House vs. House: The Showdown

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I’ve loved real estate since I was a teenager.  In fact, I remember flipping through real estate magazines when I was young and fantasizing about my future home.  It was fun.  It was exciting.  And, at the time, I felt that the possibilities were endless.

But, now that I’m an adult with two kids, shopping for a home isn’t so fun.  First off, I’m scared to get stuck with a house I don’t like.  And, as we all know, sometimes you don’t really know what it’s like to live somewhere until you’re already there.  And, by that time, it’s too late.  Earlier in our house hunt, I dodged a bullet when I realized that a house we were about to buy had a loud outdoor dog living next door.  And, that kind of thing is exactly what I’m scared of.

I used to love to shop for houses.  Hell, I used to love moving.  But, now that we have kids, the stakes are much higher.  I don’t want to move them around all over the place and I never want them to have to switch schools.  So, with that being said, we’ve taken this house hunt very seriously.  We want to find the house that we can happily live in for the next twenty years, or even longer.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at around 30-40 homes.  Big homes.  Small homes.  Nice homes.  Disgusting homes.  And, I’m glad to report that the home search is almost over.  There are two houses, in particular, that we kinda love.  And, I think we may be writing an offer!

House #1 $200,000

House #1 is about 2,080 square feet, a little smaller than the home we’re selling (2,370 s.f.).  It has four bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and an open floor plan.  Built in 1989, it’s in an established neighborhood with mature trees and wide streets.  There is a small park a few blocks away and the road ends in a cul de sac where my kids could safely ride their bikes.

What I Like:

Although the home is a little smaller than our current home, it’s laid out very well.  It also has an updated kitchen, complete with granite countertops and new stainless steel appliances.  And while I probably wouldn’t pay for those things myself, it certainly doesn’t hurt!  The home has a two-car garage with an extra bump-out on one side for all of our stuff.  The yard isn’t fenced, but all of the neighbors yards are so I don’t think a fence would be necessary.  Another thing I like about the yard: it has the perfect place for the new play set my daughter desperately wants.  Best of all, this house is move-in-ready.  Seriously. 

What I Don’t Like:

Since the house is slightly smaller than the one we’re selling, all of the rooms seem a little tight.  Also, the 4th bedroom is pretty tiny at 12 by 9 feet.  The house also has big ugly shower doors in both of the full baths.  I don’t mind the way they look but it makes things hard when you’re trying to give little kids a bath.  We’d have to take at least one of them down and I’m not sure if we would damage the tile tub surround if we did.  Also, the washer and dryer are in a “laundry closet” instead of a laundry room.  It isn’t a big deal but it would certainly be an adjustment.  Other than that, there isn’t much that I don’t like about the house.

House #2 $209,000


House #2 is slightly larger at 2,364 square feet and almost the exact same size as our current home.  It’s also 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths.  The floor plan is very similar to house #1 aside from the fact that all of the rooms are slightly larger.  And, since it’s in the same neighborhood as house #1, it also has a small park nearby, mature trees, and wide streets.

What I Like:

I like the fact that house #2 is slightly larger just because that’s what we’re used to.  House #2 also has a few perks that house #1 doesn’t, namely a Jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom, a three car garage, and an extra wood-burning fireplace in the master bedroom.  Although I don’t need a Jacuzzi tub or a fireplace in my bedroom, it certainly doesn’t hurt.  And, I also like the idea of having a three car garage so that my kids would have a place to park their bikes and keep a few of their outside toys.  House #2 also has a small screened-in porch in the back which is something that I’ve always wanted but never had.  And, it has the same flat yard as house #1.  In addition, it has a SimpliSafe Home Security system already set up and ready to go.

What I Don’t Like:

House #2 needs a little bit of work.  It needs new carpet, paint, and floors in one of the bathrooms.  It has one room with horrid wallpaper that desperately needs to be taken down as well.  There are also a few optional things we would consider doing, like replacing the countertops in the kitchen and one of the bathrooms.  So, we have to take all of that into account.  Carpet and countertops cost some serous cash!  The only other con about this house is that it’s a little closer to the entrance of the subdivision instead of on a cul de sac like house #1.

So, we’re heading out tonight to see these two houses again.  We’re also waiting to see the disclosures on both properties so that we can find out how old the mechanicals are.  That way, we can see if one house is a particularly better bargain than the other.  Regardless, I’m feeling hopeful.  I really hope that our house hunt is nearing its end and that one of these houses will work.  Stay tuned…..

