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Michelle Conde

Help us choose a house.

Which house would you choose?  

40 members have voted

  1. 1. What do you think of these options?

    • Old house in our current town, really neat house that's been completely updated on a large lot in town. This one is listed 30,000 higher than the others, so not sure if we can get it for the price we've set ourselves.
      10
    • Amazing old historic house we absolutely love with a creek running through the 1/2 acre lot in a small town we like, but needs some work done to fix the bathrooms and a kid's room (and I would want to pull up all the carpet and lino and refinish the beautiful original hardwood floors). 20 minutes further away from dh's work and from all of the kids' activities. Also across state lines, so we would lose our charter school funding ($6,000 per year). Dh might be able to eventually change to a job at their county courthouse, which is within walking distance.
      3
    • Just fine clean, ho-hum recent house that's located on edge of the town dh works in on just over 2 acres. We might later sell the second 1-acre lot and apply that to the loan. Much closer to dh's work. We like this town, but houses don't often come up on the market there in our pricerange.
      22
    • Wait and see what else comes up on the market.
      5


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Dh and I are looking to purchase our first home.  We currently live in a largish town about 25 minutes from dh's work, but we kind of miss the small town life.  What do you think?

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hmm, not sure enough to vote yet

45 minutes is a long commute, and 6k/yr  can add up if you have a lot of kids.  But a creek in the yard is a draw, and if the job change would work out that would be so cool!

2 acres is pretty good, and would the commute be quite short?

I'm a sucker for a neat house, though.  

 

I can see why you're conflicted.  Maybe wait.

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21 minutes ago, moonflower said:

2 acres is pretty good, and would the commute be quite short?

 

Very short.  Not close enough to walk, but probably to bike.

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Is DH now able to work toward the goal of working at that courthouse?  Because, if he does not really plan to change, then I would vote, wait.   Commuting everywhere is no fun.  OTOH, if you do not go out that much and love being at home, the property sounds so wonderful for you.

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16 minutes ago, Familia said:

Is DH now able to work toward the goal of working at that courthouse?  Because, if he does not really plan to change, then I would vote, wait.   Commuting everywhere is no fun.  OTOH, if you do not go out that much and love being at home, the property sounds so wonderful for you.

 

He is highly capable at his work and very likely to receive a position he applied for, but would have to wait for an appropriate position to come open first, of which there are only a few in that county.  So it might be years.

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how much will it cost to fixup house #2 to meet the condition/specs of house #1?   that $30K difference could just about disappear.

and in my experience, it's location location location.  then the house.

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I wouldn't go with the first two.  I'd go with the last or wait and see.  I believe in all forms of margin: extra time, extra money, extra energy, etc. Commutes, over spending, pricey renos, and costly lifestyle changes eat up margin.

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I am a little confused.  The first one sounded like it was in a small town.....but then you said you currently live in a large town and miss the small town life.  

 

Edited:  ok I re read and I think I understand.  The problem is that the small town location you like is not really right for your family at this stage.  So you first need to sit down and really think about where you want to live. Sounds like the town you live is a good location for your dhs commute and for school funding.  I would take the first one.  However, I am so over remodeling, so I am sure my view is colored by that.  Walk in ready sounds great to me.  

Edited by Scarlett
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34 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

how much will it cost to fixup house #2 to meet the condition/specs of house #1?   that $30K difference could just about disappear.

and in my experience, it's location location location.  then the house.

Yeah; I’d lean toward that dream house or the ho hum one that’s super close.  Do not go across state lines.  The charm isn’t worth that cost or time!

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38 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

how much will it cost to fixup house #2 to meet the condition/specs of house #1?   that $30K difference could just about disappear.

and in my experience, it's location location location.  then the house.

 

It would probably cost about $20K.  Because it is a historic house, we would be eligible for a state grant to pay half the costs, but I don't want to rely on that because who knows if the funding will actually come through.

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We live 10 miles, highway driving, from some activities, and depending on you car’s gas milage, it might add up enough to consider the gas expense, if you are all driving 40 miles to go places.  

I changed some routines once I saw how much the gas was adding up.  

My husband’s car has much better gas mileage and I drive it when I can, when I will be driving back and forth.  

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Add in the extra cost of the commutes for all of you to that cheaper but far away house you love. So, it's lower priced, but would take $20K in renos, + cause you to lose $6K in school funding, plus double the gas bill/wear & tear on the cars so you could all still commute to all the places, + what would it do to taxes, do you know? Being across state lines, that would change... So now it's 45 mins away vs 25 mins *and* costs the same as the perfectly fixed up house you love where you are *and* requires the time of doing the renos that need to be done *and* you get 40 fewer minutes per day (200 mins fewer per week) of your DH at home *and* 40 mins fewer per day in your school day on days you have outside activities in the old location. Still worth it? 

