Last week Mike and I spent two hours in an IRS office making sure our tax issues were fixed. Out of the two hours we spent there, three minutes were spent actually accomplishing anything. The rest of the time, we sat in the hot waiting room while I slowly lost my mind. Yaaaay government!
Now that our tax stuff IS all squared away, we can start looking for houses again. Our sweet corner house was snatched up immediately, so it’s back to square one. Honestly, as much as we want and need to move, it’s been really hard to get excited about looking for a house again. It’s like dating after a break up…I don’t wanna get hurt again! So we’re easing back into the market slowly.
We spent some time this past weekend dipping our toe back into the house pool. Luckily for us, Annie thought looking at houses was the GREATEST! THING! EVER! Whenever we walked into a house she gasped and went “WOW!” Realtors thought she was hilarious. Then she ran around going, “whoa, whoa, wow!” every time she found a new room. The kid was so excited I’m pretty sure the realtors expected her to make an offer at any moment. She definitely made me less-grumpy about house hunting again.
The advantage to having looked for houses since the dawn of time is that we know exactly what we want. The problem is finding what we want in the same house. Mike really likes houses with awesome curb appeal and amazing outdoor space. I like those things too, but I prefer a house that is turn-key on the inside. I am willing to do work on the outside of a house if the inside is great. Mike is the opposite.
We saw some houses this weekend that had jaw-dropping insides – totally tricked out and updated. And we saw some that had yards that made you feel like you’d stepped onto a tropical island – a vacation in the back yard. But we didn’t see a house in our price range that had both. And with the exception of the corner house, we haven’t ever seen a house with both. And we don’t expect to, unless we win the lottery…which is kind of hard to do when you never buy a ticket.
So, now we are trying to make the decision about what is best for our family – a great interior for our family to relax and expand in, or an awesome backyard to run around and play in. There are pros and cons to each, so I told Mike I was going to ask all of you for advice. It’s a huge purchase (obviously) so we need all the opinions we can get!
Walkingborder (Karen) says:
I’d go with a happily livable inside and a doable outside. Redoing the inside with a toddler? PITA. Planting flowers with a toddler? Excuse for everyone to get messy. Granted, you want to be sure the outside has enough space and at least grass, but other than that, you can improve it on your own without total chaos for/from the kiddo. (She is better off “helping” with a kid shovel than a paintbrush or a hammer.)
Completely agree with karen. You aren’t going to be sleeping, cooking (well, all meals – can’t grill breakfast!), or going to the bathroom outside (unless you decide to go diaperless to potty train annie!) I think giving the outside curb appeal is much easier than sprucing up the inside!
Wow, I really like exclamation points
This is just what I was coming over to say. Way less expensive to redo the outside vs inside and you can do it at your own pace.
I was going to say what Karen said. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper and easier to redo the outside of a house than the inside! Go with a great interior and fix up the exterior when you can. Even hiring a landscape designer and someone else to do the work will be a lot cheaper than a new kitchen…
Anthony from CharismaticKid says:
It’s a good question. But i think the answer is compromise and potential. Realize that nothing is ever perfect… even that house on the corner wasn’t perfect. And find something that has potential to grow. If the backyard isn’t ‘all that’ just yet, then at least make sure its big and can maybe hold a pool or something else you may want so in the future you can update it when the time comes.
Yes I agree with this. We actually bought a house that was livable as in not having to do any big redoing ie roof/foundation etc… we also liked the inside and it was moving in ready. We did fix some electric and plumbing stuff and now each year we are fixing a room or two along with sprucing the 1 acre we have. It’s a lot of fun
Karen wins the internet.
I think that making changes and updates to a house can be expensive, but it is much more expensive on the inside than it is on the outside. And after you make a big house purchase, you don’t want to have to spend a lot more money (and time and frustration) tearing down walls or remodeling bathrooms.
I personally think it is easier to spiff up an outside space. I would concentrate more on finding an inside space that really works for your needs, but at least has a yard with potential. Then you can sit back in your cozy house and watch out the window while Mike does landscaping with no shirt on. Yes?
Erin W says:
I second that!
I would get all the essentials you want on the inside first, but make sure the yard has enough room for the curb appeal Mike wants.
So I guess I am saying….get almost everything you want in main living space and maybe a basement with area to finish exactly the way you want in the future.
A backyard is so very important for families so you may not find something curb appeal for Mike’s tastes but if it is big enough he can make it exactly what he wants!!
We were also going through buying our first home around the time you were going for the sweet corner house. We had to jump through a TON and I do mean a TON of hoops before we finally secured our financing , closed, and moved into our home May 20th.
That being said our home has almost everything I wanted in the main living space with a full basement that we can finish exactly how we want it plus the outside had such pretty curb appeal and was exactly what we wanted as well….we got so very lucky to get an almost perfect house in our price range.
Basements are a rare find here in California. As a general rule homes are built on concrete slabs. That’s so when the ground moves one way…the house and slab go with it.
Totally spaced out on the Earthquake factor and basements…..yup I would def get what you want and need inside with a doable fixable outside for Mike to fuss with!
