House Shopping Champagne Taste on Beer Budget - picture of couple looking at front of a home

House Shopping: Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

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Ahhh…..the saga continues.  Last week, I wrote about how we weren’t able to get our dream house.  And in the meantime, we’ve been looking at other houses.  In fact, including the houses we saw this past Sunday, I think we’ve seen about 30 homes.  And, from seeing all of those homes, I’ve realized a few things:

  • Everything I like is expensive.
  • There is a reason why some houses are cheap.
  • I’m cheap.

I suppose that none of that should come as a surprise.  While I would really like a nice house, I don’t really want to pay for it.  And, since we’re looking at houses in a super wide price range, I’m starting to get frustrated that the expensive ones are the nicest.  Shouldn’t it be the opposite?  Shouldn’t I be able to please my champagne tastes on a beer budget?  In my dream world, I suppose.  Anyway, here are some of the highlights from the latest round of houses we’ve seen:

Clean your baseboards, people!
Clean your baseboards, people!

One of the houses we saw was kinda nice, but dirty.  I mean, if you’re trying to sell your house for 200K, shouldn’t you clean your baseboards?  Greg thinks I’m a communist, but I think it should be illegal to fail to clean your baseboards when your house is for sale.  Punishable by death.  Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh


Another house we saw was on a beautiful lake.  Unfortunately, it had mold!  I’m scared to death of mold.  There are things I will do.  I will replace carpet.  I will clean.  I will take down a reasonable amount of wallpaper.  One thing I don’t do?  Mold.  I don’t do mold.


One house we looked at had a kitchen that literally blew my mind.  For convenience, I’m sure, they had the fridge, microwave, stove, and dishwasher all in one tiny corner.  I mean, that would be awesome, am I right?  “No,” I say.  “Not awesome at all.”  Plus, the appliances don’t even match.  WTF???  Greg thinks I’m a communist but I think that people should be legally required to have matching appliances in any house over 150K.  Not the brand, just the color….because asking people to get matching brands would be ridiculous.

DSCF2541I really liked this house. In fact, it’s still on the list.  But, we’re still thinking about it because Greg was kind’ve indifferent to it.  Plus, although it was on the lower end of our budget, we felt that it was very overpriced for its size, condition, and location.


Even Greg (who is 6'3) looks ridiculously short in this room.....
Even Greg (who is 6’3) looks ridiculously short in this room…..

Another house we saw had a two-story great room.  It looked awesome but wasn’t practical at all.  I mean, why would I want to heat and cool all of that wasted space?  And, what are we, giants?




What about you?  Don’t you think that certain things should be illegal?  Like, really cheap laminate floors and faux stainless steel appliances?  If not, what bothers you about houses you’ve seen?  Cat hair?  Cobwebs?  Grandma curtains?


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  1. Haha I love your humour. I agree with you the baseboards should be cleaned. The entire house should be cleaned top to bottom. We clean our baseboards once per week no matter what. We have issues with a dirty home. I’m always cleaning.. pulling out refrigerators, stoves, garbage cans, cleaning cupboards. It’s called mainteance and why some homes look like they are falling apart because they aren’t being maintained and cleaned properly. Our appliances don’t match right now so I’m afraid you would hate that but I agree… a matching kitchen looks good. I just bought a $4000 floor model range hood for our professional stove that I’ll be putting in once I get the new kitchen installed. I paid $1400 for it and it’s mint… ahh… Have a good week mate.

    1. What kind of range hood is $4,000? I bet it’s badass!

  2. I have house envy when I look at the price of your housing. What you want would start at 700 k plus in a decent neighborhood here. In older homes to save money most houses were built with single wall construction. With single wall you literally hear all the noise outside. All homes today are built hollow tile double wall construction.

  3. My Wealth Desire says:

    I believe there is no such as perfect house. Yeah some house nowadays are overprice and I cannot imagine why? In the second level of house house the flooring is from the cheap type of wood laminated floor. I think owner and developer using illegally cheap materials to have big profit if they sell it.

    If I will sell my house in the future, I will see to it I will remove the mold and clean all rooms at least.

    1. There probably isn’t a perfect house out there. But, I would like to find something reasonably priced that I like!

  4. I once bought a house with too much wallpaper. Any wallpaper is too much wallpaper. When I was stripping it I realized that they had put the wallpaper directly on to the drywall and I peeled the paper layer of the drywall off along with the wallpaper. I had to have the drywall in an entire room replaced.

