Bathroom Blues (or, How to Achieve Real Estate Success)

Warning: you probably will NOT achieve real estate success by reading this post.


Sometimes things don’t work out exactly as you plan.

A while ago, we decided to build a house.  We were excited.  We were really excited. We made plans and drew pictures and picked out kitchens.

We got carried away.

The truth is, no matter how good your credit is, it still takes a LOT of cash to build a house.  Once the numbers started to come in, we chickened out.  Big payments, over-budget expenses (all of which have to come out of your own pocket) and down payment woes just added up to a big “we are not ready.”

So after we calmed down a little bit, we decided to buy a house.  I won’t go into the whole excruciating thought process, because that isn’t what this post is about.  Suffice to say we are going to postpone the whole home-building thing for a few years and still have a home of our own.

Of course to buy a house, the first thing you have to do is find a house, and therein lies the difficulty.

The nicest thing I can say about it is that it has been a learning experience.

The first thing I learned was that there is a LOT of manufactured housing in southern West Virginia.  I’m sure some of you are out there saying “no crap,” but it came as a surprise to me.  A lot of lenders will not finance manufactured housing, and, of course, ours won’t.  In our price point, at least half of all the homes on the market are manufactured housing.  So we had a challenge.

I also learned that people think their homes are a lot nicer than I do.

I learned that looking at pictures on the Internet is basically a waste of time.  Stay tuned–more on this later.

The second most important thing I learned is that bathrooms, generally speaking, are small.

We have a huge bathroom.  Our bathroom is as big as some of the bedrooms we have seen.  That’s because it has to accommodate a big wheelchair and an even bigger shower chair.  Now, I know that a house we buy isn’t going to have a wheelchair accessible bathroom.  The second thing we have to do is remodel the bathroom (the first is build a ramp into the house.)  But we have to have enough room to remodel.  There’s only so much you can do with a bathroom the size of smallish closet.

(I’m sure our real estate agent thinks we’re nuts–the first thing we do when we view a house is run in and find the bathroom.  Then she hears, “Look at that! It’s pretty big!” or “You couldn’t wash a cat in here! Is this the only one?” She must think we are some kind of bathroom-obsessed psychos.  But I digress.)

But by far, the most important thing I have learned is that there is a whole other language in the real estate industry, and if you don’t familiarize yourself, you will be in for some big shocks. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • We all know what “handyman special” and “needs a little TLC” mean.  (It means it’s a dump.)  But you may not know to look out for the words “potential” and “possibilities.” Be especially careful when either of these words is preceded by the word “unlimited.” For example, we went to view a home which was listed as having “unlimited possibilities.” This was the ugliest house in the history of the world, ever.  Even better, the smell of cat nearly melted off my eyebrows when we walked through the door.  There was carpet in the kitchen. (I have a deep and utter loathing of carpet.  You have no idea.  But in the kitchen?  Puh-lease!)
  • On a related note, beware of real estate agents.  They are great people, but I think they could possibly rank up there with politicians on the bull-shit-o-meter.  (The agent who actually listed the house is the worst.)  Anyway, in the cat smell house, the agent kept saying things like, “look how much room!” and “that’s wormy chestnut on the wall.”  Both true facts, surely, but still.
  • Forget about pictures.  Forget them.  You might get a rough idea, but ultimately they are useless.  I hate to dwell on the cat smell house, but in the pictures, there is not one view which shows any other homes close by.  But in reality, it is literally surrounded by other homes.  Also, there was no view which showed the front porch. I cannot explain this to you so that can understand.  You climbed the steps on the far left, and the door into the home was on the far right.  The porch itself was about two feet wide.  I am not exaggerating.  It was like a catwalk (get it?) to the front door.  The only word I can think of is weird–which was not, incidentally, a word used in the listing.
  • More about the pictures–the cat smell house had this strange ceiling that we couldn’t figure out in the pictures.  We decided it was that funky pressed tin that you see sometimes on HGTV.  It turned out to be…….wait for it……..particle board.  Do you know what that is?  It’s a big sheet of wood made up of smaller chips of wood that have been compressed together into sheets.  This was throughout the house.  Then, to make it classy, they varnished it, so it was shiny.  I can’t make this stuff up, people.
  • Also beware of the words “charming” (this means small and ugly) and “unique” (this means different, but still ugly.)  The word “cozy” is a nice way of saying that two people won’t be able to fit into the living room together (also, it means ugly.) Worst of all is “country charm.”  This means there is probably an outhouse (probably small, and ugly.)
  • Lastly, people are very generous in their descriptions of square footage and finished basements.  Don’t believe anything until you see it with your own eyes.  Apparently, if you can enter the basement without having to put on hip waders, it is considered finished and adds to the square footage of the home.

So it’s been fun.

