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House Hunters: Tampa Edition

by Meghann on May 2, 2014

Please note that we know that no house is perfect. Derek and I have really just started looking at properties and are not in a hurry to settle just yet. We’re taking our time and learning as we go. I thought it might be fun to share some thoughts about the houses we’ve looked at thus far. We may only see one more or we may see 100 – who knows what the future will hold!  (p.s. I hope you enjoy my awesome Paint skills!) 

House #1: The Foreclosure


Derek and I got our dates/houses mixed up with our realtor for our very first showing with him. D’oh! We arrived a little early (not even realizing we were at the wrong house) and decided to take a little peek inside. The gate on the back fence was broken and the back sliding glass door was unlocked and easily accessible, maybe this should have been out first sign this was a no go?

While the house appeared to be recently renovated and in great shape in photos, it was a whole other story in person. The fresh paint and new kitchen was just a band aid for the odd floor plan, tiny master bathroom, and missing pantry in the kitchen. The doors and windows weren’t sealed properly and we saw a lizard easily squeeze itself out the back door onto the patio. We weren’t fans of this place at all.

When the realtor finally called us to see where we were, we told him it was a good thing we saw this place first because it was a definite no.

House #2:  The Dream House

dream house

I loved this house the second I stepped in. It smelled amazing – which I’m discovering is a huge selling point for me.

The layout was perfect. The three extra bedrooms were in a separate hallway with a beautiful second bathroom right in the middle. All the rooms were also colorful, decent sizes, had great closets, and great big windows. The master bedroom was on the other side of the house and had a huge bathroom and walk-in closet attached. The floor plan was very open, with a separate play space at the entrance and a small dining room near the kitchen. The kitchen had older cabinets, but the fresh coat of paint and new hardware really gave them an updated look. There was so much space, too! Lots of cabinets, a big pantry, and about 3x as much counter space as our current place. Love!

Location was great as well. The house was close to the major road we both take to work and there was a Publix within walking distance.

Unfortunately the backyard was really where we stopped and paused. It was a beautiful backyard, but it was small and not kid friendly at all. There was a big deck that took up the majority of the space and a hot tub that nestled itself on the side. There was no grass and no space to really let Maddie or future kids run around.

It was also the second house we saw and we weren’t exactly ready to settle on something if it wasn’t 100% what we wanted. If the yard had been just a tiny bit bigger, we might have put an offer right then and there. Unfortunately we had to pass. The house went off the market a couple of days later and is currently under an active contract. Sigh. Now it’s simply the house we compare all other houses to.

House #3: The Big House

big house

I liked “The Big House” as soon as our realtor sent the listing. It was at the top of our budget, but I was impressed with the location and the big, beautiful kitchen featured in all the photos.

Unfortunately, photos can once again be deceiving. While the house was gorgeous – and the kitchen super impressive – there were too many things that needed to be done to it. It looked like a house that had been lived in and loved by a good family and was put up for sale only after all the kids had moved out. There were walls that had been DIYed with some sort of plaster embellishment that would need to be removed, there were doors that weren’t properly aligned, and various elements were cracking and peeling for one reason or another. It was also very big. Too big. We didn’t need that much space.

So, once again, we walked away.

House #4: The House with the Great Backyard

While I was away for business last weekend Derek saw a couple of properties without me. There was one house in particular that he saw, loved, and wanted me to see asap.

The house was a recent flip, only on the market for a day after being sold a month prior to the flippers. They did a great job for the short time they had, they updated all the fixtures, redid the natural oak floors, put in a new kitchen, and updated the second bathroom. It was a beautiful house, with a great backyard. I walked outside and immediately felt at home out there. It was large, open, and plenty of room for a pick-up game of soccer or a barbecue.

The only problem was the master suite. The bathroom was tiny and the closet wouldn’t even hold my winter wardrobe (this Florida girl’s winter wardrobe!). Derek presented the idea of redoing the master suite ourselves and we spent about 20 minutes discussing plans for gutting the bathroom and putting in what we wanted. The house was well below our budget so any extra construction would still be feasible. Could we make it work?

Nope. It took a couple of beers for us to come back to our senses and realize we don’t want to mess with that at all. In fact, we’re willing to pay a little more to not have to mess with that at all.

