Which house to buy?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Colin Dunn, Jul 14, 2002.

  1. Colin Dunn

    Colin Dunn Supporting Actor

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    I'm seriously considering making a cross-town move to a less expensive house. Right now, I've got it narrowed down to three options.
    1) 1,818 sq. ft. in Lago Vista, $154,910 (fully configured)
    Floor Plan
    Elevation
    Pro:
    - Location, location, location! Lago Vista is a resort town about 25 miles outside of Austin, in the Texas Hill Country. Hills, forests, lakes, and golf courses abound. The environment resembles some of the most upscale neighborhoods in Austin, but prices are still somewhat reasonable.
    - My home would be one of the smaller and less expensive ones in its neighborhood, offering the best possible potential for appreciation.
    - BIG family room (I would pick the great room option) to get a 15x26 home theater space.
    - Better curb appeal than the other two homes.
    Con:
    - Of all 3 options, this house is the furthest away (in time and distance) from work. I would be driving 45-60 minutes each way, every day.
    - This home has less standard features than other builders', yet is the most expensive per square foot. It is livable but lacks architectural pizazz inside.
    - It has one too few rooms, so I would have to sacrifice the formal dining room (and my dining-room table) and settle for an "eat-in kitchen." (Since I rarely have dinner guests, this should be a minor quibble, but every classy home I've seen has a REAL dining room.)
    - Lago Vista has higher property taxes than other Austin-area suburbs (3% per year, compared to 2.5% per year in Leander).
    2) 1,954 sq. ft. in Leander, $126,990 plus options (configured: about $132,500)
    Floor Plan
    Elevation
    Pro:
    - Better standard features than the Lago Vista home.
    - The extra ~140 sq. ft. yields an additional room over the Lago Vista home.
    - Closer to work and convenient highway access.
    - Lower property taxes than Lago Vista.
    Con:
    - The setting is like any ordinary tract-home subdivision. Noise can be heard from a highway and active railroad tracks about 1,500 feet away from the development.
    - If the builder won't move the fireplace out of the corner of the 15x18 family room to the center of the wall with windows (see floor plan), this floor plan will not work for home theater, and I will have to eliminate it from consideration.
    3) 2,971 sq. ft. in Leander, $153,990 plus options (configured: about $157,000)
    Floor Plan
    Elevation
    Pro:
    - Excellent standard features, and almost as big as my current place, so I wouldn't feel like I was stepping down very much.
    - The 16x16 game room would make a good home theater space.
    - Closer to work and convenient highway access.
    - Lower property taxes than Lago Vista.
    Con:
    - The setting is like any ordinary tract-home subdivision. Noise can be heard from a highway and active railroad tracks about 1,500 feet away from the development.
    - This house may be too big for a single guy like me, and will result in higher recurring costs (property taxes, utility bills, etc.).
    - This home is the biggest floor plan the builder offers in that subdivision, and there are no bigger/more-expensive subdivisions nearby. This house may be too fancy for the neighborhood in which it is located. The conventional wisdom is: Don't buy the most expensive home in the neighborhood.
    ---
    Right now, I lean toward option #2 (contingent on the fireplace issue), but if that option falls through, I would have a tough time deciding between #1 and #3. I like the Lago Vista location better, but I'm not sure it's so much better as to sacrifice 1,000 sq. ft. of living space, and throw away an extra 30-45 minutes out of every day on a longer commute.
    Any opinions??? Should I go for the prime location, even though it is much more expensive than the alternatives? Or should I settle for a less desirable location, but get a cheaper, better looking, and bigger home?
     
  2. Andrew_Sch

    Andrew_Sch Cinematographer

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    If two doesn't work out, I'd go for three. That long commute to work every single day will turn out to be a HUGE hassle.
     
  3. Kevin T

    Kevin T Screenwriter

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    do you really want or need a fireplace? the builder should be able to move the fireplace but when i was house shopping, i opted to have the builder not include the fireplace. saved $2500 which really isn't that much toward the final cost of my home but it's an additional $2500 i'm not financing for 30 years! if i were you, i'd ask the builder to not install the fireplace. nowadays fireplaces serve more for aesthetics than for their actual functions.

    kevin t
     
  4. Colin Dunn

    Colin Dunn Supporting Actor

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    I may be able to have the builder delete the fireplace, though I don't know how much of a credit against the price of the house I would get for it. They're supposed to get back with me today about my options there.

    Everyone around here says that buyers want a fireplace ... though I can't understand why anyone would want any more heat in Texas...
     
