We Have an Apartment!

Matt & I have our new apartment all lined up! We move in June 16th; it’s at Sutton Club, which is very nice. There’s a pool, and great big decks, and a HUGE living room. Definitely a move up. My current apartment is 600 square feet, which isn’t bad for just me, but isn’t really big enough for two computer geeks. The new apartment is a 2 bedroom, and is 1,100 square feet, which my mom tells me is larger than my parent’s first house by about 60 square feet. Plus it has 1 3/4 bathrooms (the master bath has a shower stall, but no tub), so we won’t be fighting for bathroom space or time.

One of the big things for me, though, is that it has a DINING ROOM! Some of the houses we were looking at before didn’t even have a dining room. I would love actually having a table to have dinner at, instead of just pulling out the TV trays and eating at the couch. Yes, I have a bar in my apartment, but it always manages to be completely covered in stuff that has no better home. Imagine that.

It’s also a 3rd floor apartment, which is both good and bad. Bad, in that it will suck hauling furniture up the steps. But good in that we won’t have upstairs neighbors stomping around, and we won’t have to keep the bedroom window shut in the middle of the sweltering hot summer because the sprinkler is aimed RIGHT at it. We can leave the windows cracked open, and not have to worry about someone breaking in while we’re gone. I can’t wait! Less than a month until move-in…

A Slight Change of Plans…

So, after a fair amount of thought, Matt & I have decided that we’re not going to buy a house right now. After touring different houses in our current price range, we’ve discovered we don’t really LIKE what’s in our price range. The profiles always show so much promise, and we’re always disappointed with some aspect of the house. We don’t want to buy a house just because it’s there and we can afford it. With the wedding coming up, it would be pretty much impossible to save for wedding expenses AND a down payment on a house by the end of June. So if we do a year lease in an apartment, and spend a year saving up, hopefully by this time next year we’ll be able to look at some nicer houses. As far as apartments go, we’re considering 2 main options; getting a 2 bedroom in my current apartment complex, or try to get into a 2 bedroom apartment at the Sutton Club. We’ve both been to the Sutton Club for Anime Night at Tom’s, and I was a big fan of the washer/dryer in the unit. My main beef with apartment living is the laundry issue, actually. I hate stuffing $1.25 into the machine every time I need to do a load, and being tied to the apartment while I’m doing laundry. I would love to be able to toss a load of laundry in before bed, or when I go to work, and know that it will still be there when I get back. So, any thoughts or comments?

Post Tour Opinions #4 – 727 Harlan

This house, along with the one on Malta, were my favorites. The garage was a little rough, and “lived in” as it were, but not bad. The breezeway was decent. The downstairs was clearly lived in – that’s where the couch and TV were. On the main floor, the kitchen wasn’t bad; maybe a bit small, but not unworkable. I loved the formal dining room! It wasn’t terribly large, but just large enough to fit a decently sized table into it. The living room was nice, but felt a bit naked. Obviously it’s not used as it had a TV, but nowhere to sit. The fireplace in the living room was nice, too. The den on the first floor wasn’t bad – it had some knotty pine built-ins. Yay for built-ins, but boo for knotty pine. Not a fan. The bathroom on the first floor was very blue, but not too bad. I liked the stairwell up to the second floor, but I’m a bit of a fan of stairwells and 2 story houses. The upstairs bedrooms weren’t bad, but showed their age; neither one had overhead lights, and the closets were atrocious. The lights could be fixed, but you can’t really make more closet space without taking it from something else. The upstairs bathroom, however, upset me. It ADVERTISED itself as a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house, with a FULL bath on the first and second floor. LIES! The upstairs bathroom wasn’t even a 3/4 bathroom – it was a half bath. Toilet, sink, cupboard. No shower, no tub. That violates one of my rules about bathrooms – I don’t care if the house is 1 or 2 story, but I demand a full bathroom on the same level as my bedroom. The den downstairs wasn’t really large enough to be turned into a master bedroom, so that was out of the question. The backyard and patio are where this house really shone. On the back of the breezeway, there was a little patio with a grill. Through an archway, and along a little path behind the garage, you get to the main part of the backyard. It wasn’t too big or too small, it had trees, and flowers, and horseshoe pits….it was a nice backyard. I liked it. But the nice backyard can’t make up for the shortcomings elsewhere. If we could have put the house from Malta on this lot, with this location and backyard, I think we might have had a winner.

Post Tour Opinions #3 – 830 Malta

This house I was really impressed with. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised with this one. The living room was huge, the bathroom was decent, all the bedrooms had hardwood floors, and the kitchen was nice looking. Closet space was maybe a little lacking, but that seems to be the trend, unfortunately. I didn’t find much wrong with the inside of the main floor, actually. The basement was, well, a basement. There was an “office” down there, but it’s clearly not a legal room, and is fairly rough looking. There was also a full bathroom downstairs, although I would probably never use that shower by choice. It’s at least plumbed, though, so the shower itself could be changed. The breezeway connecting the house to the garage felt a little spartan; very “concrete slab” for the style. The garage looked decent; two separate garage doors, one for each car. There were a few things I didn’t like, though. For starters, the yard is non-existent. What you see out front IS the yard. On the side by the garage and around back there is a deck, and NOTHING IS GROWING. Not even weeds. The location is kinda crappy, too. It’s not that it’s in a bad neighborhood; it seems to be in a fairly decent neighborhood, actually. No, the main problem is that it’s DIRECTLY across from an elementary school. A big one. School traffic would suck, not to mention all the children walking to and from school, and potentially cutting across what exists of the yard. See, that’s the other problem; it’s on an “inside corner” of two streets, Malta and Emerald. So overall, I really like this house; this is the style of house I was hoping to be able to find for a first house. I just do not like the location, at all. So the search continues.