So that rules out super great $30K too expensive house, and super great 20 mins too far away house that actually costs the same as $30K too much house, leaving ho-hum house in the town you prefer (where houses don't come up often), or keep waiting.  In which case the question becomes, can you do anything (now or later) to make ho-hum house less ho-hum? Would you be able to put your personal touch on the house, or lot (via decorating, or landscaping, or painting, or even just getting your stuff in there and making it feel like home) and be content with being in the preferred location?  Or would you constantly be wishing for more of a "cool/neat" house?  

If the layout, size, etc. of the ho-hum house works, and if you could envision yourselves living there, for sure I'd go that route. If you'd forever feel like you're settling and regretting the choice....then wait for something else (unless you have an urgent need to move or something). 

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I would vote for the historic house that you love, but... My dh commutes 40 minutes to work. It's not horrible for him, since he goes in the morning and stays all day. But if I had to do it for the kids' daily activities, that would be a deal-breaker. We already attend a church near dh's office, and just getting to services and dd to her weekly confirmation classes has been... draining. I would only choose the historic house if you can find new places for the kids to be involved that are closer to home. And if you can hack the loss of that $6k.

I would either try for the updated, out-of-price-range house (make an offer -- you never know!) or go with the 2-acre property.

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Another couple of questions: by moving across state lines would you have access to ps sports or would you lose that? What are the colleges like in that state? When a relative moved years ago, they had to choose between MD and VA, and went VA partly because of the college situation. It worked out well for them. 

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a creek running through the 1/2 acre lot

I understand the appeal of the historic home and creek, but 1/2 acre isn't very big if there's any possibility of the creek flooding. Not like the creek was at the bottom of the hill, on the far edge of a five acre lot, kwim? I'd be very careful about chances of the house being flooded. But depending on topography, it could be fine.

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1 hour ago, TheReader said:

 + what would it do to taxes, do you know? Being across state lines, that would change...

 

Taxes are significantly cheaper in the other state.  About $1000 less per year on property taxes.

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We hated DH's 50 minute commute. It made it very hard for him to be active with our kids, because he was spending almost two hours a day, just driving. We moved, so that we could be about 15 minutes from his work (and he switched to working out of a different city --- same company). Now he is able to be present at school meetings, track meets, award assemblies, and various appointments for our kids, who are enrolled in school. It has made a huge difference in our family life to live closer to his work place.

So I would not vote for the historic house.

The overpriced house may be an option, or maybe not. If you decide to make an offer, don't set your heart on it, in case it is not accepted. If you have to pay more than you wanted, look at the monthly mortgage amount, because you may find that it is affordable monthly, even though it is a higher price. Over 30 years (or however long your mortgage would be), that extra price may (or may not) be comfortable for you.

If the layout of the ho hum house suits your family, and you just think it's boring, I think it's a viable option. If the layout is poor, keep looking.

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1 hour ago, Margaret in CO said:

Another couple of questions: by moving across state lines would you have access to ps sports or would you lose that? What are the colleges like in that state? When a relative moved years ago, they had to choose between MD and VA, and went VA partly because of the college situation. It worked out well for them. 

 

I don’t know about ps sports in either one.  I should look that up.  My oldest child interested in the kinds of sports they do in schools is six, so it’s never come up.

Good colleges are available in both states, less expensive in the other state than in ours, though so far my kids all say they want to go out of the region to the private college dh and I attended, which is cheaper and better ranked than either state’s schools.

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Either #3 or wait. #1 only if you could get it in the price range you need.

#2 is at the absolute bottom for me. I can tell you love the house, but the most underestimated factor is the added commute. TIME. Time is the most precious resource in the whole world. You never, ever get it back, you can't earn more of it, you can only use it wisely. Adding 2+ hours to your dh's weekly commute is not how I would choose to spend it.

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4 hours ago, Homeschool Mom in AZ said:

I wouldn't go with the first two.  I'd go with the last or wait and see.  I believe in all forms of margin: extra time, extra money, extra energy, etc. Commutes, over spending, pricey renos, and costly lifestyle changes eat up margin.

 

I love the way you put this!