I think it would be great to see just one listing that read something like this:

     For Sale: Older three-bedroom, two bathroom home.  Really, it’s just two bedrooms, unless you count the crawl space where the kids like to play as a bedroom.  Also, the second bathroom is the oak tree in the back yard.  Lots of potential, if you have lots of money.  We started to fix a few things, but had to quit when Uncle Jim went in for his sex-change operation.  Mostly everything is okay, although sometimes the lights dim when you flush the toilet, and we’re pretty sure our daughter’s pet rat is still loose somewhere in the house.  The roof leaked for a while, until we sprayed a can of that “Handyman in a Can” stuff on it.  We’ll see next time it rains, I guess.  It’s pretty clean, except for that stain on the living room rug where the dog barfed up what looked like part of a mermaid.  We don’t know what the smell is, but it ought to go away once Springtime comes and you can open the windows.  Lots of charm.  Unlimited possibilities!

Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

So, I’m sure you’re wondering–we did finally find a house.  This is long enough already, so I’ll leave you in suspense.  We are under contract right now, and only time will tell how it all works out.

Wish me luck.

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14 Comments on "Bathroom Blues (or, How to Achieve Real Estate Success)"

  1. Janice
    31/07/2012 at 1:04 pm Permalink

    Wow. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to go house hunting somewhere other than SoCal. I like old home charm, but after your post, I’m seriously having doubts about them. LOL.

    Good luck on the house you’ve finally found. Will we see pics soon? 😉

  2. Janice
    31/07/2012 at 2:54 pm Permalink

    I hope so!

  3. Jen at Mom Rocks Mealtime
    31/07/2012 at 2:28 pm Permalink

    I would love to share with you the BS we went through with our realtor, however we agreed not to discuss this as part of the settlement to our law suit. Let me just say, even if your realtor shows you books he wrote of real estate ethics it does NOT mean he is ethical.

  4. Janice
    31/07/2012 at 2:56 pm Permalink

    Wow! At first I just thought you were being funny by saying that about the law suit, but you were serious.

    We aren’t having that kind of trouble. Just seems like there is a lot of The Ugly around.

  5. narf7
    01/08/2012 at 6:21 am Permalink

    Yeh…you sound like you need a bit of luck after that torturous hunt! We moved into a house and were promptly told that the old owner had an excentric son who kept snakes in the garage. One had apparently escaped and had been living in the roof…cheers guys…it adds a whole new context to “leaving a little gift for the new owners!”…Hopefully the worst is over now for you (we never did find that snake…)

  6. Janice
    01/08/2012 at 8:20 pm Permalink

    Oh boy. I don’t know about that one. I’m not generally afraid of snakes, but I don’t necessarily want one living in my house, if you know what I mean.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are lots of….um…..interesting people in the world.

  7. Kerstin
    01/08/2012 at 7:44 pm Permalink

    I would totally look at a house that has an honest description like the one you made up.
    I work in a building supplies store and have sold lots of houses (or rather the material to build one) and it’s a scary process – I have seen people divorcing over it…
    Good luck with your new house – we bought a house four years ago and will probably stay here another five until we’re ready to build.

  8. Janice
    01/08/2012 at 8:22 pm Permalink

    You’re like the tenth person who has made the remark that people get divorced when they try to build a house together. I can believe it. Just hunting a house is very stressful. You see something you like, and the spouse says, “Meh.” And vice versa. I can imagine having to start from the ground up. It’s one of those things that sounds like fun until you actually get into the heart of it. I’m just glad that, for once in my life, I actually had the foresight to see that I was about to get in over my head before I actually did get in over my head.

  9. jamie
    01/08/2012 at 9:41 pm Permalink

    Getting a house. Like finally! This is must very exciting 😉

  10. Dawn Beronilla
    02/08/2012 at 4:41 pm Permalink

    Oh I really enjoyed this post!
    Of course I’m not thrilled that it was stressful for you, but man oh man your descriptions made me laugh!
    We are also trying to decide if we want to build our next home or buy an older one and renovate it. I am thinking our choices are a little more broad where we are, but you can believe that I will take your advice to heart.
    Great post!

  11. Michael
    02/08/2012 at 8:21 pm Permalink

    Oh man, house hunting can be painful. I don’t envy you at all. And everything you learned is dead on.

    Good luck!

    Michael A. Walker
    Defying Procrastination

  12. Melissa
    04/08/2012 at 5:57 pm Permalink

    We were looking for a house because we’re sick of renting. After about five months, we signed another year lease on our rental. ‘Nuff said for now.

  13. Janice
    04/08/2012 at 8:45 pm Permalink

    I hear ya. But the sad thing is, around here there isn’t anything to rent either!

  14. Jenny
    17/08/2012 at 1:25 pm Permalink

    That’s so true! Real estate agents can be so crazy sometimes, and they can give politicians a run for their money (and I’m sure both teams would love to compete!).

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