When I was househunting for the first time I looked at 78 properties.
That was about 10 years ago, and now, because of the breakdown of my marriage I have been in a rental again for the last 6. B and I have talked about house buying and have already decided that when the time comes, I’m having first veto (because I’m very picky) and I’ll short list it before he comes along.
MS and lots of house walking just don’t mix and I’d likely drive him bats by the 5th or 6th house.
Make sure the inside is comfortable and ready because honestly, the interior stuff (electrical, plumbing, new kitchens and bathrooms) is more expensive to improve (mostly) than the yard.
You need a yard large enough for Annie to play and run and that can still be improved for curb appeal.
Mrs. Cookie says:
I agree with the others. Interior improvements are more expensive to make and also will be more stressful with a little one. Think about it: If you have to update a kitchen or a bath, you face a huge mess and a lot of noise, both things that do not go well with small children. And I second the sitting inside and watching Mike landscape shirtless.
I totally agree with the others! A year and a half ago we bought our first house. Not perfect but even better than livable on the inside, but outside was a disaster. It has been wonderful to redo the landscaping ourselves, just the way we want it, and to be able to go into a “done” house to relax. It’s all about making sure the house has the amount of space you want to maintain outside though.
Without question, go for the house with the finished interior that needs a bit of work outside. Outside work/gardening, etc. is way more fun, enjoyable and affordable than gutting kitchens, replacing walls, floors and pipes, etc. etc. We moved into a 100-year-old house about five years ago and I have to stop myself from taking a sledge hammer to the interior every single day (can’t afford renos at all). I would much rather have the inside all “tricked out” and spend some time in the yard.
Like anything, what would mean more…When I tell you that we saw 70 houses before we got the one we both wanted, it is the truth. I have no vision for improving and my husband does. My deal was a great kitchen. And I got it, but it really did need new everything. Bones were good. So I sucked it up. I waited 5 years to have a nice kitchen. And we have been here for almost 12. We still need new bathrooms. But we love our yard and the neighborhood and the size of the house. It is completely us. and we use every inch of 3900 SF. Evey. inch. You’ll figure it out. Just be patient and think that when it doesn’t work out, something will come along that makes you love it more than when you get your heart broken!
I have been there, so I can attest to the fact that being without a working kitchen for weeks (literally weeks) while you/contractors remodel is something to avoid at all costs. It’s not just that you can’t cook (since I know you wouldn’t mind that too much :> ) but that they keep having to shut off the water during the day, or that you have no working refrigerator, or that you have a big hazardous work area that remains even when the workers are gone for the day. All no fun at all with a toddler in the mix. Remodeling a bathroom also sucks, although it’s not as bad as the kitchen. All this is just so, so expensive. If you find a house that doesn’t have the paradise backyard but has a big enough backyard for your family to use, then it’s so much cheaper and less life-interfering to relandscape. If you lost your mind for 2 hours in an IRS waiting room, imagine 6 weeks without a shower… yes, 6.
I totally agree- 2 houses ago we remodeled our kitchen, and it wasn’t even a complete gutting and still, we couldn’t go IN the kitchen for weeks. Plastic and dust everywhere it’s just a MESS, and that was just with my husband and me, no way would I want to try that with a little one in the mix! And it’s SO expensive. Also, if there are any “hidden” issues in the pipes, walls, electrical, it’s going to be even more expensive than originally anticipated- I’d say find what you want inside and make the outside into what you want as long as it has the space.
Now back to my unpacking because we moved last week…
You definitely want the inside to be finished. I say this today, looking down the throat of a plumbing problem that has the potential to suck down (ha!) all our spare cash and take months to fix.
Working on the outside of the house is a relaxing & fun break from the stuff that goes on inside. My only outside criteria was a privacy fence (because those suckers were more expensive than I thought) but other than that, the outside was really unfinished. And now it looks nice! It was really nice planting some small flowering trees and shrubs the first year we were there and watching them grow bigger the longer we live here.
The inside is another story for me, since we got a foreclosure (never could have afforded this house otherwise) – unless you are naturally handy and/or have a lot more free time than I do, I would recommend against it. It takes a loooooong time to get anything fixed (unless we drop lots of cash to have someone else do it) so we live in chaos, which is the tradeoff.
Count me in on the side of a wonderful inside/okay outside. If you’re living in a place that needs a lot of work before it looks the way you want it to on the inside (i.e. the part you see 24/7), having an awesome outside will stop being enough very fast. If the inside is already terrific, you can put a lot more energy into the outside (that is, paint, landscaping, etc.) at your leisure and have more fun doing it, too. Plus, it’s AWFUL to have an ugly/unusable kitchen or bathroom or living room when you first move in to a place. It makes the adjustment process a lot more difficult.
For me, the inside is key. Why? Because who wants to deal with little kids and a torn up kitchen? Or an out of commission bath room. Outdoor work can be done slowly and to your taste and if the back yard is torn up for a few weeks (or a summer) so? You can play out front.