I think the most important factor that links all the houses above is none of them felt like home. I’m still waiting for the place that gives me instant butterflies. I feel like we’re internet dating houses and we just haven’t found “the one” yet.

How many houses did you look at before you put an offer in? I think we’re on 6 or 7, with 3 more to see this weekend!

1 Glenneth May 2, 2014 at 6:32 am

i think i looked at 12 or 15 (i did most of the leg work). i think you will certainly KNOW when you find the house. when we both walked in and went WOW and kept saying WOW throughout the house, we knew. we still went home, slept on it, ran the numbers, etc, but we knew and have been living here for 3 years now.
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2 Runner Girl Eats May 2, 2014 at 6:34 am

We looked at tonsssssssss. It’s a long process. Hang in there–you will find the perfect one 🙂
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3 meredith @ The Cookie ChRUNicles May 2, 2014 at 7:11 am

Oh my, for our first house we easily looked at 60 houses, it not more. lol. However, when we decided to move again, I walked into the first house we looked at and knew it was the one. I think you just know when you find it.

4 Jojo @ RunFastEatLots May 2, 2014 at 7:35 am

I’ve never bought a house (not even close to that point in my life), but I’ve been looking at a lot of houses with my aunt, who is looking to buy. She’s been searching for 4 months now, and have made at least 3 offers. Still haven’t bought one, yet.
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5 Stacy May 2, 2014 at 7:53 am

We only looked at 3…then we decided we had to build to get what we REALLY wanted (in our area). We are building and the house should be finished by January. I realize it could be behind, so I’m telling myself March.
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6 Kelsey M. May 2, 2014 at 9:19 am

OMG. I don’t even know how many houses I looked at!! Don’t get discouraged, I’m glad you two are taking your time! I looked for 5 months before I found the ‘almost perfect’ house. Have fun with it and get a laugh out of some of the crazy things you’ll see! It’s an adventure, that’s for sure!

7 Holly May 2, 2014 at 9:36 am

We saw 46 houses in 3 months before we found the one that immediately screamed “home” to me.

3 years later and we’ve since moved to a different stste and are back to being renters AND landlords as we try to sell our dream home.

In searching for a new house to buy, in much less picky since our first go-round!

8 Elizabeth {Positively Healthy} May 2, 2014 at 9:44 am

I love reading about house hunting! Good luck this weekend! I can’t wait until my husband and I are ready to start looking!
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9 Kristen May 2, 2014 at 10:00 am

Ugh- we looked at like 50 houses. Property Virgins and House Hunters totally lie to you- what I would have given just to look at 3 properties! As miserable as it was, I’m glad we did it. We weren’t really sure at first if we wanted a townhouse/single family home/were still waffling between living in two different counties… and since we saw all the houses we did I felt really confident that we made the correct decision for us in the end.

When we went into sign all the paperwork I was like, “How many signatures do you want?!!?? How much do you want me to read?? I thought you were supposed to bring a cover sheet to a cute Mexican restaurant where I can quickly scribble my signature while I sip a margarita.”

Although I did whine a bunch about the process, I can appreciate it a little bit more now, and I think it was a really sweet experience for my then fiance and I that helped us grow together. Good Luck!!

10 Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed May 2, 2014 at 1:14 pm

House Hunters is a big lie in general. My cousin looked into being on the show when they were house hunting and apparently you actually find your home ahead of time… and they show you two randoms that you know you’re not going to pick.
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11 Kendra May 2, 2014 at 10:25 am

I looked at dozens from the street (I literally drove around the entire city and stopped and looked at every single one with a For Sale sign), but I only went inside of two. The first one I put in an offer the same day. After going back and forth with many counter offers, I walked away. The next day I went inside of the second house, put in an offer that day, and it was accepted 2 hours later. I have been living there for 4 months and am absolutely IN LOVE with my new home, and so is my entire family who visits every weekend. Good luck with you house hunting!!!

12 Kelly May 2, 2014 at 12:14 pm

I think talking about home searching might be my favorite topic. Even though I’m not looking anymore I still love going on real estate websites. Of course it is a lot more fun now that I don’t have the stress of being in the thick of it.