    1. That happened in one of our rentals. We took down the apple wallpaper in the kitchen only to find that about half of it was stuck directly to drywall. So, we had to have the whole kitchen drywalled =/

  5. I know there are wide gaps in cost of living between various areas in this country, and I know many readers were thinking the exact same thing despite the fact we may be falling victim to not getting the humor, BUT for $200K you couldn’t buy a crack house in Boston. There, I feel better now.

    Seriously, best of luck in the continued search.

  6. haha, I think I’m the complete opposite of you. I want to see the ugliest, dirtiest, unmatchiest (hell, have no appliances in it whatsoever!) appliances. Because we’ll tear it all out and make it beautiful.

    I was amazed when I saw the living room in our duplex for the first time – with yellow, brown, AND green walls, it looked like an infant had several bodily functions all at once. But you’d never suspect it now and the renters love what we did with the place!

    1. I used to be the same way….until we had kids. The thought of living in a construction zone (and not having a kitchen) since we’ve had kids sounds awful. But, I would do it for the right house….maybe. I haven’t seen anything that was worth a remodel at this point which is discouraging.

  7. Haha the house we bought had grandma curtains and to be honest, needed a good cleaning. We had about 3 weeks where we had both our apartment and house and they weren’t too far from each other so I replaced all the blinds/curtains and we got started on painting right away. To be honest the only reason the house is in our budget is because it is in need of some renovating, but I watch too much HGTV so I’m actually excited about it. Mold is a huge issue and it’s tough with basements because it’s almost inevitable. I wrote out a plan to renovate our entire basement sometime down the road (as you might know currently it’s set up so half is a separate rental) and while it is dry right now I still want to gut it to the studs and use some of the tips from Holme’s inspection so that we never have any water issues or mold. I bet you are overwhelmed looking at so many homes but isn’t it fun when you really think about it??? Trying to be an optimist here 😉

    1. It was fun at first. It’s not fun anymore. I’m over it!

  8. Our thing was mismatched floors. When we bought our house the main floors had two types of tile, laminate floors and wood floors all within the same 400sqft (we have a narrow but tall urban home). The good news is that we got a reasonable deal and we did the renovations ourselves. Now we have beautiful hardwood floors throughout and we were able to save a couple of bucks!

    1. Hey, that sounds great. Replacing floors is fairly easy…I would definitely be willing to do that!

  9. LOL. In NZ, half the houses are old and uninsulated, so as a renter, I’ve dealt with the worst mould horror stories. Can’t wait to buy and make our own warm haven.

    1. Really? That’s crazy. I’m really freaked out by mold for some reason.

  10. We are very fortunate that we have reached a point in our lives where we can build our new houses. We did the last two that way and were obviously able to do just what we wanted. The thing that would be a deal killer for me is shoddy construction. Bad roof, weak floors, plumbing that doesn’t work. Cosmetics…..not a big deal. I’ll be interested in hearing about your house sale. What comments do you get from buyers? In this HGTV driven market, it seems that people sometimes don’t understand that not everyone can afford to update their house every 5 years. How many times have you heard people on that TV show comment about the entire room being a “gut job” because they want to upgrade the space. How many people are horrified because the counters aren’t granite in a $100,000 house? Or they are disgusted because a house has carpet instead of hardwood floors. Regarding wallpaper….I attended a home show in a large city this summer. The houses were +$1 million and were all professionally decorated. Guess what? They all had some wallpaper. Not in every room. But each house had it somewhere. I think the answer is for those HGTV types is simply to build a custom house.

    And Holly, maybe your dream home will still be on the market when you are ready to make an offer. Good luck.

    1. I would love to find a house that just needs cosmetic updates. But, since we have little kids, I’m hoping to not have to do a big remodel. My dream house would just need a good cleaning, fresh paint, and floors. Maybe some new appliances?

      We are looking at another house tomorrow that I hope is a winner. It’s $125,000 and has a different color of carpet in each room. It’s dreadfully decorated as well. But, it’s cheap…and it’s on almost an acre less than 5 minutes from my husband’s new job.

  11. Haha, sure, make it all illegal! Sounds like a frustrating but hopefully educational process. I guess the important thing is to distinguish between things that can easily be fixed (carpeting, cleanliness, etc.) and those that can’t (mold), which it sounds like you’re all over. Just keep on trucking!

    1. Yes, exactly. I don’t want to deal with things that are hard to fix, like mold. We also looked at another house that had a huge dip in the roof and crooked ceilings inside. That is beyond what I’m willing to deal with as well.

