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22.8.14 1849
The W - Random - Home Buying Advice
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Guru Zim
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Since: 9.12.01
From: Bay City, OR

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#1 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.81
Ok.

I've never owned a home before. I had a condo in San Diego (well, I still do for a bit... hopefully it gets through Escrow).

I'm looking at a piece of property that is 1.6 acres with a house built in 1910. I'm pretty sure I can afford this, so that's not my concern. The areas I am most worried about are:

1) How hard is it to take care of 1.6 acres of field/grass if you don't keep livestock on it? There are currently sheep and goats in the barn. I'd rather not care for livestock, but I guess the tradeoff is mowing?

2) 1910 is pretty old for a house. What should I be watching out for?

3) The basement is wet/has water in it. I think some of this is the way that the hill drains toward the house, and I think I can fix the gutters. Still, this worries me a little. If I don't plan on using the cellar, should I be really concerned that it might not be 100% dry? Obviously I would try to fix the water issue but I'm not sure how much I need to worry about it.

4) The foundation appears to have been raised at some point and now has a cinder block foundation or something like that. I've never heard of this before moving here, but I have seen it here a few times. Is this odd / unheard of?

5) The house was a foreclosure 16 months ago and had a rat problem in the cellar. It is next to a field, so I think there will always be rodents to some extent. I don't like rats. Do you think I should worry about this or do you think I can get this under control with a pest control agency?

I know it sounds like there is a lot wrong with this place, but it has a bay view and room for another home or two to be built on the property, and there is a lot of good going for it. I don't know that I will have another opportunity to get this much land with a bay ocean view again. I'm fairly certain we are going to make an offer on this so please talk me out of this / tell me your horror stories now.




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Since: 25.2.02

Since last post: 4 days
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#2 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.14
Get a professional home inspection done.

Learn more here.

(...And congratulations!)
The Guinness.
Morcilla








Since: 24.4.05
From: San Diego, CA

Since last post: 6 days
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#3 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.98
1) How hard is it to take care of 1.6 acres of field/grass

- If it’s just grass it shouldn't be a problem. Get a riding lawn more if the slope isn't too steep. My father-in-law lives on about the same size parcel. However his land is all hill. Every year he the fire marshal requires clearing of the brush. It's a pain in the....back. I help him out every year with this. It typically takes two days with a shovel and pick axe.

2/3/4) 1910 is pretty old for a house. What should I be watching out for?

Using my insurance experience….My first thought was the foundation. As far as the foundation goes look for cracks in the original foundation. The raised foundation isn't all too uncommon. At my work we get a lot of customers requesting that we insure their homes in similar situations. However we accept only about half of them after an inspector is sent out. On many occasions the cinder blocks were added to compensate for a shifting foundation.

The water in the basement should concern you too. I'd recommend getting a hold of an inspector, or even a contractor to take a look at the foundation and the water problem. There may be a problem with the land directly below the house (that you will not be able to detect) because of the repeated water exposure.

Also check for wiring/plumbing and heating updates.

5) Rats. God I hate rats. We've had a few discussions before about them on this very site. When you have them they are a huge nuisance. Once they're gone though the rodent problem is fairly easy to maintain. I live behind Mission Trails in San Diego. The park is basically my back yard. Needless to say I have had rodent problems.

Make sure to check all entrance points for the rodents and seal them. Constantly check them after they are sealed. One or two might slip by on occasion so make sure to leave some kind of trap around in hidden areas near walls (check those too).

The bay view sounds pretty intriguing. If you could see yourself building a new home on the land in the future all of the signs that point to "don't buy" may be negated. Good luck!




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Since: 2.1.02
From: Hawthorne, CA

Since last post: 3 days
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#4 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.86

We're in the process of buying a home now. We sold our condo in late January (escrow closed last week) and we started escrow on a house shortly after. We had the house professionally inspected a week later and the inspection found a lot of problems with the home that I would have never noticed myself (40-year old leaky furnace, ditto with the water heater, heavily cracked chimney, plumbing issues galore, electrical problems galore, etc). We asked for the sellers to repair/bring the big things up to code and we asked for credits for the small stuff. They responded by telling us that the house was being sold "as is, no credits, no repairs" and we said "no thank you".