Second, while outdoor spaces are great, the truth is, most of us will spend more time at home indoors. So, sorry Mike. I’m Team Heather.
The house we live in now is NOT perfect. The outdoor space was nice and we have space for it to have a lot of potential. Right now? It works. The inside also worked and the things we want to change are mostly cosmetic (Flooring, painting) though we will be tackling a few major projects down the road.
I think you felt this way about the little house on the corner, but I’ve always felt the house to buy is the one you can see your family in when you’re in it. That’s how we’ve bought our homes. It was a distinct feeling that THIS is our house. Of course, don’t let that emotion stand in the way of a complete home inspection.
Kandi Ann says:
Pray, God will provide both. You won’t have to have one or the other. Trust he will provide with all your heart and he will. xoxo
Get one with the best bones inside and the biggest outside. You can redo paint, window treatments, appliances and carpet, but you want a good kitchen, bathrooms, mouldings, etc. already done. It is much cheaper to to the outside since much of it you can do yourselves.
Hmm Im torn. In my heart, I’d go with a bigger garden because you can always use it to build extensions, have a conseratory etc. But you probably cant afford such ambitions (likewise) and you’ll just leave it as a garden. So I’d go with a bigger house.
Good luck guys
Inside is way more expensive to improve than the outside. Make sure it has a decent yard size but as far as landscaping, etc? It’s not super cheapie but I mean for 500-1k and a weekend you could already have it looking pretty spruced up.
I’d definately go for turn-key inside, and work on the outside after you move in. My thinking is that its a whole lot easier to be outside working with a toddler than it is to be doing ANY kind of interior construction or remodeling. You have to be able to live in the space and work at the same time. I have three little girls and we worked on our house while we lived in it, and it was awful! At least if the inside is done, you have a place to relax at the end of your hard outdoor work! You’re not dealing with paint fumes or sawdust, and you know your bathrooms and kitchen are fully functional. Just saying…
This is going to sound so unromantic, but I’d make sure you have enough closet space. I don’t mean storage space (although you need that as well), but closet space itself. We have a basement, but what we don’t have is a closet in every bedroom. So, think about the logistics of trying to get dressed in the morning, if all of your clothes are not in the same place. This might not be typical of CA, but it is typical of New England Capes built around 1950.
The other thing I would insist upon for my next house is a play room or place space away from the kitchen. Around here, there are so many houses that have an open layout, where there is a beautiful family room that extends from the kitchen. This is all well and good, but if your kids have nowhere else to play, they’re going to be right.there when you’re trying to do things in the kitchen.
So I guess I’m not even talking about the interior design at all (appliances and the like). I’m talking about the layout of the house itself. Everything else is changeable, but adding closets or a room to be a playroom or refinish a basement are major expenses.
I’m with you Heather. I’d rather have a house that needs no inside work done. I want to be able to move in and not have to worry about any inside renovations.
I would definitely go with a house that has a really great inside, Heather. Even tho an outside makeover can be expensive, it’s certainly not as much as redoing the inside would be. AND,,,,,,,,,,if you have to go at a slower pace outside, at least it isn’t interrupting your living space. Happy house hunting! It sounds as tho you’d better take Annie along each tine to keep your spirits up!!!!
I’m sorry, Mike, but I’m with Heather. SO MUCH HARDER to fix an inside than an outside, especially with a wee one. I’ve always wanted a fixer upper myself, a creaky old house with great history, but having little kids has made me realize that having plastic and paint and plaster and moulding and caulking and what-have-you all over the place is just NOT their scene at this age. However, they can totally, easily “help” you in the garden. My in-laws recently had their kitchen re-done, and (despite much shorter projections) it took 8 months. Eight months of cooking on a camp stove outside and washing dishes in a plastic pan. That would’ve sucked much worse if they’d had little kids.
It seems a lot of people have said this, but redoing the inside is so much more time consuming, frustrating, and ultimately miserable than redoing the outside. I mean, okay, if the house has NO yard to speak of, there’s not much you can do with that, but putting in flower beds and planting trees and shrubs, et cetera, is something that you and Mike can do together, with Annie playing in the dirt, and is less disruptive to your lives. My parents have their kitchen renovated about 4 years ago – they had a wall torn out, new flooring laid, professional painters, new cabinets, you name it – and even though they didn’t touch the sink, stove, most the electrics, or plumbing, the house was a war-zone for something like six months. That’s just the nature of home renovation. And if it was inconvenient for them – middle-aged people with two adult children living there and a third visiting for the week – imagine what that’d be like with Annie running around. And imagine it with major painting projects or replacing floors or whatever else. Maybe if you guys didn’t have a toddler, it wouldn’t be so bad, but with a kid? That just sounds kind of half-insane.
And gardening is fun! So my vote is clearly nice inside, needs-improvement outside.
I think that since inside improvements are more expensive and time consuming, go with a great inside. If the yard is big enough, you can improve it fairly inexpensively. Good luck! I hope you find a dream house with both!
Heather – I think you win!
