Non-negotiables in house hunting

by Grace

Many of us have must-haves when shopping for a house.  These could include features like gas cooking, master bath with a large tub, eat-in kitchen, easy commute, top public schools, attached garage, no corner lot, two story, one story, etc.

What are your non-negotiables?  Look through this College Confidential discussion if you’d like to get more ideas.

Related, do you have any regrets about choosing your present home?  What features would you change if you could?


182 thoughts on “Non-negotiables in house hunting

  1. knee-jerk response – must haves were 3 bedrooms, gas heat/stove, sewer and city water (surprisingly, the last 2 are very difficult in my area.. that was a culture shock to me).

    Regrets – not waiting a bit longer to purchase, getting 4 bedrooms.

    I love my neighborhood, the land we have, and where our house is located (which is why we jumped when we did). I’d like 1 more bedroom (4 total), and about 300-600 sq ft more. We could do a huge renovation and get all of that without sacrificing our backyard. But I don’t know if financially it’s worth it. The house is very close to being worth what we paid for it 8.5 years ago, and our mortgage is ridiculously affordable.

    We have hit the max of heartbeats allowed in our home (6). I’d like to stay in our home for another 5-7 years, if not more (if we have 2 boys, I think I can squeak out more). I think if we focus on better built-ins for storage and de-cluttering the basement for an indoor “i don’t care what mess you make down there” space the functionality of our home will improve. So that’s 2017 – analyze those areas, built/contract what we can afford, and keep moving forward.

  2. Centrally located with short commute. Everything else is on the table.

    We love our house. It’s old, and needs new insulation, wiring, driveway, roof, and some landscaping. However, the location is great. We can walk to the gym, the drug store, a few restaurants, and public transportation. Our commutes are under 30 minutes.

    Elementary school is one of the best in the city, middle school is ok and the high school is sub optimal. We choose magnet schools for middle and high school.

  3. Hmmm….I need to have a “good” view from rooms I spend most time in. Only in college was this fairly awful, but otherwise we have always had large trees that I find meet that need. Gas for cooking. A place for certain pieces of furniture I really can’t see giving up, but they don’t necessarily have to be a “set” or in the same room. Storage! We have a fair amount because we redid closets – cross between elfa and california closets, but not in the kitchen. My partner promise banquet seating in the breakfast area with under seat storage, but we’ve been her more than 10 years and I am not holding my breath!

  4. Location is huge. I sacrificed a small house on a small lot to get the location I wanted. Currently our lot is more valuable then the dwelling. Oddly enough, I would not buy a house on a street that is a number (no 42nd St address for me). I also avoid busy roads. When we moved here a two car garage was not a must have, but after my first winter it is a requirement. I’m so thankful for my 2.5 car garage. Oh, and I split level houses where the driveway to the kitchen ends up being a full flight of stairs.

  5. Austin – us too. We had to be able to fit our dining room furniture. It fits nicely with the 2 corner cabinets, table and chairs in one room, the buffet in another. That’s a continued need.

    I’d love to redo our closets. They are all so small, that I think it won’t be too expensive. Ours would be first, followed by the kids’ room, and finally my mom’s room. I think that’s part of the 2017 analysis… we’ll see.

  6. Mama always told me the secret to a happy marriage is “two bathrooms, minimum”. So I’ve always looked for that. DH was waaaay more requirements for a house than I do.

  7. Centrally located with a short commute for us too.

    I love the location of our house and the neighborhood. Now, it is much harder to get a large lot close in without paying a ton of money. We have mature trees which give makes the area look beautiful. Our house itself is large enough. I wish for all new though. The best would be to do a tear down and start over. No point in spending on renovations. Our house already had an addition put in and updates made before we bought it.

  8. Location was our big thing. I don’t think anything else was non-negotiable.

    What I would really like: a garage about 5-10 feet wider, a gas stove, a bigger yard (that doesn’t happen here unless you live way the frick out in the boonies), a bathroom big enough for a jacuzzi tub, a bigger kitchen.

  9. We like our house but would like more space. I’m inclined to adapt to our existing space for the next 10 years and Mr WCE wants to consider moving. Moving is a huge hurdle to me because a) I’ve never done it and b) I’m afraid too much of the prep/upkeep to keep it sale-ready would fall to me and I cannot handle more on my plate right now. We also like our view, shop, yard, location and local school.

    I’m not sure anything was a “must” except price. I would have preferred closer to work, but Mr WCE absolutely wanted a yard where he could shoot his bow. He hasn’t done that, so that constraint is my biggest regret, because everything is 15-20 min away. I like our windows overlooking evergreens and the Cascade foothills and our quiet street with mostly retired neighbors. We’re meeting with a real estate on Monday to discuss our remodeling options, because I thought we had agreed to stay here a couple years ago, and a few weeks ago DH said he really hadn’t made a decision, he had just been too busy to follow up for a couple years.

  10. Rhode – We did a plans at a couple different places and got estimates. Then we figured out we could put in wood shelving and the hanging bars ourselves. Our girls closets are odd sizes, so we did by some elfa kitchen wire baskets to store clothes. They didn’t have dressers. My youngest took a small one from my parents, but it is more the size of a large night stand.

    Location – Honestly, we likely aren’t moving until we downsize when we can no longer manage this house or to be near grandkids. For this house we considered distance to things and even as the city has grown, we are about 10-15 miles in any direction from what we want/like to do or need. Looking forward to downsizing, location of things like grocery store, pharmacy, doctors, etc. will become more important as well as near friends/relatives to maintain social connections.

  11. DH requires acreage (more = better). I require a reasonable commute to work (no more than 30 min in decent weather). Family size requires at least 4 bedrooms, 2 baths (more would be nice). The house must be in livable condition (i.e. – not a really old farm house that requires massive renovations. Schools need to be decent for the kids.

    DH has been on the constant lookout for this house for the last 10 years -exactly 2 have met criteria. One was during the height of the recession when there was no way we could have afforded. The other we made an offer on last year and did not get. Our real estate agent confirmed that what we’re looking for is rare. So last year we decided to make the best of what we had and added on to the small house on the small acreage we have. The additional living space, master bedroom and bathroom have been a massive improvement – but DH would still trade it all away for more land….

  12. “Centrally located with short commute.”


    I would add – at least two bathrooms, although I would love to have one for every person in the house. Full sized laundry in-unit. Enclosed controlled-access garage vs. Carport/outdoor parking spot/parking ramp. Workable kitchen with storage and full-sized appliances. Usable private outdoor space (e.g., not a shared roof deck). We do have all those things now.

    I hope our next move will be to a mid-sized elevator building, in which case these things apply, plus good soundproofing. This varies widely. Some buildings you can hear nothing, some you can hear everything.

  13. Gas cooktop, furnace, dryer (there are 47 municipalities here that are all electric and the cost/unit is much lower than in other areas). I like natural gas better…more responsive cooking, to me more comfortable heating, maybe the dryer part is negotiable.

    Big shower. Ours is 30″ wide x 54″ long. When I’m e.g. in a hotel and have to use a tub/shower combo the skinniness of the tub feel so cramped. Ours isn’t really big enough for a bench, whether wood or built in, but in the next versions (remodel/retirement home) I want there to be enough space for that.

    Centrally located for what we need. For the past 17 years of our lives that means, in addition to all the normal stuff like stores, library, docs, ICE HOCKEY RINKS. When we moved here we knew nothing about hockey and chose our location based on recommendations from people I worked with at the time. Turns out to be in the middle of all the places my kids usually play or now ref.

    The next house will be a ranch.

    Bigger kitchen. Ours is plenty big now, but 25% bigger would be nice.

    more as your ideas spark me.

  14. Hmm, mine is more a list of exclusions first before I will even consider a house! No split-levels, no ranches, no McMansions – I prefer old houses. Big, gas for cooking, big kitchen, enough bathrooms. Everything else we can fix (like the big-enough shower and radiant heat in the bathrooms, etc.) DH wants land and an old house with enough space for him to have an office and run away from everyone, or else a white minimalist apartment in a city tower.