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We also found that with an evening activity, either I was driving back and forth, and back and forth, or hanging around (going to the store or whatever), during my husband’s time off work, so that we would barely see each other one night a week.  

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I would vote for #1 if you can get it for the right price, unless being very close to your dh’s work is a big priority for him. 

What’s wrong with the ho-hum house, other than it not being historic? Can you add character to it? A newer home may need far less repairs than an old house and may be a lot easier and cheaper to maintain.

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1 hour ago, sassenach said:

Either #3 or wait. #1 only if you could get it in the price range you need.

#2 is at the absolute bottom for me. I can tell you love the house, but the most underestimated factor is the added commute. TIME. Time is the most precious resource in the whole world. You never, ever get it back, you can't earn more of it, you can only use it wisely. Adding 2+ hours to your dh's weekly commute is not how I would choose to spend it.

 

My dh drives a 45-50 minute commute every day and it’s draining.  And since he gives himself 10 minutes of wiggle room in case there’s traffic, he’s gone from us for almost a full 2 hours a day.

I used to live in a suburb where if something was more than 5 minutes from the house it felt sooooo far away.  And then I moved here where most things are 20 or more minutes away and it’s such a drag.  I’d love to be only 8 minutes from something—such luxury!  I didn’t know how good I had it back then.  Now: going to Aldi every week is a 50 minute round trip.  Going to church is a 40 minute round trip.  Going to the big library up the road is a 35 minute round trip.  And it makes it much harder for the kids to get together with friends when all their friends are 20 minutes away.  It gets old.

You might decide the house trumps all that, but don’t dismiss how annoying it is to have to drive 40 minute round trips everywhere.  And that 45 minute commute for your husband will be a drag.  I used to commute 45 minutes to a job and I was so antsy during the last 15 minutes of the drive.  30 minutes is long enough for a commute.  45 is pushing it over the edge.

Edited by Garga
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How ho-hum is the ho-hum house?    Some houses are so ho-hum that I would be utterly miserable in them.  But for others, you can add some gingerbread and make them fun.

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On the surface option #3 seems the most realistic - you can afford the house, you like the town, and your husband's commute would be shorter.  What makes this house ho-hum?  You don't like the style?  That is hard and expensive to change.  You don't like the finishes - those can be fixed.   

I would rule out #2.  A house in need of repair, first time buyer, and young children are rarely a good mix.  Renovating a house takes time and money.  It is a bit less expensive if you and your husband can do some of the work yourselves - but there go your evenings and weekends.  With 40 extra minutes on the road, your husband isn't likely to want to come home to construction projects.   

Old houses, even (sometimes especially) recently renovated ones, can be money pits.  If you are seriously interested in house #1, go in with your eyes open.  Don't just look at the nice finishes.  How recently have the mechanicals been updated?  The roof? Has the house been well-maintained or was it given a face-lift just prior to sale?   Do you really like your current town or just this house?  If the seller won't come down in price, are you prepared to walk away?

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As far as friends, it is worse for any friends who might also go to the same town, but live 20 minutes in the opposite direction.  It might make it really challenging if you end up in any activities where a cluster of kids your kids like, all live near each other but 40 minutes from you.  They will have little motivation to ever drive out to where you live, and then if those are the kids your kids like, you are either driving them farther or making arrangements to meet in town but not at homes, etc.  

If you think most people really live in town, I think that is different, but if people are driving in for activities from a radius, it could come up.  

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My logical side says to go with #3, but dh and I would ignore logic and end up in the "amazing old historic house." You probably should not be like us!

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I said number one but I would take number 3 too unless the ho hum can’t be changed without major expense.  

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I have an old historic house.  It's like marriage with a house this old.  It's mostly great and then a surprise illness will hit!  There will be a surprise for every single project that you do.  We just had to replace our 100+ year floors.  Sad, but really they were beyond redemption and I LOVE the new floors!

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8 hours ago, Michelle Conde said:

 

It would probably cost about $20K.  Because it is a historic house, we would be eligible for a state grant to pay half the costs, but I don't want to rely on that because who knows if the funding will actually come through.

 And given that things end up costing 2x what you think they will, the state funding is net-zero.  

Re Creeks on property--check flood-plain.  

I'm pretty sure (after having done a few remodels) that unless you enjoy the hobby of remodeling and can put a lot of your own elbow-gear and enjoyment into it, it's better to find a house you like.  

Our realtor told us that the rate of turnover within a year of a remodel is much higher than you'd expect.  

