We’ve been house-sniffing. What I mean by that is, we’re doing something less purposeful and deliberate than actual ‘house-hunting’. We know we need more space and have begun sniffing out what’s available in the area.
The lovely old place that we bought over a year ago is feeling a little tight upstairs, with two small bedrooms complete with slanted ceilings, tiny recessed dormers, and a grand total of two mini closets for the entire house. Now that we’ve added a fourth member to the family, we’re discovering that room-sharing between a toddler and an infant is not as easy as anticipated. When one cries, the other wakes up, and all chaos breaks loose. Not my idea of a fun time, especially at 2 a.m.
So, back to the house-sniffing. This, of course, is a word of my own creation to describe the process. I explore MLS till I feel as if I know the local listings by heart and compile a list of the most likely candidates, based on my list of must-have criteria. Then I pack the kids into the car and do drive-by assessments.
It goes down like this: Get address, drive to house, pull up in front, grab notepad, make notes to self as I examine every possible aspect from my limited vantage point, take off before someone thinks I’m a creepy stalker or something. Kids love it. The Baby Einstein CD is booming; the sun is shining; I’m passing unlimited snacks to the back seat. Life doesn’t get much better than that. It’s beneficial to me, too. I can’t tell you how many pointless viewings and unnecessary babysitting arrangements I’ve saved us by doing my drive-by assessments.
You see, a lot can be discovered about a house from its exterior. One of the points I listed in my “Reflections on a Quarter Century” post is that, most times, “you can judge a book by its cover” and this applies to houses. These are my preferred criteria, though I’m realistic that not all can be satisfied within our budget.
1. There absolutely must be trees – big is preferable, medium is nice, small can work, but many of the new houses with no trees whatsoever on the entire property are an immediate write-off for me. A house might have a gorgeous kitchen with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, but if there are no trees, I refuse to pursue it any further. Nasty kitchens can be redone. A well-treed yard takes years.
2. The lot has to be large enough to allow for play. I’m astonished at how many houses have postage-stamp-sized lots, with barely enough space for a strip of lawn on all sides of the house. Where does one go to play with kids? I can’t always get in the car to drive to the park, nor should I have to. My house must have a natural environment that is conducive to outdoor play.
3. Privacy goes hand-in-hand with the above-mentioned points. If there is space and greenery, the house will feel more private than if it’s squeezed, sardine-like, up against another. As someone who hates having curtains pulled, I don’t want worry about people spying on me getting dressed.
4. There must be general architectural appeal. I’m a bit picky here, being the daughter of a timber-framer who is quite obsessed with design.
I don’t like gigantic garage doors that jut out front. As the first thing you see when you look at many new houses, they appear too big, too bland, too imposing, too unwelcoming for my liking. Garage doors belong on the side, where you can’t see them. Or not at all – I don’t care about garages at all, though my husband disagrees and says it’s a guy thing.
I don’t like houses with mixed types of siding – brick, vinyl, stone, wood, all slapped on like some kind of bad building experiment. Consistency always looks better, in my opinion, and if you can only afford stone on the front, then buy something cheaper that can go all over.
I don’t like front doors that are not prominently placed. Front porches must be usable – wide and comfortable and out front, not recessed behind a garage’s looming shadow.
Of course, all these criteria make it a little difficult to find a house in this town that’s exploding with new house developments. I obviously gravitate to the old, well-aged and well-preserved variety of homes, but those are relatively few and far between.
I’ll keep sniffing.