    Our current house is a mansion built in 1893. The things we overlooked: (1) decor not to our liking (except the kitchen); (2) no garage; (3) far from my work (1 hr); (4) limited restaurant options; (5) high operating costs. BUT the house is large and grand, the woodwork is superb, the wall around the lot alone would cost you like $500K if you tried to put it in now, there is a Narnia light in the yard and Olmsted-designed grounds. And a pool (which was not our first choice, but the kids used it every day in the summer!).

  15. Private outdoor space. We’ve been looking at downsizing to a downtown condo in 1.5 years when our nest empties, and although every place we’ve looked at has been waaaaaay nicer and newer than our house and I’d love the change, I’ve been surprised at how disappointed I’ve been when they don’t come with some kind of private outdoor space.

    It need not be big–a balcony big enough for a few chairs would do the trick [though a rooftop garden would be sooooo nice]–but it must exist.

    Who knows though. Once we start looking in earnest next year, the allure of newer + nicer might win me over, whether there’s outdoor space or not. Our house has many imperfections and it likely won’t be difficult to be enticed by something pristine and beautiful, balcony or not. At this point, since it’s all academic, it’s easy to insist on things.

  16. Sun. I would hate to live in a house that didn’t get lots of natural light.

    This. Our family room has a 15-20 foot slanted ceiling. The windows face out to a covered patio. Fortunately there is a fairly large skylight, otherwise it would get hardly any natural light.

  17. What do you hate about wood construction? Isn’t that the most common type? I confess I don’t know much about these things.

    I assume most totebaggers would prioritize schools, either public or a feasible private option. Houston, did you consider that private schools might be an option if your kids somehow could not get in the magnets?

    “Centrally located with short commute. Everything else is on the table.” I think this is me. When I see others who need to drive at least 15 minutes to get to places I realize how much I value being close to stuff.

  18. I hope to be able to leave this residence feet first, but if I do move while I have some choice about the next housing situation I have very specific requirements. I expect I would be solo with cats at that point, so I am not taking DH into account.

    1. No car required. Walk to drug store, small grocery, other shops. Good public transit or cab/uber a must. Old folks bus to the strip mall/grocery not sufficient.
    2. Sunny, especially if in a cold climate.
    If a condo (most likely).
    3. Bathroom the way I want it or easily remodeled = Walk in shower and Japanese toilet.
    4. No stairs.
    5. In unit washer/dryer.
    6. Dedicated area in the open concept space near a window for the cats or an additional bedroom/office/den.
    7. Room dimensions/soundproofing for sports worthy TV.

    If a tiny bungalow or “landominium”

    Florida room (4 season porch).

  19. Austin – there’s a local closet company I want to call in to get estimates. I know the master closet and my mom’s closet just need a bit of tweaking to make them fully functional. The kids’ room is such an odd shape I have no idea what to do with it. Really, the person who designed it was an idiot. Currently, we have 8 dresser drawers in that room. The baby and toddler clothes are small, and I can make it work for now. But as they grow so will their clothes. I’d like to do a combo of shelves, rods, baskets in there for clothes, toys, and random things.

    The only hiccup to my plan is that the kids’ closet also holds the ladder for our attic. I’d like to move that to the linen closet in the bathroom, but we’d have to gut the linen closet to make that work. I may be stuck until we decide to pull the trigger on the bathroom reno (which will include gutting the linen closet and adjacent shower to make them more functional).

  20. Rhett – I like it!!!

    Rhode – DO get estimates on the closets. When we finally did the closets in our old house, 8-9 years into living there, we finally had a linen closet that worked (it was an odd shape under the stairs) with tons of shelves, and the master bedroom closet was SO MUCH BETTER too.

    In the L-Abbey, the tiny closet in the master bedroom is ridiculous. There is a closet rod like 8.5 feet off the floor – I don’t know how they hung anything on it! – and then another one only high enough for shirts. We have several rolling closet racks that we set up, so it looks like a low-end sample sale. ;)

  21. “When I see others who need to drive at least 15 minutes to get to places I realize how much I value being close to stuff.”

    We’re ~4 miles (8-10minutes) from real shopping, restaurants in two different directions. Our library & church are a little less than half that far. All close enough for us, but I wouldn’t want to be much further removed. So we’re not walking down the street to get a cup of coffee to bring home. But our neighbors drive to the nearest Dunkin’ (2 miles) every weekend and holiday morning to get their coffee. We’ve always just made coffee at home.

  22. We saved a lot of money when we remodeled and redid our closets by avoiding the closet companies and having our contractor install Home Depot system. After 15 years they’re still going strong and they fit our needs just fine.

    Yes, L Abbey sounds amazing! How often do you go into the office?

    Except for the cat stuff, Meme’s ideas sounds perfect for me!

  23. What do you hate about wood construction? Isn’t that the most common type?

    It’s flimsy. The creaking and groaning, the bouncy floors, the gradual slide out of plum which leads to leaks and drafts, just a whole feeling of flimsiness and impermanence. With steel and concrete you can feel the solidity and sense of timeless permanence.

  24. Hmm, the only things we look for are neighborhood/schools/and a somewhat flat lot out of the flood plain (which can be hard here) – everything else can be fixed. We knew what school we wanted when we bought this house and we only considered two or three neighborhoods because those were the neighborhoods in our targeted school system that were also not close to the highway. Regrets – there is a creek in our backyard which although fun for the kids, prohibits all sorts of stuff like a retaining wall next to our driveway, adding on to our house and it takes extra long to get a permit for anything (even an existing driveway we were replacing).

    I’d really love to buy a ranch and add a second floor ourselves. Our house has a second story that was added on before we bought it and I feel like we’ve spent the last five years trying to fix some layout mistakes the previous owners had made.

  25. We had rented a house for 5 years in Massachusetts, which we both detested. That house provided us with all our must-haves: had to be in a walkable neighborhood, with the ability to walk to basic services like a grocery store, had to be on municipal water and sewers, no big overhanging trees, the kitchen had to be separate from the living area, the house had to be pre-WWII.
    We also had strong wants – no carpet, a front porch, gas stove. We would have liked a fireplace but that didn’t happen.

  26. What I really like and have had in both my houses has been trees and the feeling of space as I look out. Our neighborhood feels like this whole outdoor room.
    I realized while staying with relatives this what what I missed. Both their houses were very nice on the inside but I felt hemmed in. One was a city home that looked onto a parking lot opposite. The other house was so close to their neighbors they kept the blinds drawn.

  27. “I shall refer to it going forward as L-Abbey.” — Or you can apostrophize it into “L’Abbey” and get the fancified French + Downton combo all in one. :-)

    If we have a “next house,” it will likely be for retirement, which changes the needs quite significantly.

    1. Affordable mortgage-free — no point in new house if we have to go back to work.

    2. Light, air, higher ceilings, a sense of space. There are some rooms I just walk into and know that that’s it; others I walk into and know I couldn’t tolerate it. I get a little claustrophobic, a little SAD-ish, and I need that uplift, that not feeling constrained. Our CO FR still takes the cake.

    3. Walkable to places I need to go. Very much like Meme in that regard — I may not actually *choose* to walk everywhere, but knowing I can makes me feel less confined. Good public transit would be killer.

    4. Privacy. That doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of land (I’d prefer low-maintenance), but well-designed so people aren’t staring at you and vice-versa all the time. No fishbowls.

    5. Assuming this is permanent/primary home, some version of shop space for DH. “Some version” meaning “2-car garage, preferably larger,” not “a strip along the back wall of the garage.”

    6. Private parking, preferably enclosed (unless I am in Manhattan and don’t need a car at all). Zero desire to hunt for street parking in my retirement years.

    7. 2 BR minimum — we will always need an office and want to be able to host visitors.

    8. Energy efficient/low carrying costs, low maintenance.

    Most of the rest is really optional, because I know we can fix up just about anything else (as long as the fix-ups comply with Requirement #1 above). Except split-levels — there’s just nothing you can do to a split-level other than tear it down and start over. So 9 would have to be “no split-levels.”

    Now, if we’re going to talk preferences vs. necessities:

    1. Character. I would take L’Abbey in a heartbeat over just about anything else. Dream home is one of those shingle-style mansions in the NE, with an inglenook and turrets and those rambling slate rooflines and second-floor balconies tucked under rooflines, etc. Age, original wood trim, built-ins, etc. — all the stuff that gives Rhett the heebie-jeebies.

