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House hunting (or, why does everyone think we're a couple?) - Tactical Ninja

Jun. 8th, 2011

10:06 am - House hunting (or, why does everyone think we're a couple?)

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So yesterday I arranged to go and look at the house we missed seeing on Saturday. On the way there, I managed to collect The Kid and pombagira so it was a full family outing. The house itself was a bit meh - nice if it were bigger, had a different aspect, didn't smell damp... the main bedroom was nice but the others were tiny and it had that multi-level thing going on that can create damp in the lower levels on the Wellington hills.

I had to smile at the real estate agent's "Oh look - Hers and Hers wardrobes!" The wardrobes were indeed very nice (walk in) but, um.. seems a lot of people assume that Polly and I are lesbian life partners*. I'm not sure how they think we produced The Kid, but anyway - we chose not to correct her.

Then we looked at a couple of other houses in the area. The first was definitely damp and dark and had a weird vibe and the most seriously retro-ironic-ugly decor ever. Like, the benchtops in the kitchen were pink and orange fussy formica paisley. I kid you not. Now I'm not totally against pink and orange together, but in my kitchen? Hmm..


You know the 'worst house, best street' scenario? Well I found it. It's a do-upper just up the road from my house, and oh boy is it a do-upper.

Now Happy, tieke and rivet, before you start, I have not done anything except get a copy of the builder's report to see what needs doing. Because I'm nothing if not fiscally responsible.

Having said that, I did like the basic house - and that's really all it is, a basic house. The report says the foundations are in good condition.

*cough*

So what's wrong with this house? Pretty much everything else.

It has a weird skylight thing that screams 'leaky building' at me. In line with this, there's water damage throughout the ceilings. The building report doesn't mention the skylight but says the roof is in need of repair and I'm looking at this plus the skylight and going "Repair? How about we just rip that eyesore off and reroof the whole place?"

There's also water damage in the wet areas and leaky pipes. Again I'm going "Choice, a total replumb job."

The bathroom and toilet and kitchen all need redoing. The bathroom's a total job, the kitchen could get away with new benchtops and joinery (stove is good), floor coverings and a repaint.

The ceilings need replacing which would be an opportunity to insulate, and the walls could do with regibbing at least in some places. Once more, insulation. It needs internal painting and carpeting, the deck needs replacing (not on piles, just a ground level one), and the outside could also do with a lick of paint, not least because it's a hideous colour.

So yeah, if I bought this house I'd be buying a set of foundations with floors and a frame and replacing everything else, pretty much. So much for the downside - although I will come back to that.

What do I like about it? It's situated for all day sun, has off street parking and despite the obvious water getting in problems, it's not damp. Underneath is dry. It has three large bedrooms all with built in wardrobes. The bedroom thing's an issue because when Dr Wheel gets back we plan to live together and my current situation is such that I couldn't fit his stuff in. Not forgetting my 'lesbian life partner' and her need for a decent space. Now you could say "Hey flatmate only" but sharing space is how I can afford to be looking for a house at all, and she's important to me. So yeah - three large bedrooms solves a lot of the dynamics-of-folks-living-together issues I'd been having on how to arrange my people.

It's got some interesting internal architecture that I like. From what I can see, the skylight's the only part of this that's potentially a structure problem, the rest is just interesting. It has a snug, and sufficient different areas in the shared spaces that everyone could have space to do their thing. The main outside wall is westerly-facing and would lend itself to a trombe wall. The section is big enough to be useful without being scary maintenance-wise.

So - six of one and half a dozen of the other.

The asking price is low enough so that there'd be room for renovation costs - essentially it's $200000 below the average for the area and about $150000 below what I think the house I'm living in will have as an asking price. From what I can tell it's well within the scope of my borrowing ability.

"But what about renovation Tats? That costs heaps!" Yes, yes it does. So I sat down and worked out the potential costs of renovation. Because I'm Like That, I used outside estimates (for example totally reroofing instead of repairing, total replumbing instead of just the broken bits). I calculated that in total with everything I've listed up there the renovations would cost about $80000 at the outside - and yes, that is including a bit extra for 'didn't think of that' things.

Which would still make the house cheaper than the one I'm living in, and still be within range of what I can afford. So, because I'm eminently sensible, I've written a list of things that I would want to do for Moar Homework if I want to pursue this:

1. LIM report - the roof and plumbing stuff along with the piddly window latches and stuff suggests that this house was done on the cheap - I would need to make sure that cheap doesn't mean corners were cut.

2. Get the wiring checked and also inspect the framing which is apparently steel but isn't part of a standard building inspection because it involves ripping walls off. I don't think the owners would worry about that since the walls need doing anyway. These are the two things that couldn't be completely covered in the building report

3. Find out if the skylight is removable and if insulation can be installed as part of a reroof.

Anything else?

