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House Hunters: Prepster Edition (Houses We Looked At)

So I’m totally stealing this idea from Kelly! Mitch and Kelly were in the home buying process at the exact same time that Mike and I were. It was beyond helpful to have friends to text with, commiserate with, and share exciting moments with who were in the exact same process. There were ups and downs (as there always is!) for everyone and it was just very comforting to know we weren’t alone.

My enthusiasm for the house hunting process ebbed and followed from January through May. In January, after Mike and I both agreed it was the right time, I was loving it. There were fun weekends spent touring homes we really liked and frustrating days where every house was uninspiring. By the time May rolled around, we were under contract for the house we ended up buying, but things were not looking good (so many issues) so I started to go to open houses again “just in case.” Honestly, it was so touch and go that we would have put in an offer at another house and rescinded the contract if we found something that we loved just as much if not more. We didn’t end up finding anything else and the house all worked out in the end (🙌🏻). I was honestly very relieved to delete the house apps from my phone!!

Taking a note out of Kelly’s book, I’m sharing three of the houses we seriously considered. Kind of a like a long lost episode of House Hunters that was left on the cutting room floor, ha.

Before we get into the listings… Here are some of the things we definitely wanted:

– We were mainly looking in the towns Chatham and Madison. We were considering houses in Morristown (where Mike grew up) or Summit, but only if they were “perfect.” Chatham and Madison are kind of in this “sweet spot” price and taxes-wise while still being an easy commute into the city. Chatham and Madison both have cute downtowns with great schools, making them both pretty competitive markets. Summit is closer to the city with a direct line to NYC, but way way way higher prices/taxes because of that. Morristown is further away, so you can get more bang for your buck in terms of houses but the schools aren’t as great and the commute is significantly longer.

– We wanted to be able to walk to town. This was slightly more important for Mike than it was for me, but I was still very eager to be able to walk to town. (And now that we can, I can say that Mike was 100% right to push for this. It’s so fun and convenient.)

– If it wasn’t going to be a forever home (ours is sadly likely not if/when there is more than one kid in the mix), we wanted to ensure great resale value as best that we could.

– We wanted a neighborhood feel with a quiet street and lots of single-family homes.

– Our threshold for the numbers was at least three bedrooms and two full bathrooms.

– We also knew we’d be hosting people for low key dinners and parties and wanted great entertaining space

– We had a ceiling price for a house that was move-in ready and wouldn’t anything beyond new paint colors and a floor price for a “project.” (Although I was leaning way away from a project as it is not my forté…..) And I had a price in mind that I was really hoping to stay under as it would allow us some customization but the bulk of the house would be just right.

   A Great Story & Lots of Character

Once the original junior clubhouse for the Morris County Golf Club, this home has a lot of character. From the unique layout to the “original” cleat marks on the hardwood floor. This house really spoke to me. I was equal parts intrigued as I was overwhelmed walking through it. I felt like it had so much potential and some of the quirks of the house just couldn’t be replicated anywhere else. For starters, Mike and I were obsessed with the giant great room on the second floor. But it was also very evident that the house was going to need a lot of work. As I walked through it, I had a list of things in my head: I’d want to take this and that wall down, the yard needs a complete workup, the basement was entirely unfinished, almost all of the bathrooms needed updating, the washer and dryer were in the middle of the kitchen, etc.

Pros:

– The story behind the house was so cool

– There seemed to be a lot of potential to make it ours while staying true to the bones of the house

– Lots of yard space to work with

– Walking distance from a train station

– Plenty of rooms and space for what we wanted

Cons:

– We didn’t love the neighborhood and there is a big complex petitioning to go up just down the street

– It was the highest-priced/best house on the street by far while still needing a lot of work (there is a 100% tangerine orange bathroom– floors, tiling, toilet, counters– on the second floor)

– Some layout issues that I’m not sure we could workaround (like a strange hallway and powder room placement)

– It was lacking in natural light due to the location of windows

Potential “Forever Home”

This was one of the first houses we saw I think. It definitely was the first day of official house hunting. I loved the outside from the listing but was not interested at all in seeing it because I thought it was going to need a ton of work, and I didn’t want to undertake it. Mike convinced me to go see it and I don’t know what happened to me, but the second I walked in, I loved it. Yes, it was very dated in some parts and it was, without a doubt, going to need a lot of love, but I LOVED the bones. It was so interesting and had three floors of unique rooms.

Pros:

– Super close to the Chatham train station + good schools

– Recently renovated kitchen, powder room, and mudroom (with laundry)

– Recently renovated master bath

– Tons of rooms!!!! A lot of the rooms were small, but I was dreaming of converting some into closets, a library, a bunk room, etc.