Based on what you’ve read, which house do you think I should buy?  Which one do you think is the better bargain?

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  1. It kind of seems like it comes down to how important the bigger rooms are. If those will really make a difference in your long term enjoyment of the home, then the extra cost of the 2nd home including all of the updates could definitely be worth it. You could always add a jacuzzi tub (I think) and it sounds like you already have extra space in the first garage, so those other benefits of the 2nd place seem easily replaceable.

    1. Yep, so true. The fact that they’re in the same neighborhood makes it harder too.

  2. I’m not a handy guy so I would go for house #1. People also tend to pay a premium for Cul De Sacs. Are they making you guys jump through hoops for the loans because of both of your job changes?

    1. No. They won’t count my income since I haven’t been self-employed for two years BUT Greg’s income is enough to qualify us to borrow up to 325K.
      plus, selling our home means that we have a 100K down payment.

  3. They both sound like great houses and great values for the price (though all I have to compare it to is the housing market here haha). I’d rather not recommend one or the other because I think you guys should make it solely your choice : ) BUT I will say that as my wife and I bought a house almost exactly a year ago with tons of projects, we are enjoy the projects but will be spending a lot of money, time (and a few tears lol) in the process of making it into what we want. I basically have decided my next house will have minimal work, especially because I expect to have children and don’t want too many projects with them in tow.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. Since we have kids now, I don’t want to do too much heavy remodeling. We’ve knocked out walls, redone floors, scraped wallpaper, etc. I would do some of it again but would shy away from huge projects.

  4. I don’t think you could go wrong. Having lived through a huge reno I dont know I’d do much again, especially with kids. I’d likely opt for smaller rooms (minimalist in me) and enjoy good layout, lower asking price and reno’d kitchen.

  5. They are both beautiful and sound amazing. From the outside I like the looks of house number two better. But, I like the way you describe house number ones interior features. Granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances? Yes! But then again you could always put those things in house number two.

    1. Yes, they are nice. I doubt that I would ever pay for them and put them in myself but they do look nice.

  6. I love house hunting. I’d go with house 1. I love smartly designed smaller homes and I think the shower door thing is easily fixable. Plus, I’m sure a jacuzzi requires all kinds of maintenance I wouldn’t want to do.

      1. We hardly ever use ours– the kids use the smaller boring tub and we use the shower. Jacuzzis take a lot of water and have to be cleaned out and it isn’t pleasant to think about the gunk when you do a cleanout.

      2. May I just say that I used to have a jacuzzi tub, and it didn’t really require maintenance, but I swear you CANNOT properly clean the jets. I used to scrub for HOURS with bleach and a toothbrush, trying to get inside the jets, but it never got clean. It even lead to health problems. I finally paid 2K to remove it and downgrade to a regular tub/shower combo. 🙁

      3. Thanks for the input, you two. I’ve never had a Jacuzzi tub so I don’t know anything about the maintenance or cleaning. It might be one of those things that sounds fun but is a pain in the ass.

        And, truth be told, it doesn’t have to be a Jacuzzi tub….just a big tub. Maybe a large garden tub would do. I’m not trying to get R rated or anything, but I would love a tub that Greg and I could both fit in (at the same time).

  7. Based on this article, I feel like you don’t love either of them. House 2 seems to give you more flexibility, but the area around house 1 seems more my style!

    1. Joe!

      Are you a mind reader? We’ve seen at least 40 houses at this point and I have only loved one. Unfortunately, it was more than I really wanted to spend.

  8. Continue to be devil’s advocate as you shop, Holly. Someone once told me that if you couldn’t live here forever and be happy, don’t buy it. Take a serious look at the cons and see how important they are to you. The carpet and paint stuff is an easy fix, but the location of the house isn’t. And the inside; will a smaller house or smaller rooms drive you crazy once the kids get bigger, etc? And speaking from experience, believe you me, you will LOVE that jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. It’s the one thing I miss in our move from suburbia to our farm house. Good luck in the hunt!

    1. I totally agree. I don’t want to have to move again unless we really want to for some reason. We are being extremely picky this time!

      1. Who knows…if you do stay in the house forever, you might not mind the slightly smaller rooms once the girls are grown up and moved out.