    2. A view from a private outdoor space. I want to sit on a damn deck/patio/balcony and look at the damn sunset. My “golden years” need to be literally golden as I am lit by the warmth of the setting sun, a glass of moscato d’asti in my shriveled hand.

    3. Open, functional kitchen for the way I cook, with separate cooking and cleanup zones, and big pantry and/or butler’s pantry.

    4. 3-4 Br, or dedicated office. 3- or 4-car garage. Some version of outdoor space. Giant-ass shop for DH.

    5. For total luxury: heated floors. A wine cellar — doesn’t have to be fancy or froofy, but decent shelves and a spot for a little table and a few chairs. An inglenook. God I want an inglenook. Separate master closets (ours are very small now, but I am totally spoiled by the fact that there are two of them). Big steam shower in master bath and some version of hot tub outside and/or jetted tub in master bath. Gym/game room/party room with pool table, air hockey table, pinball, giant TV for football games (like one of those giant rooms over a detached garage), etc.

    The only things I regret about my current house are the total lack of energy efficiency and the fact that we could only fit two garage stalls (well, and the MS district, but that won’t be an issue in 3.5 more years). We basically fixed everything else to the way we like it.

  28. for those of you with extensive “must have” lists, how do you prioritize? I keep thinking of House Hunters where no one knows what they want, but everything is a “must have”.

  29. Reading through, I noticed that lots of people had mention location, and that was in fact important for us too. At the time we bought the house, DH was working in midtown, so walk-to-the-train was critical. That completely constrained the houses we were willing to look at. Having to drive and park at a train stationn was unacceptable to us.

  30. Rhett, I also prefer stone houses, but unless you go to Europe, it is tough to find them. Even in the midwest of my childhood, where brick houses were common, the framing was always wood.

  31. When we were house hunting, we didn’t have kids, and were only considering the idea. So we didn’t pay as much attention to school districts as we might have otherwise. But we ruled out Yonkers completely because we knew the schools were an underfunded disaster and that most people who could were sending their kids to Catholic school.

  32. @Rhode: — you totally do not need to pay a professional a gazillion dollars to design and install this for you. And the closet makes a *huge* difference. My “master” closet ended up being around 6′ x 6′; DH created another closet in a former stairwell that we discovered that is about 3′ deep and maybe 6′ wide. We used easyclosets to design the layout for our clothes and got rid of ALL of our dressers — literally, all of them. Our master bedroom is not huge — sort of old-house sized, like 14′ x 14′, but it feels huge with just the bed, nightstands, and TV stand on the far wall! You will be amazed at how much you can fit into a well-designed closet, truly — you can get just the amount of hanging you need (e.g., I have very, very little long hanging, because I don’t wear many full-length dresses), add plenty of shelving over pants-length hanging for all of your shirts and such, add some drawers for the smaller stuff, etc.

    Heck, send me your dimensions and I’ll design one for you (I love this stuff!). :-)

  33. For our last purchase, my 2 must-haves were 4 bedrooms so that the boys didn’t have to share and a good location. We moved a few streets over so we didn’t change location much, which made me happy, although for a few months after we moved I would drive to the old house on auto-pilot.

    I had a huge list of things that I would prefer, but the above two things were the requirements.

  34. Carpet is gross but can always be ripped out. In our first house there was 30 year old carpet over the whole house but wood floors underneath. In this house, the kids bedrooms had nice carpet in them but they were stained so we just ripped it out and added wood floors (same with DH’s office). I do have a no split level house rule unless you’re just buying the lot – there is just nothing to be done with them. Our realtors live in a split level house that they have made very nice (totally renovated inside) but they can’t sell it even though it’s on the best street in our neighborhood because it’s too nice as a tear down and no one wants to live in a $900K split level.

    This is what I would buy if DH would let me (although the price would have to be lower). Add second floor with 3-4 bedrooms, expand kitchen/family room situation, and master on main.

  35. “for those of you with extensive “must have” lists, how do you prioritize?”

    My list is in descending priority order. If I had to consider school districts, that would be #3 on my list above. But really, I’d only look at houses in acceptable districts until I found one that sufficiently hit requirements #1 and 2; only if I totally struck out there would I consider other options, like an even cheaper house + private school.

  36. the framing was always wood.

    I’ve done some research about it. Steele and concrete are only a few percent more expensive than wood and they have a lot of benefits. You could do a steel and concrete frame with a stone exterior.

    From what I’ve read, the reason there isn’t more steel and concrete is mostly just inertia and the fact that builders can’t charge more as buyers won’t pay more for a house that is vastly more durable.

  37. We did our closets after the addition. We went to The Container Store, and bought lots of wire closet pieces that all interlock and put them up ourselves.

  38. COC: The kids have refused to consider private schools, which I suppose is for the best. The magnets here are hard to get into, so we’re holding our breath for DS2 to get into a good high school. If he doesn’t get in, I might buy a small house or rent an apartment in the area of one of the schools that we want and get zoned in. Even that would be cheaper than private school!

  39. The problem I have with newer homes are the high ceilings. I feel that they make the house seem cold and non-cozy. Also, I am short, so I find that the lower cabinets and counters in older homes are more comfortable for me.

  40. Rhett, you are completely right. Back in the 90’s, I was doing research projects with an architecture lab at a major university in Germany which focused on systems and designs for producing lower cost, environmentally friendly buildings. Working with German architects, I became very interested in the differences in the way they do buildings compared to us. Germans are very concerned with durability and quality in housing and are willing to pay more to get it. Germans tend to not move around much, so this is a longterm thing for them. Wood framing is not normally used there, at least in post WWII housing. Also, Germans are much more open to novel building systems and approaches.

  41. On prioritizing: we didn’t prioritize the must-have list. These were all nonegotiable. It meant we only looked in certain areas – much of Westchester is not walkable, for example – and it took a year to find the right house. We were renting so we didn’t have a deadline and could be choosy.

  42. Our non-negotiables when buying our house were no ramblers (DH’s requirement), central a/c, dishwasher, and be pre-WWII. We had pretty specific neighborhoods.

    We have no plans to move out of our starter home. I love our house even though it lacks a lot of things. Nice-to-haves – a mudroom with a half-bath, a garage to park the car in (we have a very small single car garage that is pretty decrepit), and a remodeled half-story. I lust after houses like L-Abbey. I like to look at real estate listings and my favorites are the grandma houses that have never been updated. I fell in love with one and would have bought it even though we have no plans to move. The kitchen was original 1910 – amazing. I showed the picture to DH and he said “the kitchen doesn’t have a ceiling.” Details. I didn’t even notice the water damaged ceiling because I was drooling over the built-ins. We’re completely not-handy so it is a good thing we’re not moving ever as we’d only buy a bigger run-down house that would need lots of work that we’d have to hire out.

  43. The major regret about this home is that there is no gas. I am thinking of trading up to an induction range. If anyone has experience with that I would love to hear about it. I hope I don’t have to move. I have everything I need here, low maintenance, only cosmetic interior updates needed.

  44. Mudroom! How could I have forgotten the mudroom! Yes, definitely want one of those for the next house!

    “I fell in love with one and would have bought it even though we have no plans to move. The kitchen was original 1910 – amazing. I showed the picture to DH and he said ‘the kitchen doesn’t have a ceiling.’ Details.”

    You are my twin. :-)

  45. @Risley – right? I want enough space for a grill (which also must be allowed – not always allowed in all buildings), an area/hanging basket to at least grow some herbs, and a small table to drink my coffee/read. There are a few buildings/units even in mid- and high-rises that have decent patios/balconies, so I’m pre-researching those & watching the sales even though we are likely at least 5 years out from moving (maybe more). I have a private rooftop deck now, and I LOVE it.

    @tcmama – One of my friends in your area had a “no rambler” requirement as well. (a term I have never heard outside of MN) They were living in one at the time & her H was insistent that they were not getting another one no matter what. They ended up in a 70’s era colonial in the western burbs.