Meanwhile, we had already sold our condo, so we had to find someplace else. In the end, we decided it would be better to put all our crap into storage and rent a small apartment until we find a better house than to try & rush into someplace before our escrow on the condo ran out. There was already going to be a 2-day gap between the closing of the condo and the closing of the (lemon) house, so we were already prepared to move "twice", but we were only planning on staying with friends for a week in between.

ANYWHO, the very day we started moving we looked at another house in the same area as the lemon, liked it, and put an offer on it. We just had it inspected by the same guy and this house is practically flawless compared to the other one, AND the sellers are 100% willing to fix all the small stuff the inspector did find. We close escrow on THAT place in 3 weeks.

MORAL OF THE STORY: I cant emphasize enough how important it is to get the house professionally inspected, especially a house that is almost 100 years old (that fact alone kinda scares me).

Just based on what I've learned from following the inspector around on 2 home inspections over the past couple months, the hill that drains towards "your" house really makes me nervous. Our inspector made such a big deal about flowerbeds that dont drain water away from the house/foundation correctly, I can only imagine the problems that could come from a hill draining water TOWARDS your house/foundation.


    If I don't plan on using the cellar, should I be really concerned that it might not be 100% dry?
Yes. I can understand the "I dont go down there, why should I care if it's wet?" thinking, but that water sitting around can cause other problems (structural issues, mold, etc) depending on how much is down there, where its coming from, etc.



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Corajudo
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Since: 7.11.02
From: Dallas, TX

Since last post: 45 days
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#5 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.73
Definitely get an inspector and also be worried about the cellar. Rats can be taken care of, so I wouldn't be too worried about that. The thing that would concern me almost as much as the drainage is the fact that the house was a foreclosure 16 months ago. It's never good for a house to sit vacant. Moreover, if it was a foreclosure, I'd bet the previous owner didn't do much to maintain the house. That'd be a pretty major red flag, moreso in a 100-year old house.

I know that the person who bought my wife and my previous house hired a structural engineer in addition to an inspector. It seems like overkill to me, but he did catch a couple of things missed by the inspector; ironically, they were water drainage issues. Given the cost of the engineer, the age of the house, the other issues mentioned, etc. it might be worthwhile to hire some type of structural engineer as well.

From your post, I'm getting the impression that the lot is pretty cheap for the area. Given the view and the 1.6 acres, the house could be the reason for the apparently low price. Is the price low enough to justify tearing down the old house (if it turns out to be a complete lemon) and build something else? You know what they say about a deal being too good to be true.



"Teach children that they have great potential because they are human." -Warrior
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Since: 13.2.02
From: Back in the Heart of Hali

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#6 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.97

The wife and I will be moving in to our first home a week from Friday. We started looking in September of last year, saw nearly 50 properties, and put in 3 bids, 2 of which were accepted.

The first accepted bid had some obvious and acknowledged roof problems (although there was an allowance/credit for it to be fixed) and some not-so-obvious wet basement problems. All the bids we submitted were contingent on a professional inspection. When we went for the inspection, we expected that the roof would be the biggest issue; it wasn't. The wet basement was. There was no obvious source for infiltration, but there was efflorescence everywhere on the walls and the basement was musty to the point where 10 minutes down there was too much for me. So we walked away at the cost of 1/2 the home inspection. Turns out the whole area the house is in has a "pitched water table" and 90% of the houses there have water issues in the basement. This also cannot be fixed without tens of thousands of dollars.

The place we actually bought is much older (82 years vs 60 years). It's got some visible cracks in the foundation, but the estimate to fix that is less than CDN$1000, and it only leaks in heavy weather.

My best advice is to make your offer contingent on a satisfactory building inspection. I don't know how the rules differ down there from up here, but it certainly saved our bacon.