Ragan Massey says:
Just moved into our dream home. It was a foreclosure and a mess inside and out. We bought it in October and just moved in. If I were to do it again I would go for the great inside and doable yard. You can move in and then work on the outside. I enjoyed the fix-up process but it took WAY longer than expected. Good Luck and have fun!
Sky in Seattle says:
Both issues are important, esp given your different viewpoints. We actually focused on both issues ourselves – we bought a house that was right for us inside in the most important ways, and two weeks BEFORE we moved in, we had a little work done that we felt important. We still have new countertops and appliances to do in the kitchen, but what was here was attractive and in good repair so we were fine delaying that a few years. Beautiful gardens were critical to us, so we had to have a place with a a stunning landscape or enough property attached that we could create the gardens ourselves. BINGO – this house had plenty of space for gardens BUT NO ONE had done a thing toward that end. LOTS of HARD work occupied our free time over the course of several years, and we’ve spent thousands of dollars over time. But we tackled it one area at a time and got basics done early on. We have created a paradise – sunny rock gardens filled with spring blooming bulbs and overflowing perennials in summer, pathways wind through the woodland gardens and lead to sunnier spaces throughout the gardens. Benches are scattered about, a dry river bed with gray and muted pastel colored river rocks adds interest. Deep brown basalt boulders are placed in strategic locations, and bird houses, baths, and feeders encourage nesting. We spend lots of time outside and love it. My advice is to find the house that contains the space and layout you need. Be sure whatever work needs to be done inside can be done BEFORE you move in to accommodate your budget and convenience. Examine the landscape to determine what needs to be done to make it a beautiful, comfortable, and enjoyable for you. Estimate the cost of doing the work that will make that happen in the most basic way possible but that will satisfy you now while you work on the rest of the landscape projects over time.
We bought a house that was a fixer upper on both the inside and outside. Take it from me, it is MUCH easier to spiff up the outside. With the inside, there is just so much more and it is much more fun to work on the outside while your kiddo is outside playing with you.
I’m so with Heather on this one. We have a house that has a workable outdoor space (still needs some sprucing up) but the inside needs everything redone. I do mean everything. We had to do a full kitchen gut, which was so expensive and time consuming. A year after starting it, it still isn’t done because I had our daughter smack dab in the middle of renovating. It’s so much easier to work outdoors while she is napping…forget trying to do any sort of renovation inside! Good luck!
Here is what I look for when buying a house and we’ve bought a couple.
I can deal with a so/so outside if the layout and inside is what I want.
I also look at how quiet the street is (go there in the morning and at night during rush hour), what the neighborhood is like, the yard size, etc.
Inside the house I look for storage space, kitchen space (cupboards and pantry)
I would definately go with the redone inside.. Its more expensive to remodel a kitchen, bathroom etc… then to revamp an outdoor space. I just bought a house, planted grass, put in a fence, planted 14 arborvites and bought flowers for about 2500.. Thats how much just appliances cost for a kitchen.. Plus you wont have to deal with a mess on the inside of your house for weeks… which is a bonus.. Good luck!!!
It is much easier and usually cheaper to fix up an outside space than an inside space. It is also a lit more fun to fix up an outside space. Another BIG thing for me is if you fix up the inside you have to live IN the MESS while you work on it. You don’t have to live in the yard while you work on it!
I would say having the indoors be updated and not needing much more than painting is better than having a yard that looks like a tropical paradise. It is so much easier and cheaper to get a backyard looking the way you want it than it is to get the interior up to snuf. As long as the house as the space you are looking for outside for Annie to run around and play and for the outdoor relaxing you want to do, you can always tackle landscaping, etc to make it look exactly how you want it.
Best of luck with the house hunt. We had to get back in the game when were look last year too. It was hard at first but we eventually found our perfect house. It’ll happen for you too.
I’d choose a home where the interior was move-in ready. Fixing up the yard is an easier do-it-yourself fix than redoing the bathrooms.
Having owned and rented many homes around the country (military moves) my only advice is that if you are looking a home that is older but has been updated, look beyond the new appliances and modern bath fixtures. If the seller put all the money into “the shiny” and not into the unsexy infrastructure, it is no fun to pour money into invisible upgrades such as a new A/C , plumbing or roof. If the owners put their money into the practical parts of an older house, so much the better.
The house you want is out there. It might not be on the market just yet, but it’s there.
I’m glad Annie is enjoying the process- it makes it more fun for you!
I gotta go with the rest. The inside is much less work and much less expensive than the outside, and chances are you’ll spend more time inside than outside. And like the others said, working on the outside could be fun. Working on the inside would just be more of a mess than fun, IMO.
I agree with all of the above, but if you look at a house with a pool get a very and I mean thorough inspection. Our house built in the 70s and the pool was almost as old but had had some renovations, we did have a pool inspector, but he did not not dig down to inspect electrical lines or gas line(I don’t think any do) and long story short..two years after we moved in had to either demo pool or do complete renovation because of all piping. Our new backyard is beautiful, but was a huge cost and I woul have voted to put money on inside first. Just be leary of an older pool or spa…good luck!
