Wednesday, November 30, 2011

February 2011 Rolls around

So here we are catching up to the present, we made it to 2011 in the winter escape saga.

Weather was not fun in Michigan, again.  My dad drove down from the UP to travel to Florida with me.  Unfortunately, he had quite a bit of trouble during the trip, and decided he would not be driving any more.  Oh, well, I have driven all that way by myself, and at least I had his company on the journey.  Jim and Ginger joined us ten days later.

The second house we looked at was still for sale, and the price had dropped considerably.  We made arrangements to see it again.

It was still spooky and dark inside.

The windows on the east side were covered with hurricane awnings grown over with vines and bushes.

The bathroom had a very ugly shower surround making it very dark. There is a window inside the shower.

The garage was converted into two small bed and bath units and a family room.  I could not figure out how to use those two units.  They did not have access to the house.  One's entry was through the back yard, the other opened onto the driveway.  The big double carport was in poor condition, but Dad fell in love with it. He could just picture himself sitting there, tending steaks on the grill and visiting with the neighbors.

Inside was very dark.  Furniture was listed as "negotiable."  It looks like it has been there since the house was built, 1963.  Curtains covered the windows and some could not be opened.  The dark paneling seemed to suck up any light and made it difficult to see details. The carpeting was shag. It was loose and had wrinkles but looked otherwise in good shape, for orange and brown shag.

Master Bedroom, again very dark, only lamp is on opposite side of bed from door.  No en suite bathroom. 

 Backyard is a jungle, very small but completely fenced.

Kitchen is not too bad.  Appliances were relatively modern.

There were no pictures in the listing of the odd arrangement in the other bedroom.  A small door led into a step down dark closet with the house water heater in it. On the other side of the water heater, another door opened into a fully tiled half bath.

The third bedroom was on the other side of the kitchen.  I had a problem with the access doors in that bedroom and the master bedroom.  You had to go through the master bedroom to access the garage from the house.  In the small third bedroom, there was a door leading to the back yard.  Personally, I prefer bedrooms not to be throughways that everyone uses.

We looked the house over carefully.  I still was not that impressed with it, but the neighborhood was just right, and the new price was closer to our budget.  Jim and my dad were in agreement that the house was solid and well built.   Our Spanish house landlord is a general contractor, and we had him look over the house as well.  He agreed with Dad and Jim, the house was solid and had "good bones."  It was in need of a new roof, new AC and probably furnace.  I had my doubts about the plumbing and electricity as well.

OK, we decided to make an offer.

Next time, the ups and downs of real estate and the outcome of our offer.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Is This the ONE?

February, 2010 finally came, and we headed to Titusville to stay in the Spanish house again.  This time it was DH, his mother and me making the trip in two cars.  DH and his mother were staying ten days, and then heading back, at least, that was the plan.  The weather was ferocious in Michigan but got milder as we headed south, and we truly enjoyed hitting palm tree country and sunshine. 

Once settled, we contacted our realtor, Anita Lytle, and set up some appointments to view homes. I was truly excited to see the one across the street from the Spanish house, because I love the neighborhood, and the neighbors, too.  The house was a Craftsman style that was built in the 20s and looks good from the outside.  It had three bedrooms and one bath, while we were hoping for two baths or at least, 1.5 baths.  The back yard was completely taken up with parking structures, with parking for six big vehicles and very little open space.  That was a big negative for us, but we felt we could work with it.  Inside though, the house had been redone, removing all the Craftsman character. It did still have nice wood floors and just a little woodwork, but it was updated to modern.  I did not like it, and we found it was a bit small for us.  It was also out of our price range.  Well, on to keep looking.

DH was waffling between a winter haven and a retirement home with lots of elbow room outside and in, and space for him to collect cars.  I found the perfect house, a newer construction with a huge porch on the front and a huge Florida room on the back, a two car attached garage and a six car outbuilding.  It was way out of our planned budget, but if you want a retirement home, honey, we COULD afford it.   Well, that kind of proved maybe we didn't quite want all that space, just yet. But it was a lovely home. It has since sold for quite a bit less than the original asking price.  

We saw quite a few homes, and Anita remained patient and upbeat, plus she kept nudging us toward reality as far as our expectations for what we could get for the money we wanted to spend.  We didn't see anything we could agree on so no house yet.

DH left for Michigan and Mom decided to stay with me, to keep me out of trouble, I think.  We spend the remainder of the month bumming around, eating shrimp and seafood, drinking Margaritas and getting  in lots of walking.  One night, poor Mom was horrified to see a Palmetto bug in her bathroom.  She screamed and screamed, which nearly gave me a heart attack until I found out she was OK.  Poor Mr. Bug was dispatched by my size 8 flatfoot weapon, and peace returned.  The landlord profusely apologized the next day and sprayed the place.  We didn't see any more bugs.  I have been having a hard time getting Mom to agree to come back to Florida with me, though.  I didn't put a link because they all have horrific pictures. Palmetto bugs look like ginormous roaches.  They don't crunch when you flatfoot them, though.

