Hunting For A House That Will Be A Home

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My Beautiful Mystery Companion and I have begun house hunting in Longview. Sale of the barely lived-in Austin house is imminent. Packing is well underway. Wisely, I have kept boxes since moving away from Longview nearly two years ago. This will be their fourth use in 23 months. Nor will it be the last, since nearly everything I own is going into storage until we find a house. I’m shacking up with my wife, the BMC, in her small bohemian duplex on the south side.

This will be the 13th home I have participated in purchasing, but the first for my BMC. Before we met, she preferred to remain free to leave town and head to Bali, England, Japan, Thailand, Italy and other exotic locales, with few possessions to impede her. But a teenage daughter and a growing nesting instinct cooled the wanderlust, at least to the point that she is ready to buy. I have bought so many houses that I am seriously thinking about studying for a real estate license, or possibly qualifying to conduct home inspections. Seems to me that somebody with my kind of personal experience buying and selling homes might be able to make a living in the field. We’ll see.

Luckily my wife and I have similar tastes in houses. We dislike carpet, wallpaper and popcorn ceilings — that pebbly spray texture popular in the 1970s. We came close to making an offer on a house that would have required complete gutting, including scraping off what looked like acres of popcorn ceiling, painting every available surface, ripping out miles of carpet and even tearing down a wall or two. I was already psyching myself up for the adventure when someone beat us to the dotted line. That is fine. We are in no rush and figure if we lose out on a house offer, then it was not meant to be.

Parsing through the listings requires learning the jargon. After all, the real estate broker’s job is to make all houses sound as appealing as possible, even if the place is pug-ugly. Here are a few phrases, and what they really mean:

Needs some TLC: This house needs to be gutted, or possibly razed.

 Mother-in-law plan: If you don’t want your mother-in-law living with you, don’t plan on buying this house.

 Cozy: You will be forced to share the bathroom with all family members, including the dog.

 Close to shopping: This house is on a four-lane thoroughfare surrounded by strip centers. There isn’t a tree in sight.

• Unique floor plan: The house has been added on to so many times that it could serve as a carnival fun house.

Quaint: The décor hasn’t been changed since Eisenhower was president.

Nevertheless, we relish this real-estate adventure, pore over listings online for hours, thumb through the newspaper, drive through desirable neighborhoods, and discuss the pros and cons of buying a fixer-upper or something that is move-in ready. We try to cull as many potential homes as possible before contacting an agent. Those folks only get paid when a house is sold, so I figure we shouldn’t use an agent to look at houses we have no interest in buying.

My wife and I watch very little television. When we do it is likely as not to be “House Hunters” or “International Houses” on the HGTV channel, vicariously home hunting at night often while thumbing through listings on the laptops. We avoid the high-intensity interior designer shows. They talk too fast for us, and our tastes are far simpler. If we could convert an old barn into a livable home, that would be fine. We offer advice and consultation to the buyers on the television, free of charge. The other night on “House Hunters,” this single fellow in Portland who had finally decided it was time to act like a grownup looked at more than 140 houses before finally settling on one. His agent either had the patience of Job or limited access to weapons, we decided.

I am confident we will not look at 140 houses before deciding which one to buy, at least not in person. At some point in the coming months, we will walk into a house and know that this is the one we will turn into a home for us, our daughter Abbie, and Rosie the Wonder Dog.

The latter has the least say in the matter. Long as there is a steady supply of treats and someone willing to rub her belly, Rosie is happy anywhere. For that matter, so am I.

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  • Steven Mitchell


    If we have to look at 140 houses to find your home, that's what we will do! I am enjoying the search. It's fun with the right people.

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