I would absolutely say a ready inside is much more important than the outside. We are currently looking at relocating, and whenever I see a listing that only has pictures of the outside I know the inside is a horror show. You don’t live in the yard so the interior is the bigger issue, and over time you can make the yard your paradise.
We were just where you were about a year and a half ago. In our price range, we saw places that had nice backyards for our two kids. We really liked that, but then the inside was…. lacking. We ended up getting a townhouse (Which was something I DID NOT want to do) with a slope for a backyard that due to HOA rules, we aren’t allowed to have ANYTHING in. No swingset, not even plastic toys. Am I disappointed? Yes. Sometimes I’m so mad at myself it’s ridiculous. But we were running into houses that the interiors were smaller than the townhouse and falling apart over and over again. If we could have squeaked out an additional $30,000, we could have had a house that was both nice indoors and out. But finances are finances. Is there a mix? Maybe if the indoors needs a small amount of work or updating, but the backyard is what you want, you could go with that? I’m not sure there is an answer that anyone can tell you, you just have to feel it for yourself. I would do things differently if we were to do it again, but we were on a time crunch and I absolutely hated the whole process. Or just find a place that has the interior you want, with maybe some minor tweaks and the outside has the space you want, but maybe some gardening or whatever needs done. It sure it easier to take down a tree than to change floor plan or knock out walls.
landscaping is a LOT cheaper than remodeling!!!
I would say to go with a turn-key interior and work on the outdoor landscaping with time. You and Mike have both talked about the fact that you are both a little handyman challenged, so I would stay away from too much interior work to be done. If you could find something with a workable,decent yard that you could add to over time then that would give you the chance to plant fruit trees or a small garden with Annie while turning the yard into a outdoor paradise together. If the grass is at least green and the yard is fenced for Rigby and Annie, then I would go with that option.
Good luck finding a happy in between!
Well, the number one rule in real estate is location, location, location. Actually, I guess it’s the numbers 1-3 rule! While I agree that you need a livable inside because renovations are expensive and a real pain in the ass, realize that you can change things inside eventually. You cannot change the size of the yard or the location. You might not be thinking too much about school districts because Annie is so young but believe me that is really important. We bought our house 14 years ago and it was livable and clean when we moved in. Over the years, we have made improvements slowly as our budget allowed.
We’re in a similar boat – looking for our first house! We’ve been focusing more on the inside of the house because as others say, a long as you have the actual space available, it’s a lot easier (and cheaper!) to spiff up an outside space. Redoing kitchens, bathrooms, etc. are more of a headache, more difficult on the family living inside and more expensive!
We’re having a hard time finding it all too (in our price range)! Especially since we’re trying to get into a good school district and those are limited in California.
Good luck to you. Some great advice on this post.
I’m going to sound like a broken record (after reading through some of the previous comments), but I’d focus more on what the interior of the house looks like. Sure, you will probably end up painting rooms and maybe adding (or removing) carpet depending on your preference, but the “bones” have to be there. Full on renovations and remodels take a ton of time and money and will disrupt your life … Fixing up a backyard by treating weeds or planting trees or building a fence may take some time and money as well, but it is by no means as big of a disruption to your day-to-day routine.
Overall, just stay patient! I know it is hard, and compromise is good, but don’t settle for anything less than what you want! In the end, it will all be worth it!!
Good school district is absolutely key. Both for the kids’ future, and your resell value. After that, then I’d say interior. You don’t want to have to do anything but paint. Outdoors can be done gradually. And if you end up with a tiny yard, you will probably end up grateful that you don’t have to spend all that time outdoors weeding and mowing (unless you have the funds to hire a landscaper).
Becky H says:
You can change the interior of a house but there is nothing you can do about location and yard size. So….if you find a house with the yard size you want, the location you want, and a good floor plan with poor/outdated decorating I would go for it. With young kids running around your turnkey interior won’t stay turnkey for long!
The one thing I did BEFORE we bought a house was call the police and find out where the safest neighbourhoods were. My only other advice would be to make a list but go into each house with an open mind. Find a quiet place within the house and listen to your own intuition. Like you said before, when you and Mike walked into the cornor house, you KNEW it was yours!!! That will happen again Heather! You just may need to be patient. Never look at the decor or the paint b/c chances are you’re going to change all of that any ways. You may also want to check out the top school within your board so you can narrow your search down by what school Annie will go to. We started to look into the neighbourhood we did b/c the school had such an excellent rep plus, there was not a lot of movement within the neighbourhood which means it’s a stable one.
We first looked at the house on a Wednesday evening. It was cold, snowy and dark outside. We decided to come back on the Sat during the day with our parents to get a 2nd opinion. It was only then when we were going to put an offer in we realized there was an inground pool in the backyard. We had NO idea the 1st time we looked b/c it was so dark outside.
Go with your Hearts Heather and have faith your little guardian Angel will guide you in the right direction. I know you’re going to LOVE your next house…..even better than the 1st one!!!
Best of Luck!!!