In May, DH had a conference in Orlando, so we came over to Titusville for a few days afterward.  It was distinctly warmer than February, and we kept seeing all these little black and red bugs flying around in tandem.  Strange looking.  I asked our landlord about them.

"Oh, those are the lovebugs!"  He explained they are harmless to people but you have to clean them off your car all the time because they can damage the paint.  He said they are  a relatively recent phenomenon, and they have two seasons, late May and September.  Apparently their population exploded since the 70s.

Not dissuaded by Palmetto bugs or Lovebugs, we went looking around neighborhoods we liked to see if any houses were for sale that we hadn't seen yet, and that might be in our price range.  We went riding up our favorite streets, Indian River Avenue and Riverside Drive.  These streets border the Indian River just south of Historic Downtown Titusville.

Downtown Titusville is not a huge mercantile zone.  There are two or three restaurants,  a coffee shop, a dress shop and some antique shops, mainly.  My favorite is the Sunrise Bread Company.  They have wonderful bread, scones, rolls, cookies and espresso, plus they have Wi-Fi.  It would be great to walk there, which is one reason we love the nearby neighborhoods.

We saw three houses along Indian River Avenue that were newly listed since February!  We got to see two of them. One had an offer and was not being shown.  Both were higher than we wanted to pay.  The first one was a smallish place with a tiny yard that backed onto commercial property on US 1.  The yard was well landscaped and private, though.  It had a one car attached garage and a one car driveway.  The inside was beautifully updated and charming, but some of the rooms were pretty small.  This one was about twice our price range.

The second one was by itself on a street between Indian River Avenue and Riverside Drive, with a potential view of the Indian River from the eastern windows.  We couldn't tell because the hurricane awnings were down on that side, and were overgrown with vines and bushes so they couldn't be opened.  The elder owners had been gone about five years, and nothing had been done since except mowing the lawn and light cleaning inside.

DH was really impressed with the construction of the house. It was built of cement block in part and brick in part.  It had a huge two bay garage. One bay was for an RV, so the garage was extra tall, extra long and extra wide.  There were two one bedroom and bath units built into the RV part, and the RV door was replaced with a wall and entry door to one of the bedrooms.  The other half of the garage had been converted to a family room, but the garage door was still there. There was a storage room built above the family room.  In front of the garage door was a wall of screen with a door, so you could open the garage door for air.  The two car wide driveway outside had been covered with a carport which was in sad, rusting condition.

Inside the house were two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and living room, and a converted porch that had been made into a bedroom and a den.  The east windows of this part were completely blocked by the hurricane awnings. The floor was mostly covered with a late 60s brown, orange, black and cream shag rug which was loose and wrinkled.  The walls were covered with dark paneling.  The old furniture was all there.  It was hard to see much because there weren't many working lights, the curtains were all closed, and the hurricane awnings were down over the windows on one side of the house.  I conceived a dislike for the place because of some major issues.  
  • There was no bath attached to the master bedroom.  
  • The kitchen was cramped and dark.  
  • The entry from the garage into the house was through the master bedroom. 
  • There was a peculiar little door in the other original bedroom that led to a dark box of a closet with the water heater in it.  There was another door on the other side of the water heater which opened into a half bath that looked like it was from a 1960s gas station.
  • The laundry was on the back porch, and there was no space for it inside.
  • The two units in the garage weren't really usable as part of the house. How do you ask your mother-in-law to sleep in the garage?  And I want a garage, darn it!
DH was inclined to really like the house because of the build quality, and I was inclined to really dislike it.  We did like the location.  On looking it over, we could tell there would be some substantial work needed asap to the HVAC, roof, electrical and plumbing systems. The place was priced lower than the other houses of similar size in the area, but the others were all updated, while nothing had been done to this place.  It looked like at least $30,000 would be needed to bring the house up to standard. The house had been recently listed, so we decided to follow it and see how it was going, and if it was still available in February, we would look at it again.

We headed back to Michigan, with DH thinking this house could be the one, and me thinking, No Way, José.

This is second place we looked at in the Indian River Avenue neighborhood:

Doesn't it look kind of spooky with those bent trees hanging their branches down?  They are live oaks, I think, with a bit of Spanish moss.  

Back in Michigan, we continued to debate the pros and cons of the house.  Next time, I'll tell you the results of the debate, and what happened next.