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29 January 2014

House Hunting

Many of you suggested that we try to go on House Hunters International (HGTV - if you have never seen it - you should watch it - it is great!).  I did send them an email, but nothing has come of it so far.
Part of Chris's employment contract included a property search firm.
Last week, we went out for an entire day, looking at suitable rental properties. What constitutes suitable? Well, we have a "wish list". Now that we have looked at properties, I nicknamed our wish list "pipe dream"!! On our wish list we have: within one mile of the Upper School location, 4 bedrooms, at least 1800 square feet, a garden (that is British for yard), off-street parking, and storage space. I think we had a couple of other items, but right now I cannot think what they are.  Really, it isn't important, as there wasn't one house that fit all of our requests.
Our budget is crazy high by US standards, but not so much here.  So you have some frame of reference, we are hoping to stay under $5,740 a month.  I hope you were sitting down for that.
I was optimistic that we would find a great house among the nine properties that our property advisor was going to be showing us that day.  Some were pretty good, some were okay, and some were just not.
I won't include photographs of all of the houses, but I will try to link to their rental listing pages so you can see more photos and details if you are interested.

The first house sounded good, as it was close to one of the commons (parks) that surround the area we wish to live in.  And, if I recall, it was around 2000 square feet, with four bedrooms and a small garden.  It has been available for several months, and I would imagine it is because it needs a little sprucing up. Nothing major, just a little freshening up.  And, the kitchen is not as modern and contemporary as seems to be favored here.  It is what they consider to be more traditional.  I thought the kitchen was pretty nice, actually.

This is the front of the first house. It is very typical of the houses in the area.

It has traditional Victorian era details, such as the tile in the foyer. Interesting, don't you think?

This is the back garden. No grass :(

Interesting to note that rents are typically negotiable here - anywhere from 5-10%. So, if you would like to rent a property, you make an offer and include in your offer what work you would like the landlord to do and how long you will sign a lease for.  Properties are generally considered "as-is" unless the landlord agrees to do any work.  The less work you ask for, and the longer the lease duration, the better the price.  And, leases here are a little different. If you sign a lease for a year, you have the option to leave after 6 months. If you sign for two years, you have the option to leave after a year.  We haven't completed the process, so I can only tell you what we were told by our property advisor. I will update you on what we find out when we get farther along in the process.

Another thing you may find interesting, and may not know unless you have lived overseas, or are an avid watcher of House Hunters International like I was… It is very unusual to have a separate clothes washer and dryer, you have either a washer, or a machine that washes and dries (typically it removes the water by condensing, not forced hot air like our dryers in the US). And, the clothes washer is usually located in the kitchen.

The second property we saw, we eliminated almost right away.  It just didn't have the right feel to us, and needed more sprucing up. Trust me, the pictures look way better than the house actually did in person.

The third property was a newer home, and more contemporary. It had some nice features, but one thing that seemed odd to us was the choice of carpet in all of the bedrooms - it was a sisal/jute type carpet - not comfy at all.

The fourth property is the one that we are going to go see again. It had a very comfortable, home-y feel to it. It isn't very big - only 1750 square feet. And it is a mock-tudor style, which has never been a favorite of mine. I really kind of pictured us living in a Victorian, row-style house here.  It does have storage space, and off-street parking. However, the parking is in a driveway shared with the house next door, not wide enough to put cars side by side, so I am unsure how usable it is.  The other HUGE bonus this house has is that it is right around the corner from the Upper School. By far the closest of all the houses we saw, it would be a way shorter walk to school than even we had in California!

The fifth house was interesting. It is bigger than all of the others. It is five bedrooms and has had some interesting renovations.  There is a complete basement that has been made into a media room, with a BIG built in wine storage and utility room, and a soundproof music room (they count as a bedroom). On the downside, the entire downstairs has brown carpeting. Upstairs the reception room was a double sized room, but the kitchen layout was weird. It is up a couple of stairs and off to the left and is quite small.  The garden is also completely filled with wooden decking. Upstairs, the bedrooms looked workable, but one had a murphy bed in it - interesting but might make the bedroom harder for us to work with. The listing is here -

The sixth house was not in a neighborhood that felt as family-oriented, was farther away, and was one we eliminated pretty quickly.
It had a cool orange front door though.  

The Seventh house was near the sixth house, so farther away than we really wanted to be, and on a very busy road. However, it was interesting, and larger. It had five bedrooms, and at the time we saw it, was a very new listing and not online yet. So, we took a lot of pictures so that we would remember a lot about it. 
second bath
second bedroom

dining room and third bedroom

kitchen - it was a real downside - not nice at all

loft bedroom

master bedroom - they were using as a family room
The Eighth house was another of our favorites. It was really nice. We nicknamed it the "mean nanny" house because the family's nanny was home and wasn't very friendly.  It had some nice features, was completely re-done, and had heated floors in the eat-in kitchen.

The last house was again in the area a little farther away than we wanted to be. And it was in need of a little attention. However, it had a walk-in closet! (Closets pretty much don't exist here at all) and a double shower (thats two shower heads!)

So, there are the houses we have seen so far.  We have an appointment to go back this afternoon and look at the tudor house again. I have literally woken up during the night, and tried to figure out how to fit our furniture in that house and what to do with what doesn't fit!  
I'll keep you posted.  I'd love to hear your thoughts. (Except Joanne. I already know her thoughts. She thinks I am a hoarder and have too much stuff. And she is right :)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Melissa! The houses you looked at all look great. I think it’s a brilliant idea to have a lot of options. Those are certainly some great choices for you, while some may not be as much. Oh well, it’s up to you which one to choose. By the way, you also watch House Hunters International? I watch it all the time too! Haha! It's so fun, right? :D

    Gina Moss @ Leasing KC