Actual water in the basement is a serious problem, but if it can be fixed by improving drainage around the foundation and having some cracks filled, it shouldn't be too terribly expensive. If you're planning to have kids or you or the wife have respiratory issues, this is not the house for you unless you're sure you can fix the water problem.

1.6 acres is a lot to mow. You might last one summer with a regular mower, but you'll be buying a ride-on without at doubt. Keep the sheep/goats and you'll be shoveling shit and mowing anything they won't eat.

I've seen that particular sort of raising job before with the cinder blocks. It's not so bad, as long as the work was done well (just like any other "compromise") and the underlying foundation is sound.

The absolute best advice I can give you is be willing to walk away at any point, no matter how much you like the house. The wife and I were totally in love with the first one that accepted our bid. For the same price, a couple of months later, we're getting more square footage, a house that has been totally redone in the last 3 years (new roof, new insulation throughout, new thermopane windows, every room redone, etc.), 6 practically brand new appliances, and a frigging hot tub (although time will tell whether we can afford that). And we thought our dream home had passed us by.

RYDER FAKIN
Six Degrees of Me








Since: 21.2.02
From: ORLANDO

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#7 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.08
GURU: I've never owned a home before. I had a condo in San Diego (well, I still do for a bit... hopefully it gets through Escrow).

Perfect. You'll most likely qualify for a first time home buyer program. With that, and the money you get from the condo sale, you should be set. Reasonable downpayment and the most important thing...

GURU: I don't know that I will have another opportunity to get this much land with a bay ocean view again. I'm fairly certain we are going to make an offer on this so please talk me out of this / tell me your horror stories now.

The land is most important here - make the deal, tear down the old house and build a new one. Equity is not going to be a problem, so I think that's your best bet. You'll start hating yourself dumping money into a house that old, which would most likey need a complete overhaul anyway

Building a house of your own would be much cheaper and a better deal in the long run than trying "home improvements". Hire someone to mow

Plus, if the time comes and you want to refinance, no company in their right mind is going to give you anything based on a 100 year old remodel "house"...only the land. That's the value here

FLEA

(edited by RYDER FAKIN on 13.3.07 1526)

Demonstrations are a drag. Besides, we're much too high

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Since: 11.12.01
From: China, Maine

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#8 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.30


Of course Flea is correct.

We've owned two houses.

The first one was built around 1790. Yes, 1790.

Stone foundation, leaky walls, mice and rats. We renovated every room in this old farmhouse ourselves. Horsehair plaster on the walls. Asbestos. You name it.

Then we started having kids, so we bought a vacant piece of land (about 5 acres) and hired a builder and started from scratch. That is definitely the way to go. You build what you want. You make it tight enough that the rats don't get in and it doesn't leak.

You will forever be cursing yourselves if you start renovating the 100 year old house.







Leading the charge to draft Kevin Durant!
emma
Cherries > Peaches








Since: 1.8.02
From: Phoenix-ish

Since last post: 149 days
Last activity: 1 day
#9 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.06
Sounds like I'm not the only one who picked up on the "value of the house" vs. "value of the property" question. From your post, I heard "I'm enthusiastic about the property", but not "the house I always wanted". (Don't know if there's a different emphasis from the other half of the buying partnership.) If the price reflects mostly the value of the property itself, you can creatively work around house issues. (Small pre-fab log house on another part of the property, that you can live in while you straighten out "the main house", then use the "cabin" as a rental property? F'rinstance.)

Keep the sheep & goats! Get a couple of barn cats for the rats & a border collie for the stock! Matching shephard's crooks for you & Lise! I can picture it! :-)
JayJayDean
Scrapple








Since: 2.1.02
From: Seattle, WA

Since last post: 9 days
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#10 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.40
    Originally posted by pieman
    The first one was built around 1790. Yes, 1790.


In other words, the contractor was one of pieman's high school buddies.

With 1.6 acres you could probably get a decent-sized trailer manufactured home on the property if the old house turns out to be more problems than you can handle, and then if you fix those up you've got a rental property.



