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So, there's this house.

A year, maybe two ago, a group of people--I'll assume a family--moved into it, and the neighborhood quality started dropping.

We're not on a great street anyhow--Upper Crackden is only about two blocks away--but our street is "okay, considering." I feel racist and un-PC to say this, but we really didn't have car breakins until that family moved in. Maybe it's unrelated, but I'd lived for two years there without having my glove compartment dumped on to my floorboard.

They had an endless, ongoing front-porch party on their blasted and barren front lawn. Nothing really wrong with sitting on your front porch, but...every day? A bit odd. But I lived all my life in a rich white Republican neighborhood. Other people's lives are different. And the whole coming up to talk to most slow-moving vehicles isn't necessarily related to the drug trade. And only one person living there was a registered sex offender, there were six or seven other people there.

The house is for sale. It's not *quite* trashed. The lawn has been utterly destroyed, both ignored and trampled. The back yard is 70% grass, 30% trash, and the fence is falling down. There are closets full of clothes still in the house, and some holes in some walls, and the doors are kind of banged up, but that's cosmetic.

But it's huge. It's 1490 square feet, with a somewhat-converted garage that brings the number up to 1920 square feet. And it's inexpensive. And my father has flipped a house in the past, and is offering to help me upgrade this beast if I buy it.


I can almost believe that the overall neighborhood values would increase if that property was taken over by responsible owners that want to improve things. The overall value of our neighborhood is increasing, except my street, which is kind of slowly decreasing.



( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 23rd, 2007 04:48 pm (UTC)
I say go for it! Good luck!
Jul. 23rd, 2007 05:38 pm (UTC)
Dad's going to look at the house with me, and try and work out an estimate for fix-ups. Just starting with tiling the house--that carpet's going to HAVE to go--is going to cost many pennies.
Jul. 23rd, 2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
Would you sell the place you're currently living in, rent one or the other, or something else? If you rented out one of the houses, you'd be able to control who moved in, or evict them if you suspected illegal activity...
Jul. 23rd, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
I'd have to do something transitional, I think--I'd need to have a place to live, and I don't want to throw away rent anymore. So what I'd probably have to do is buy this place, keep the house Whines, Nightfolf and I are renting for two months, tear out the carpet and make the place livable, then move in. I might need to talk to landlord about breaking the lease, though, rather than spending an extra $3000 on supporting both houses.
Jul. 23rd, 2007 05:34 pm (UTC)
When I bought my first house in the abrrio, we could hear gunfire just about avery night and the gangs were tagging anything which stood still.

Now the neighborhood is trendy and houses start at $300K.

Everything in central Austin is going up. Including the taxes, btw.
Jul. 23rd, 2007 05:40 pm (UTC)
Yeah...but I really don't want to leave Austin, and I'm right at the edge of it already. Any further north and I'll lose the magickal protection of the UT Tower. It'll probably increase in value, that's a Good Thing, I'll just have to grit my teeth on the taxes :(
Jul. 23rd, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC)
I'll help you figure out a plan for the yard, if you'd like. It sounds like a good place for some xeriscaping and an herb garden. Grass is cheap to put in at first, but high-maintenance over the long term and not very useful unless you have kids or dogs.
Jul. 23rd, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'd much rather have buffalo grass in the front, at least, but we do have dogs (with an s), so at least minimal grass in the back yard is going to be important. Maybe I don't have to worry about seeding the back yard until the year I plan to sell, though.
Jul. 23rd, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
But I'd definately appreciate help with a plan, yes!
Jul. 23rd, 2007 07:16 pm (UTC)
Buffalo grass is nice, but it can't take a lot of traffic, and you'll have to weed it occasionally (it won't always out-compete other plants), especially as it's getting established. It's ideal for use in front yards where there's an obligation to have some grass, but it mostly just gets looked at.

As preparation for making a plan, think about what landscaping you've seen that you liked, and what you didn't like. Figure out what you want your maximum weekly yard commitment to be in hours per week (be very honest on this one). Figure out what colors and shapes you like, and what sort of general impression you want the house to give - cozy cottage, formal, tropical, shielded from the road, modern, something else? Do you want it to be a wildlife haven (birds / bees / butterflies)? Is it important that no toxic plants be used? How do you want to use the yard - do you need outside dining? You mentioned dogs, and an herb garden seems like a good fit with your culinary skills (plus herbs are often low-effort landscaping). Will there be a need to add large shrubs or trees (they'd be small going in, but you have to plan for their mature size)? Make a list of the herbs you use most often in cooking, especially the ones you would like to have fresh.