– A gorgeous living room that shared a stone fireplace with an enclosed sunroom

– The backyard was insane: a great screened-in porch, a beautiful patio, a pool, and still plenty of yard space

Cons:

– No driveway

– While there were some recent renovations (kitchen + bathrooms), I feared they were “flip quality” (i.e. looks nice, but actually pretty cheaply done) since someone had bought the house recently and was trying to resell

– Every room needed some kind of work (almost every piece of flooring, new walls, new closets, windows were broken, etc.)

– It was the second-best house in the entire neighborhood and directly across the street from a racquet club + pool so I was worried about traffic/noise

– I felt like it was overpriced for the neighborhood and state of the house all things considered. I thought the seller had originally purchased it for too high of a price, did a few reno jobs, and tried to flip it too high (since they purchased too high in the first place). Honestly, if it had been priced better, I could have seen this being a forever home and then we would have been extra inclined to invest love (energy, time, and money ha) over the next five years to make it perfect

The Move-In Ready House

I fell in love with this house. The sellers had renovated the home when they bought it for their own use (i.e. it wasn’t a flip). Everything was BEAUTIFUL and so thoughtfully designed. I went and saw it three times I just loved it that much… I was just waiting for the price to drop to normal market value. (Looking back though, I’m glad the price was so high for so long because we probably would have purchased it and then we would have missed out on our house!)

Pros:

– Truly, this was as move-in ready as it gets. Maybe I would have repainted the inside, but that was it!

– Great curb appeal!!! As I was looking at houses, a big thing for me was knowing that most things inside can be tweaked and changed. I could see past terrible carpet and weird wallpaper or even a bad kitchen that could be renovated. But curb appeal is a tougher thing to redo! This house was just so stinking cute

– Huge master bedroom with two closets and a massive bathroom. Plus a great guest suite on the third floor. I think they had taken a three-bedroom house originally and combined two of the rooms on the second floor to make a master suite and finished the attic to make it three bedrooms again.

– It had a well-laid out gourmet kitchen. Not huge, but a great space for entertaining

– A good-sized backyard that would be great for dog playing and entertaining

– Close-ish to town. The walk to the train was about 12 minutes which was close enough to keep it in the mix

Cons:

– Insanely overpriced. While I’m not an expert homebuyer, I knew the price tag on this at least $200,000 over market value. It sat on the market for a while and then ultimately the owners started bringing the price down slowly over time.

– Didn’t completely love the neighborhood (it was a little bit of a through street)  and it was in the nicer 5% of homes on the block and the block behind it

– The first floor was short on entertaining space. It had a small dining room (that also served as the entryway to the front door) that opened up to a small family room which opened up to the kitchen… and that was it. Felt more like a condo layout on the first floor! The bedrooms disproportionately took up square footage compared to usable living space.

– The basement was technically finished but had super short ceilings (like you could do stretches or lifting on a bench, but not tall enough to stretch your hands above your head or even put in a treadmill)

The best of both worlds

As you know, we bought a completely different house. We had a contract five days after it was listed and we definitely got the best of everything we wanted. Walkable to town in the world’s cutest neighborhood. (We LOVE our neighbors!!!!) It was built in 1935 so it has the character of an older home while still having completely modern touches in the bathrooms and kitchen (which we, thank god, did not have to do). The bedrooms are nice but don’t take up too much square footage– instead, we have such great entertaining space on the first floor with a dining room, living room, family room, and open concept kitchen. Seeing all the other homes and going through the hunt process definitely allowed us to figure out what we liked and didn’t like. And, while it was totally stressful at times, everything worked out just like they were supposed to!

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13 Comments

Emma

I loved this post, Carly! That second house is amazing- the sunroom and screened in porch look amazing. Maybe an unpopular opinion, but I would not want to buy a house with a pool! My parents built a pool in our backyard when I was a kid and they maintain it themselves, which is so much work! And I was always jealous of kids who had memberships to the local pool haha!

I’m loving all of this home-related content, keep it coming!

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Christie

I love posts like these! I’m so far away from being able to buy a house but I love to live vicariously through others. My cousins grew up nearby in Rockaway. If Mike was a runner or did karate he might know them. Gotta love a small world. That’s such a nice area of Jersey, and I’m glad you got a house that you love!

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Rebecca Bullard

As someone renovating a townhouse in the DC burbs while putting out feelers for a “forever home”… this is quality content that I am HERE FOR.

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Kayla

As a total HGTV junkie I love this post! I’ve been on the hunt for a new apartment in NYC and definitely want to do a similar post when I finally find my new place

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Kat

Hey now! Morristown schools are amazing!! Don’t get caught up in the sketchy rankings and (quite frankly racist) chatter!

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Hillary

Love this idea for a post! It’s so fun to see what homes look like in other parts of the country; we just bought a house in DFW

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