Yesterday’s house-hunting was productive, if conflicting. We found two properties we really like, but he likes one and I like the other. Or well, that’s not quite accurate. We both like #1 best but I like the neighborhood of the second one enough to consider buying a substandard house there.


– large yard, potential for subdivision
–  gorgeous house with a lot of unique charm. Two living rooms with fireplaces, one could be made into a library! Nice landscaping in front. Arched doorways! Big basement perfect for pottery, and four bedrooms which is what we wanted. Gourmet kitchen with a double oven AND an island! Yay! Two bay windows in the living rooms. Solarium (sun porch) with skylights already in place, so I could have my potted orange and lemon trees. The perfect house in perfect repair, with very little need for updating except in the bathrooms.

– ok elementary school, currently researching the other schools.
– I could totally have chickens here and maybe a pig or goat too. I’m pretty sure no one would care.

– It has an inground pool (which may be defunct anyway) which we would probably choose to fill in either way because a) we don’t use or like pools and b) you have to have a fence around it and I hate chainlink and don’t want to pay for another fence to house something I already don’t like. Since it’s probably from 1977 it may need extensive repairs if it already isn’t nonfunctioning. So that’s between $4-10K to eliminate/repair.
– The area is funny – lots of $700K houses peppered with other houses in states of disrepair. Some rusted chainlink fences here and there. Wouldn’t be too surprising to see a car up on jacks in front of one of those. Sort of looks like what was a hillbilly neighborhood once that the millionaires just moved into, ya know? On the other hand, it means it’s more likely that no one would care if I had some livestock.
– Nearest shopping center houses a Shopper’s (discount groceries for those of you not in the know) and a Walmart, not a great sign.
– No sidewalks and the streets are all straight, which seems to me reduces walkability. I can’t see letting Sofía go off to play by herself along these roads.
– Immediate neighbor has a huge wooden tiki god (15′ tall? 20′?) in his front yard, and his 14-year-old kid went racing by shirtless on his LOUD ATV while we were there. I was immediately annoyed, and I don’t even have to listen to it every day.
– About 1 acre of the yard is wooded (and I mean JUNGLED) so it would have to be at least halfway cleared before I could have any veggie garden at all. Estimate $4-5000.


– good schools all ’round. noted AP program in its high school (Old Mill).
– updated house, pretty good kitchen.

– Absolutely stellar neighborhood. Very walkable neighborhood, looks bucolic (mansions perched atop pastured hills with horses grazing, split-rail fences, windy roads). I could totally see Martha Stewart living in one of those. Very Stepford.
– This is the only other house in our price range (besides The Perfect House That Fell Through) in this neighborhood (and have I mentioned, I LOVE this neighborhood?)
– Nearest groceries are an organic market.
– Comes with a Duette front-loading washer/dryer (ooh! aah!)
– Nice deck off the living room, though I’d like to see it roofed and screened.
– Perfectly sized lot, already cleared and flat and waiting to be gardened.

– The updating is very vanilla (90’s generic) and low-end. I swear they used the same laminate flooring that we passed up (in favor of the costco brand) because it felt too cheap to us. They did the whole house in that. The house feels like the construction in our townhouse; not bad but not great. The house has no SOUL or charm, if that makes any sense. And it’s listed for so much that we wouldn’t have any money left over to change it for a few years.
– It’s a split-foyer. I hate split-foyers.
– It has only three bedrooms, so it is small. In fact, it would be very little more space than we have right now. It would be almost like moving into an equivalent of this townhouse, except with a garage, den, fireplace, and yard. Is that worth paying another $230K for? I don’t know.
– All in all, it would feel like buying the house just to buy into the neighborhood. Would we feel dumb in a few years, when we have another baby and might need more space? I don’t know.
So as you can see, we’re pretty conflicted right now! If it stops raining, we’re going to go out and see if we can’t take some videos of the two neighborhoods and show them to y’all.


We’ve decided to re-contact the sellers that fell through before (by peremptorially taking their house off the market without responding to our offer) and offering them their previous asking price, which is after all cheaper than either of these two houses. That would be the perfect compromise – the floorplan and space of the Severn (#1) house, near the neighborhood of house #2. With enough money left over to allow us to update it to look like the Severn house. But hey, the owners of The Perfect House That Fell Through didn’t want to negotiate before, so we’re not too hopeful on that end. -sigh-

We’d welcome any thoughts or insights y’all might have to help us make this decision.