  46. I have a secret pinterest board with potential homes. These are homes that were on sale with pictures on zillow, or plans if we were to ever build. I have an idea on how to alter our current home if we decide to do the major reno. When I was little I wanted to design houses – I loved drawing them out on graph paper and figuring everything out (minus the physics…).

    Thanks for the closet suggestions – I may try easy closet this weekend. And I think I thought of a way to cheaply re-do our linen closet so that way if/when we tackle the bathroom reno, I won’t be sad to see it go (or I’ll be able to save some of the pieces). My FIL is coming this weekend, I may talk to him about it… I’ll need some of his tools and help. I’m pretty confident I can draw up the plans necessary.

    This is me so not working this afternoon…. (as I sit here editing one report and knowing what awaits me once I send this report to my boss)…

  47. We did have school district on our list. We found that the further out we went, we would be subject to frequent school re zoning due to being in newer neighborhoods. Going to private school was actually a function of our location. It was most convenient. We could do a lot of school related activities because elementary is a short walk from our house. Middle and high school bus stops at the elementary so that is taken care of.

  48. For our current house, we wanted this, and only this, neighborhood. So we couldn’t be too picky on the house itself. Our only non-negotiables, in addition to location, were 4 bedrooms, good sized yard, and at a price that would enable us to pay it off before oldest goes to college.

    As it turned out, we got a house we liked very much, but didn’t love. 10 years later though, I really do love it. Location is great, layout is great, it’s affordable to keep and affordable to update as needed.

    I don’t know what I want in a retirement house, because I can’t wrap my head around where we’ll be.

  49. Location, and natural light/view.

    Beyond that, enough space (and in a usable layout), but that has to be a relative thing based on how much space is typical for your area. Our house is about the size of MMs as I recall (1700+ sf, not any kind of additional attic/basement space) and most of you seem to have closer to twice that. I would love to have more space. But for where we are, we have a decent amount of space. My kids have friends whose families are living in low-rise apartments. Other friends live in similar or slightly larger / nicer houses. Even if we were to move out to Mililani and face the hour+ each way daily commute, we still wouldn’t get the kind of space some of you have (but we could definitely have more space).

    L, are you going to put gargoyles on the gateposts of L Manor, at least during October? Please please please!

  50. “L, are you going to put gargoyles on the gateposts of L Manor, at least during October? Please please please!”

    Also, kindly confirm you find your way upstairs to your rooms holding candles in fancy candle holders.

  51. “I loved drawing them out on graph paper and figuring everything out (minus the physics…).”

    I still do this for fun. :-) (Thus explaining how I designed my own kitchen remodel. . . .)

  52. “There are some rooms I just walk into and know that that’s it; others I walk into and know I couldn’t tolerate it.”

    I feel this way about houses. It has to feel right. Our present home felt right as soon as we drove up, and the inside confirmed it. I don’t even know how to describe what features made it feel right, but it just did.

    As a child I used to spend hours drawing fantasy floor plans. I found it less fun as an adult when we did our addition, but I did like watching the architect sketch stuff out.

  53. L – And you need a grandfather clock in the hall that chimes the hour. preferably with a secret drawer or backing.

    While you’re at it, can you add a secret passage? :)

  54. The funny thing about the no ranch / no rambler (didn’t realize that was a MN term) is that our half-story turned out to be really energy inefficient, so we no longer use it. I told DH we actually did buy a rambler.

    We have about 1800 sq between our main floor and finished basement. We also have the attic and 1 car garage. The size has been great for us. It might get tight for a year or two when the kids are bigger, but we don’t need more room.

    I just thought of another nice-to-have would be an indoor sport court. Totally unnecessary, but we would get so much use out of it. I’ve seen them on some new builds around here. We don’t have the lot size for it and if we did, it would be the same size as our house.

  55. Let me share in mentioning my displeasure with US home construction techniques. I remember learning as an 18-year-old that bricks were not really involved in supporting a home and going “What the hell is going on?” in my own mind.

  56. Must for us is 3 bathrooms minimum. I swear every morning we all need to go at the same time.

    Other than that, kitchen with enough space and enough storage will be non-negotiable. I dont have storage right now and it sucks big time.

  57. tcmama – I believe we live fairly close to one another. In a new house down the street from me they put a sport court in the basement (our lots of 50 feet wide)! Very impressive. No one has moved in yet, but hoping they have girls the same as my DDs.

    I hope L Abbey has a dumbwaiter.

  58. indoor sport courts in houses????? And here I thought there was some kind of middle class economic malaise going on.

  59. HM – precisely.

    Oh, and secret passageways and a dumb waiter are musts for L Manor!

    I vote we have the Totebag cocktail party there. Surely there’s a Carson hovering about there someplace who can set it all up.

    Ivy – I bet you have an amazing view of the city/lake from your outdoor space. So nice.

  60. While you’re at it, can you add a secret passage? :)

    The Axelrod family on Billions has a basement treasure room with pallets of cash and gold. That would be ah-mazing!

  61. Mooshi, why are you so opposed to driving to the train station? I’m genuinely curious, not trying to be snarky.

  62. Denver Dad, if you lived here in Westchester, you would quickly understand: there is NO PARKING!!! I have been on a waitlist for a parking spot at our train station for 12 years now.

  63. Surely there’s a Carson hovering about there someplace who can set it all up.

    Finn Jr in his white-tie-and-tails. Maybe I can talk my oldest and his theater friends into playing the footmen and housemaids . . . as long as they don’t have to do any heavier labor than carrying trays and answering bells.

  64. I think the sport courts are in houses around $750K and up, so I guess that is middle class for the Totebag but on the higher-end here.

    Lemon – I think we are pretty close. I overheard a parent at kid’s game saying he’s looking into digging out his basement 12-20 feet so he could put in an underground gym in. His lot is bigger than ours. I think we have a 25 foot lot, so no sports courts for us.

  65. DD — I live in same area as MM, and when we bought our house walking to the train station was a must have. It really limited our search. My H and I both commuted by train, and our reasons were:

    Overall less time and stress than having to drive, park, and then take the train. I also took a subway once I got off the suburban train, so I preferred to forego the driving part.
    During snowy weather walking a few blocks is easier than driving a few miles. Plus having to clean/shovel your car at the train parking lot in the evening if it snowed.
    There was a multi-year wait for parking spots.
    Paying for parking.
    Driving would have created the need for another car.
    I’m sure there are other reasons I can’t think of now.

  66. Does anyone have good storage/organization systems in their garage? We need to do something with our garage. It’s not very wide – we can fit our two cars in but it’s a tight fit. There is extra space at the back that runs about 3/4 of the width. It has a very low ceiling. The problem is a lot of the stuff in there isn’t easy to store out of the way. We have the trash and recycling bins, four bikes, a lawn mower and snowblower (we fold up whichever one is out of season), a lot of baseball and softball equipment, skis, a wheelbarrow, some sleds, shovels and such, etc. There are shelves across half of the back.

    Right now we have two of the bikes hanging on one of the side walls, and we really need to get them someplace else. I was thinking we could hang them on the back wall, but then they would be too hard to get down and up. I know the easy thing would be to take the trash bins out but it’s so convenient having them in the garage. I would love to hang more stuff, but the big things don’t lend themselves to hanging. And shelving on the sides is not an option because there’s not enough room as it is.

    What do people use to organize their garages?

  67. Tcmama – a house in the historic district dug down the basement for a golf simulator. My DH was in awe! I’d love a deeper basement, but would prefer a master bath and a new kitchen instead.

  68. Lemon,

    Totally. When Mrs. Axelrod is in the treasure room loading stacks of what I only assume are EUR500 notes into a suitcase she turns to her husband and says, “Remember when we would have thought this is a lot of money?” And they just chuckle and reminisce.

  69. I know a family whose requirement was a basement that was big enough for a hitting tunnel.

  70. so basically you want Scrooge McDuck’s vault? with a secret passage leading to it? Perfect!

    L must hold this cocktail party near Halloween… HM and I will coordinate decorations with Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes. :)

    You all have gotten me excited about re-doing our closets and getting our living room built in done.