Holy fuck shit motherfucker shit. Read comics. Fuck shit shit fuck shit I sold out when I did my job. Fuck fuck fuck shit fuck. Sorry had to do it....

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Guru Zim
SQL Dejection
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Since: 9.12.01
From: Bay City, OR

Since last post: 14 days
Last activity: 49 min.
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#11 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.81
Thanks for all of the insight so far.

A couple of points I missed earlier:

This isn't the bottom of a hill, but it is a hill. I think that helps with the water table, but there is a portion of the house that has a slope down to it. I imagine all houses on hills have this issue.

The pasture area has a very gradual slope, the lowest point is below the house. I think I could easily put in drainage around the portion on the top part of the house.

The cellar is the worst part. I am not sure how much I can get to between the old windows in the cellar and the new underneath of the house, if that makes sense. I have a feeling this is where the rat issues are. The old cellar portion has problems, the windows are broken in one spot which I believe may be part of the water issue.

It rains 100 inches a year here, so there is just going to be some water I think. I'm going to try to get it tested to see if it is seepage. I didn't see or smell any mold or mildew, for what it is worth. Lise and I would have known immediately had there been - and with the trash that was down there we would have seen it. This cellar had definitely not been cleaned up to hide anything.

I'm way more sold on the fact that this is a potentially subdividable 1.6 acre plot with a bay view than I am on the old house that is there. I'm thinking about fixing the kitchen up a little and maybe adding a bathroom, max. I would be building a new house on the site in 10 years I'm pretty sure. I just know I won't be able to afford this view in 10 years with my salary staying around where it is.

The foreclosure was in Oct. 2005 but a family has been living there since and cleaning it up. They are moving back to CA though. It hasn't been empty for more than 1 month at a time as far as I know.

It's definitely more of a This Old House than HGTV Dream House.

Please talk me out of this now I'm going to make an offer this week if you fail.

BTW Of course I'm having it inspected. BUT - I need to know that the house has 5-10 years left in it. I don't know that we are going to try to make it last another 100 years. At least this was a forestry community - there is good timber as far as I can tell. Not that I know crap.




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Since: 11.12.01

Since last post: 357 days
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#12 Posted on | Instant Rating: 9.03
I guess this is the other side of things

Well, one of the things that people seem to do around here is get a piece of land, put a trailer on it, and then over a period of time (often pretty long) build their dream house on the land. Potentially this house is a considerably better "trailer" for the time we'd need to save up, get permits, and the actual building process. The land is set up in such a way that it can be split into two lots, and this house could potentially be sold off or rented out once the new house was built. However, we could end up with this house for a considerable amount of time if we hit a snag.

I do not remember seeing any visible cracks in the cellar (obviously going to have it inspected completely by people who are not us) and it does not seem to have any pipes or drains, just a furnace and detritus. We need to determine if the water that is in there is seeping through the concrete due to water pooling against the foundation, coming in the improperly sealed crawlspace access, coming up through the floor due to a high water table, or a sewage back up. If it is something we can fix, we'll do that, if it isn't, we'll have to walk away or decide if we're just going to demolish the place sooner rather than later. The raised cinder block foundation is about 3 feet outward from the cellar walls, creating a bit of a crawl space that the original windows in the cellar connect to and are only sealed off with cardboard. It is my personal belief that a lot of the rat problem stems from a lack of proper sealing of this crawlspace and connecting areas to the cellar. Obviously we'd never be able to eradicate them completely with the fields and such, but it should be easy to take measures to keep them out of the house a whole lot more. We do own a currently indoor cat, and I would really like to get some barn cats and a puppy if we move. Maybe goats or something in the future when we have slaves...er children to take care of them. I am very much not a horse girl... and there better not be a surprise pony on my lawn at any point.