And if I paid the asking price then spent $80000 renovating, that would take the cost to me to $30000 over the current capital value - but it'd be Done Like A Done Thing, as in it'd be pretty much new. I don't know if that constitutes a good investment but as it sits the house itself is one I think I'd like to live in, should the required work be done. Something in my mind is the number of DIY skills I have learned as part of the AHOA project, which means my estimate for things like interior decorating are really outside because I've gone on the cost of paying professionals whereas I'm quite the dab hand at that sort of thing these days.

Anyway, here's where you step in and tell me to pull my head in and don't be silly. But before you do, bear in mind that even with all that cost I could pay for this without sacrificing my lifestyle and I like the house and that's tempting. And if the homework questions reveal other issues I am ok with letting it go - however I've been looking pretty hard around Wellington and the availability of houses in my price range and size that aren't do-uppers is extremely limited. Nice houses I can afford are all in Johnsonville, Tawa or Newlands.


Of course I could just do nothing. Which I have no doubt you're all about to advise me to do.

* We totally creeped The Kid out last night by calling each other 'darling' and 'honey'. Good to know I can still embarrass him.

Comments:

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From:fallaras
Date:June 7th, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)

But you'd make such a lovely couple...

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‘course pombagira & Dr Wheel might need to be convinced…

And just imagine how much more creeped out The Kid would be :p

But gl – if you need some practical building buddies, both Jax and I can weld hammers, saws, pipe wrenches and paint brushes – not that you need a hand, but sometimes it's more fun and faster ;)
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From:tatjna
Date:June 7th, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
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The roof, the plumbing and the exterior cladding repairs (which are fairly minimal) would be the 'must do now' ones.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 7th, 2011 11:28 pm (UTC)
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I would say reasonably if the work were done, if work not done it'd be only to students and that's partly why it ended up needing so much work.

Having said that, in Wellington it seems folks will pay silly money to live in a shoe box.
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From:tyellas
Date:June 7th, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
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Dealing with renovations is a huge YMMV. My renovations tolerance is limited at best. Would you be able to stay living where you are for a year while the house is renovated?

If you do take the great mad plunge, I can recommend an insulator-who-does-wall-restructuring (did my neighbor's place), an electrician, and a plumbing/gas/heating system installation crew.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 7th, 2011 11:25 pm (UTC)
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I couldn't stay living where I am because of the rent + mortgage cost - I would have to live in it while it was being done.
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From:vernacularity
Date:June 7th, 2011 11:41 pm (UTC)
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initially I think of steel frame + water = potential SRS BZNS

yeah steel frames are galvanised, but I think nobody can prevent there being any scratches at all through the zinc, and most likely these could appear at joins I would think.

ok: sure if you want to spend a solid year at least sorting all this stuff out, and can get the finance to pay for it, why not? apart from the general wisdom which goes somethign like "it's a lot cheaper to buy a house where someone else has done all the major replacements than to get them done yourself". the only advantage I would say is you can present a report outlinging costs of repairs and use that as a megotiating position.

if you are going to do it yourself then yes indeed as the happy chappy indicates be prepared to do nothing else with your time.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 7th, 2011 11:44 pm (UTC)
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I was thinking the same thing about steel framing, although the steel framing guys would tell you different vs wood framing.

And yeah, while I could cope with a year of renovatey stuff (I've lived in some serious dives), the cost and hassle is a factor in whether or not it'd be worth it. It mostly would depend on what would need doing apart from what's listed above, and to find that out would involve invasive (holes in the walls) inspection. Which I have no idea how to go about without having made an offer on a house, or whether it'd be worth it.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:June 8th, 2011 12:36 am (UTC)
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Are you taking photos as you go exploring? I find that it was very helpful for me while trying to find an apartment, because after X open homes it may be hard to remember what one vs. the other looks like.

(Oh, and as a side benefit, you could share them with us ;-) )
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From:tatjna
Date:June 8th, 2011 12:39 am (UTC)
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Hee, true! I hadn't thought of that, although this one up here *points* is the first one I've come across that I think is worth a second look.
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:June 8th, 2011 01:29 am (UTC)
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yes, pictures and a spreadsheet... After a while they'll all start to blur together.
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From:rivet
Date:June 8th, 2011 03:41 am (UTC)
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It might be useful to think of this possibility as taking on a part-time job as a renovator for $[increase in value less cost of renovation] per [hours spent on the project]. Then ask, if you're doing it primarily to create value, if you would be better paid by taking a DIFFERENT second job on a higher salary.