  9. Good luck on the move and decision! I am like you used to be, I adore moving and looking at real estate. I don’t have any kids (or a live-in significant other) so it isn’t an issue for me to up and move. But as a kid who did move around and switch schools throughout my life, I’m not sure it would bug me much to uproot my family for a sensible move. I do understand why people prefer not to though. Our moves were always to different countries not the next school district over.

    1. I just want to find a place that we can stay put forever. My parents still live in the house that I grew up in….we never moved. I kind’ve like that idea for my own children.

  10. That’s a tough one, but I think I’d go with #2. It’s a little bigger and has some nice things – like the Jacuzzi which would be nice to have. It sounds like some of the things you don’t like are more cosmetic in nature as opposed to something major like a horrid kitchen that needs redone. That said, I don’t think you’d go wrong with either.

  11. I’m glad to hear that your new house adventure is getting closer to a happy ending. Personally, I think that house 2 sounds better. You can buy new tiles and new wallpaper and you can change that in time. But you can’t buy extra space for your house. And since you’re already used with those extra 300 sf, then you will probably miss them at first.

    Good luck with your decision and may it be the best one!

    1. I know! I really am used to the size of our home and I’m afraid that I would miss the extra space. But, at the same time, I’ve always thought that we could get by with something much smaller. We were even looking at some homes in the 1,800 sq. ft. range. I wish you could try before you buy!

  12. I have never cared much about the size of bedrooms because my family really only uses them for sleeping. Homework at the kitchen table, toys in the family room when the boys were small and reading on the couch in the living room. I am not sure why people need huge bedrooms but everyone seems to need them.

    1. I don’t care about huge bedrooms either….we just sleep in ours. Our kids don’t even have toys in their rooms. But, I do want at least one large living area. A big kitchen would be nice as well.

  13. You don’t have a huge family, so I wouldn’t see the need for the extra 200+ square feet, but then I don’t know how you live 🙂 The first one has far, far more curb appeal from the photos. But you need to do whatever feels right!

    1. I doubt that anyone “needs” the extra square footage…but it would be nice. In our current home, we have a guest bedroom, a play room, and an office. I would like to have those things in our new home but I could probably get by without an office or maybe a guest bedroom.

  14. Both seem like great options. I think it comes down to size. Personally, house #1 seems pretty big to me but I’m use to city living! lol

    1. They’re both plenty big. One is jut slightly wider than the other!

  15. I would go with the bigger garage and bigger rooms. As your kids get bigger, you will appreciate the space. You can upgrade the other things in time. Granite counter tops are really not even that bad if you wait for a sale at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

    1. I don’t even know if I like granite. It looks nice….but I’m on the fence. I’ve never shopped for countertops before…I have no idea what I would pick out!

  16. House #1 is super cute! I don’t need much space to live, so 2,000 square feet seems like plenty for a family of four. Can’t wait to hear more as the saga develops.

  17. Wow, houses in the States are so cheap. Houses like these would easily cost $800,000 in the Netherlands 🙁 Now I understand why a lot of people in the States live in big houses. My 2 bedroom apartment (753 sq. feet) in a big city in the Netherlands is more expensive than the houses you described in this blogpost.

    1. Wow! Really?

      Houses in the U.S. are all over the place. I live in Indiana which is a fairly low cost area. Houses on both coasts are much more expensive.

  18. From the outside, it’s hard to tell the difference between the two houses. I think a jacuzzi and fireplace in my bedroom would rock my world. ps. I can’t believe the prices. $200,000 in this area would buy you a closet.

    1. I know…but I live in Indiana. It’s cheap…and boring!

  19. Hey I’m glad you found 2 houses that you liked. I would probably go with the updated house, especially since it’s a little lower asking price. I wouldn’t need the extra room and I never take baths.

    1. I LOVE taking baths but I HATE wasting water. It’s my guilty pleasure.

      1. If you hate wasting water, then you would feel even more guilty with a jacuzzi tub. I say use a smaller tub and take baths more frequently. Sometimes in the winter I will take up to 3 a day instead of turning up the heat. Usually I wait until I am freezing and the kids are fighting and I need to get away. 😛

  20. Unless you like doing renovations, I’d lean towards the first house pretty heavily. That said, I do agree with Joe in that it seems maybe you aren’t in love with either house. So maybe the answer is “Neither.”

  21. Im totally all-in on house #2.. As a growing family, you won’t regret the extra space (trust me)… And considering the house needs a little work, you guys can really make it your own.

