House Hunting in New Jersey is Hard
We started house hunting in New Jersey!!!!!!!
Yes. That sentence required an overuse of exclamation points. I want you to know how excited I am. I also need to remind myself how excited I am because house hunting in New Jersey is hard. Oy!
I was adamantly opposed to living in New Jersey, but now that we’ve been here for a year the state has grown on me. Prior to moving here my negative impression of New Jersey was generated from bad reality TV, the jokes New Yorkers make about New Jersey, and the Newark Airport.
That probably wasn’t fair and now that we’ve had a chance to explore this state my impression has changed. It helps that Handy Husband likes his job here and I can run this blog from anywhere. Plus, the public schools in New Jersey rank second in the country. For the record though, the airport and reality TV are still bad. The jury is still out on the jokes.
On a more fundamental level, we’re ready to make a home of our own again.
Folks regularly ask us if we are ever moving back to Oregon or Georgia or anywhere else we’ve lived.
The answer? I don’t know.
We didn’t plan any of our other moves. Especially that Ireland one. When doors close we find an open door to walk through. We do plan as best we can, but we also like to seize opportunities when they come. It keeps life interesting. Our lives are so much richer because of the places we’ve lived and the human connections we have made along the way.
I doubt we will retire in New Jersey though because the winters can be harsh and it is an expensive place to live.
Here is our house hunting criteria, which might be why house hunting in New Jersey has been hard:
Price: $400,000 or less (preferably MUCH less)
Size: 1,500 sq. ft. or more
Bedrooms: 3 or more, preferably all bedrooms on the same level.
Bathrooms: At least 1, duh!
Other rooms: Space for my
ball and chain piano and an office.
Garage: Many homes don’t have a garage here, but it would be nice.
Condition: Structurally good, but dated. We want something we can fix up!
Lot size: Big enough so that I can’t pass a cup of sugar out my window to my neighbor.
Location: Within 30 or so minutes from Handy Husband’s work.
Schools: Must have a well-regarded high school.
Property Taxes: Less than $10,000 per year. (New Jersey has the highest property taxes and median tax rate in the country.)
In reference to the location, we involved our kids in the house hunting decision. Do we try to stay in the town where we currently live or do we expand our search? The town we live in is fantastic, but it was selected by happenstance, not because we specifically wanted to be here.
For all the benefits our kids have experienced from living in different states and internationally, they bear the brunt of our moves. It’s a lot of change! New places, new people, new schools, new expectations. Honestly, they’ve dealt with it better than probably Handy Husband or I have.
If the kids were willing to change school districts, then we were willing to expand our search boundaries. Interestingly enough, the kids had no hesitation about switching schools. However, from my perspective, the ideal solution would be to find a home in our current school district, so that’s how we approached our search.
I’d love to tell you that we’ve moved into a new house and everything is hunky dory, but I don’t have that announcement to make today. Have I mentioned that house hunting in New Jersey is hard? Hopefully soon though!
We’ve actually been house hunting for months now and have kissed a lot of toads. I thought you’d like to know about some of the more interesting homes we’ve toured in the quest to find a home that checked the box of “worst house in a great neighborhood.”
I’m not going to include pictures of those homes because I’m trying to banish some of the images from my mind and my commentary is probably not helpful. Where I see a problem, someone else might see an opportunity. It is the way real estate works and thank goodness for that, right?!
All of the
toad house stories I’m sharing with you today are homes that WE requested our real estate agent show us because we thought there was potential and then reality rained on our parade. Our real estate agent has been exceptionally patient.
We toured a home with a jetted tub in the master BEDROOM. Not the bathroom, the carpeted master bedroom. In addition to that lovely feature and the general decay of the home, I’m fairly certain this was a crack house. I don’t have any experience with this sort of thing, so I’m only going by the “get high” messages painted on the inside of the closet doors. Thankfully(?), my kids know all the bad words now from graffiti we saw in Europe, so a couple of drug references painted in the house didn’t phase them too much. Other than the speculation of what kind of punishment these graffiti artists received.
Probably 2 to 10, kids.
House hunting in New Jersey was going super well at this point. Not.
Then there was a home with a gorgeous exterior on a couple of acres. It had a great paved driveway, but the inside of the house hadn’t been touched since ‘carpet that looks like tile’ IN THE KITCHEN was a trend. Was that ever a trend? Carpet in the kitchen – especially if it looks like tile – is not okay. Now, this home could have been fine. A little carpet doesn’t scare me, but the layout was odder than the carpet in the kitchen, so it just wasn’t a love connection.
We toured a home that I wanted to love because it was on a lake. I was willing to overlook a lot, but it was too small with no room to expand because the house was built into the side of a mountain of rock. Also, there was no way to access the garage basement from the inside of the house. That wouldn’t have been a deal breaker except that’s where the washer and dryer were located.
There was a historic home that I thought had real potential. However, the listing photos failed to portray certain nuances that would be helpful in a purchase decision. I’m talking 200-year-old floorboards that were so warped it was like walking on a rollercoaster track. There were windows that had separated from the wall because the house had settled so much. Oh, and there was that little problem of mold. It really was a shame because back in the day this house must have been magnificent.
We also toured a home that looked pretty normal. It seemed clean. There were pictures of a cute baby on the walls. But as we ventured further and further into the home, there was an odd smell. And the smell kept getting fouler and fouler. Guess what they were keeping in the basement?
I kid you not. Basically, I now end every story with, “Yeah, but were there chickens in the basement?”
Also, I really resisted the urge to type “fowler and fowler” in that above paragraph. You know I love a lame pun and I’m cracking myself up over here! Oh, wait! I think I just made a cracking an egg pun! HAHAHAHA!
This is just a sampling of the interesting homes we toured in New Jersey. Sounds like fun, right? Ha!
I honestly thought the house hunting process was going to be a little bit easier. We also thought the real estate agents would be quicker to respond to our requests for showings, but it was like pulling teeth to get things scheduled. I was really dumbfounded by that aspect of the house hunting process. We’ve bought and sold four or five homes now and this was the first time that scheduling showings was an impediment.
To expedite the house hunting process, we found it extremely helpful to drive by all the homes we thought we wanted to see before trying to schedule a showing. There were many times when we could eliminate a home simply by seeing its location in person. We could also eliminate homes that looked good online due to some creative photography or Photoshop, but that, in real life, were not at all what was represented in the listing. The crack house is a good example of this.
Buying a home should be a happy, exciting time in a person’s life. We were trying to keep a positive attitude about house hunting in New Jersey, but we were having difficultly finding THE ONE. It was hard!
There’s also one part of the story I haven’t mentioned. Our lease was up at the end of the school year, so we needed to decide what we were going to do and decide rather quickly. The crunch was on!
To be continued…
While I work on finishing this house hunting saga, here are some other posts you might enjoy!
Painting a Kitchen in a Rental