Post Tour Opinions #2 – 923 Emerald

So this house was the first we toured, and we had such high hopes for it too. From the street it looks very nice. The photos on the GRAR listing were very nice, too; clearly they know how to market the house. Things were a little different once we got inside, though. For starters, it would appear that the main entrance to the house is through the kitchen. That seems a little weird to me. There is no dining room, so the dining area is just a table stuffed into the kitchen. I am NOT a fan of that – I don’t need a formal dining room, but I want the table to have it’s own space. The kitchen, and by extension, the kitchen cupboards, were very tall. I could probably just barely reach the second shelf. Not all bad, so long as I have a step stool. Directly off from the kitchen was a bedroom, which was again, odd. Not a terribly spacious bedroom, either. From the kitchen, we went to the living room. That’s when we discovered that all the other rooms were directly off of the living room; there was no hallway. The master bedroom was off the living room through some double doors, the den was right next to the master bedroom, and the bathroom was right next to the kitchen. I can handle a den being right off the living room, but I do not want the bathroom right off of the living room. Already points against it. The listing also said the house had a Michigan Basement. I’ve heard about 4 different definitions of Michigan Basement, ranging from “dirt floor cellar” to “normal, but short, basement”. This basement was definitely on the dirt floor end of the spectrum. The washer and dryer were down there (how they accomplished that I do not know), but not much else. I would not feel comfortable putting Zoe’s litter box down there, or leaving the basement open to rest of the house. At this point we had pretty much decided against the house, but wanted to check out the garage, since that was one of the selling points. The garage had been advertised as “built like a fortress” with gas, telephone, electrical and a stairwell to the storage loft. The electrical was outdated – I think we saw maybe 2 grounded outlets out there, which is bad considering most power tools are grounded. The “stairwell” to the loft was a glorified ladder. I wouldn’t feel comfortable climbing it with anything in my hands, which makes the concept of storing anything in the loft rather difficult. Final impressions? Not the house for us; time to continue the search.

Post Tour Opinions #1 – 955 Emerald

Since we toured 4 houses Thursday night, in an effort to keep the posts short and not confuse the houses, each house gets it’s own post. First house in the series; 955 Emerald. From the street, this house doesn’t seem bad. It had a tiny backyard, which means not much mowing. The back stoop is fairly large, as well. The fencing is kind of erractic, or maybe it’s more the landscape; the fencing stays level, but the land dips away towards the corner. I doubt we’d spend much time in the backyard, as it’s small and overlooks the like 5 multi-tenants housing units surrounding it. Ok, so it loses points for the immediate neighborhood. When you first enter from the back door, you can enter the kitchen, or immediately go downstairs. More on the basement later. The kitchen was actually decently sized – a bit monochromatic, but lots of space. Of course, until I got inside the kitchen and gave it a 360. The wall against the staircase to the basement had a bar set up, with a huge mirror. I have never seen a mirror in the kitchen before, and it was kind of weird. Of course, you could rip out the mirror and easily replace the bar with more cupboards, which I suspect we would do. The dining room wasn’t bad – I’m not a fan of carpeting in formal dining rooms, especially red carpet. That could be changed though. The living room wasn’t bad – it had a fireplace, and seemed spacious. The front entrance is obviously not used, as the entryway needs a lot of work. The front bedroom… glows in the dark. And I’m being generous. I have no idea who would possibly think that glowing orange would EVER be a good color to put on the walls of ANYTHING, but someone thought so. We were not impressed. The Master Bedroom is kind of blah – there’s a window in the closet, which is odd. The bathroom isn’t bad – the view from the bathroom window is right into the neighbor’s window, which I don’t like. There is supposedly a bedroom upstairs – the upstairs dormer is SHORT. I would not use that for a bedroom under any circumstance. A kid’s play area, sure, but I would never turn that into a bedroom. The basement is very well maintained, actually. I could see it being remodeled into more living space. The furnace is VERY old, though, and on the way downstairs, we discovered the walls are lath and plaster, and NOT drywall. I don’t think I want to mess with remodeling lath and plaster walls, thanks. So overall, not as bad as the Lurie House, but not for us. I’m not a fan of the neighborhood and lack of yard.

