Thursday, July 31, 2003

editor's note: this is the second in an irregular series of blogs related to the recent house hunt of Cap'n Ken and his First Mate

The House Hunt
Tonight’s Episode: Image in a Cracked Mirror


Spurned by the owner of our dream home, we set out with our Realtor to find an even better house – HA!, we’ll show you, Mr. Don’t Want To Sell Me a House!

The Realtor dutifully dragged us into many homes in Grant Park, Ormewood Park, East Atlanta, East Lake, Kirkwood and Oakhurst during the two weeks after our offer was rejected. We went in some old homes, but because a big bath and big kitchen are high on our priority list, we mostly stayed with new and almost-new places.

[A note on Realtors in the Modern Age: Historically, the biggest benefit of having a real estate agent is to find houses you might want to buy. But in this Modern Age, home finding is more aptly handled by the Internet. There was not a single house our Realtor showed us that we did not already know about (www.jennypruitt.com is the best site to find houses, by the way). A savvy residence consumer can handle about 90% of a Realtor’s traditional functions his own self. When a home is listed by an agent, however, there’s no real incentive for a buyer to not get his own Realtor. Somebody’s gonna get that 3% one way or the other.]

In my estimation, the wife and I got inside about 30 homes during our search and made drive-by decisions (“no”) on probably 50 more.

Some observations on the art of homebuilding in the ‘hood:

• People will apparently pay top-dollar for a house that has absolutely no covered parking (not even a carport) and off-street parking for only one car.

• A crack house next door is not a deterrent to building an expensive home.

• A “lot” is any piece of land you can build a house on and not have it slide down into the creek.

• There is a certain style of Craftsman bungalow that has become the Jim Walters home of our neighborhood. The first time I saw this design, I thought “cool house.” The 100th time I saw it, I thought “jesus, build a different house, why don’t you?”

• Builders will do anything it takes to get a jetted tub into a house, up to and including making said tub the size of a Diet Coke FridgePack.

• A “bedroom” is defined as a room with a closet, even if it is, in fact, a study off the living room with stairs to the second floor in the corner of it.

• Berber carpet is the only floor covering suitable to put upstairs in a house.

Highlights of our whirlwind home tour included:

The Skinny House: This is a place on Clifton Road between Memorial and Hosea. The inside was actually quite nice, but it’s on a really narrow lot and from the street looks about 12 feet wide. It had a side-entry garage that I’d imagine takes about 30 minutes to negotiate into and out of.

The Amazingly-Poorly-Built House: On Oakview Drive, it looked decent enough from the outside. But the floors were visibly slanted, the crown molding didn’t come within an inch of the ceiling in most places and the homeowners had ruined the back porch by turning it into a screened porch that reminded me of a fishing camp in Louisiana.

The Dutch Pimp House: On Stokeswood south of Ormewood Avenue. No words I could write would do this place justice; you should drive by it yourself. Chalet-designed tall, skinny house with odd stained glass windows inside, garish gold fixtures and an 80-foot oak tree crashed across the fence and backyard. There’s an Under Contract sign in front, but I think that deal fell through. Smart buyers.

The House With Everything We Want – And Absolutely Nothing Else: On Delmar in Ormewood Park, this is a really cool-looking Charleston-style house. Great kitchen, awesome master suite, big basement, two-car garage … and that’s about it. Supposed to be a three-bedroom, but was really about 2.5. Downstairs was the kitchen and living room, and nothing else. The current owner has a dining room table plopped down in the space between. And a special bonus is the sewer line (complete with manhole) running through the backyard.

Out of the 80+ homes we gave at least a look-see to, there were about a half-dozen we thought about seriously. The Skinny House was one (Dutch Pimp was not). But nothing really rose to the level of "gotta have it".

It was then I hatched my brilliant plan. We told the Realtor we were gonna sit tight and let her know if we saw any more houses come on the market we wanted to look at. Officially, we were out of the house market when our buyer’s contract expired May 5 …

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