    1. Yes, that’s the idea. However, floors are expensive….and I’m cheap!

  22. Oooh this is like house hunters! I would say if you like renovations and have the money for it, then house two could give you more value with it’s size and features, but I like the idea of house 1 only because it’s done, and I also grew up on a cul-de-sac and it felt very safe for kids. And private as well. Good luck!

    1. I would really like to live on a cul de sac so that my kids could ride their bikes in it!

  23. Yikes Holly…tough decision!!

    Personally, I like house #1…since it is move-in-ready you will feel at home a lot quicker I would imagine.

    Are there other homes you are looking at or are these two it?

    Good luck and keep the faith. All the best to you all.


    1. We’ve looked at around 40 homes……these are the top two contenders!

  24. I’d probably go with #2 and do some DIY. It’s a great way to build equity.
    Good luck!

    1. Yes, and I really do like picking things out myself. It makes it feel more like “home.”

  25. This is a tough one. I would probably go with house #2 and then ask them to bring the price down to accommodate the necessary changes that you want to make. We always seem to collect more stuff as years go by, so a bigger house is better in my opinion.

    1. I think that’s a great option…but I think they’re too overpriced to negotiate at this point unfortunately =/

  26. Jake @ Ca$h Funny says:

    Personally, it sounds like you like House #2 better as long as you can afford to fix it up a bit. If you can afford to do that, then I would 100% go with House #1. If the money is an issue, then I think House #1 sounds like an excellent option as well. It doesn’t look like either would be a bad place to spend the next 20+ years of your life. Good luck!

    1. Money isn’t an issue at all…BUT we don’t want to overspend or overimprove either.

  27. Location, location, location! I vote for house #1 since it has a warm and welcoming cul-de-sac. I don’t think that a little more square footage makes a house a home, but a good location certainly does. Plus, you really don’t want to do any renovations once you move in with 2 little children. Their will be enough adjustment in the move alone. Good luck on your decision!

    1. That is a really good point. No matter what, you CANNOT change the location of a house you buy!

  28. The house that appeals to me visually is house 1, with a great location, but house two has the bigger square footage. I guess you should prioritize and find out what has greater importance for your family going forward. If you have the time maybe you can find one with a great location and the square footage you desire. But if not then house 1 as you can always make it bigger and better if you so desire.

  29. They are both lovely. I’d buy the one that is easiest to grow into. You can always do renovations over the years, but it is harder to redo the bones of the house!

    1. That is true. Can’t make a house wider, that’s for sure. Well, you *can* but I don’t want to.

  30. Tough one, Holly! Both houses seem overall pretty great and the cons aren’t huge problems. Of course, this is what makes it tough. If one had a neon sign on saying don’t buy me – then it would be easy, right? 🙂 We aren’t big DIYers so the finished house and cul de sac definitely appeal to me. But House #1 being smaller than your current home … that is the only thing that makes me hesitant. It’s not a substantial amount but you’re really not at a downsize stage in your life. But I think that is what it boils down to – how much that extra space means to you. Good luck!

  31. As others have said; LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION. You can’t fix that, it just is what it is. Also, 12 x 9 is HUGE! 🙂

    Good luck, hoping for the best. Moving is a BIG deal, hope the house part can go smoothly so you can focus on all the other aspects.

    1. I really want to buy a house and not rent….but its crunch time. We have to be out of our house on November 1st!

  32. They are both nice houses. I’d go for the bigger garage every time!

    BTW, I’m moving to Indiana! I could hardly buy a backyard shed for $200k here in CA

  33. I think both of these houses are really cute (I love brick), and personally I would choose the cul-de-sac. They seem so nice and quiet and more private, and obviously safer for the kids. I think others have a good point about the size though – what if you need extra space down the road? My parents have a screened in porch in the back, and it was really nice to hang out there when I visited. Really tough choice, but I am sure you guys will make the right one, even if it means going with something else.

  34. We down sized 16 years ago from a large 5 bedroom home to a 2 bedroom townhouse. We rented another townhouse before we bought and realized we needed a larger and better laid out townhouse. We went down to a 1,850 square foot townhouse and it fits just fine for 2 people and occasional guests. I have just one more move to a single story home or condo.

