Searching for Home

Back in June we moved to Palatine, Illinois to a one-bedroom apartment. It was a very large change that we're still getting used to. After all, our previous 10 years were spent living in a three-level townhome in Aurora.

Downsizing is a fashion word these days. Many people look forward to what a simpler lifestyle could be like, if only they had less complications and "things' crowding them in their lives.

I didn't have a problem changing geography, planning what to keep and what to give to charity. I got rid of a lot of things, a lot. What was difficult for me, was moving into a carpeted apartment! I hate carpet.

Then there's another realization. It's one thing moving into a one-bedroom apartment in the summer, when you can go outside all the time to explore nature, take walks or enjoy the sunshine on a leisurely day. In wintertime, in Chicago, one is literally stuck inside by large mounds of the white stuff. Ice makes patios slippery, and two or more feet of snow make walking the dog an impossibility--especially when the dog is literally buried in snow and can't move, much less walk.

We've been searching for a permanent home in this area since January 26. We've learned a lot about ourselves, about the loan approval process, real estate, and the state of the homes, townhomes and condos available for sale in our area. Quite the learning opportunity.

At first I was interested in the condos around the corner from our apartment complex. They have a lovely red brick on the outside, nice landscaping and have a lake/pond on either side. One side of the community faces a forest preserve, which is always nice. I took walks in that general area with my dog during September-November time.

One particular condo there became available and we decided to visit it. I really enjoyed it and, especially, the view to a wide open field and lake. Very relaxing and lots of privacy. Regrettably, the lender took an extraordinarily long time (over 2 weeks!) to provide a pre-approval letter and the condo was swept away from under our nose by another home buyer. We fired the lender immediately. The house is still contingent to this date.

Our second lender was an online service and they responded within 24 hours and provided a very healthy pre-approval letter immediately. We felt better.

We found a lovely single-family home in a well-established older/mature neighborhood. Every wall had windows and the warm winter sunlight entered to make the space bright and happy. We were filled with dreams and visions of what life could be like there. Regrettably, the home inspector found out that the foundation was cracked and the I-beam supporting the entire floor of this ranch home was cracked and in need of urgent fixing. We let it go.

Ever since, we've looked at single-family homes. Some homes are well maintained and painted, but the areas they are located in are poorly rated (school zones, etc.) some other homes are not maintained and/or have old features which really date them. If it's not the detached garage that's falling apart, it might be very dirty walls and carpets, or missing insulation in the attic. If not that, it's that it's impossible to exit the driveway into the busy road in front. All elements which reduce the home value when you want to sell it after you've lived there a few years.

We began rationalizing the homes' faults. This is a dangerous sign of buyer's exhaustion. We started thinking that small projects like updates, paint and flooring were possible. After all, getting some insulation up a flight of stairs into the attic isn't that big of a deal. Cleaning and repainting walls isn't that bad of a proposition. However, the amount of money needed for these little projects decreases the money the buyer can spend on buying the home. Many of these homeowners were requesting too much for their poorly maintained, 50-60 year old homes. It's just not reasonable.

Some of the bank owned homes we visited were the saddest. The heating was kept low enough that the pipes wouldn't freeze but humans walking inside them would be terribly cold. Some had missing appliances. Some had strange decor and paint. Some had huge update and standards issues. One even had an non-code compliant wiring problem near the fuse box in the laundry room and no dryer vent exhaust pipe.

The last straw was visiting a lovely ranch home in excellent condition, if a little dated from the early 90s, which was ready to move in. We were signing the bid contract when the seller's agent finally forwarded the missing disclosure document: the house suffered from termite infestation. That did it and we were almost ready to throw in the towel. Maybe our tiny apartment was not so bad after all.

Would we ever find a home in this area? Why aren't people smarter about how they keep their homes? Considering these were 50-60 year old homes, the owners were asking too much money for the condition. We wanted a home that's "ready to move in" or "turn key" as realtor lingo calls it. Not a "fixer upper" or "for flippers or investors" - yuck!

We decided to take a look at several condos. We got through one which we really liked that looks exactly like the first one we fell in love with back in late January, but in another city nearby. We will see how this search ends, or continues, with time. Time helps all.