I agree with you – it is much easier (with a young child, no less) to have a finished indoor space. More cost effective as well. Before our first son was born in 2006, I freaked out because we were still renting (which was so stupid in retrospect but since when are husbands supposed to listen to their pregnant wives when it comes to big purchases?????). So we bought a townhouse that needed some work. So not only did we drop a bundle on a place that we really could barely afford, we then sunk a LOT of $ into remodeling a couple of bathrooms and painting the place. Oh yeah, and I was 8 months pregnant when we started….the place was barely done when I gave birth. Not the smartest move… Anyway, we moved out of the area about a year and a half after that and into a much newer place where we didn’t have to do anything at all. Three years later, it’s nowhere near perfect – I’d like to get the builder’s paint color off the wall and hang up pictures and so on, but our kitchen is huge and pristine, the bathrooms are perfect, and it’s all very livable. More than livable. I keep changing my mind on the various furniture and decor…and that’s fine, because my kids are young and they are destroying everything anyway. So we’ll just slowly build up the place and not drop a lot of cash all at once. At least the place looks good, even with the bare walls, you know? As for the yard….while it’s nice to have a place that is beautiful on the outside right off the bat, you’re not going to be USING it every day like you would the interior. Do you want an old kitchen/bathroom or do you want a garden area that needs work? It’s inexpensive to clean up the outside and make it look good and you will ALWAYS have to do maintenance on the exterior of a house (hello, why is power washing so damned expensive – NOT what I was prepared for after living in apartments and condos). My point is, nice inside is way better than nice outside and you won’t be in a rush to make the outside perfect. Plus, live there a while and see what kind of space you need. You might drop all this cash to put in a patio, for example, when you really could use an outdoor play area more. Anyway, you will find what’s right for you, I am sure. Good luck!
Snarky Mommy says:
As someone who has lived through one complete gut rehab (while on strict bedrest with No. 1) and then other substantial add-ons while pregnant with Nos. 2 and 3, I can tell you that interior remodeling projects are incredibly stressful. Especially with kids around. I know you talk about having a third, and I would seriously consider making sure any interior remodeling is done before that. Especially with how sick you get — the smell of drywall dust and general yuck of the work will not be your friend.
Barefeet In The Kitchen says:
Definitely go with the perfect interior and a fixer up exterior. I’ve lived through a floor to ceiling remodel and there is no way I would choose that again over a perfect inside in the first place. Good luck with the search! The perfect house is out there just waiting for you guys.
I have 3 kids, ages 17, nearly 15, and nearly 9. We have owned 3 houses – one in another state, and 2 in this town (we upsized as the kids got older to have more space).
Most important when looking at a house when you have kids – look at the school district. Make sure you like the schools unless you intend to send them to private schools.
Next, big yards are overrated unless you plan to use them. Kids grow up and don’t want to be in the backyard past preschool age. After that they want to be in the front yard where friends can see them and come over to play. My daughter rarely goes in the backyard to play anymore – the front is more fun. She can ride her bike, scooter, or skates there, as well as watch out for friends on the street. We have a huge backyard here and it is rarely used since she got older (almost 9 now). We’re looking at extending our patio now so include an outdoor entertaining area with a fire pit, so that our teenagers can have a place to hang out with friends outside during the cooler months.
Inside, unless you plan to move as the family grows, plan for what you think is too much because all too soon as the family grows larger and older, that space will feel smaller. Don’t worry about the picture perfect inside either. It’s natural as you live there to want to change things out to make the house become your home with your tastes and reflections.
Anne DiNapoli says:
Oh I know exactly how you feel. A house broke my heart this year too. We are still looking. Good luck to both of us!
How about a little bit of both? What I suggest my clients do when I’m designing a custom home is to make a really specific list of features, divided in three columns: must have, want, and can’t deal with. In this case, you’re shopping for a pre-built house, so your must have column might include things like two bathrooms and a large yard, the want column may have a newish dishwasher and a patio or deck and the can’t deal with column might include a bad paint job and carpet that smells like dogs. Then be prepared to compromise – everything in the must have column has to be there, but give and take on the wants, inside and out. You may not both get exactly what you wanted, but at least this way you can start to define what it is each of you cares about most, and find ways to work around the rest.
Keep in mind that you (or Mike) has to mow, trim the perimeter, sweep the patio/sidewalk, porch, driveway and pick up branches, twigs, rake the leaves, etc. . . . .So while some yard is nice, you probably don’t want a yard that is all that big. Just enough room to put a play splash pool, small sandbox, and one of those rusty swing sets so Annie can get rusty hands………all part of childhood, right?
Look into the crime and schools. A must for sure.
I’d definitley say a livable space indoors; especially with Annie. Definitely the required number of rooms; unless you plan to move later on. Over the years I’m sure you’ll want to update and remodel.
The out door space you can always do later. Good luck!!!