The house is not horrible. It needs some cosmetic/finishing in the upstairs; floors need to be sanded/refinished, there's some drywall work that needs to be re-mudded or it might potentially be tin ceilings with a bad tape job, plus some bad texture work I would want to re-do/un-do and the whole upstairs needs paint. The kitchen is all ripped up as they were preparing to have new cabinets put in when they decided to move and they are willing to discount it and let the new owners do what they want. Cabinets are one thing I'd really rather pay someone to do, but it would be really nice to pick out what I'd want to do with the space. Things that will potentially drive me (us) crazy is that there is only one bathroom, and the only access to the utility room is through that one bathroom. It is a very large bathroom with a spa tub, separate shower, sink, and toilet. The bathroom also has a large
sliding glass door to the outside deck where the hot tub is. I am not really gung ho about having an outside glass door into the bathroom. I think we can make it work a little better by putting a screen of some kind around the toilet, but it is an annoyance. There also with the current layout and lack of water run to the rest of the house, no real good place to put a second bathroom easily. The living room is nice and has big windows that look into the bay. Currently they have their (very large) TV in the side bay window where it admittedly fits very nicely. Because of a pellet stove on the other side of the room, there isn't too many good places to put a TV. The Master Bedroom is nice, quite large with 3 small closets, but it and the living room both have windows which face the bay, and by extension the road that leads up to the house. There may be some problems with headlights shining into these windows at night, but we're not talking about a very high traffic road. They currently have blinds on these windows and their bed sits under the window facing away from it, which may be all that is needed. The hot tub and deck are very out in the open (probably to capitalize on the bay view) which we would probably want to screen off in some way. We also probably aren't exactly the type of people to use the hot tub all that often (especially with the spa tub already in the bathroom), so it may make more sense to sell it and take back the deck for other things (like grillin'). By far my two favorite things about the house are the very large common room in the center of the house with a wood stove, and the very small office type room perched at the top front of the house looking out into the bay. The common room is just the sort of room where people would congregate around the kitchen without really being in the kitchen.

One of the really cool things about the property has nothing to do with it directly; because of who owns the land around it, it is very unlikely that things will be built up around it in the foreseeable future.

I don't think this is going to be a cakewalk, and we'll probably wonder if we did the right thing a few times, but I think even though it isn't the easiest decision it is probably the right decision for us in the long run.
DJ FrostyFreeze
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Since: 2.1.02
From: Hawthorne, CA

Since last post: 3 days
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#13 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.86

    Originally posted by Guru Zim
    Please talk me out of this now I'm going to make an offer this week if you fail.
If you're into the property more for the land than the house and you're REEEALLY gonna build a new house on the land and not live in the current one for long, then I say go for it. If there's a chance that you may never get around to building the new one or you have plans to remodel the current house, I say walk away.



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Guru Zim
SQL Dejection
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Since: 9.12.01
From: Bay City, OR

Since last post: 14 days
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#14 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.81
More info:

The foreclosure was in Oct 2005 on someone who bought it in June 2004. I don't think they had it long enough to cause major damage to it.

I should point out that most of the houses in my price range are almost 100 years old around here It's just how it is. There was a lot of building done in the 1900-1920 range and then not much after. There are more manufactured homes on the plots of land that people have put houses on.

It's not like in a city where you can find hundreds of different options Keep in mind there are 4000 people in our town total, and 25,000 in the county. There just aren't that many people who a) own really nice houses b) are moving out of really nice houses. You have to accept a certain level that is different than you would elsewhere.

I definitely think the foundation is the biggest concern and I will pay extreme attention to anything said about this by the four friends I am taking tonight (all with renovation experience) and the professional inspection. I may have oversold the bad parts of the house because I really want to hear anything at all that I should be thinking about. So, I appreciate everyone's input.

I haven't been talked out of it yet but the four guys I am taking tonight have the best shot at convincing me this is a bad idea. All of them have owned homes in the area and renovated similar properties. I think they are going to be the best judge of the area, the potential, the quality, etc.

I heard from someone today that 2 acres is the current minimum size for subdividing, so that might be a major negative for this property. I need to confirm all of these things prior to getting locked in.