For my first condo, I had to find a place in short order so I was pretty rushed. I looked at maybe 6 places over a weekend before I found my condo. Doing it in a hurry was definitely the WRONG approach. Even though I loved that condo to death I made a lot of mistakes, but I guess the benefit is once you make a mistake once, you don’t tend to make it again.

For my second condo, I looked at 32 properties over the course of 2 years. (Of course, I took some breaks during that time so I wasn’t continuously searching.) My search was especially long because I had a pretty specific idea in mind about what I wanted and there wasn’t a lot of inventory on the market. I did find two places I loved before my eventual place, but both times the contracts fell through (the first time we couldn’t agree on a selling price and the second the inspection was pretty bad). At the time, I wouldn’t have recommended anyone search for that long. It was really discouraging and hard to see friends find their place long before I did. But I do feel like since I searched for so long it did up my confidence that I found the right place for me. I don’t wonder if there could be anything out there because I feel like I saw so much of what was available. Also, it helped me crystalize what was truly important to me and made me willing to accept the tradeoffs. I also feel like I appreciate my place so much more because of the time I put in to find it.

I definitely can relate to that love at first sight feeling. I had it with all three of the places I made offers on. My place truly does feel like home to me. Good luck!
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13 Jackie May 2, 2014 at 12:31 pm

We looked at one and we were sold. We knew the area pretty well and constantly did drive bys of neighborhoods. When we found this one (a new construction, in our ideal spot, on a cul-de-sac, big backyard, great floor plan, etc) we knew it was the one. The only thing we regret now is buying at the height of the Florida market. 🙁

14 Jenny May 2, 2014 at 1:15 pm

For our current house, we only had a weekend to look. We look at 15 houses in one day. The 13th house was the house we chose. We just KNEW it the minute we walked it. You will know!

15 Natalie @ Free Range Human May 2, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I think we saw somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 before we finally settled on our house out of pure frustration. Not the way I’d recommend!
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16 Angie May 2, 2014 at 1:49 pm

I looked at 4 houses in one day, and bought the 4th house the same day. It had very few things on my list, but when I walked in I knew it was the one.
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17 Ashley May 2, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Oh man, it took us over 6 months and we looked at well over 100 properties. It’s a long long process, but so worthwhile. Hang in there!
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18 sarah May 2, 2014 at 2:04 pm

man, i live in DC, where it’s tough to find a decent 1 bedroom condo for under 200k (even in a neighborhood that hasn’t totally gentrified yet, there’s just word that it WILL be gentrifiying, soonish!) it’s insane. i do have a few friends who have managed to buy in the last few months but each of them was looking for 6-8 months, looked at probably 20-30 houses each. they were both beat out by other buyers on a few properties they liked. it’s a long process sometimes…and emotional! i had to console one of them a couple times after she lost out on a house.

19 Blythe May 2, 2014 at 2:16 pm

We relocated closer to family last year and between selling our current home, going from a buyers market to a sellers market, living with my in-laws and commuting over an hour one-way to my new job- it was stressful to say the least! But, we had a great great great Realtor that showed us countless properties and assured us it always works out. I also wanted 4 bedrooms b/c my husband works from home, we have a daughter and I wanted a guest room. I gave up that fourth bedroom to get a more updated house- SO WORTH IT! I’m glad you and Derrick have the same philosophy.

20 Ashley May 2, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Ah, I am living through your search. We are a military family, and I can’t imagine even buying a home as a forever home. I mean never say never, but I just never see it happened in our near future!
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21 Courtney May 2, 2014 at 2:31 pm

I was in the same boat as you. We didn’t want anything DIY because we just aren’t patient and certainly are not crafty. We stopped and started looking a couple times and then finally were torn between 2 newly built homes. It will happen, just be patient and don’t let it become a chore. Take a break from looking if you feel like you need it and something will come along!
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22 kirsten May 2, 2014 at 3:05 pm

I started looking in February and have looked at ~30 houses. We’ve had offers in on 4 of them and they all fell through. Two we walked away from after discovering issues, and the other two used our offer (for full asking price) as leverage to get over asking from someone else. I am trying to to get discouraged but it’s hard sometimes. We live in CT where apparently it is now a sellers market.

I am sure something is out there for you guys, good luck with your search!