If you can’t find the perfect house in your price range and you have to settle for the perfect inside OR outside I would actually reduce the price that you are looking at, might not sound right, but hear me out. Let’s say you are looking at the $275,000 range (no clue, just picking random numbers) and you can’t find anything that wouldn’t require fixing up. Well then I would look at the $200,000 range and use the difference to fix whatever is lacking. I wish we would have done that. We bought a house at the upper end of our price range thinking “oh we’ll fix blah, blah, and blah in a year or two.” Unfortunately, we wound up foreclosing on it without ever making any changes. If I knew now what I knew then . . .
In addition, and I’m no professional but I do speak from some experience, I would pick a perfect-inside house rather than a perfect-outside house. Living in Florida we spend most of our time indoors, helloooo air-conditioning, so I would much rather have the perfect wood flooring/big windows/upgraded kitchen/nice bathrooms/etc. than a nice backyard that I will probably won’t use for most of the year.
Good luck, it’s quite the emotional and stressful experience. And in the end, home is where the heart is, as long as Mike and Annie are with you, it will all work out right?
Find a house with a great inside and a park very close. That way, the kids have a place to play while you are still fixing up the yard.
My advice (in order of importance):
1) Location: you can’t change neighborhood or school districts…important for your kids and resale value!
2) Find good bones on the house: even if it isn’t your taste, if the house is well-built and has a great floor plan, you can always change the decor.
3) Make sure the property is well-kept: even if the house isn’t modern or up-to-date in terms of finishes or fixtures or yard details, if it’s been well-maintained, it’ll be that much easier to change.
I would say if you can find a house with a fab location, a livable inside and an ok outside, go for it. You change the inside and the outside over the years. It might seem overwhelming but a house takes years to get it JUST the way you want it!
I’m sure you guys will find the right house for you! Good luck!
Having a bit of yard is definitely important for privacy, kids, relaxation, celebrations- but I absolutely agree with Heather on the inside being move-in ready and the outside taking a back burner. It’s great to be able to bbq in a lovely yard but you don’t want to be making and eating all your meals out in the rain because your kitchen is the size of a closet and the stove is busted.
When we chose our house, we made sure it met our short list of requirements, but didn’t focus too much on perfect interior or exterior. What sold us was location – perfect town, perfect neighborhood. So we had to live through a foundation replacement and we want to redo the kitchen & bathroom down the road. And our yard is the size of a postage stamp and currently completely concrete. But these are things we can change, eventually. Other than that, we love our house, and we love it even more because it’s exactly where we want it to be. If we had gone for bigger & nicer in a different town (our other choice was hilly, few sidewalks, no main downtown area) I don’t think I would be as happy. And location isn’t something that you can change later.
Mama Bub says:
From someone who just bought a house, what I can tell you is this: Don’t buy a house that you don’t love. Or, at least, really, really like. We very nearly settled for a house just because we wanted to be DONE and I would be sad and disappointed and my house would not be “rising up to meet me everyday.”
That said, remember the things that you can change and the things that you can’t. You can redecorate and re-landscape, but you can’t make your lot bigger or change the floorplan of your house (much.) Find a house in a location that you love, with a lot size that you can live with, with bones that feel like home. The rest you can make your own. And yes, I know that this is easier said that done, but I think the joy of a finished house will fade when you realize that the rest of the house doesn’t meet your needs.
We bought a house that was pretty much done inside and a mess in the yard. I’d rather have workers fixing up the outside than in any day plus that kind of updating is cheaper than upgrading an interior. You will spend most of your time in the house, pick an inside that you love with a yard that has potential.
michele wallace says:
Nice living quarters and enjoyable on the inside, potential for the outside which can be done in time Happy House Hunting!
I was so hoping that your corner house was still going to be there when all your tax issues were resolved. You will find another one just as adorable, I know it, and I agree with the majority of the commentors above, great, livable inside, potential for outside. and Location location location.
Having renovated with a small child, I recommend finding somewhere with the INSIDE as much as you like/want it as possible.
Outside SPACE is important – but the landscape, not so. You can do this to your liking at any time, or have someone else do it for you, and not compromise the living space inside, which is where you will ultimately build your home and expand your family.
We too have been looking for property since the dawn of time. Gets rather tiring doesn’t it?
Let us know how you get on!
Go with a turn key inside as long as the outside space is big enough. It is so hard to do serious home improvement on the inside when you have kids and animals.
Huh? Buy a house that’s nice inside then plant trees outside and wait 20 years for them to grow?? There is way more to landscaping than planting a couple flowers around the yard. Y’all nuts.
It really depends just how much work the yard needs. Same with the inside. I loved having a big yard with big trees when I was a kid. I remember decades ago when my parents were looking at houses that certain things were dealbreakers whether they were inside or out, and some things just had to be tolerated until they could fix them. There are going to be things you don’t like inside and outside of every house you look at anyway. Both make a list of what you can’t live without (be specific – instead of “nice yard” say big trees, or space for a vegetable garden), share and discuss them and keep it in mind when looking.
