Thursday, August 6, 2009

Our House Hunt, Pt. 1

Hey Bloggy Friends,

Well, I think our journey to finding a home is finally about to end. This process has consumed our lives over the past few months. I haven't talked much about it yet, because I wanted to let it play out before I unleashed the details. This home-buying experience was a first for both of us. It all started in early spring...

(cue fuzzy fade out)

Alan and I usually brushed aside any conversations about purchasing a home, because we were intimidated by the idea of it. Buying a home is a big deal. As certain events began to unfold, however, we started to realize it would be a smart move. First of all, we weren't as pleased with our current apartment as we had thought we'd be. It's a beautiful place, but it's on one of the loudest streets in Center City, there is no convenient place to take the dogs out, and our landlord began to seem rather shady. We would feel much better if we were writing checks each month that, instead of fattening his bank account, would go toward an investment of our own. Then the Obama administration announced the $8K tax incentive for first-time homebuyers. Eight-thousand dollars could put a serious dent in a mortgage loan. This was all we needed to push ourselves to make the first move.

Our lease won't be up until the middle of October, so in May we knew we had plenty of time to scope out the Philadelphia housing scene. At this point we had a vague idea about what we could afford, so instead of narrowing our search by price, we focused on the neighborhoods we were most attracted to. These included Washington Square West, Queen Village and Bella Vista. Besides seeing a few million dollar homes for curiosity's sake, we kept it realistic by only visiting properties that matched a certain criteria.
- At least two bedrooms
- At least 1100 Square Feet
- A Nice, Open Layout/Preferably Bi-Level
- A Patio/Yard Area for the dogs
- A Basement for the cats
- A Quiet Street
- Close Proximity to Public Transportation

We saw several nice places, but after further investigation, we started to realize that in order to live in these neighborhoods we'd have to sacrifice many of the things we wanted in a home - namely size. The only homes we could comfortably afford in these areas were called "trinities." I had never heard this term before, but evidently they are well-known in Philadelphia. Basic trinities are tiny row homes comprised of three small rooms stacked on top of one another. They are connected by a narrow staircase, which claustrophobically winds its way to the top. Patios in these homes are the size of a postage stamp, and if that's not a deal-breaker, the small kitchens are usually crammed into the basement. Also, in our price range these types of homes are typically not updated, so you get the impression you're moving in right after Betsy Ross or Benjamin Franklin. Sound appealing? We didn't think so either. So, after weeks of looking we were forced to set our sight on other locations.

To be continued......

Love, Josh

Here are some of the homes we looked at in these areas:

426 S. CAMAC - This is a little better than most trinities, but still rather small. We believe they are counting the unfinished basement in the square footage estimates. We didn't like it because it felt cramped, stuffy and it was still at the top of our price range.

828 KATER - The location of this place can't be beat, but the house itself was irksome. The kitchen was in the basement, the living room area was poorly situated and the patio was open for all the neighbors to see. Alan hated it.

Stay tuned for more details!


Bill Fogle said...

Fascinating. OK, well I'm staying tuned for Part 2. I lived on Kater Street very briefly after college. Warren Harding was president.

Casey said...

Buying a house can be such an exciting time AND a stressful time. It's so hard to find the right one.

Can't wait to hear more.

Rick Watson said...

Those are cute little homes, but they appear so cramped. I remember the stairway in your coworker Sarah's house (trinity). Very claustrophobic!
Since you'd like an open floorplan... is a loft-like space not an option for you? I'm thinking a nice wide open space with spacer walls, big windows, and at least a nice balcony or outside area. Am I thinking too much $$$$? For me personally I'd rather have a open space like that. Are they affordable? Do you even like that idea?