23 Jenn@Mark My Mile! May 2, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I love this! We looked at Many houses before putting in an offer in DC. We even slept on it first but I knew our home now was “the one” when I saw it and all the other homes were being compared to that one. Good luck in your house hunt!
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24 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs May 2, 2014 at 4:27 pm

So exciting!

I think we looked at about 8 or so places before buying, but we were not being terribly picky — we knew it would just be a starter home, and so our list of “must haves” was a bit shorter than it would be for our “forever home”.

Hope you find the perfect place for your family!
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25 Heidi May 2, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Love this, so interesting to hear other people’s experiences, especially in different countries. I live in Australia & property here is so expensive, my one bedroom apartment cost more than what most Americans pay for a house, and significantly more than something similar in DC. I have spent quite a lot of time in the US and am envious of the affordability of the housing market. Good luck, am sure you will find something great!

26 Bron May 3, 2014 at 1:37 am

It’s really interesting hearing about house hunting in the States! We brought our first home two years ago and we were looking for a property we could do up and add value too – DIY is pretty big business in NZ! We were super lucky that we ended up getting an old state house (built by the government in the 1960s with native timber and solid as a rock) with a massive backyard in a great neighbourhood for young families. Looking forward to getting the renos started this year so we can turn it into our dream home! Good luck with your search

27 cristina May 3, 2014 at 8:58 am

Ny husband and I just went through this while apartment hunting in Amsterdam. We are in the process of moving from Atlanta. When we bought our house in Atlanta we put an offer on the 5th house we saw. In Amsterdam we saw 11 apartments before deciding. Best of luck!

28 Emily H. May 3, 2014 at 5:29 pm

My boyfriend and I have been to over 40 houses and still haven’t found “the one”. Luckily we are in no rush!

29 ashley May 3, 2014 at 11:44 pm

It sounds like you guys know what you’re doing!! Buying is such an exciting and scary process. I can’t wait to see what you end up with!

Our personal house buying story…
I wish I would have read this before we bought. We looked at maybe 8-10 in person but hundreds online. We had applied for an FHA loan so we would have little down payment and very low(!!!) interest rate and it was ending in May of that year. We had started looking in January and were getting so discouraged that nothing popped up in the area we wanted. One Saturday night around midnight I was online looking, saw our house pop up and we did a drive by the next morning. We put an offer on it an hour later.

I felt so much pressure from our mortgage guy about the FHA loan ending we bought that house. The market was also super low at that time, so we got it for a pretty good price. I know that sounds dumb, but we were young, inexperienced and had our rose colored glasses on. Plus, I really wanted to move. (In hindsight I know it was dumb, but I can’t change it.)

We HATE our house. We’ve been here for two years and hate it. Our first night in the house, I actually had a panic attack, knowing it wasn’t a good fit and thinking about the next 30 years!! It just isn’t what I envisioned. The floor plan doesn’t work for us and our two kiddos. It’s on a busy road. The backyard is a great size but not finished (and we don’t want to finish it knowing we could move soon), it needs new flooring and has some big projects to do… but we aren’t DIYers. It was a rental and not taken care of. It does have its perks. It’s in a great neighborhood with a nearby park, friendly neighbors and close to groceries and husbands work. But, we don’t love it and can’t wait to move. It has never felt like home. We’re also scared to death that no one will buy it when we try to sell.

Anyway, long story short, it sounds like you’ve got this figured out! Keeping my fingers crossed for you both.

30 Sarah @ Sweet Miles May 4, 2014 at 9:32 pm

Whew, house hunting can be exhausting for sure!! I think we looked in person at probably 5 or 6, but online at a TON! We loved our house immediately, but I do wish we had thought about longer than we did. Our next house “must have list” is growing longer and longer, haha!
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31 Danielle May 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Our first house was bought from a family member at 50% off what other comps were going for (a considerable savings in DC). We didn’t look at anything else – just took this place for the savings. It’s an old rowhouse and there are definitely some things that could be DIY’ed, but we know it’s not our forever house and the chances we’ll be there for more than 3-5 years are slim to none. We did put in a brand new kitchen before moving in. I do love the neighborhood though (can’t beat being a mile from the Capitol) and it’s in one of the hottest selling zip codes in the metropolitan area, so it will (hopefully) be a great investment. Living in the house has also definitely made me look at what will be important to me in a future house.
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