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I’ll wait but take option 3 if I can’t wait (e.g rents skyrocketing faster than home prices). After the lead scare with DS13 when he was a newborn and we lived in an old rental apartment, my husband tolerance of old is not older than 1990s.  

There is a creek behind my complex. It’s lovely and the chance of flooding is negligible. However I won’t want a creek on my property just like my kids love snow but as tourists. Photo was taken after a rainstorm session in November so that’s like the highest water level the creek usually goes.

Ho-hum isn’t an issue as long as floor plan is livable. I can make a ho-hum house quirky and homely but I am not into hacking walls. So I would want a floor plan I can live with. 

048C62D1-1616-4C90-B5F3-636D8147C228.jpeg

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3 hours ago, Scarlett said:

I said number one but I would take number 3 too unless the ho hum can’t be changed without major expense.  

 

I agree completely. 

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5 hours ago, Catwoman said:

What’s wrong with the ho-hum house, other than it not being historic? Can you add character to it? A newer home may need far less repairs than an old house and may be a lot easier and cheaper to maintain.

 

It's mainly just plain, but not bad, and has an odd layout.  The square footage looks generous on paper, but there is a long, narrow, L-shaped room that runs the length of two complete sides of the house which would be a challenge to figure out how to make good use of, and the other parts of the house that are put together normally are kind of on the small side for the size of our family.  But maybe I should try to think of it as a blank slate instead?

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I would also be extremely wary of buying in a small town.  Small town America is generally doing poorly these days.  One chronic illness requiring a specialist and ongoing treatment for you, your spouse, your kid, or an elderly dependent you become responsible for and you'll be living your life on the road.  Resale values of houses in many small towns isn't great. Remember, Gen X and younger aren't getting Social Security.  We already know it's running out before we retire, so buying a house that has reasonable appreciation is going to matter. If homeschooling doesn't work out you're stuck with a small town school that likely struggles to attract teaching staff, so courses will be basic.  My cousin lives in a small town half an hour from me and her teen gets on a bus at 6am every day to ride to a district near me for a decent high school.  They have little family life because of it. Cousin and her husband commute an hour each way to work because employment opportunities are non-existent in her small town. No hospital, no specialists, not much shopping, and such.

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6 minutes ago, Michelle Conde said:

 

It's mainly just plain, but not bad, and has an odd layout.  The square footage looks generous on paper, but there is a long, narrow, L-shaped room that runs the length of two complete sides of the house which would be a challenge to figure out how to make good use of, and the other parts of the house that are put together normally are kind of on the small side for the size of our family.  But maybe I should try to think of it as a blank slate instead?

 

It's not really a blank slate if it has a weird layout. If you said it was a charming, quirky layout and you liked it, that would be different, but if it's awkward and you don't know what to do with some of the spaces to make them useful and nice, and other spaces already seem too small for your family, that would be enough to make me vote against it. If you don't like it now, you may very well loathe it later. 

Based on that information, I would either choose house #1 or I'd keep looking.

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4 hours ago, Sherry in OH said:

On the surface option #3 seems the most realistic - you can afford the house, you like the town, and your husband's commute would be shorter.  What makes this house ho-hum?  You don't like the style?  That is hard and expensive to change.  You don't like the finishes - those can be fixed.   

I would rule out #2.  A house in need of repair, first time buyer, and young children are rarely a good mix.  Renovating a house takes time and money.  It is a bit less expensive if you and your husband can do some of the work yourselves - but there go your evenings and weekends.  With 40 extra minutes on the road, your husband isn't likely to want to come home to construction projects.   

Old houses, even (sometimes especially) recently renovated ones, can be money pits.  If you are seriously interested in house #1, go in with your eyes open.  Don't just look at the nice finishes.  How recently have the mechanicals been updated?  The roof? Has the house been well-maintained or was it given a face-lift just prior to sale?   Do you really like your current town or just this house?  If the seller won't come down in price, are you prepared to walk away?

 

House #1 has had everything redone.  Plumbing, electrical, insulation, a new roof (the old roof had several layers of tiles already and was completely removed and replaced).  I don't know how to tell whether a house was well-maintained prior to being updated.  Would an inspection be able to find that out?

I have no attachment to our town.  We have lived here for a year, and I still have no friends here.  My boys' best friends just moved away, too.  It is conveniently located for shopping and some of the kids' activities.  

We have set a hard and fast line for ourselves for what we are willing to pay for a house, so yes, we'd be prepared to walk away.

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4 hours ago, mom2scouts said:

My logical side says to go with #3, but dh and I would ignore logic and end up in the "amazing old historic house." You probably should not be like us!