    HM – we have 6 heartbeats living in 1440 sq ft. 3 bed 2 bath, living room, dining room, kitchen. We have a full unfinished basement that I want decluttered and organized. My mom is the culprit down there, as DH and I have really worked on purging out stuff. The living room and kids room need the most attention as they hold the most stuff. Our kitchen is small ish, but completely workable (80% of the time). Our dining room can hold our table with both leaves in (seats ~8-10), but the head chairs are against a wall on one side and in the kitchen on another. Again, 90% of our usage is normal size (6 chairs), which fits perfectly.

    I really need 1 more bedroom and a true family room. If I can make my kitchen and dining room bigger, bonus for me. I have a plan for that reno which can be done as a 1 story or 2 story reno. But, I don’t know if it’s worth it given home prices in the area. Total sq ft would then be 1740 or 2040, depending on if 1 or 2 story reno.

  71. I also want to hear about garage storage systems. Our new garage/shedlike thing has been ready for 6 months but only bikes are in it because we don’t know how to set it up nicely. It is about the size of a one car garage but we do not plan to ever put a car in it. We need to store garden/lawn equipment without having it flop all over, plus a canoe and 6 bikes. The bikes need to be very easy access. My wishlist includes a potting table where I can set up grow lights so I can do seed starting (there is electricity in the shed). We are thinking of putting hooks on the walls to hang the bikes – we saw that in a hotel in Ottawa and thought it was very convenient. But that would limit use of wall space for other things. Where should we look for garage storage systems?

  72. Schools were the first priority, but a very close second was trains. Length of commute and parking. We only looked at towns that were zoned for train parking with no waitlist. We also looked in towns if we could walk to the train.

    All of my favorites houses in our community are part of a village and they’re not zoned for train parking. My husband wouldn’t even look since he knew I would be tempted. We compromised on a home in a different part of town that is zoned for train parking with no waitlist. It’s ok, but we have to drive every where except to our nearby neighbors.

    This part of the county is very dense since another priority was being close to the city. There are a lot of stores nearby, and I really appreciate the easy access to stores, highway and train.

    I still wish we had known how important it would be to us to have a two car garage. We were coming from an apartment, and we had no idea how nice it would be to have a large garage.

    I think we have more than enough space since I’m used to living in an apartment. I don’t mind the stairs, but I know that we won’t be able to stay here when we retire.

    I don’t live in a split, but I’m surprised that it’s a deal breaker for so many of you because there are a lot of splits in my neighborhood. A lot.

  73. “”

    My favorite line is about the home being replaced “a small-ish house…” at > 3400 sq ft… because 13k sq ft is, you know, not small-ish.

    Thought this would be appropriate for today’s discussion… :) Between buying the land and building the new home, they spent ~3.5 mil (maybe more). Couldn’t they find a suitable, already built home for that price? I certainly could.

  74. Lauren – my sister lives in Westchester and she bought a split level last year (I could not talk her out of it). It was totally redone and her husband is not handy so that’s what they ended up with. It did seem like her whole street was split levels.

  75. I, too, do not like split levels. I did see one house I liked that was a quad level… even some tri-levels I like. I also don’t like ranches. I really don’t like sleeping and eating on the same floor. I think it reminds me of apartment living.

    The quad level I saw looked like a 2 story home from the front so you never felt that anything was split.

  76. I don’t live in a split, but I’m surprised that it’s a deal breaker for so many of you because there are a lot of splits in my neighborhood. A lot.

    Yeah, what do people have against them? We have one and it’s awesome. We love how open it is.

  77. Denver – split levels are ugly to me from the outside. Plus I don’t like how you have to go up and down all the time. It also depends on the design – my BIL and SIL have one and it is not open at all, it’s very dark inside and a lot of small rooms and small hallways.

    Ooo, I hadn’t thought of gargoyles. :) We do have large Mordor cast-iron lights on the columns next to the driveway – they are old and need a blacksmith for repair/replacement.

  78. “I bet you have an amazing view of the city/lake from your outdoor space. So nice.”

    Yes – lovely city view which I enjoy very much. :) Lake is a bit too far away.

    I am very much enjoying the discussion about L Manor.

    I don’t mind split levels or ranches at all, but I’m not sure that I’ll ever live in a fully-detached home again, so I guess it doesn’t much matter. I do really like brick though. I would go to William & Mary just to walk around the campus for 4 years.

  79. I can only assume people view split-levels as the minivan of houses. They are practical and efficient but not designed to impress.




  80. It’s a shame this place doesn’t have gargoyles, but these eagles would look pretty good too:

  81. haha on the splt vs. mini-mansion pics! Yeah, we have whole neighborhoods of split-level homes here. I think they were popular in the ’50s and ’60s. I kinda like that you only have to go a few steps to the bedroom level. I never thought of them as undesirable, but I can see it now.

  82. For all y’all looking for garage/shed storage, I am assuming you have finished interior walls? Turns out in retrospect the best thing we did was not finish off the garage walls, because we have SO much storage between the studs — DH got some bungie cords and hooks, and we have golf bags, cat food, you name it shoved between the studs.

    The only other thing I can suggest is high storage, above the car level. We got this for the various ball-type sports stuff — does a pretty good job with the basketballs and softball bags/bats/etc — — it’s mounted just low enough that DS can get the basketball back in the top rack, so it’s above the car level.

  83. Rhett, that looks like a bi-level not a split level. Here’s a typical split level in our neighborhood and the mirror-image of our house:

    L, I’m sure it depends on the layout. Basically our kitchen/dining room/living room and are family room are offset by 6 stairs. It’s almost completely open. The laundry room, guest room, and a bathroom are on the same level as the family room, as well as the garage. The bedrooms are upstairs, which is no different than a typical two-story layout.

  84. Ewww, that is worse. Around here they are all called split levels but the term refers to split-entry. I don’t know that there are very many split-levels around here like the one you linked to.

  85. I also like hearing about L Manor.

    We’ve been kind of thinking about this for storing bikes in the garage, which would replace an existing shelf without bike hooks.

    Rhode, we have an attic ladder (folds out of trap door) in our shop attic and it really helps the space feel more accessible for storage. I can’t put in another link, but you can look on universal fit attic ladder on Home Depot if you’re interested.

  86. LfB, yes our garage walls are finished. Those are cool but we don’t have room above car height on the sides. There’s not much space about the top of the cars (especially the highlander) and the rails for the garage door. And because of how close the cars are to the walls, anything that hangs out like that will be over the roofs of the cars so very difficult to access. We can’t open the car doors fully because of how tight it is.

  87. I think I like split levels but not split entries. Split levels seems like a really good use of space.

  88. I was picturing Rhett’s house too. There is one just like that across the street from my parents, and I hung out in houses like that a lot in HS. The other ones pictured I think of as a tri-level.

  89. Ivy, a tri-level is another name for split level.

    I grew up in a split entry (we called them bi-levels) and I never liked it. That was a lot more stair climbing than we do now because the kitchen/dining room/bedrooms were all upstairs, and the family room/rec room were downstairs.

  90. “I grew up in a split entry (we called them bi-levels) and I never liked it. That was a lot more stair climbing than we do now because the kitchen/dining room/bedrooms were all upstairs, and the family room/rec room were downstairs.”

    ITA — if I were going to have to live in one, I’d prefer the functionality of the split-level, where at least you’re only a half-flight away from wherever you want to go. My Granny had one for a number of years, and it was pretty useful to have the lower level as the family room/TV room/kid hangout room, but still be visible/audible from the kitchen. A split-entry is basically a two-story house with the entrance halfway up the stairs and the first floor partially underground and feeling basement-like, which is basically the worst of both worlds.

  91. As the ice storm bears down, a non-negotiable should have been “buried power lines.” Ours are all overhead, so we will lose power– it’s just a question of for how long. (Our record so far is 7 days.)
    For us, commute time and central air (rare then, common now) were our only deal-breakers.

  92. As the ice storm bears down

    You know how sometimes you’ll very quickly misread something and do a double-take before your brain kind of catches up and corrects it?

    I first read that as

    As the ice bears storm down

    and was like whoah, what is going on there?

  93. “I don’t mind the stairs, but I know that we won’t be able to stay here when we retire.”

    Solely because of the stairs, or for other reasons?
    Asking because retirement can begin around age 65. Are stairs typically an issue at that age?