  12. Lol, this is classic. I thought the same thing at times when we were hose shopping. You’d think that people would want their house somewhat clean when they’re trying to sell it. It pretty much made me know that we wouldn’t want the house because if they can’t be bothered to clean it then you have to wonder what else they’ve been ignoring.

    1. Yes, exactly!
      But, I expect dirty in a cheap house. I don’t expect dirty when people are trying to get top dollar for their home!

  13. The kitchen of the place my sister bought had the stove right in front of the window. Who puts a stove right in front of the window, it’s usually a sink. Well, I guess they don’t cook because the wind blowing at the stove is not a good combo…plus how do you open/close it when you’re cooking? My sister doesn’t really cook much either so it hasn’t been a problem. But a stove in front of a window should be illegal!

    1. Yes, it should totally be illegal! Add that to the list!

  14. Haha I actually want a two story family room. I don’t know why but I love them!

    1. Good luck painting and taking down cobwebs, Michelle! Haha!

  15. I think your decision to stay away from mold is a good one. Sometimes it’s something that a little surface cleaning can deal with, but you can’t tell just by looking.

    I kind of dig the house with the open great room, even if it’s a little less efficient. Has the overpriced low budget home been on the market long? Maybe you can bring them down a bit.

    1. It’s only been on the market a week =/

      I think they are about $35,000 overpriced so we’re not close enough to negotiate at this point.

  16. Our current house had cats painted on the wall! Luckily, I love to paint. I don’t think I’d touch the mold house, but I don’t mind cosmetic changes.

    1. I love painting! Its such an easy and cheap fix that makes a HUGE difference.

  17. Holly, I love this! I find that I have very expensive taste too, don’t worry! You’ll find the right house that’s up to par with your standards.

  18. Ugh, the dirty thing would really bug me, as would the mold. Hang in there, girl. The right house will show up on the scene. 🙂

    1. I don’t mind cleaning after we buy but I do think that people should clean when their house is for sale! It makes everything look nicer.

  19. I saw an episode of “My First Place” or one of those other HGTV shows where the woman bought the house and the previous owner had left it completely filthy. Looks like they had had a moving out party and left their trash everywhere. Disgusting. Rude… Punishable by death? hmmmm… I dunno, but I do feel that way about littering so maybe 😉

    1. Punishable by death might be overkill. Community service, maybe?

  20. I’d probably be a bit less picky because I live in an old apartment where the paint is peeling, I have no dishwasher or laundry, 1970’s tile in the kitchen, well you get the idea, so just about anything is an upgrade! 🙂 I agree with you on the mold though..that’s a deal breaker. I lived in a basement apt in Seattle where I was sick all the time and didn’t know why until I moved. I think you will know when you know when you see the right place, but hopefully it’s sooner than later.

  21. Jake @ Ca$h Funny says:

    I completely agree with you. It’s amazing what condition some people live in. My mom is a realtor, so I hear all of the crazy stories about what some homes look like and the dirty details. It can be pretty gross. By the way, I won’t deal with mold either. That’s something that can be so hard to get rid of and is very costly.

    1. Mold is a deal-breaker for me. I’ve never dealt with it before and I have no desire to. I’ll leave mold to the professionals!

  22. I am more into the structure of a house than what it looks like cosmetic. I have thing for brick and stone houses. As the long as the layout is good and there’s enough space I am all for doing renovations myself. In fact I kind of prefer it that way. I like to customize stuff myself even if it does take a few years.

  23. i love that you guys are sharing the ins and outs of your home search..
    my advice would be to NOT SETTLE…

    we went in probably 50 houses during our recent home search, but eventually our dream house did show up (and for a reasonable price)..

  24. Todd @ Fearless Dollar says:

    Holly you are clever!! Great title. And it always helps to have lots of pics :).

    Wow, you’ve visited 30 homes? That sounds grueling!!

    As for the person(s) who don’t wash their baseboards, you can wash them, if you can get their crappy home at a discount!!!

  25. Uh oh… our appliances don’t match. That’s mainly because we got the best appliance in each category (within our price range) and they’re not all the same color. Even our washer and dryer don’t match.

    I think it’s always a good idea not to look at houses outside one’s price range unless one is willing to give a low-ball offer. That way you don’t know what you’re missing and you won’t be disappointed in what you end up with. (Of course, we bought the most expensive house that we looked at!)

