Sunday, July 13, 2008

House Hunters

We love to watch the show House Hunters on HGTV. Right now I think we are in the show, or at least the at-home version of it. For those of you who’ve been following along in fascinated horror as we look for a place to buy—we’ve narrowed down our options to three choices. I have floor plans for all three, so you can take a look and tell us what you think.

We started by figuring out what was important to us and then sort of ranking those features because we knew we probably wouldn’t get everything. You never really do when you buy a house, there are always trade-offs. So our pie-in-the-sky wish list included a bath and a half, laundry in the unit, some sort of outdoor space, and two levels of living. For anyone familiar with the Boston real estate market (within Boston, not the suburbs), I’m sure you are already shaking your head at us. But as someone we knew in Kansas City was fond of saying, “A closed mouth don’t get fed.”

I'll start by saying all three have laundry in the unit and all three also have some outdoor space. Now for the details:

One property does have all four features—114 Chandler. We saw this unit during an open house, and really liked it a lot. However, it’s the smallest of the three on our list (just 671 square feet), and the living space is small while the bedroom is large. We’d rather have those proportions reversed because really, who needs a bowling ally as a bedroom? On the plus side, we love the deck, we love that the half bath is on the upper level, and we love that the unit isn’t all garden (aka basement) level. On the down side, the kitchen needs to be updated, as does the full bath. However, this unit is the cheapest, with a listing price of $419,000. Yes that one is the cheapest . . .

We also really like 31 Concord Square. This second floor unit is in a brownstone overlooking Concord Square itself, which is a perfect example of the Victorian style of neighborhood common in Boston in the 19th century. Although this unit doesn’t have two levels, and lacks the extra half bath, we do like that you can get to the bathroom either from the living area or the bedroom, plus it’s got in-unit laundry. It’s also a little bit bigger than the Chandler unit at 683 square feet. The deck is pretty big, but since it’s the top deck on the building, it doesn’t get any shade. That can be good in the winter but possibly not so good in the summer. Plus you have to go through the bedroom to get to the deck. The kitchen has been recently updated but the bathroom needs some love. This one is the most expensive of our three choices and is listed for $499,000.

Finally, there’s 3 Claremont Park. Here’s where the variables get tricky. This unit is by far the largest (1038 square feet), and has a huge patio (about 400 square feet). I love the floor plan because the largest amount of living space is where we’d need it—in the living room and the dining nook, not the bedroom. As with Concord Square, there’s only one bathroom but you can get to it from the hallway or the bedroom, plus it has in-unit laundry. However, this is a true garden level unit which means the bedroom is mostly below street grade and has just one small window. The living room has two windows, but they don’t get lots of direct light (one window is below a deck for the unit above it), and the dining nook has an exterior door which has windows in it. But make no mistake, this isn’t a sun-drenched unit by any means. We do think the current owner did himself no favors by the paint colors he’s chosen, and he definitely shorted himself on ceiling lights. Both of those issues are fixable, but there’s no way to add more natural light. The kitchen is up to date and the bathroom is fantastic. This unit lists for $495,000.

The homeowner association fees are about the same for all three units; taxes are not because they are based on size, but they aren’t crazy out of line. We can rent a parking place right by the unit on Claremont for $175 a month (which is a great price); parking isn’t available nearby for the unit on Chandler so you are talking street parking which means you have to move it for the days when the city does street cleaning.

So what do you think?

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