    Our neighborhood has underground utilities, but we still lose power during some storms because, beyond the subdivision, the lines are overhead. Not complaining, because the longest we’ve gone without power is about 10 hours, whereas in the DC area it was often several days.

  94. “As the ice storm bears down”

    Totally off-topic rant, but I am totally sick of/PO’d by the school weenies this year. I should start by saying that we have had an extremely mild winter so far, at least in terms of snow/ice. Well, DS does rec basketball, and he *loves* it. This year was tough; the league seemed disorganized, ran late, and when they came out with the schedule literally had not even half the games as last year (one game/one practice each per week for about 6 weeks, whereas last year was 3 nights/week for at least two full months, closer to three — seems like they had trouble getting gym time at the various local schools this year). So he’s had a couple of practices. Then he had his first game scheduled, but it snowed a little that day, so the schools canceled all after-school activities, so the league couldn’t use the gym. Ok, whatever. That made this last Saturday his first game. Except there was some light snow moving in, so they canceled all weekend activities — no gym access, no game (meanwhile, we got all of 1″ of snow — I drove the kids to a movie in the middle of it because we had nothing else going on).

    So Wed. he had practice, and he was SO excited for, finally, his first game tomorrow. You know where this is going, right? About 10-11 AM today, I get the “School’s Out” email: in light of the forecasted storm *that isn’t even close to MD yet* [I was looking out at blue skies], they have *already* canceled all weekend activities. DS is going to be crushed. And I’m just pissed (as is my mom, who arranged her flight out of town to watch DS’s game). WHY DO WE HAVE TO BE SUCH EFFING WEENIES???

    I am especially feeling it because I drove through the ice from hell last week in NM. If I can get a generic rental Altima across two miles of total ice, including up a freaking luge ramp to get on the interstate, the schools can damn well at least wait and see IF WE ACTUALLY GET SNOW *before* they cancel everything. AARRGGHHH.


  95. I was so excited at posting about Frontgate that I made so many typos !
    We fit two cars in our garage and now all the space around has the shelving units with all our extra stuff. Totally keeps things organized.
    We also built in California closet shelving in our house closets. Those have worked really well too. It helps limit clothes to whatever we can fit in our closets. Doesn’t allow clothes creep over the years.

  96. LfB,

    Don’t forget, the safety of your children is the first priority of the school system.

  97. Louise, thanks for the tip.

    LfB, I’m with you all the way. I hate the pre-emptive cancellations. At least wait until you see how bad it is.

  98. We have above ground power lines, and the longest I’ve lost power in 16 years living here is about 20 minutes. I wonder why?

  99. Re stairs. It is probably not advisable after 80 to move into a home or apartment building with stairs, including steps between garage and home or up to the front door.

    Whether it is necessary to leave a house or townhome with stairs as you age all depends on the stairs and your particular degree of early mobility impairment. Wide stairs with handrails (both sides where possible) and well secured carpet or ample padded runners are not a barrier for most seniors. The serious accidents, and I am familiar with far too many, are on the steep, narrow, unpadded stairs to the basement with a concrete or poorly padded landing at the bottom, where elders carry baskets of laundry or stuff from storage up and down, and overload themselves so that they don’t have to make several trips, or go up and down all the time to an ancient not to code home reno rec room/workshop/man cave. Our internal stairs (even the stairs to the attic) are wide and not too steep, and a former resident of one of the units actually had one of those motorized lifts installed from the first to second floor for her husband in his last years. A simple pulley or a more complex motorized system could be installed to get the laundry up from the ground floor laundry if it became too hard to carry up the basket (you can just throw the dirty clothes down).

    An unrenovated bathroom is IMHO far more dangerous to the 60 plus crowd. A tub shower combo instead of a walk in shower is an accident waiting to happen, as are hard tile floors, especially with throw rugs.

  100. The stairs are an issue because it isn’t possible to get into our home without being able to go up a step. This isn’t something we noticed, or cared about when we bought this place and we were in our 30s.

    The last time my grandmother was able to come here was the week that DD was born. She fell on the two steps that lead to my front door.

    My husband had some very minor knee surgery, and we realized that to get to any bathroom in the basement or the main level – requires the ability to walk up one or two steps.

    My mother wasn’t able to come for almost a year due to the steps, so we are very aware that this is not a good place if you are physically unable to navigate steps.

    We did make adjustments to our master bathroom to make it safer. Finally, one positive to add about my contractor!!! We made a few minor adjustments to make it safer, and easier to use everything in the bathroom.

    So, we could stay beyond retirement age. We just saw how we had to scramble with our parents when they fell, and had to return home after rehab stays. Their falls happened between 65 and 75. My mother lives in an elevator building, so she was able to go to her own home. We know that we eventually want to end up back in a one level apartment in a full service building. I’m still pushing for NYC, but I know DH really wants to stay up here.

  101. “LfB,

    Don’t forget, the safety of your children is the first priority of the school system.”

    ROFLMAO. I am thinking more along the lines of “not paying for OT and snow removal is the first priority of the school system.”

  102. “As are hard tile floors, especially with throw rugs”

    MIL caught her foot on a decorative small rug (not bath mat) in the bathroom in BIL’s house. She fell and grabbed hold of a stand alone bathroom unit which fell on her. Luckily she was fine. A while ago, a car was turning as MIL was crossing and knocked her down. There was terrible bruising but no broken bones.
    We have so far avoided anything serious happen to the elders in our house.
    We have stairs to the bedrooms. Our front door has stairs but there are no stairs from the garage to the house.

  103. Meme, the picture of stairs you paint is so familiar, it sounds like you know my mom! To carry a full laundry basket upstairs, she sets it down a few steps above where she is standing, walks up the steps to it (sort of crawls, really, although she goes up steps normally when she’s not carrying anything), and repeats. From the basement to the second floor of their Ohio house. No wonder she likes the single-level Florida house better! She will occasionally have my dad carry it up, but would not let me take it from her part way through. Their first house in Florida had a small second floor with guest rooms and a loft where Dad had the computer. He was happy not to need to negotiate those steps when they moved (he got a new hip a couple years before the move). Their steps are all standard, with padded carpet and handrails (on one side).

    Louise, you probably already know that small falls like that are often fatal for the elderly, because they lose strength elsewhere if they rest to recover, and because they can get sick in the hospital.

    Laura, in commiseration, a story from the opposite direction. Big bad rains a couple years ago. Drove all the way to where we used to live for DS’s BB game on Saturday. Did not realize how much worse weather can get on a 10 mile drive. Was seriously frightened at standing water in streets we couldn’t avoid. Left VM telling coach we’d be late, were struggling through flood. Finally got there and were informed the game was cancelled because the coach had called and said there was too much water in his yard. Pissed doesn’t begin to describe it. And we still had to get home! This is the day I got my picture of the fish in the parking lot, swimming towards the grate. Turned out OK, because sparse attendance meant they just scratched the normal schedule and had kids play on impromptu teams.

    Rhett, please tell me the benefits of steel vs. wood framing. Our current home is built that way and I hate it because it is too hard to hang anything on the walls.

    tcmama, my cousins sold the house in which they and our parents were raised. It was built in the late 1920s (I think). The wife in the couple who bought it posts to FB about it frequently. It has built-ins like a linen closet, “fancy” grates and doorknobs, leaded glass windows, and hardwood everything (floors, trim, cabinetry) galore. They are keeping it all, and doing lots of restoration projects, bit by bit. My great-grandparents and grandpa apparently kept it in good shape, but after Grandpa died in the 1970s, nothing was done to it–lots to clean up, but no destruction of the old/installation of tacky new. It is so fun to watch!

  104. MM/DD/Rhode, Elfa is on sale at the Container Store this time every year.
    or this method, which still gives you room for a few things underneath
    I’d put hooks in our entryway, except for the stupid steels walls! I have a hard time drilling into brick in Germany, but at least I know what and where it is. These just seem weird. I’m hoping Rhett will clarify it all for me.

  105. MIL sustained a serious shoulder fracture after tripping over a bed frame st her home. After her rehab stay, a home health agency advised about additional hand rails and having others carry laundry to and from the basement. But she is still carrying the baskets herself like S&M’s mom. Disaster waiting to happen.

  106. That is a fun map, HM! I have to admit, though, I’ve never liked our guy James Taylor. His voice sounds really wimpy to me.

  107. I’m still relatively young and quite agile, but nevertheless I avoid going down into our basement because of the scary steps. Come to think of it, having a laundry area on the first floor is something I really like about our house.

  108. When we redo the powder room we will reduce the size of the vanity to make it easier for any guest with a walker or cane to navigate, as well as installing a comfort height toilet. We can see that some of our elderly guests could benefit from this. We have several residents in the complex in their eighties. One had a second floor stackable laundry installed in the space abutting the builder grade bathroom, where we chose to expand the bathroom and install a separate walk in shower, and where others have installed a walk in closet.

  109. Non-negotiables: a 3+ car garage, barn or airplane hangar for DH.

    I would like: an ocean view, a nice outdoor eating area, air-conditioning, a double sink in the master bath, and a flat driveway for basketball.

    Before we bought this house, we were long time renters of a charming house, in a nice neighborhood, with a peak at the ocean. Interestingly, we entertain more in our tract house than the charming house.

    We have 4 bedrooms, 2 baths in a 1,440 square foot house plus a 3 car garage. For the longest time I wanted to blow out the wall of our kitchen/dining area, but now that DS is 4.5 years away from college, the current size doesn’t bother me much anymore. The drought has killed our back lawn, and I hope we don’t lose our citrus trees. DS would like to convert the dead lawn area to a cement skate park, but luckily the cement mixer didn’t land at our house when my in-laws down-sized.

    In spite of being steeped in the value of public school district location since I was 5, we ended up sending our DS to private school K-8. We are now looking at public high school.

    We bought conservatively, so that I could work part-time for DS’s first 12 years and we could pay the house off before he went to college. I would make that choice again, but I will always have house-envy in our town.

    We’ve been to several homes and locations up in the foothills that have big beautiful coastline views. I like visiting, but the fire danger is too great for us to ever buy there.

    My DS has a co-worker who bought an ocean-front house (on a cliff above the ocean). We sit on their deck and watch the whales go by. If you crane your head to the right, a little further up the coast is a whale playground where the whales do a lot of spyhopping. This is my current dream.

  110. I also no longer use a laundry basket to carry stuff up and down the stairs. I use a large semi rigid laundry totebag with two big handles – holds two regular loads or one supersized. If I don’t feel like slinging it over my shoulder and trudging up or down the stairs I can just drag it behind me , – my basement stairs are carpeted. In either case I have one hand for the banister. It is big enough to accommodate folded laundry if the custom is to fold as it comes out of the dryer and not on the bed upstairs.

  111. S&M, I appreciate the links but the problem isn’t how to hang the bikes, it’s where to hang them so they are out of the way yet still easily accessible.

  112. Benefits Lawyer — did you lose power? I have gone back and forth on getting a generator but still have not taken the plunge. I get nervous that we’ll lose power whenever we have heavy ice or high winds. We have lots of old trees on our street that tend to fall down on power lines.

    I concur on the benefits of one-floor living as you age. I’ve seen the problems first hand many times. I shook my head when one of my about-to-retire relatives bought a 3-story townhouse with a beautiful roof deck. Plus the living room and kitchen are on the second floor. At a party there one of the older guests almost did not make it up to the living room.

    HM’s map is interesting. Idaho’s claim to fame is Paul Revere and the Raiders? Really? I feel pretty good that there are only a few artists I don’t recognize.

    This has been going around again. My first choice would definitely be ELVIS.

    “Which concert would you attend? Pick 2 only! ”

  113. “We have a local senior services van that gives rides to older residents.”

    This may sound mean, but I hate it when I go to the grocery store and I see that van parked outside. Clogged aisles and customers paying by check. Yet I may be at the age that I qualify for that van service. I should check.

  114. Meme, that laundry tote bag thing sounds awesome. I would love to get one for MIL, but her dementia challenges make it nearly impossible for her to adapt to any new devices or routines. Her laundry baskets would be prized as props for a TV show set in the mid-1980’s, as would her washer and dryer and, come to think of it, most of the other items in the house.

  115. We’re about 125 posts in and it seems only SBJ mentioned living on the water?!?!

    Well, if/when we move, it will be to waterfront. But over the years you’ve known me, I’ve lost mostly all my interest in trophy real estate. I never look at the WSJ House of the Day any more. But someday I’d like to be on the water where I can walk to my boat(s) at the dock and go out for a cruise.

    At some point, in my dotage, that may be downgraded to just a condo with a private balcony overlooking the harbor. That’s fine.

    Unrelated, the movie “Me Before You” is really, really, really good, for lack of a better term. And it has Mr. Bates.

  116. We bought an older townhome with a walkout basement and patio (the land slopes back) in preference to a newer one with the design CoC describes with the garage on the lowest floor and a flight of stairs up to the first living level, bedrooms second level, family room and roof deck third level. No way the piano was going to the top floor. The tradeoff for us was outdoor parking.
    One level houses are not all that common in the Boston area, almost everything has a basement, and are not found in walkable places with public transit. Decent sized apartments are very expensive, and it is not easy to find them with walk in showers as opposed to tub shower combos.

    DH just had his 74th birthday, he has congestive heart failure and mild ataxia, and he does just fine with the stairs. He stumbles when he turns or gets up too fast, not on stairs, so we have to have carpet/large rugs and softer kitchen floors. He goes up and down no more than four times a day, because our bedroom floor is set up as master suite with the second bedroom across the large landing as office/home gym/cat central. My now 92 year old MIL, who had a bit of trouble with the 3 steps to the front door and living/entertaining area the one time she came to pay a condolence call 9 years ago, has fallen seriously three times, twice with breaks, in her completely flat and carpeted apartment with elevators.

    I am sure that the your set in their ways moms would look at the bag (one can even use a large LLBean tote) and say, I fold all the laundry from the dryer and it would get disarranged in the bag and I would just have to re fold it when it gets up stairs. Or their stairs are hard and unfinished, so the bag being dragged up would get dusty or snag and they would not want to put it down on the clean floors/bed upstairs to unload it, and would be constantly washing it. the totes are routine for apartment dwellers who don’t use a granny cart to go to the communal laundry room or to the laundromat (some are like backpack duffles).

  117. On recommendations – I have to put in a plug for BB Straight Blow Dry gel. I tried a lot of products but none made my hair come out straight. I don’t have to put in too much effort either. Available on Amazon as well.

    I think it’s time for a Totebag product post. I am still using some of the products mentioned like on the Totebag like the Beauty balm, Bobbi Brown Mascara and Lucky Brand Jeans.

  118. SM, the frame perpendicular to the wall method is what we saw in Ottawa, and would probably work best for us. I don’t like hanging bikes up high or from the ceiling because it becomes a real hassle to get them down. My favorite is actually the bike rack style they show.

  119. CoC, I saw that dead musician post on FB. I waffled between Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix but finally went with Jimi. I wish Joey Ramone had been one of the choices.

  120. One blessing for us is that DH’s 93 year old mother has no issues with stairs. She is still in her home, which is a two story with stairs to the bedrooms so steep that I get nervous on them, and she still uses her bedroom. Her biggest physicial issue is that she has long had shoulder problems and can’t reach high enough to get stuff out of her upper cupboard shelves. So she moved everything she normally uses to the couters or lower cupboards.

  121. And CoC, I often shop at that same store on weekday late mornings if I am working from home. That is the time that the caregivers bring their elderly charges to shop. They always drive me nuts, slowlly creeping down the middle of the aisles so no one can pass, taking forever in the checkout. Then, I always try to give myself patience by reminding myself that I too will be there, slow and needing help. But then I just get too depressed to shop!

  122. @CoC: Freddie Mercury and then probably Janis Joplin. Although Jimi Hendrix is reallyreally close, just because, damn.

    We have pretend-ice here, i.e., it’s cold enough to freeze on my grill, but it was 60 degrees yesterday and the roads and sidewalks all seem very, very clear. Grr.

    @Milo: A water view would be my top-priority in the “view” category. But having just spent a couple of weeks in Taos, I am reminded of how much I enjoy those views as well. So I went with the more generic description.