    1. You’re totally getting fined for not having matching appliances!!! Expect your ticket in the mail!

      I think our problem is that we don’t really have a price range. We have “what the bank says we can afford,” “what we feel comfortable that we’re able to afford,” and “what we want to pay.” Those three things are entirely different and the houses in those categories are diverse to say the least. We haven’t looked at anything that is more expensive than I would be willing to pay BUT its very hard to pull the trigger on any of the expensive homes I’ve liked. Not just because of the cost either…but because of the property taxes and, in some cases, homeowner’s association fees.

      1. That’s what you get when an engineer and an economist buy a house together. Efficiency! In any case, the previous owners took their appliances with them so it doesn’t actually matter what they had. Maybe we should just empty out the house before trying to sell it.

        And hey, I could always make snide comments about “matchy matchy” except I’m not sure if that’s in or out right now. (Because I don’t care.)

        1. I don’t know what’s in right now, honestly. I don’t have HGTV.
          And, I’m probably a boring decorator. I painted my entire house oyster white (cream) and bonjour beige and I plan to do the same in our next house. I don’t like colored walls or patterns on much of anything. Most people would probably walk in my house and think “boring!!!”

          Are you selling your house?

  26. The front of that one house is pretty cute! Did you like the inside? That’s too bad about the mold, but I agree that’s a good thing to stay away from – I had that problem a few years ago and it took time even after I moved to not smell it on my belongings, it was gross.

  27. We have one of those houses with the high ceilings (about 15′) – I like the way the make things feel spacious, but they sure are hard to maintain!

  28. Living like a sloth is fine when you’re not trying to sell your home, but when you are – clean that baby from top to bottom! I also find what people collect can be … ummm…. interesting and distracting. 🙂

  29. I think we all have the freedom to have bad taste or mess up a beautiful home. I see it occasionally when people paint their home some obscene color. I have visited (expensive) homes that are improved with ridiculous things that no one would want. Your comments do not surprise me!

  30. We needed a house with a guest house for the in-laws who were about to lose their house. That and our budget greatly narrowed our options. So the place we got was a mess. Old carpet that smelled like dog, dingy cabinets and two of the bedrooms were hideous. They’d painted ceiling to floor color, including baseboards. The effect was of a slight claustrophia- and seasickness inducing sea foam green and a very angry feeling robin blue.we had to do some repairs to get it up to FHA standards anyway, so we put repairs onto the cost of the house. Now we have nice tile floor, new counters (not stone but still a lot prettier the original) and white in the two offending rooms. I wish we had more color — currently only our living/dining room is painted– but we’ll be here long enough that it’ll happen eventually.

  31. In my search for rentals last week, I seemed to notice a pattern in houses from the 40’s to 50’s. I think they were all built for hobbits. I am 5’7″ and had to almost duck to get through the doorways. Were there no tall people back then?

  32. House hunting can be so difficult! The issue is simply that other people have really, really weird taste (haha). We definitely had a hard time finding the perfect home.

  33. When we were house hunting I was absolutely shocked by how dirty some people left their homes (during open housings and showings!) I mean really? I know I’m not clean, but if I was selling my home I’d make sure it was spotless-baseboards and all! 😉

  34. I feel like I would have the same issues as you. I am cheap, but I like all the expensive things. It can be pretty frustrating when I go back and forth about paying so much for something – I always wonder if it’s truly worth it. I can’t imagine house shopping as that’s on a whole different level. The one Greg was indifferent to looks pretty cute from the outside! I also think appliances should match, though I don’t have a preference for color or stainless steel.

  35. The house we bought had standing water in the basement and dead mouse and spider carcassses everywhere..and smelled like animal. But we bought for the land and location and most things in that area. It’ll be a labor of love, but we could have never afforded this house if it was in nice condition. I’m with an earlier commenter. I want it to be dingy and tacky to keep other bidders away.

    Most homes I looked at here in New England (and I looked for about a year), were cluttered, dirty, and had obvious things I’d never do when selling a home. I’m about to put my mom’s up for sale and want to take all her old lady doily curtains down but I think I might lose that battle. She thinks it’s some kind of travesty not to have lace covering every window. Hopefully people can see past the doilies. It will be clean though.

  36. I’m a big fan of higher ceilings (but J is really tall), but those are REALLY tall. I hated house hunting – it’s not fun because there is rarely ever a house that has everything you need in it. Sometimes, it’s better to buy a fixer upper and flip it.

  37. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    I never understand why builders continue to make homes with huge great room ceilings. It’s such a waste of money to heat and cool! I like high ceilings but if it’s high enough for a 2nd floor, I don’t want it.

  38. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox
    and now each time a comment is added I get four e-mails
    with the same comment. Is there any way you
    can remove me from that service? Bless you!

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