We can talk more about it in person (though not this week, things are crazy here), but the stuff above is a good beginning to contemplate.
Jul. 23rd, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
I used to love my mint garden that I had in high school. I've tried to do potted plants, but they really just depress me. I'll investigate the plants I use most often. Some trees would be good--ANYTHING in the front yard of this house would be good, it's pretty much like the landscape of mars right now. But so far as long-term goes, hmm...I'll have to think about that.

My commitment to a lawn is pretty limited right now. I can grudgingly manage about an hour a week, not counting lawn-mowing, which I kind of enjoy. Maybe Whines can contribute an hour with me, but I know there are lawn-maintaining queers out there with neatly manicured flower beds, and we are not them.

I do like the idea of outside dining, and this house has a large covered porch, which is a plus--but in Texas, I'm not sure that outside beyond the very occasional picnic is the best idea, and having multiple dogs doesn't really lend the back yard to large events so much.

However...that isn't the same as "what do you want for a house you're mostly going to sell?" That's a very different question. We really should do trees early on to give them time to grow, but the more perennial/faster-growing stuff may have to wait a year.

I really do appreciate your input and thoughts on this! My skill-set doesn't really include "taking care of a house" yet. I've never tried.
Jul. 23rd, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
Hey, if you need help, you can always get Ron over there - he's handy with power tools and home stuff. That he'd likely end up helping you fortify the place against the Rising of the flesh-eating dead would be a bonus too. ;)
Jul. 24th, 2007 02:44 am (UTC)
Always a plus! I'd be more worried about the sewer babies, tho. It seems like a good neighborhood for them.
Jul. 23rd, 2007 11:52 pm (UTC)
That area...its present and future is kinda in no-man's land right now. Its wedged between the druggiest and hippest edges of Austin, it wouldn't take much as things go to make it a recognizable part of one or the other. Kind of a gamble but you could do much worse! At least moving won't be as much of an exodus. And it won't be hard for friends to find your new place. :p

If you're prepared to do a lot of remodeling, sounds like an opportunity I guess. If you lose your nerve though, you'll be stuck with a dump...I know the thought of putting so much money into something only to have to sink thousands more to arrange to make it even livable would drive me nuts, but then again, that's just me.

Jul. 24th, 2007 02:50 am (UTC)
I've thought a little bit about that. Ultimately, if I just bought a house of that size, I'd be spending $155,000 on it, maybe a bit more. Then, I'd have a house that's nice enough (by our standards), and when I sell it, I'd sell it for, well, maybe $155, maybe a little more if I'm lucky.

However, if I buy it for $130, and end up spending, let's just go completely wild and say that everything's wrong and I have to repair every blessed thing, and spend $20,000 on it, well, I'm still more or less at what I paid, and that's not money thrown away--it's money I can reclaim when I sell the house again in, let's say, three or four years.

The big problem I have with that theory is, regardless, it's money I *don't have*. So, that's kind of scary. I'd have to take out a home improvement loan as well as the mortgage on the house. A little bit frightening when my job's unstable.

Really, though, just slapping new carpet over it, painting the walls and patching the holes would increase the house significantly in value without actually costing a hell of a lot, IMO. However, I'm still going to have someone with a lot more experience than I have (none...) look at it!
Jul. 24th, 2007 03:49 am (UTC)
Yeah, as long as the roof and foundation are intact, and there's no mold problems, you probably can't go too terribly wrong if things go down shit creek. I can't imagine paint, flooring, and drywall patching costing too terribly much though, either way.

You mentioned having an all right downpayment, right? And as long as your credit isn't faltering, as long as its stable in the very least, you shouldn't
have TOO much trouble getting an agreeable loan. :3

Whatever you decide, good luck!
Jul. 24th, 2007 04:30 am (UTC)
I can swing a 5% downpayment right now, even including closing costs. That's not great, but it's the first breaking point on interest rates. Less than 5%, you might as well go no-money-down.

Flooring's going to be a bit pricy, because I want to NEVER HAVE CARPET AGAIN. So, tile, which works out to about $2.50/SF, or...uh...about $4500. But I think that's the single biggest expense. The second big expense--they took out the stove. That's a problem, given my stove-based lifestyle! The only other big expense I can think of is if the AC or heater doesn't work. Hard to say.

If they'll lower the price a bit, though, then it's all good...
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )