Thursday, February 11, 2010

Did We Listen to You?

Dear Homeowners,

So, did we take your advice?  Will we rent a place in Boston before we buy?  Or will we just jump in and buy a house?

You'll be happy to know that we've decided to rent.  Part of our decision is based on your advice, with the rest being decided by the market.

You know what was for sale in Natick?  I saw this house listed for sale.  Then I saw it listed as a rental on Craigslist, so we took a look.  We discovered a tiny 3-BR Cape Cod.  Well, let's back up and look at the outside.  The garage fit exactly one car, had an enormous hole in the roof, and was filled with junk.  The siding was dinged and coming off in places.

The floors of the living area on the first floor?  Gorgeous--the wood had been refinished, and they were beautifully done.  The first floor also had a wood stove that would've been nice.

That's about it for the nice bits.  The small master bedroom had one lovely wall of panelling.  Closets were small (a given, since it was an old house).  The one bathroom had been redone, but it was definitely a cheap-looking redo.  Kitchen?  Whoa.  It needed work.  It was nice that it came with an oven range, but I don't know why the owners left the wall holes from the previous double oven.  And the refrigerator was classic 80s as well, with cracked handles.  We could've kept it, the landlord said, and inferred that if we wanted a new one, we could buy it.  Yeah.  The rest of the kitchen was old and grungy.  And small.  I think this house was under 900 sq. ft.

The upstairs?  Well, the roof pitched so steeply that the Boy fit in about 1/4 of the space in either of the two bedrooms.  Even I had trouble fitting in a good chunk of the rooms.

The basement?  Equally as short.  I even hit my head on the way downstairs.  The Boy could only stand up straight if he was between the rafters, and even then he almost lost an eye on a hook that was sticking out of one of them.  The gas dryer seemed all right, though who knows if it worked.

We had to pass on renting it, so I can't remember the rental rate right now.  The asking price on a sale?  $289,000.  Yeah.  Almost THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS on a house that needed probably close to $50,000 worth of work put in it.  Who's got that kind of money?  Especially for a house that clearly looks like a starter house (or if this is a step-up because it has 3 bedrooms, I'd hate to see what smaller houses go for).  How could you find someone who's willing to buy it after you've fixed it up?

I don't quite understand it, but whatever.  We're back to renting, which is also proving to be a bit of a chore.  I never realized that the most important thing we're looking for in an apartment after the number of bedrooms and cost of rent is one where my husband can stand upright.  Seriously!

So we're looking onward.  Maybe at some different suburbs.  And we're trying not to get discouraged.  We'd originally thought that if we found a really great place, we'd be willing to pay double rent for a month, but we've since discovered that we're probably going to have to pay first and last month's rent, and a broker fee and, quite possibly, a washer and dryer.  For some reason, a lot of apartments we've seen just have hook-ups.

I suppose this is an East Coast thing we have to learn, but it hasn't been the most fun process yet.  Still, I hope that we'll have a decent place, and maybe in a year we'll revisit the house-buying thing again.

Thanks for all your advice--it's been helpful!
Your pal,


  1. Re: apartments, are you just looking at "house" apts., e.g., two- and three-flats, etc.? Or are you looking at complexes as well? (Or maybe there aren't any complexes where you're looking?) I would think you'd get regular ordinary ceiling height in a complex, as opposed to a converted old house.

    Apologies if I already asked you this the other night. I was drinking. :-)

  2. We did look at a few complexes in Natick. They all seemed 1980s/early 90s, and technically, the Boy did fit into them, but they were pretty low ceilings (like a 4+1 building in Chicago) and/or dark. Doable if we had to. The one I looked at in Waltham was taller--it was a Hawthorne House-esque complex that was nice, but ~$1800 for a 1 BR (maybe with den...I can't remember) + some utilities + trash. Yep! Trash payments!

  3. Good Luck! I remember the culture shock when we moved to AZ from WI. In WI it was common to find a new place 30+ days prior to when you needed it, but in AZ, when you find it - you rented it almost every time. We ended up renting a place sight unseen bc we couldn't afford double rent payments for an entire month. Housing was one of the reasons we didn't make the move to Boston last spring -- our house in AZ (we bought after leaving here 18 mths) couldn't sell for what we owed, and we didn't know how to begin to afford housing big enough for our family there.