  5. Paul Jenkins

    Paul Jenkins Supporting Actor

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    how much do you like or not like driving? to me, that is your determining factor whether to even consider #1. I HATE driving more than 15-20 minutes each way to work, I used to drive to downtown Dallas, at least an hour to an hour and a half each way. I will never do that again!

    But each person is different in that regard...
     
  6. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Regarding fireplaces, what kind of fireplace, a real wood-burning fireplace or one of those new gas fireplaces.

    If it's a gas fireplace, in my opinion, I'd just save the money and stuff and nix it. A gas fireplace is completely silly to me and takes out any kind of enjoyment a real fireplace can have. I mean, you just flick a lightswitch and the fireplace turns on... gee, how thrilling. Plus all the so-called logs they put in the places look real cheesy. My parents have one (no choice) in a house in Delaware and it seems to be completely for looks. They also have to have a separate gas tank so there is a maintenance fee for some guy to come around and check the level of the tank.

    Jay
     
  7. Max Knight

    Max Knight Supporting Actor

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    My personal preference would actually be #1, but that's just me. I think you should always go for the best investment you can, and getting the cheapest house in the most expensive place is a good investment.

    Also, what you said about the noise in the other places sounds annoying. I'm a stickler for noise, so that would be a big minus in my book.

    I don't think the loss of the dining room is all that huge, because the location is going to much more of a difference in future value than a small dining room would. Since you have stated that you don't throw a lot of dinner parties, it doesn't sound like a huge loss.
     
  8. Michael*K

    Michael*K Screenwriter

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    Have you actually visited models for all three or only seen blueprints? If the latter, perhaps good sound insulation will negate the disadvatage of being close to a highway or railroad tracks. Hard to tell without a real-world test. Like you, I'd go with #2 with #3 being the second option. After location, I always would go with the biggest place I could afford. Also, I despise long automobile commutes. I'm lucky we have excellent public transportation here.
     
  9. Steve Peterson

    Steve Peterson Stunt Coordinator

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    As someone who once did long commutes (35.4 miles one way, one hour drive), I can tell you they suck big time. If you have to spend 2 hours on the road every day, it gets on your nerves real quick.

    The builder should be able to drop the fireplace easy. These modern fireplaces just have studs around them (with appropriate spacing to keep from burning), and are more or less for atmosphere. There should be no structural brickwork to stop its removal (or change in position).

    In order of my choice, 2,3,1.

    Steve "Good luck" Peterson
     
  10. Todd Hochard

    Todd Hochard Cinematographer

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  11. Greg Haynes

    Greg Haynes Supporting Actor

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    I must say property value is very cheap where your at. In Delaware I am also looking to buy a new home and every new home that I want is in the 200-275k range. For example, for a 2675 sq ft home would cost $275,000 fully configured. Heck, even a 1900 sq ft home cost about $210,000.

    I would love to get a 2900 sq ft home for 157k.

    But if I were you and single then I would settle for option #2.
     
  12. Derek Williams

    Derek Williams Stunt Coordinator

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    2, 3, 1
     
  13. Tim Abbott

    Tim Abbott Second Unit

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    Ah, Greg.......[​IMG]
     
  14. andrew markworthy

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    The rule of thumb in the UK as I guess anywhere is location, location, location. However, I would say you should address several questions:

    (a) how long are you planning to live there? If you are going to be living there for a lot of years, then a long commute every day of your working life will be not v. pleasant.

    (b) are you constrained to travelling into work during rush hour? If not, then a long drive home might not be quite so bad.

    (c) which neighbourhood do you think you'll fit in best? I don't mean that as a snobbish question, just which one could you feel happiest with?

    (d) do you have kids? If so, what are the local schools like?

    (e) which has the best build quality? Something may be cheap now, but if it needs major maintainence, it's dearer
    in the long run (I know this sounds obvious, but I recall a friend buying a drop-dead gorgeous house and discovering a year later what 'the roof needs some maintainence' on the surveyor's report really meant - a bill for 20000 pounds).

    We're thinking of moving at the moment, and to be frank, the number one priority is getting into a neighbourhood which has good schools. It means getting a smaller house than we could afford in an area served by a poorer school, but at the end of the day, it's the kids' education which matters, not the size of the living room.

    Incidentally, in Worcester, U.K., I'd reckon that property would set you back a minimum of 350000 pounds (and Worcester is pretty cheap compared with a lot of the UK). Somewhere in the south-east of England, I doubt you'd see much change out of about 700000.

    Good luck!
     