The House Hunt Continues

So, on Thursday Matt and are going to be touring some more houses. Hopefully these houses won’t suck quite as much as the Blue House on Lurie Street. That house was just scary. I’m not sure if we’ll actually be able to see all 4 houses, but these are the 4 we asked to see;

  • 955 Emerald Avenue – This one seems nice. A 3 bedroom, 1 bath house with a proper dining room, a fireplace, and a 2 stall garage. Full basement is good, as well. I’m not terribly impressed with some of their paint or carpet choices, but those can be changed eventually. Plus, the location is decent.
  • 923 Emerald Avenue – This one looks really nice. Again, a 3 bedroom, 1 bath house. No fireplace, but that’s not a deal-breaker. The 2 stall garage is built like a tank, and the huge yard is nice. There’s no real dining area, though. The basement is also listed as a Michigan basement, but I’ve heard many definitions of “Michigan basement.” The washer & dryer are in the basement, so it’s probably not a dirt floor. If it’s just low ceilings, I can handle that.
  • 830 Malta Street – No pictures on this one, which is why I’m so eager to see the inside. 3 bedrooms, 1 bath on the main floor, and another bathroom and an office in the basement. 2 stall garage is attached via a breezeway, which is nice. It lists a “dining area”, so I’m curious to see how big that is, as well.
  • 727 Harlan Avenue – Again, no pictures of the inside, and I’m really hoping this one isn’t crappy inside, because I want so badly for it to be a nice house. 3 bedroom, 2 bath, fireplace on the main floor, a proper dining room, 2 stall attached garage, enclosed porch and a fenced back yard. I worry slightly about the description of a “Country Kitchen” though. Of the 4 houses, this one is my favorite by description alone; obviously things can change when we actually see the interiors.

So that’s the breakdown of houses we plan to tour on Thursday – expect an update with pictures sometime after Thursday night.

Fleabag Rat-Trap

So today we toured the “Blue House” on Lurie Street. Or, as Faith so aptly named it, the “Fleabag Rat-Trap.” At the time, we were curious to see inside, because hey, it couldn’t be that bad, could it? Could it? Oh, it could. Trust me, it could. We have photos. First, the positives: there’s a nice chandelier in the breezeway, and this really nice tree in the back yard. Yeah, it’s a short list. As for the negatives….well, let’s see. The 1+ inch of water in the basement? The fact that the living room really WAS the nicest part of the house? The ghetto doors in the garage? The water damage on the ceiling of one of the bedrooms? The crap all over the carpet in the back hallway? Need I go on? Trust me, the photos speak for themselves. Very loudly. They say “Get the hell out of this house!” I’m pretty sure this house is well past the handyman special it advertises itself as, and well into the “purify with fire” level of squalor. Images are below; click the thumbnails to get the full horror.

Continue reading “Fleabag Rat-Trap”

Let the House Hunt commence!

So, Matt & are looking at houses. Mom thinks we should stay in an apartment for a year or two, and save up money until we have enough of a down payment that we don’t need PMI . However, staying in an apartment long enough to bank a 20% down payment (around $20,000) means staying in an apartment for a LOT longer than I care to. Plus, the entire time we’re saving the down payment, we’ll still be flushing $600 a month down the toilet in rent payments. Honestly, I’d rather start putting equity in a house and deal with the PMI, rather than deal with an apartment’s lack of space and waste money on rent payments. As an added bonus, apparently now it’s a buyer’s market here in Grand Rapids. So, what do we want in a house? We’re not rich, so we’re hoping to pay between $90K and $110K – that should hopefully keep our monthly payments at about $700 a month. I specifically do NOT want a split-level/raised ranch. I just hate that style. I want a decent sized kitchen; decent sized is rather subjective, so I want more space than I have currently in my apartment. I want counter space, and a closet or pantry nearby for storage. We’d prefer 1.5 baths; 1 bath is acceptable if it’s a one-story, but at least 1.5 is preferable for more than one-story. 2 bedrooms is a minimum; 3 bedroom or 2 bedroom and an office would be a bonus. I want an actual dining room; not just a “breakfast nook” or “dining area.” Someplace where we can fit a table with up to 7 or 8 people around it. We’d also like it relatively close to work – I’d prefer east of Division, but we can make exceptions. High-speed internet access availability is a must, be it cable or DSL; we are geeks, after all. This being Michigan, I’d also want a 2 stall garage, so my car doesn’t have to suffer outside in the snow. An attached garage would be great, but unattached is ok so long as it’s not a hike from the house to the garage. Washer/dryer hookups are a must – I’m sick of dropping $2.50 a load to wash and dry. A dishwasher would be great, as well. So, we broke it down into two lists; must-haves and bonuses.

Must Have

  • $90K to $110K price tag
  • 2 bedrooms
  • decent sized kitchen & bath(s)
  • dining room (not just a “nook”)
  • washer/dryer hookups
  • high speed internet available
  • garage
  • up-to-date electrical & plumbing
  • decent neighborhood
  • <30 minute work commute
  • decent closet space
  • full basement
Bonus

  • dishwasher
  • 2 stall garage
  • main floor laundry
  • A/C (or A/C ready)
  • 3rd bedroom or office
  • bike trail nearby
  • easy highway access

Does anyone else have any thoughts on the matter? Things we should consider?