Where are the Property Brothers when you need them?

Yes, our house hunt continues, although because things don’t pop up in the market as often as in the states, it has slowed. Significantly. In any case, I’ll continue my rant about what kinds of places, and with what kind of quirks, you might find around here.

So…what’s out there? A little bit of everything.

  • You have new construction – as in built within the last 10 years. New, new, like recently finished – is a little more rare. There was a big real estate boom here followed by a grand economic flop, and people aren’t running around putting up new houses and new buildings like they did before.
  • Then you have old,  but (technically speaking…) livable. Perhaps smallish rooms, layouts that don’t make a whole lot of sense to this American girl, and just, I dunno, old. C sees these and they make him think of (fill-in-the-blank’s) house when he was young. I see these and I think, ummm…well, usually I just think. They are prime for ripping apart, tearing down walls, etc. Some of them are chock full of possibilities, truly. (This is why I need the Property Brothers!) It’s just a matter of how much work you want to do.
  • THEN you have old, but gutted and redone. Some of these are just wow. Beautifully renovated. Stone walls, high ceilings, gorgeous wood floors. Really just wow. But you also have the houses that fit into this category – with some of the same well-done components – but some really bad design/layout choices that leave you thinking really? You spent all that money and you didn’t (enter any number of things here) or you (same…for example, put an unusable fireplace in a smallish, rectangular shaped front hall space?). These make me crazy. A lot of money spent with very little thought. And a bummer to see, because then the price reflects renovation and not possibility.  A cool aspect in both of these cases, is that with the old homes, often they come with a large UNrenovated space – could have been a barn or storage, or whatever – that, if you close your eyes, you can see a Architectural Digest-worthy space. A grand, three story open living area, or a 4 BR, 4 BA bed and breakfast. Again, a cool feature depending on how much money and time you want to dedicate to it.
  • And THEN, you have the old, completely renovated and refurbished, owner-ran-out-of-money-it-was-taken-over-by-the-bank-and-owner-rips (vigorously)-out-everything-salvageable-and-leaves-house-a-sad-mess, once again purchased and once AGAIN partially renovated house. Snort. Okay, this was only one house, but it gives you a sense of the economy and what can happen when someone runs into trouble. To be honest, this is a cool option – you have old beautiful components, some things partially renovated (some gorgeous floors and doorways, for example), but a lot of possibility to finish it the way you want.

In all of these cases, I found two things surprising. One, is that they don’t all have heat. Not even the renovated ones! They have a coal oven in the kitchen. Seriously, I mean, this gives me instant visions of sleeping on a dog bed on the kitchen floor. And in some of the smaller, more remote towns, getting a gas line to your house is not easy, and not always even possible. Sure, the coal ovens can be very aesthetically pleasing…but no heat? ACK. (This, FYI, is not strange to C.) And because they have a coal oven, they have no regular oven. NO REGULAR OVEN. Whaaaaaaaat? How’m I ‘aposed to BAKE stuff? For the record, these are usually both fixable things. I’m just saying.

Another thing. Rentals, 99% of the time, are rented furnished. Fully furnished. So if you’ve got a house full of furniture (like us), this could present a challenge. Not an unsurmountable one, just a challenge. This part of the world is not littered with Public Storage facilities. But this point I think is representative of one of the biggest differences in the market – in the states, a lot of people move for any of the following reasons: new job/relocation, bigger family, made more money and just want a bigger place, better school systems. So it becomes sell a house, buy the next one, in a constant, dizzying motion. Here, that doesn’t happen. People move because they HAVE to more than because they WANT to. (At least that’s my perception – I am not a market analyst of course.)    People don’t change jobs with nearly the same frequency, and houses stay in the family for generations. They keep old Aunt Nilly’s house until they realize they don’t have the time/money to do anything with it and they try and sell it. Or they turn Grandma’s old place into their vacation home, they furnish it – then when they realize they don’t use it as much as they thought, they rent it. Furnished.

And so we press on. We were supposed to see a house this morning – our third attempt (the first two cancelled by the home owner) – which was this time cancelled by the agent because it snowed, like two inches maybe?? which is now cleared off the streets because of the rain that followed?? – and she was nervous about driving. My sis told me they just got 20 inches outside of Chicago, that would be enough to paralyze this area for months…

I think I’m gonna go email the Property Brothers and try and tempt them with a Northern Spain episode.

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