    My “dream” spot since I was a kid is off of I-95 just before you go into DE, on the far bank on the L as you go over the Susquehanna (I think?) — there’s the grand brick mansion, the big lawn, and then the cliff down to the water below. I dream of a couple of comfy chairs out near the edge of the cliff, lounging and gazing over the water. With a refreshing beverage, of course, and Carson to bring it to me. . . . Of course I think it’s owned by a university now and is a conference center or something.

  123. I’ve seen both Freddy Mercury and Johnny Cash live. I saw Johnny Cash at a campground called Indian Ranch up in MA that also had a lot of country and country rock concerts, It was a total biker venue.

  124. I recognized nine of those singers right away, have since heard names of two and said “of course!”

  125. “We have pretend-ice here, i.e., it’s cold enough to freeze on my grill, but it was 60 degrees yesterday and the roads and sidewalks all seem very, very clear. Grr.”

    DW’s work holiday party was moved to January this year, and is tonight, so we’re glad that weather is a few degrees warmer than predicted, since we’re driving into DC.

    I’ve seen that mansion many times, I know exactly where you’re talking about. That’s just not my style though. I’ll find something, hang on.

  126. The view from my home isn’t as important to me as the view into the house. Many of the expensive homes I walk past here or at my parents’ have glass doors. The glass is beautifully framed, but doesn’t have any facet or anything to prevent one from looking into the living room, and often out the back of the house to the lanai.

  127. Milo, I have been a big Johnny Cash fan since I was a teen, so I was really glad to have the chance to see him live. I like a lot of the older country singers – Buck Owens, Loretta Lynn, for example, but he was the greatest because he could transcend the form.

  128. My yoga studio specializes in really hard “power” yoga. They also offer “yoga sculpt”, where you leap around doing calisthenics holding hand weights. I’m fat, but I’m pretty strong, and I can usually keep up. The target demographic is the 18-35 year olds.

    Today, the sweet young thing beside me in Sculpt asked, at the end of class, “Do you mind if I ask how old you are?” “I’m 56”, sez I. “That’s so great!!” sez SYT. “I can’t get my mom to do any exercise! It’s so great that you’re keeping fit at your age.” “Thanks,” I said weakly, and now I will just add: “Get. Off. My. Lawn.”

  129. Beethoven is my top pick from that grid — he was supposed to be quite a performer and it’s not like we have recordings of him — and for the other one, first I was going to say Janis, and then I thought, ooh, but Jimi Hendrix, and then after I read LfB’s I thought, hmm, can I really say no to Freddie Mercury? So I would say Beethoven, and I’ll-choose-only-when-I-have-to, are my two choices.

  130. I am not ready for the senior van, but I do wish I could qualify for the senior discount at the movies. We saw Hidden Figures today. I loved this movie, and it is great for families to see together.

    I was surprised at how emotional I felt seeing the film, and I am so glad that these brilliant, brave women took the first steps so many women could follow. This movie is a great way to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday.

  131. HM +1, except since I saw Janis when I was 17, I would probably pick someone else for number 2. I suppose it would be pre induction Elvis. I had to face google the guy from metallica – I drew a complete blank and still do.

  132. Lauren we are going to go see that movie on Monday. My geek kids are looking forwards to it

  133. Lauren, also loved that movie — took DD to it opening weekend.

    @Milo — not my favorite style house either, but there’s just something about the setting that has gotten to me since I was about 13.

  134. Did anyone see The Accountant ? I wanted a Totebag review before watching it.
    How about La La Land ? Worth watching ?

  135. My only non-negotiable is open and light. I love a lot of natural light. I also love infinite amounts of storage, because it’s so much easier to keep the house clean. I can’t stand visual clutter. I won’t call it non-negotiable because I don’t have enough now and I’m surviving fine. For dream home I would love a nice view and plenty of nice walking trails, but short drive to anywhere I want to go.

  136. DD (re garage): when we moved in we hired a carpenter to build simple plywood shelving/cabinets on the front and one side of the garage. The other side remains studs only. We left room for putting some things on the floor. We happen to have a soffit in front of the fronts of the cars so I have hooks for my extendable ladder, but could just as easily be for bikes. Our garage is ~22 x 24.

  137. “I’m inclined to adapt to our existing space for the next 10 years and Mr WCE wants to consider moving.”

    I’m surprised no one has commented on how is exactly the typical Love It or List It scenario.

  138. “The only hiccup to my plan is that the kids’ closet also holds the ladder for our attic.”

    Rhode, is there no hallway that can be used to located the ladder? I’m assuming it’s one of the pull-down ladders.

  139. Mémé, we had an induction cooktop installed when we had our kitchen remodeled, and we really like it. The main downside is the restrictions on the cookware, but that’s been relatively minor.

    Among the things we like the most are how quickly things get hot, the gas-like instant control that we didn’t have with a conventional electric cooktop, and being able to simmer at very low heat.

    The one we got is knobless, and we really like how easy it is to clean.

  140. “Finn Jr in his white-tie-and-tails.”

    Tuxedo update:

    We ordered a tailcoat/pants set from Amazon. It wasn’t available in the same size and his regular tux, which fits him really well, but we thought it was worth a chance because of Amazon’s return policy, and he’d tried one on in that size at a rental shop and it seemed a decent fit.

    The tux arrived in a few days. It was packed loosely and came completely unwrinkled. While it was made of polyester, it felt like the quality was good, and from what I read about tuxes online, I believe it’s a pretty good material for polyester. It was a nice looking tux. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit DS, so we returned it. But I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone needing a tux if they have the required size.

    So we ordered a tailcoat/pants set from, in the same size as his regular tux. It fits him quite well, and we’ll keep it. However, it doesn’t feel quite as good as the Amazon tux. The cut is not as nice (the tails just don’t seem quite as elegant), the material doesn’t feel quite as good, and the stripe on the side of the pants is narrower, which DS doesn’t like as much.

    Next we need to get the vest, tie, and pocket square. DS isn’t adventurous WRT colors, so will probably go with white for the vest and tie (if it were I, I’d go for something like silver or silver grey, or maybe even fuchsia), but may add a touch of color with the pocket square, perhaps school colors.

    “Maybe I can talk my oldest and his theater friends into playing the footmen and housemaids . . . as long as they don’t have to do any heavier labor than carrying trays and answering bells.”

    And I’m sure a role can be found for your youngest and his tux.

  141. Rhett, around here most new houses are built with steel framing, and have been for a while. It’s been about 20 years since DW and I were shopping, but back then all the subdivisions being built were using steel framing.

  142. I would also pick Beethoven, and I don’t care as much about the second one. :)

    Finn, did you look on Ebay? I found a very nice blazer for #2 child there…Brooks Brothers, all wool, and only $35! :) I think the sizes are more hit or miss though.

  143. Finn if Finn Jr were to attend an institution of higher learning in the Boston area, he could get second hand tails and tuxes at Keezers, which has been recycling them to young and not so young musicians and choristers for decades.

  144. Fred, thanks for the idea to hang the ladder. I need to see if can figure out a way to do it.

  145. I finished the garage reorg. I got some shelves at home depot similar to the Frontgate ones for half the price. I did concede defeat and moved the garbage/recycling bins outside. I don’t think hanging the ladder will work because the ceiling is too low – it’s even lower in the storage area. And I gave up on finding another place to hang DW’s bike, there isn’t any easily accessible place to do it, so I’m going to get a kickstand for it. Without the trash bins, there’s room for it.

    The sad part is getting rid of the sleds. When the kids were little, I always said the best part about having kids is sledding. A 35 year old guy at the sledding hill with his kids looks like a devoted father. A 35 year old guy at the sledding hill by himself looks like a child molester. :)

  146. My H frequently dreams about discovering secret passages and rooms in houses he’s lived. It’s so real that he’ll wake up wanting to check it out in our own home. I would not be surprised if that’s a common dream.

  147. I sometimes dream about realizing we have a whole upper floor or lower floor we haven’t been using, but then I usually either remember or discover that it’s haunted and that’s why we weren’t using it. I’m sure there’s some Jungian explanation for that, probably one I don’t want to know.

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