  15. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    I'd go with 3 because of the HT room plus the nicer floorplan.

    NO WAY would I want a 45-60 minute commute to work, I'd rather live in a 500 sqf apartment than do that.

    I can see your argument against it (don't buy the most expensive home in the neghborhood), we were faced with the same choice when we bought our home (but it's much smaller). After looking around in the neighborhood though, I realized there was an abundance of houses with the largest floorplan, which made me feel OK with picking it. I'd check that neghborhood and see how it is there, if there are only a couple of the larger homes, that might be a problem.

    /Mike
     
  16. Colin Dunn

    Colin Dunn Supporting Actor

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    I'm surprised at the responses so far ... only Max Knight arguing for option #1 so far. Is the appreciation potential exaggerated by real-estate agents and "gurus" in order to push people into more expensive homes than they need???
    I often have trouble buying the "worst home in the best neighborhood" because I am a single guy, and need to get the absolute most for my money possible. Squandering $2,800 per month on a house payment is not an option available to me, unlike the vast majority of couples in Austin (judging from the number of $300K+ homes on the market here).
    Location #1 (Lago Vista) has many upscale homes with lake views, priced into the seven-figure range. Immediately near the home site, the houses would range from $150K-$230K (no hillside/lakeside views in that section).
    The other location (Leander) is a small town that is slowly getting engulfed by suburban sprawl to the northwest of Austin. It is not nearly as affluent an area, and there are few (if any) million-dollar homes there. The few that do exist are concentrated in a hillside/golf-course subdivision called Crystal Falls. The homes I am considering there are not in or near the Crystal Falls development (where prices start over $200K).
    The builder of #2-#3 called me today and told me that they could delete the fireplace, but not move it. Sacrificing the fireplace is OK with me (particularly if I get a credit to apply to other upgrades).
    Jay H - I actually like those "cheesy" gas fireplaces. Yes, they are fake compared to a real pile of burning wood, but there is no soot or ash mess. I like the low-maintenance aspect. And any home with central heating really does not need a fireplace as a heat source; they're all put in just for show...
    MickeS - With the fireplace removed, the family room in #2 (15x18) is actually larger than the game room in #3 (16x15). But I agree with you, the floor plan for #3 is much nicer, resembling upscale homes in the area that sell for twice the price.
    Andrew - no kids, and I am constrained to commuting during rush-hour. My boss has a bad habit of scheduling 7:30AM meetings... [​IMG] I don't know how long I will live there. Buying the smaller place would make my stay more 'recession-proof' (i.e., I could hold out longer without work or making less money before having to sell). I would expect to be there a minimum of 3-5 years, possibly longer. I would be happier with the neighborhood for option #1, but have reservations about paying $85 per square foot instead of $67 per square foot (option 2) or
    $57 per square foot (option 3). That is a 29-47% premium on a per-sq. ft. basis...
    Todd - When I was standing in a nearly-completed spec home (insulation already in place), I could hear the loud horn on a train blow as it approached a railroad crossing. The rumble of the train was not apparent inside. Still need to find out how often trains run on that track. If it's 2-3 times a day, it's not a problem. If it's every hour, it would be an annoyance...
     
  17. Michael*K

    Michael*K Screenwriter

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    Eh, if you don't mind the gas fireplaces, you could always install one of the ventless models yourself at a later time if you so choose. I prefer woodburning myself, but I don't savage the gas models like some people do. As you said, they are far cleaner and some are very aesthetically pleasing.
     
  18. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    I believe that while a home is an investment, it's first and foremost a place to live, and you have to put that first. The #1 homes sounds like it's in a great area. But wouldn't people that want to live there rather buy a bigger home? You might find that the appreciation for your house isn't as big as you think, and you'll end up with higher taxes because of the location, while not reaping the benefits of increased home values.

    But that's just me, I'm a cheapskate that would rather live in a McMansion in a less fancy area with lower taxes (as long as it's close to work) than in a small house in a fancy area far away.

    /Mike
     
  19. Todd Hochard

    Todd Hochard Cinematographer

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  20. Eric Kahn

    Eric Kahn Guest

    I live between 2 mainline RR tracks, both less than 1500 feet away, after a few weeks in your house, you really will not notice the train horns, I have more problems with people driving mobile thump boxes past my house and the idiot with the sportster with straight pipes that cruises the neighborhood.
    go for option 2 without the fireplace and see if they will build it with 2 by 6's so you can have more insulation to kill the noise
    other option is to have them put a double layer of drywall in the room you are going to use for home theator if they wont do 2 by 6's
     

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