It’s been a whirlwind week for us, dear readers. We’ve seen another house, just one, and it took us to a place where we thought we might be moving forward with something. The overall lesson of this post is that we need to be 100% happy with whatever home we choose, and here comes a perfect example that helped set our priorities straight.
I present to you, Exhibit A:
This house came on the market last week on a Friday. It’s a 4 bedroom “2” bathroom (I’ll get to this in a moment) home on Preston, on King Street just past ghetto Zehrs. It’s listed at $249,800, and it looks like this inside:
It’s bee-oo-tiful. Look how pretty! This was what we saw, plus a very attractive price, and we wanted to see it in person. Dawn couldn’t get us in until Monday afternoon, so we patiently waited all weekend to go in a check it out. We were concerned about WHY the price was so cheap for a 4 bedroom family home, that looked so good in the pictures.
You may be asking yourself, “where is the kitchen picture? Kitchens sell houses, dontcha know.” Bingo! While we were waiting to see it in person, we also had Dawn ask the sellers what’s up with no kitchen picture? If you have a keen set of eyes, you may have noticed that there’s a black fridge sitting in the corner of the dining room, and a doorway to what appears to be a kitchen. Can’t fit their fridge in the kitchen? That seems like a problem. We asked Dawn to confirm the kitchen situation, and also some concerns about the train track that runs directly behind the house. We were disappointed by a train before, and we didn’t want it to happen again.
The answer from the listing agent wasn’t terrible. He admitted that the kitchen was tiny (he even used that word), but said that the train only goes by once or twice a day, and the sellers have never really noticed it. Realtors lies? Perhaps. We still wanted to get in and see it.
The house showed beautifully, and we were certainly interested. I was concerned that a 4 bedroom home would be too big for us, but it didn’t feel overwhelming at all, and I could picture us in it. The kitchen was a big let-down, but we knew it would be. The exact dimensions on the kitchen are 7’9″ x 6’7″. That’s awful. That is why they couldn’t fit their fridge in there. But on a positive note, their teensy weensy kitchen has more counter space than our current rental place. I saw the kitchen as something you would live with for a year or so until you decided how you wanted to reconfigure it. NO ONE would live in this house long-term with a kitchen like that. Oh, and that “second” bathroom? A single toilet in a closet sized “room” without a sink.
We spent most of our viewing of the home imagining what could be done to reconfigure the kitchen. The two options we saw were 1) tear down the BRICK, EXTERIOR wall that separates the kitchen from the dining room, and extend the kitchen into part of the dining space (still leaving a generous dining room because that’s very important to us) and 2) leave the brick wall in tact and move the kitchen into the dining room, which must have been how it was once upon a time (and turn what is currently the kitchen into a mud room or laundry room).
If you recall, we had listed out what we were and weren’t willing to do in a house, and a kitchen reno was definitely an OK item for us, since it would allow us to customize and plan for the exact kitchen we really want. After the viewing, we were thinking this could go somewhere.
We chatted with my mom, and Dan called his mom and Al (the construction experts) to see what could be done with a kitchen and a wall that was holding it back. Julia and Al were in the midst of a big load of work, and weren’t able to discuss anything in detail over the phone, so we thought it would be best to book a second viewing and invite them along. In speaking with my mom, she suggested asking my uncle Simon, a former home inspector, to come see it too. So we booked a big old fashioned meet and greet and home viewing for the following night.
When I got home from work that night, Dan was in a tizzy over some information Dawn had sent over just 2 hours before we were scheduled to meet at the house. The home was in the contamination area of a trichloroethylene (TCE) issue from a a few years ago, from some factory that was contaminating the Bishop street area in Preston for 40 years (read articles about it here, here, and here). The factory and the business are gone, but the residents of the area were still dealing with the contamination. There was a Public Health in-depth report about the effects of TCE over long-term exposure, and in a population the size of the Bishop Street neighbourhood, over a 40 year exposure, 1 or 2 cases of cancer may be attributable to TCE. Dan was having a full-on panic, and thinking we should cancel the viewing the forget about the whole thing. With only 2 hours to process this news and read up about it, I thought it would be best to go ahead with the viewing anyway, and look into this more if we were serious about it. It was also getting too late to call off all the troops who were coming to see what could be done with the kitchen.
The crew arrived at the house for 7:30, and we decided not to discuss the TCE issue with everyone to keep the opinions focused on the construction issue only. Simon and Al zipped around the house with flashlights and did their own things, and we were there for another hour going through everything again. In the end, we got two very similar reports about the overall condition of the home, however, they were presented very differently to us.
The findings from both were:
-venting issues with the addition on the back of the house (where the kitchen is)
-pipes in desperate need of replacement in the basement
-asbestos around pipes in the basement
-mold in the attic (the blue room with the skylight, currently used as the master bedroom)
-support posts in the basement that weren’t doing a whole lot and would need to be replaced
Now, those things when taken one at a time aren’t that terrible. And no one said that they all need to be done the second you move in. There is currently a young family with two small children living in the house, and their lives are not in danger. The house is totally liveable just the way it is, but for the long-term good of the house, these issues would need to be addressed.
Now, combine with that, the original kitchen issue – either moving a wall, or moving all your pipes. Totally doable (everything can be done, it’s just a matter of how much it will cost you), but it is not an urgent thing to tackle. BUT, when you combine a $15k-$20k job for the kitchen with a laundry list of things to do to fix up an older home, you get a grand total that just doesn’t sit well with us. PLUS, don’t forget about the TCE issue, which I can assure you, would have Dan losing sleep every night worrying about dying of cancer.
It was a hard “no” to come to, since we really did like the house. We’ve talked about it, and it still wasn’t as good for us as the Myrtle house, which is still #1. I think we were getting to a point where we would settle for something that wasn’t quite right since it’s been so long since we saw a home we liked. We had some good discussions about our home buying process as a result of this home, so it wasn’t a total waste of time.
We’re back to searching again, and we’ve updated our preferred Cambridge areas with Dawn so we can stop receiving automatic updates about anything in the Babcock Wilcox area of town, and now the TCE contamination area too. Dawn is optimistic that more homes will come up on the market now that the weather is getting nicer. We hope so too.