My next house will need no major updates or repairs! That’s all I am sayin’. Besides the fact that when you fall in love with one it won’t matter what anyone advises
Go with turnkey and everything updated. That’s extremely hard to get on the east coast, and also, it’s really expensive to do that stuff, even if you do it yourself, (which if Mike is as horrible with tools as he says, might cost you more to do yourself). You’ll spend more time inside than out, and you’ll want something that you will want to feel like home in. And I agree 1000% with everyone who has said that working on a house with kids is a total pain in the ass. They become neglected and then patience wears thin, and forget it. It’s taken me 2 weeks to stain and paint a banister (not even done yet) because of my kids. This project should have taken me 2, maybe 3 days max.
Working on the outside is a lot easier, and you can give yourself a couple of years to see what grows, and what you like, and what you don’t, and then replace accordingly. Sure, you can spend as much as a kitchen on a backyard, but in general, giving your house curb appeal takes a lot less effort, and it’s easier to incorporating Annie into “helping.” Ever have a toddler try to “help” you paint a room? Not to mention, you get to work outside, in perfect weather.
Jenny Freson says:
We have bought 3 houses and I completely agree with having the inside done!! My husband is very handy but remodeling always cost more and takes longer than we expect…even little projects. Now, if you can afford a contractor or hire people to do it for you, it may not be “so” bad .. but still is a mess and chaos! Outside is something you can work on little by little or one big project a year, etc.
So, my suggestion is make sure it has the room sizes/square footage you want, closets, bathrooms, etc. Also, any major repairs/updates are already done. This would include a good roof, siding/windows, heating/air conditioning. Also, the kitchens and bathrooms are nice since these are most expensive to remodel!! good luck and have fun w/ it!!
When we bought the house we’re in now, we had certain criteria we were looking for. One being a large lot, a house with more than two bedrooms and at least two bathrooms, and we wanted more than six inches between our neighbors on either side. We didn’t really think we would ever find what we wanted within our budget and approached house hunting as more of a hobby we did mostly on the internet. House window shopping, so to speak. Then one day we saw a listing for the perfect-for-us house. It was a foreclosure. The landscaping was a mess. The house was cosmetically a mess, but habitable. We looked at the house the first day it was on the market and went home to think about it. I spent the first few hours freaking out about all the work that was needed, then at some point that day it became clear that this was THE house and we couldn’t make an offer fast enough. We didn’t envision taking on that much work, but the property was almost everything we wanted, warts and all.
We’ve been in our house almost one year and it has been a work in progress. We scraped ceilings, replaced flooring and baseboards, re-faced the fireplace, painted, etc., and we still have a LOT more to do, but that will happen over time. Having lived through renovations to both the yard and the house, I would suggest that you try to find a house that is as close to turn-key as possible. You really don’t want to do a lot of renovation to the interior of your house with a toddler (and her future siblings) running around. You can do stuff to the yard (or hire people to do it) and it’s not really going to disrupt your life like interior renovations will.
That being said, you may find the perfect-for-you property that isn’t quite turn-key. Don’t discount it because it isn’t turn-key. People have lived through renovations with small children under the roof. And really, you will know when it’s the right property, and the right property might not be exactly what you originally envisioned.
Good luck. Looking forward to hearing more about the house hunt.
As long as the inside is liveable (not missing walls or plumbing or something like that…) then I’d go for a better outside!
Just think; your furniture and possessions and things will be inside, making it look nicer than it does now. People don’t usually bring much outside items (maybe a patio table), so what you see now is what it will be like when you move in. In my opinion, its easier to move stuff around and redecorate the inside of a house. But, I am too young to have bought a house, so take that for what it is
I agree with the majority. We spent a couple hundred dollars adding plants to our front yard for curb appeal, but haven’t been able to come up with ten grand to finish our downstairs family room. Find a home with an interior space that really works for your family, one that you can really grow into. As long as the outside space is workable you can always make it look better. The exception, I would think, would be if you really want an inground pool. They are more costly than interior remodels.
Most importantly, make sure you’re in a great neighborhood with good schools. Even if you plan to send Annabel to private school someday, you need to be in a good school district to resell your house.
Also, overlook minor cosmetics like paint colors. That can be easily and inexpensively changed. But if you hate the kitchen? Ask yourself if you can live with it until you can afford to remodel it.
i love that image of annie running through the houses so exuberantly!
Remodeling is HARD with a toddler or preschooler…so you have a LONG wait for the new kitchen. The yard and outside can be done tiny bit by tiny bit and if you hit a windfall it can be done for you. Get the inside you want, you are mostly there really even on sunny days!
I would look into what’s cheaper to fix up and I would think it be a better inside with the option to fix up the outside.
Heather K. says:
I think buying a house with good “bones” is most important. Good roof, windows, foundation, furnace, etc.
But one big thing we’ve always looked at when buying a house is the NEIGHBORHOOD! You can change the outside of your own home, but you can’t change the outside of your neighbor’s home.
I’d go with doing the inside up.
If you move in the summer you will have a space that Annie can play and be safe in while the inside is a mess.
If its winter the outside can be done, though you’re always best leaving a garden for 12 months to see what appears, but most of the time you will be stuck inside. Then you need a house thats done on the inside.
Also, even if its a wreck inside and out, if the areas nice and the schools too, then buy that!