If you're willing to take on another job and put up with the disruption to your life on an ongoing basis while doing the work, it's not a terrible idea. But it seems like you don't have much space in your life for a second job, given that you've already got uni, crafts, parenting, etc. What will you give up to do it?
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From:tatjna
Date:June 8th, 2011 03:51 am (UTC)
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Plants vs Zombies. Helping J&A with their mud. Knitting stuff out of my own belly button lint.

The increase in value is only really important in terms of how it relates to what I pay for it. I'm told that there's a 'completed value' valuation you can get done for just such projects, and that this is the sort of thing banks want to see before agreeing to loaning on do-uppers. Which is fair enough.

The thing I'm sticking on right now is that to investigate this thoroughly enough to make me feel comfortable that I know what I'd be committing to, will cost me money. About $1000 of money - that's for LIM, wiring/structure inspection and the valuation thingy. And if any of those things turn up something I don't like, that's money I won't get back if I walked away. And I haven't figured out how to get around this yet.
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:June 8th, 2011 04:59 am (UTC)
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it's fun to be accidentally gay... i'm accidentally gay for a client right now and it's interesting.

so, really, if i were thinking all right, adventure times and i don't have to live in the house being renovated while the construction takes place, then i'm all for that. it's kind of important to be living in a space that when your s.o. returns his stuff will be able to be accommodated, so either way, it looks like you'll want to find an appropriately sized living space for the 4 of you. you know the $ amounts and what you can and can't part with, and what will and won't work for all of this construction and housebuying. i think, no matter what advice i would give, you're going to play it very safe and not take undue risks because that's really not like you....
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From:tieke
Date:June 8th, 2011 06:07 am (UTC)
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Can I suggest taking your highest cost estimate: $80k, and doubling it.
And taking your time-to-complete estimate, and quadrupling it?

This is now your highest risk possibility, and believe me, it can easily happen. In this scenario, can you still do it without giving up/going bankrupt/going insane?

Also, I'm curious - when was the house built?
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From:tatjna
Date:June 8th, 2011 06:17 am (UTC)
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If I doubled the renovation cost, that would put the house at approximately the price I'd expect will be put on this one I'm living in now, which is at the very top of the range of what I could conceivably take on. This house has 'the stuff done' but will require some ongoing maintenance without being a gigantic timesink.

The time-to-complete thing is less of an issue, but that's coming from a place of ignorance as to how I cope with living in an incomplete project. I have much experience of living in 'if only I owned it' squalor though. ;-)

The house was built in the 1970s, so before the leaky building wave. However one of the things I'm thinking about is that it's steel framed which is a heat transference thing and also limits the insulation possibilities somewhat, and could potentially increase the cost of renovation - how do you nail gib onto steel framing? etc. I would have to look into that sort of thing before making a decision. Meanwhile I've been to see the bank just to get a frame around what I can realistically look at, and this weekend I'll be checking out an apartment with a larger floor area and a car park. I can see apartment living as having its own advantages and disadvantages, but mostly I'm just wanting to get a good picture of what's available and compare that with what I want.

So far I've checked out:

1. This house (nice but probably expensive to buy and would come with landlord responsibilities and the inherent not-big-enough issues).

2. The do-upper (chance to make it really mine, a design I really like, big enough, good neighbourhood, potentially heinously expensive and would require upheaval and work before completion).

3. A couple of other houses that are cheaper but done maintenance-wise (mostly too small or badly situated).

4. As of Sunday, apartment (argh body corporate! yay no more trains!)

Which is probably more information than you wanted. ;-)
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From:ophe1ia_in_red
Date:June 8th, 2011 07:06 am (UTC)
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I don't think I know what a snug is.

(Sorry, I have no useful advice :( )
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From:tatjna
Date:June 8th, 2011 07:23 am (UTC)
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A snug is a little alcovey type thing that sits off a larger area - designed for sitting close together and being, well.. snug.
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From:ethel_aardvark
Date:June 8th, 2011 08:25 am (UTC)
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Sorry, just curious...is it this house? http://www.realestate.co.nz/1530090 . Owned by a friend of mine.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 8th, 2011 08:32 am (UTC)
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Yep, that's the one. I like it but fear unexpected expenses related to stuff I don't know how to glean.
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From:ethel_aardvark
Date:June 9th, 2011 09:38 am (UTC)
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If you have random questions I could probably pass them on. Or put you in touch with her if you are considering the place seriously.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 10th, 2011 12:08 am (UTC)
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I am considering the place seriously, and trying to work out what it would cost to bring up to livable scratch. I have several questions that can't be answered by the builder's report, like - what insulation if any is in the walls? Is it true that it's steel stud and if so how can I check its integrity given the water damage without taking walls off? Are the original plans available? etc.

I will leave it up to your discretion whether you think it's appropriate to put me in touch. I really like the house but it has to be worth it or the bank will just laugh at me.
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