😂

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1 hour ago, Carol in Cal. said:

What about resale?  How are the public schools?  

 

House #1 (current town) mediocre public schools + two great charter schools that are hard to get in to.  Hopping real estate market.

House #2 (town in other state) excellent public school.  Moderate real estate market.

House #3 (town dh works in) mediocre public school + a very good charter school.  Low numbers of houses go on the market there, but they tend to sell quickly.  This house is an exception, having sat on the market for 8 months now (I assume because of the weird L-space).

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1 hour ago, Patty Joanna said:

 And given that things end up costing 2x what you think they will, the state funding is net-zero.  

Re Creeks on property--check flood-plain.  

House is safe from the creek.  Creek is about 30 feet below the house level, with stone retaining walls and steps leading down to an area beside the creek.  Recorded high water mark is about 20 feet below the house level.  We would still need to buy flood insurance though.

I'm pretty sure (after having done a few remodels) that unless you enjoy the hobby of remodeling and can put a lot of your own elbow-gear and enjoyment into it, it's better to find a house you like.  

Our realtor told us that the rate of turnover within a year of a remodel is much higher than you'd expect.  

 

I did quite a bit of work alongside my parents on our house growing up, and I think I have a fairly good idea of how much of it I enjoy in a hobby way, and how much would be too much.  (I enjoy painting, minor tiling jobs like backsplashes, redoing kitchen cupboards, I don't mind things like baseboards and doors, I'm not up to handling things like walls and windows without my dad, but no one will ever get me to lay a large stone tile floor again!)

Edited by Michelle Conde
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32 minutes ago, Homeschool Mom in AZ said:

I would also be extremely wary of buying in a small town.  Small town America is generally doing poorly these days.  One chronic illness requiring a specialist and ongoing treatment for you, your spouse, your kid, or an elderly dependent you become responsible for and you'll be living your life on the road.  Resale values of houses in many small towns isn't great. Remember, Gen X and younger aren't getting Social Security.  We already know it's running out before we retire, so buying a house that has reasonable appreciation is going to matter. If homeschooling doesn't work out you're stuck with a small town school that likely struggles to attract teaching staff, so courses will be basic.  My cousin lives in a small town half an hour from me and her teen gets on a bus at 6am every day to ride to a district near me for a decent high school.  They have little family life because of it. Cousin and her husband commute an hour each way to work because employment opportunities are non-existent in her small town. No hospital, no specialists, not much shopping, and such.

 

Thankfully dh's employment is very secure--or maybe unfortunately, because as long as there is crime, there will be need for prosecutors.  Your point about being vulnerable to health problems is certainly valid (in fact we experienced that when my youngest was born, and moved closer to a city with a good children's hospital and specialists for a year), but when your employment is based in a small town, that possibility needs to be balanced against possibly renting or commuting forever.

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Thank you all very much.  This has helped me to think through things.  Dh and I have reluctantly agreed that, as much as we love house #2, the commute is not going to work for us.  

We have a trip in a few weeks, and we're thinking we'll just wait 'til after that and take another look at what's available in a month or so.  

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2 hours ago, Michelle Conde said:

 

House #1 (current town) mediocre public schools + two great charter schools that are hard to get in to.  Hopping real estate market.

House #2 (town in other state) excellent public school.  Moderate real estate market.

House #3 (town dh works in) mediocre public school + a very good charter school.  Low numbers of houses go on the market there, but they tend to sell quickly.  This house is an exception, having sat on the market for 8 months now (I assume because of the weird L-space).

OK then, I was already leaning toward House #2, and that's the one *I* would go after.  Decent resale value, no public school reason to expect that to change.  That's the clincher.  but I liked it best before that.  🙂

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9 hours ago, Michelle Conde said:

Thank you all very much.  This has helped me to think through things.  Dh and I have reluctantly agreed that, as much as we love house #2, the commute is not going to work for us.  

We have a trip in a few weeks, and we're thinking we'll just wait 'til after that and take another look at what's available in a month or so.  

 

Another reason to say no to house #2 is that unless the house was previously completely remediated, an old, historic house plus any kind of renovations means you're looking at having a lot of lead floating around, because everything in an old house potentially has lead. Paint, varnish, pipes. Lead poisoning can be catastrophic for little kids, but it isn't exactly great for older ones, either. We just looked at a house built in the 1920s that we were thinking about buying, but it was in the middle of being renovated and we would have had to move in while the work was still being finished. With a toddler running around, I'm not risking it.

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