2 Responses to “Conflicted”

  1. debbie swickard Says:

    Reasons to choose house 2 over house 1:
    1. My dad built houses for a living and taught me more than 45 years ago that a huge rancher with a large footprint would cost more to heat/cool than a “double decker” (2-story house). The furnace has to work twice as hard (this means that the heating/cooling process is less efficient) to heat a large footprint over a small footprint that is twice as high. I have no statistics to back up his claim, but it makes logical sense to me. Dad was pro-green 40 years before “going green” was an issue. (Incidentally, the house he built for raising his own family was a 2-story house and the energy bills for the 3-bedroom brick house he built were less than those of the 2-bedroom rancher with more square footage that my mom’s sister had next door to our house.)

    2. You may hate a split foyer, but the big advantage there is that if anyone falls down the steps, they don’t have as far to fall before reaching a landing. There’s still the danger of falling and getting hurt, but the severity of injuries sustained probably lessens. (I don’t have statistics to back that up, but it’s logical to me. I lived in a house with a split stair case when Sabin was 2-5 yrs old, and I was very grateful on multiple occasions that halfway down the stairs there was a landing and a turn before going down the rest of the stairs.)

    3. Houses tend to take on the soul and charm of the owner. Don’t worry that it doesn’t seem to have soul right now. Give it yours. You know you want to. Start with paint. Paint is a cheap fix till you can afford the more heavy duty stuff you desire or feel is needed.

    4. Why is 3 bedrooms vs 4 a negative? More house means more to clean. Negative. If you have a second child, they each still have their own room. Visitors? Somebody sleeps on the couch for a week. Kids LOVE that! It’s an adventure! You have a third child? Kids of the same sex share a room. It may not be fashionable, but it goes a long way in teaching kids the values of sharing, acceptance, and compromise, things that having their own bedrooms doesn’t do much to promote. Kid needs a little privacy? Have them do the dishes. NOBODY comes in the kitchen to bother you when you’re doing the dishes. (They might be expected to help!!!) It’s a great way to get some privacy. And as the economy tightens up and energy bills continue to skyrocket, you will be glad you have less rather than more. Our social ideas of what is of value (like big houses and separate bedrooms and huge master suites) are going to change quite a bit in the next few years. Mark my words.

    5. Your daughter is learning to walk, and you will be blown away by her fascination with every little blade of grass and bug she sees when you go out for a walk. Trust me, you want the chance to explore the world with her for the next three years before she starts to school. My fondest memories of Sabin’s formative years (2-5) are of taking long walks from the base into town, buying fish and chips at the local pub (we were stationed in England at the time), then going to the park and having a picnic by the river. When we finished, we fed the leftovers to the ducks and walked back home. When she tired, she climbed into the wagon and I pulled her the rest of the way home as she slept. Sometimes we’d go black berry picking along the outer edge of the base, take the berries home and make a pie (after giving the berry picker who ate most of her berries a bath). Sometimes we’d spend the afternoon at the play park, swinging (with her on my lap). The point is, I spent my time with her. I didn’t spend it cleaning a house that was too big. I went on those long walks, and I will NEVER regret those outings. But I would regret it if I hadn’t taken the time to do those things with her. From which house do you think you will spend more time going on those long walks you said you want to take?

    6. The yard is waiting to be gardened without a great deal of prep — prep that will require time and attention away from Sophia. Just till it up and start planting. Sophia can help with that. Some of my fondest memories of my own childhood are going for long walks through the neighborhood with my mom and dropping 3 seeds into the hole dad made with the hoe as I helped him plant the garden. (He’d dig the hole, I’d drop the seeds, we’d move 18 inches up the row and repeat the process, chattering away the whole time. And every day, we’d walk out to the garden to see if the plants had started to grow yet. It was so exciting! The anticipation I felt! And the time spent just me and my dad was priceless. The walks with my mom, glorious! And when I got tired, she’d pull me in the little red wagon just like I used to pull Sabin.)

    7.) You’ll be closer to me and I can come visit! And I can bring the canning jars to your house instead of depending on Josh to remember to pick them up from work and take them home!!!!

    Now, are you ready for the rest of my input? I’m not going to make this easy for you. Reasons to choose house #1 over house #2:
    A.) Brick is WAY better than aluminum siding. End of discussion.

    B.) You’re a creative genius. Instead of filling in the inground pool for great expense, turn it into a sub-level patio or grilling pit. Who says it has to be a pool? And who says you can’t use it creatively while you buy time to afford the solution you prefer? Since it won’t be a pool, fence won’t be required. But for Sophia’s safety, you could construct a wooden railing around the area that could easily be moved when you have the money later to fill in the space and make it a patio or flower garden.

