Sunday, March 24, 2013

House Hunting: Tahoe Edition

       House hunting is a bit of touchy subject with us, but I'm going to go there. Some of you have heard about our on going saga, but I thought I'd expand. We started house hunting back in August of 2011. Seventeen months later we are still in our rental (which we hate more and more each day), have looked at probably seventy five homes and are utterly exhausted by the process of trying to find the right house.
        When we started looking at houses, we were really just looking to see what we could get, as we were still waiting for Jon to land a full time job as a fireman. From the beginning we've been focused on one neighborhood in Truckee. This happens to be a highly desirable neighborhood for lots of other young families. It's where almost all of our friends live, it has a great neighborhood pool, and it's known as the sunbelt for the light snow and early Spring that it enjoys. It's in east Truckee, quite close to the Nevada/California border, and a nice short commute from Jon's current job.  We've looked and considered other areas of Truckee, but none really compare for us. Location, location, location, right?
        We've never thought that we had a long wish list, but there were a few key things that we've been looking for: We both wanted some land and privacy and we determined that we needed at least 1800 sq ft for our growing family. We expect the home that we buy to need a good amount of work inside and out, because that is the reality in our price range in our area. We are not afraid of a fixer but there are a  lot of unfortunate factors that we face here.
  • The market is competitive and has become more so since we began looking. Every house that lists receives multiple offers and most houses go off the market within the first few days they are listed. We currently have several friends that are shopping for a house in this same neighborhood.
  • Apparently any Tim, Bob, or Joe here can design a house and build it. Most houses here are built with such poor planning and design. Many homes don't have garages (with so much snow each winter, these are essential!), a lot of homes don't have mudrooms/foyer/entry closet (imagine snow boots, jackets, shoes, hats and gloves piling up everywhere), crazy steep driveways,  and really wierd layouts. 
  • Folks here are very laid back. For the most part, people here don't take care of their lots or houses. 
  • There are a lot of rental homes here because of the destination and transient residents. This means, that you may see a nice house, but every home around it looks terrible because they are rental homes and no one  takes care of them.
  • People here do not update. For the most part, homes that were built in the 70's and 80's look exactly the way they did when they were built. People here do not expend the energy or money to update. 
  • If you don't like "Mountain" design, too bad. Every house built in the last 20 years has the same tile in the bathroom, the same carpet, the same, same, same. Ugh. If you don't like bear and native american motif, you're going to have a hard time finding a house here. 
  • No lot here is the same. They are all different sizes- some steep, some long and narrow, etc.
Home shopping is not glamorous here. These are just a few experiences we've had while out shopping:
  • A beautiful house with dog pee everywhere. The owners just laid down garbage bags all over the floor to cover up the pee. We were walking on garbage bags. Ridiculous!
  • In a half million dollar house that we saw (it was out of our budget, but we went to see it because I knew it was overpriced), the tenant was sitting around the living room drinking coffee. The house was piled with boxes, there was a piano in the kitchen, animals all over the place, and it was a half million dollar home!
  • A crooked home. Seriously, we got dizzy walking around one house. It was not level inside. 
  • Underwear lying on the floor of a home we've looked at. 
        In the first week of shopping, after seeing just a few houses, we found a house that we loved. It was on a quiet street, with a great lot and we put it an offer. It was over our budget and we couldn't really compete, so we lost that house to another buyer. Fast forward seventeen months later, and we could have bought that house comfortably (financially speaking). Strike out #1.
Here is the backyard of that home. 
        Our house hunt continued. Next up we found this little beauty.
It was on over an acre, in the right neighborhood.
The house was on the smaller side, and we were concerned about storage and room to grow.

But this house also introduced us to a bigger issue and something we'd soon be very familiar with.
The sloped driveway.
As in, a very long and steep sloped driveway.
Sloped driveways are a hard sell for us. 
With Jon being gone several mornings a week, and the crazy snow amounts we receive,
the thought of me dealing with this plus kids on winter mornings before work is a big turnoff.
Not to mention it was shaded which means lots of ice.
This house was on the market for a little while, probably due in large part to this driveway.

