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Adventures in House Hunting

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Adventures in House Hunting - Tree Lined Suburbia Street

I’m proud to announce I have a new obsession to keep me busy now that the wedding and honeymoon are over: Mr. BFT and I are house hunting!

Now that Mr. BFT has had steady employment for three years, we are getting a little cocky and think we can maybe afford to buy a house.  
In Los Angeles.  Where houses are not affordable.  
You see, I grew up in Los Angeles and knew that I, alone, could never afford to buy a home. And I also knew that, much like my hero Mary Richards, I would never get married.  So I never saved for a down payment, resigning myself to studio apartment life forever.  Mr. BFT grew up in Rhode Island where houses cost a nickle (I’m estimating).  So he has been saving since college.  Saving and saving and saving.  And in 15 years that savings account has grown to a significant amount.  If we lived in Kansas would could buy a home outright.  Instead, we live in California and barely have a 20% down payment.  So, yeah, basically my husband is buying a house and I’m gonna live there, too.  I’m extremely lucky.
We’re trying not to get ahead of ourselves, but if all goes well for the rest of 2013, we’ll have steady income coming in and it seems like the perfect time to start looking at real estate.  Last week we went to our bank and got pre-qualified, and this past weekend we went on our first open house spree.  As an avid House Hunters watcher for the last 10 years, I’ve been dreaming of this moment.  I couldn’t wait to criticize.

And criticize I did.

I suppose it’s unrealistic to expect to find the perfect home on your first try, much like finding the perfect wedding gown.  But I didn’t expect to totally hate everything.

We looked at seven homes.  Some were under our budget, some were way above.  Some were in ideal locations, others were way outside.  The ones that were in the ideal locations were generally also the ones way above our budget.  Funny how that works.

So here it is: Our first attempt at finding our Budget Fairy Tale home!

House #1 – Burbank – Outdated Fixer

Adventures in House Hunting

The first house we looked at was in Burbank on the border of North Hollywood.  It was the lowest priced of all the properties we looked at, and it was also the smallest, at 2 bedrooms, 1 bath.  When we walked in, the Realtor greeted us, along with the stench of cat urine.  Sure enough, there were two calicoes roaming around.  Playing with them was the highlight of the visit.  The space was tiny and would need a lot of updating.  (Like, a lot, a lot.)

House #2 – Burbank – Cramped Cottage

Adventures in House Hunting

This house was in a nicer location and was recently remodeled, but still felt tiny.  Also, the windows in the living area looked out directly onto the neighbor’s RV parked in their driveway.  You could reach out and touch it.  The backyard had a good mix of patio and grass.  We liked the backyard better than the house.

House #3 – Burbank – Perfect Space, Wrong Location

Adventures in House Hunting

The next house we saw was again on a dumpy looking street.  The houses on either side were run down, although the house for sale was very well maintained.  Everything was recently remodeled and the 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms were laid out perfectly, including a very nice master wing with a walk-in closet and spa bathroom.  I also noticed a few pieces of memorabilia belonging to the current owners.  They both work(ed) for Disney!  This was for 25 years of service at Disneyland.

Adventures in House Hunting

The living space had french doors out to the backyard patio – where you could hear the neighbor’s kids playing in their pool.  LOUDLY.  I get that people have kids and you’re going to hear noise from your backyard but it was a huge turnoff.  Oh, and the home is airport adjacent.  As we were leaving, a plane was taking off overhead and it was so low you could see the exhaust trail.

House #4 – Studio City – Hillside Privacy

Adventures in House Hunting

Out of all the homes we mapped out to see, this was the one I was looking forward to the most.  It’s steps from Ventura Blvd, it’s in our desired neighborhood, and it seemed to have all the space we want.  It’s also way above our budget comfort zone and I was worried about falling in love with it.  Well, I didn’t have to worry so much.  The house itself is great – two bedrooms, a den that would be great as a guest room, and a separate office space in the backyard!  The downside is accessing the house.  It’s up a steep hill – bad for walking.  Then the front door itself is up three flights of Spanish style steps – made of clay, un-uniformly shaped, and no handrail.  Knowing how clumsy I am, I could immediately see myself falling down those steps at least once a month.  And the two car garage is street level with no home access, so the stairs are the only way in and out.  In the 0.0000001% change we have children, I couldn’t imagine carrying a baby, diaper bag, stroller, car seat, etc etc etc, up and down those stairs every day.

Adventures in House Hunting

The backyard has a ton of possibilities and I loved the little office space.  I was mentally redecorating and imagining how I would set up for all my businesses.  But one downside was no grass.  There was a big dirt hill but it would take some major work to make it usable for a garden.  Cie la vie, this wasn’t the property for us.

House #5 – Studio City – Three Bedroom Condo with a View

Adventures in House Hunting

This condo was in a great location and was laid out very nicely.  It was on the top floor so all the windows had views of the Hollywood Hills.  But it had zero outdoor space and was right next to an Elementary school.  Super great if we ever have kids, but for now all we care about is the noise.

House #6 – Studio City – Modern Two Bedroom Condo with Too Much Unusable Space

Adventures in House Hunting

On the same street as #5, this condo was updated and decorated like a swanky bachelor pad.  The owner had recently added surround sound and iPod docks into the walls (which made me wonder what happens in four years when iPods change their shape).  Everything was sleek and modern.  But, the two bedrooms were way too big.  I know that sounds like a non-problem, but when you’re looking for four bedrooms and instead you have two bedrooms in a space that could easily fit four, it’s frustrating.  Also, a teeny patio with a view of the apartment building next door.

House #7 – Sherman Oaks – Tiny Apartment-like Condo

Our last viewing of the day was on a crowded street where it was very difficult to find parking.  I should have just given up and driven home, because viewing this condo was a waste of time.  I didn’t even bother taking a picture!  The building felt like an apartment, and while it had a nice pool there was no private outdoor space.  Also, it had four bathrooms, which is two more than I’m willing to clean.

After the hunt, we went to dinner and discussed everything we liked and didn’t like.  We know we have a huge challenge ahead of us – to find that diamond in the rough that will make us both happy.  It’s so interesting and terrifying to think about what lies ahead of us.  Our next step is to interview and choose a Realtor to represent us.  We have a lot of recommendations from friends, we just have to find someone suited for us.

What do you think of the homes we looked at?

About Mindy

Mindy Marzec is a life-long Disney fan who grew up in Los Angeles. She started This Fairy Tale Life to share Disneyland travel tips for adults. When not at Disneyland, you can find Mindy at home snuggling with her cats and re-watching Thor: Ragnarok for the billionth time.