  35. I say negotiate on house number two and put in the kitchen you want. If you wouldn’t put in a granite counter top, why pay for one in the house price? Three car garage will help when the kids get old enough to drive and you should be able to park both cars in the garage and still have some storage!

    1. Please don’t mention my kids driving….I’m stressed out enough!

  36. I love well established trees and neighborhoods. A done kitchen is huge too–if you like it! Can’t wait to read about your decision!

  37. House number 1 and add a screened in porch. That costs far less than renovations and the increased selling price of house 2. Do you really need the stuff to fill up either home?

    1. No, it’s not about Stuff. I own very little. Actually, we’re kind’ve minimalists.

      But, I work from home, so I really do need some sort of office. And, since I have two kids, I need rooms for them as well. I would be willing to go without a fourth bedroom if needed, though, because we hardly ever used our guest room in this home.

      1. So the square footage isn’t that big of an issue, as long as you have room for the office?

  38. Hello! I’ve been following your posts for some time and enjoy the insights into housing prices in the US (I’m up in Canada!)

    There seems to be lots to love about each house! While I don’t think you can go entirely wrong with either one, I’m somewhat partial to the cul-de-sac for the peace of mind. Less work also means that much more to put towards the next savings goal!

  39. My vote is house #1. Having an update house is more important than a few hundred extra feet. Both home are huge IMO. I grew up with 6 people in 1100 square ft. on a cul de sac. Good luck to you. Stick with your gut and you’ll make the right decision 🙂

  40. I go for house #1 because as you have said it has an updated kitchen with complete granite countertops! I think you can change the shower doors, unlike the house # 2 that need a little bit of work.

  41. Those houses look good and houses must be cheap where you guys live if they are both around 200k. Where I live in the east coast, such house can set you at least 300k plus especially when you put a good neighborhood/school district into play.

  42. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    I would be inclined to go for house #2 if there aren’t serious problems only because the bigger rooms would be nicer in the long run.

    Are the countertops in bad shape or are they just heinous? If some of the issues are more cosmetic, it’s not great to live with but it can be done.

    I also will add that soon your girls will be old enough that they will be able to help paint. I LOVED painting bedrooms with my dad and brother. Sounds weird I know but it was fun being part of the process and I started around 9/10. I also helped take off wall-paper too with the steaming devices. My favorite part was using that cool tool with wheeled spikes to put holes in the old wall paper. LOVED that tool. 🙂

  43. I prefer the look of house #1 and the updates sound great! Plus cul-de-sacs are great for kids :). That’s my $.02, good luck making your decision!

  44. When I’m looking at real estate I let the numbers tell me (okay, at least steer me to) the right answer. I always break things down to one number in real estate that can help you figure out if you’re getting a good deal, paying market or over paying (getting emotional?) about a property. That’s price per square foot.

    House 1: $200,000 / 2,080 sqft = $96/sqft
    House 2: $209,000 / 2,364 sqft = $88/sqft

    The first things I would do after figure out these numbers is compare them to the average price/sqft for the area based on properties that have sold in the last 3 and 6 months. As long as you’re still comfortable at this point then you should look at the cost of doing the upgrades you’re hoping to do in House #2.

    New counter tops in the kitchen and bathroom, depending on where you live, will vary in price. I renovated an average sized kitchen and the biggest bathroom vanity I’ve ever seen (seriously) and the total cost for the custom granite counter tops was under $3,000.

    Carpets can be installed for under $2/sqft so assuming that every since sqft in the home needs to carpet that’ll be another $4,728.

    Adding those up you’re the cost of the renovations will be $7,728. When you add that to the $209,000 the price goes up to $216,728 meaning your after renovations price/sqft is now $91/sqft.

    If $96/sqft is the going rate for the area then you’re be getting House #2 at a $10,000 discount to market value. Instant equity is not a bad thing.

    Obviously, since this is a home you’re planning to live in you need to pick the right home based on more than just price per square foot.

    Another route you could take, if you’re comfortable living in both is make offers on them both. A reasonable offer on the one you prefer and very aggressive offer on the other. Make sure you have rock solid escape clauses in your offers so you can get out of one or both deals if you need to. I’m not a lawyer, etc. so I can’t give you any legal, etc. advice but talk to your realtor about the how you can terminate a deal based on the inspection clauses and additional provisions you can add to your offer that might have to do with the offer being contingent on partner’s approval.

    Good luck with your decision!

    1. Great advice! I must copy for future reference!

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