We've looked at so many homes, that I feel like I know every street in our target neighborhood. 
At one point, we were looking at multiple houses on the same street. 
At times, a home has come up, and I already know what the neighboring houses look like.

At one point we went and saw this house. 
Big square footage that was completely outdated,
 big lot that was completely unusable,
and a bad driveway.
Despite the above and out of desperation, we went to see it a second time
and were about to submit an offer when another low offer was accepted.
Strikeout #2.

A couple of weeks later the neighboring home came listed and
 I ran out to see it that very morning while Jon was at work. 
It was on a great acre and had an amazing workshop. 
Unfortunately it had a terribly steep driveway and the layout of the actual house was pretty bad. 
It didn't matter though; I put in an offer immediately, without Jon seeing it.
It was charming from the outside.
10415 Somerset Drive, Truckee, CA 96161
And the lot had a lot of potential.
I'm not a man and even I thought the workshop/garage space was amazing.
Lo and behold, another steep driveway
(This was about 1/8 of the length).
They received 8 offers that first day it was listed. 
We were not the highest bid, so we didn't get it. 
Jon never even got to see it.
Strikeout #3. 

Strikeout #4 was the worst of all.
We received the email listing at about 7:00pm. 
I scheduled to see it the next morning at 8:30am (again, while Jon was at work), 
before anyone else had yet viewed it. 
I put in an aggressive offer without Jon having seen it and we were outbid. 
We got into a bidding war, ended up over our budget, but got the dang house. Finally!

This house was not perfect. 
It only had a one car garage, no fireplace, and it was on a busy road, 
but we were willing to overlook all of that. 
It had been sitting vacant for 8 months and was in need of some tender loving care.
We were up for the challenge, and saw the potential value in the big lot. 
The back deck area was screaming for some love.
Just beyond the back deck was a round-about driveway,
and weeds galore.
The kitchen wasn't my dream kitchen, 
but it had potential.
The master bath.
Our offer was accepted by the seller October 12th, 
and then began the short sale process.
While waiting in escrow for two months, we were cautiously optimistic.
There were two loans on the house, so we had to get the approval of two banks prior to closing. 
I was picking out furniture in my head and 
we talked about what our first projects would be. 
Somewhere around December 12th, 
we were told that a pipe in the master bath burst and 
flooded the master and lower level of the home.
Being that the house was vacant,
the flooding wasn't detected for a couple of weeks. 
Enter ruined floor, ruined cabinetry, and mold issues. 
The water repair company estimated $19,000.00 in work
 just to remove the water damage and mold issue. 
The seller told us he'd pay a "few hundred bucks" to help with the issue.
After weighing our options, we had to walk away.

2012 was not a fun year for us, and we thought that this house
was going to jump start 2013 right for us. 
But jump start, it did not. 
In the three months since that house flooded, 
home prices have skyrocketed and the competition has grown more fierce.
A friend recently put an offer in on a home that received 15 offers!
With cash buyers all over the place and very little inventory, 
we're not sure what that means for us.

Our house hunting doesn't yet have a happy ending,
but we know we'll get there.
Stay tuned!


  1. Reading this made me want to cry for you!! Hang in there, it'll all work out in the end! (Ok, that sounds lame and wishy-washy, kinda like "all of your wildest dreams will come true" but really, I truly to believe it's just a matter of time before THE house comes up for you guys!)

  2. House hunting can give you a mixed feeling of excitement and stress. There are a lot of process to undergo before you can actually buy a house, like getting your loan approved and such. In my opinion, that’s the most important thing to do first, because this will help you gauge how much much your budget for the house will be. Plus, the seller find this appealing at times and take buyers into serious consideration, since they know that you have a solid financial support. Anyway, this may not be a happy ending yet.. But I hope now, you already found your dream house.

    Lydia Piscioneri @ Credit Group