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Since: 4.1.02
From: The Hague, Netherlands (Europe)

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#15 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.60
Don't know squat about houses so I am not going to say anything about that..

What I notice though is that you seemingly want to be convinced not to buy it.
Kinda like you know you shouldn't be doing this but want others help decide for you?

I hope that's not the case and I hope those 4 guys can help you out. The whole property/bay view thing sounds sweet.




*sigh* Why bother?
Oliver
Scrapple








Since: 20.6.02
From: #YEG

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#16 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.36
A question, Guru and Lise:

Have you talked to the locals and found out what the soil is like? If it's good soil, you may want to think about a little farming. Without knowing what your social lives and spare time is like, you could make some extra change by growing some vegetables.

The biggest problem with purchasing property and wanting to demolish...is government. May I suggest talking to the local town council or town clerk and finding out what steps need to be taken (permits/fees/etc.) when it comes to rebuilding.

The sheer age of the house intrigues me. I'd love to see some pictures of the architecture. Have you had an opportunity to do so? From my experience, some realtors aren't always happy to allow prospective buyers to take pictures of on-market properties.

I echo the sentiments of the fellow W's when I wish you good luck with the purchase. Without knowign more, all I can really suggest is: if you have the money to put into the property, then jump at the opportunity. You can never go wrong in purchasing land.



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Since: 11.12.01
From: China, Maine

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#17 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.30


Click Here (realtor.com)

I was wrong. The original portion was built in 1776.

This is the house we used to own in Benton, Maine. It is on the market again. This will be the third owner after us in the last five years.


As to Lise's description of their potential house - we had one bathroom, too. It had two doors to it - one from the bedroom and one from the dining room! Talk about privacy issues.

One other thing about houses built long ago. They didn't have any clothes, obviously, since there are never any closets!







Leading the charge to draft Kevin Durant!
Guru Zim
SQL Dejection
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Since: 9.12.01
From: Bay City, OR

Since last post: 14 days
Last activity: 49 min.
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#18 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.81
Well, I know really like the idea of this property all fixed up and set up the way that I want it. I took my friends to see it because hopefully they aren't clouded by some romanticized notion of what it could be.

So far I've checked back in with two of them today and they have had good advice. Both agree it would be a lot of work. We all saw a few things that I want to have looked at closely by the professional inspector. This house is pretty old so it is hard to tell if some of it is leftover from when it was repaired in the past, or if these are new issues. I hope an insepction will reveal the small details to fill in the gaps.

I think I am going to make an offer so that I can get the inspection going. It will all be contingent on a lot of things - that we can subdivide, that the street that is next to the house really is never going to be put in (you'd have to see Bay City to understand why this isn't a red flag - there are numerous "streets" that exist in name only and may or may not really be built at a later date), that the lot could be subdivided, that the foundation isn't crumbling, etc.

I will try to post some pics later today. I don't have them yet, my friend took them on his camera.




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Since: 2.1.02
From: Hawthorne, CA

Since last post: 3 days
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#19 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.86

    Originally posted by pieman
    This is the house we used to own in Benton, Maine.
Looks pretty cool, actually. How many sq ft is it?



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emma
Cherries > Peaches








Since: 1.8.02
From: Phoenix-ish

Since last post: 149 days
Last activity: 1 day
#20 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.06
Unless the inspection comes up with something significantly more substantial than what you're already aware of, buy it. I look into my crystal ball & see that you would kick yourself much worse later for not buying it.

Go ahead & embroider a sampler saying "Why the hell did we do this?", frame it, & put it someplace conspicuous. Buy a couple of very good Oregon wines to lay down (away from the damp) for 10 years. Refer to the sampler liberally during the process. And when you do have everything all done the way you want it, drink the wine & burn the sampler. :-)
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Not for nothing, but Britney really isn't all that hot, to me at least. For starters, total Butter face, plus, she's 5 foot nothing, which is way too short. But that's just my .02 on Britney. Spiffy pics, I suppose.
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