    C.) If you can have livestock (e.g., chickens), you could conceivable supplement your income selling the eggs you don’t use yourself. (The eggs will certainly come in handy in your kitchen.) Sophia can learn a great deal about responsibility helping you feed and tend to the livestock.

    D.) Being in the all those trees will keep the house cooler in the summer and possibly help reduce the need for AC. BIG savings on energy during the high-cost summer months. (Again, I have no statistics to back that up. It’s just logical to me. And my Aunt Mary’s house was a brick rancher in the woods just like house #1; she had no AC and her house was always cool in the summer.)

    E.) The kitchen — oh, the kitchen! You’re a gourmet cook. Need I say more?

    F.)Why do you consider Shoppers and WallMart not a great sign? If they aren’t located on the same road as the house thereby causing traffic problems, what difference does it make? Really, what difference? If they aren’t places where you choose to shop, it means that the stores you will frequent aren’t quite as convenient but at least you have stores close by that carry just about anything you need in the event of an emergency. And they are open at all hours; I’ll bet the organic market in Millersville isn’t open as many hours, nor will it necesarily be open during convenient hours in an emergency. Nor will the organic market necessarily carry everything you will need. There’s preference, and there’s reality. Both have their good points and advantages. Give credit where credit is due.

    G.) The back yard has lots of trees. You could build Sophia a tree house!! When I was a kid, we LIVED in the apple tree behind the old white garage at the lower end of our property. We (me, my siblings, my cousins, and all the neighbor kids) LOVED climbing trees!!! We’d get up in those branches and it was a restaurant (we’d climb up with pb&j sandwiches and cookies and eat our lunch up there), a library (can’t tell you how many hundreds of comic books we read in that tree and passed from branch to branch when we finished), a high rise building, an airplane, or a steam engine train — it was anything our imaginations could devise! That apple tree was AWESOME!!! Every child, including Sophia, needs a tree!!!!!!!

    H.) Plant the garden near the pool and work on clearing out the woods a little at a time. Sophia can help. Again, as long as you don’t view it as work, she won’t either. She’ll WANT to help — until she’s 9 0r 10 years old. So take advantage of it while you can!!!! Get a little red wagon, and as you fill it with brush you’ve cleaned out, she can help pull the wagon to the compost heap or the brush pile where you’ll burn it. Either way, it’s something she’ll consider an adventure, and it is time the two of you will spend together.

    H.) A basement large enough for your pottery passion? Then it must be large enough that you can turn part of it into a sewing/craft room, too. Are you crazy, girlfriend? Just think what this could mean for the Butterbean empire!!! Snap that house up before someone else does!!!

    In the end, nobody can make this decision for you. You have to follow your heart (I say that in the singular on purpose for even though each of you has your own heart, by virtue of your marriage, you have a combined heart and it is that heart that must make this decision, not your individual hearts).

    Does the house have good bones? If it already has a soul, can you live with the soul it displays? If it has no soul, can you give it your own? If there are compromises you have to make, be sure that you can live with those compromises tomorrow as well as today. Most of all, does it stand in a location where it will have good resale potential? You’ve made comments before that you don’t plan to live in Maryland forever. You don’t even plan to be here too terribly much longer. Make sure that you consider possibility/probability of resale, even in an unfriendly economy. And given the economy, give careful and considerable weight to the evaluation of what it will cost to heat/cool/maintain the house in the years to come as prices (and taxes) continue to rise. What are the property taxes like for the two houses? What’s the water situation? Do you have to pay for water (I suspect that is true of house #2) or do you have a well (a real possibility for house #1).

    You are wise to ask for input. You may get the benefit of someone else’s experience, or have your eyes opened to things you hadn’t thought of before. Careefully consider all the input you recieve, but don’t let anyone tell you what to do or make this decision for you. You must follow your own heart because ultimately, you are the ones who will have to live with the final decision.

    Hope this helps.

    Love you all!

  2. diana Says:

    Wow Debbie, I am so overwhelmed and grateful that you took such care in replying. (I would have posted this way sooner, but for some reason it got routed to my Spam folder!) All the points you bring up are good ones, and you had me convinced on house #2 and then House #1 respectively. Thanks a lot! :) We did end up bidding on House #1, the rancher, but we still have to see about both our and their appraisals. Could be this whole thing will come crashing down on us. In any case, we should know next week. If we do end up getting that house – I expect to see you over there for a canning session once in a while! :)

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