously, good insulation is a priority for us and we're not interested in looking at giant houses. The most important thing for us though is a great backyard with a decent amount of space and some privacy from the neighbors.

We've found a house that we think is perfect for us. It sits on a wooded lot and our yard would be an acre. The woods go far past that property line. I think the creek is the cut off, but I'm pretty sure there's at least a mile of woods before you come out to the next street over. It's close to Ft. Gordon, where my husband (and half the town) works. It has a country feel, but it's only about two minutes from I20 and maybe a minute from shopping and restaurants. The house itself has been well cared for. It was built in 84, but whoever has lived there has maintained and replaced everything so that it feels MUCH newer.

For whatever reason the house is listed for what seems like a really cheap price. We're trying to save money for retirement and more travel so we've been looking for really modest houses and we're amazed that this house would fit into our price range. We knew going into it that to find a house in the budget we've set that we'd have to compromise on some things, but with this house we really wouldn't have to give up anything we hoped for. We're honestly scratching our heads about why anybody would hesitate to buy this house when it's in such great condition, sits on an amazing lot, and has such a good location for commuting to the post. All we can think is that our priorities for houses must be a lot different than other people's priorities.

I thought it would be fun to hear what everybody else considers their housing wishlist and deal breakers. Either the things that attracted you to your current home or what you'd look for in a house if you started house hunting today.

Hi Wren! Congrats on the house searching! Too bad you're not looking a bit closer to Atlanta. We live in Duluth, in the suburbs on the NE side of ATL. We moved down here from Chicago just under two years ago and we were AMAZED at the size of house our budget would afford. I think other than in TX, the GA market is still one of the most affordable in the country. One thing I did joke about though, was that we couldn't afford a flat back yard for the kiddos. Our property is over an acre too, but the drop from the back of the house to the back of the property was over 60ft. We actually had a yard built last winter using a compressed earth system. We had 65 dumptruck loads of dirt brought in to make a level yard!
With a house of that age, I would really ask if the systems have been updated-hot water heater, pluming, A/C, roof, electrical, more energy efficient windows... The things you can't really see. After 30 years all of those things should have been replaced at least once.
Our big request, other than a yard, was a house with lots of light and proximity to my husband's office. He had an hour and a half EACH WAY commute when we lived in Chicago. It wasn't conducive to him being a good dad during the week. Now it's down to less than 20 minutes. He gained two hours with the kids each day just like that.
One other big thing about GA is to get a RADON test. I'm not sure about your area, but ATL is built on granite bedrock, which emits some wierd gasses. In basements in particular some of those gasses can build up. They can install systems to remove it though.
I know everyone on HGTV makes a big deal about granite countertops, stainless steel and hardwood floors, but all of that stuff is just finishings. If you like the "vibe" of the house, which is personal to everyone, then you can always change things as you go along. And of course you can't change the location very easily! I do wish we lived in a neighborhood with more young families, so that it would be a bit easier for us to socialize.
One thing I would note as a homeowner is that you're never "finished" working on a house. Inevitably SOMETHING will come up that you will have to sink some $$ into. Even new builds have issues!

What a wonderful opportunity Wren! We were also military "wanderers" for the first fifteen years of our marriage! It wasn't until about five years before his retirement that we decided to buy a house. We did settle near Camp Pendleton because my career was in Federal Civil Service with the Marine Corps. And actually for our last 18 months he was a geographical bachelor at Twentynine Palms....I had wanted to keep what I had earned in levels vice starting at the bottom again.

When we bought our house we had decided it would be our first and last house. It was brand new and we were able to pick some of the finishes....of course in 1986 we didn't hear of granite. I won't say that after moving our furniture into the house that I would have chosen something else but it was what we could afford. We cannot fit my dresser in the room so it has to go in the second bedroom. It is only 1056 sq ft and to us our yard is way too big. We are not outdoorsy people (I am too fair skinned) and we never had children. My best advice is to think about your furniture and make sure you can fit it in the rooms. I do have to say that I absolutely love my home even with it's deficiencies/faults but it is ours and we don't intend to leave it!

Tiffany is absolutely correct about never being finished working on a house. And when you first move in unless provided you will have to get window coverings. It took us a little over 22 years to finally have our perfect yards - mainly because of the cost. We also made them very low maintenance. At the same time I was working on renovations to the house, and I still have some things to do, including the kitchen! And the DIY channels will become your best friend as you make decisions!

Being that it is in the South I would day you will get a lot of ban for your definitely is not that way in California!

Good luck to you in your decision!

Hi guys! Thanks for the responses. I enjoyed reading them and the advice is awesome. Buying a house is fun, but it's also a little intimidating because it's such a huge investment and we don't really know what we're doing yet.

I totally agree that the house prices in Georgia are incredible. We can technically afford more, but we decided not to spend more than $130k which will ensure that the mortgage is under $1k each month including taxes and insurance. I wasn't expecting to be able to find a very nice house in that range because when I've looked at house listings in the past (something I like to do sometimes for fun) it's been a lot more. Like when I was looking at listings in Maryland you couldn't hope to get an actual house within an hour commute to DC or Baltimore for less than $200k. Well, I mean if you didn't want a meth kitchen in the basement. Work from home opportunity maybe? smiley

We put in a bid today for the house we're looking at. It has a sloped yard so I'm really interested to hear more about your adventures in leveling, Tiffany. What's kinda cool about it though is that it's located in a flood plain which means that they can't build anything behind the house. That's why it backs up to that huge wooded lot. We can pretty much count on never having neighbors behind us unless they change zoning regulations. That's really important to us because we end up spending most of our time outside in the summer. It also means that we're required to have flood insurance, but I'd want that anyway. It rains all the time in Augusta.

Now I guess we just play the waiting game and see if the sellers agree to our offer. The house is vacant and they've been trying to sell since March. I'm assuming that means that they are probably paying 2 mortgages and will probably want to sell as much as we want to buy. We're hoping for a November 15th closing date, but I guess anything can happen between now and then. I really really hope we're able to spend Christmas in that house though. Heck, I think I'd even be inspired to do a December Daily and usually I'm a total Scrooge about the holidays.