Over the course of our 16-year relationship, Mrs. Curmudgeon and I have moved, on average, about once every 2 years. The average is slowly declining as we stay longer and longer in each place, but there is a sort of wanderlust in our housing habits. We tend to move because we see something better in a housing opportunity, or because we want to get away from something we're not happy about. For example, our first house had a great property, with a lot of privacy, but the house itself was old and needed a lot of work. It turned out that this was more work than I was able to do, and this was a source of much friction.
Whatever the case, we have once again re-evaluated our housing situation and decided that it's not working. Our present house was just the right size when we moved in, but is now too small to accommodate our newfound dedication to fitness. We're not gym rats, and honestly would become couch potatos before we joined a gym. We're both far too self-conscious to work out in front of other people, and the fact that gyms nowadays are basically pay-to-play petri dishes doesn't really thrill us either.
So in the "what do we want" negotiations, my first item was of course a heated (and possibly air conditioned) workout area. I don't mind working out in the Oklahoma summer heat, but the frigid winter days just eat right through me. In practice, this will mean a heated outbuilding of sufficient size (or a place to build one), or a living area or basement that would make sense as a gym.
Our current house has 1 acre of land, one tree and zero privacy. We're good with an acre or two, but we want our privacy back, along with our trees. We're also in need of a place where the neighbors are rural-minded enough that the cops don't get called every time a dog barks. There's also the fact that living in close proximity to neighbors, as is common in modern "housing developments" with large footprint houses on postage-stamp lots, literally depresses me. So that goes on the list.
We don't want to have to do a lot of work on the house. Our current place is newish, and we haven't felt the need to do anything other than build a dog fence and paint. This has been a great relief from the other place, which sucked the life out of every weekend.
Mrs. Curmudgeon is tiring of her 35 - 40 minute commute, so proximity to Norman is a must.
Finally, we need high speed internet. I work from home most days, and this is a critical service for telecommuters. Not just any high speed internet will do, either: satellite internet is far to high in latency to make voice and other real-time communications work well. This has to be terrestrial wireless, DSL, or cable.
This makes the ideal properties those in that narrow belt surrounding the city which are far enough out to have land at reasonable prices, but which are close enough to the city to have telecommunications services beyond basic telephone.
Finding all of this at the right price is of course a trick. My initial estimate was that it would take us a year to find the right place, if we found it at all. Yesterday, on our second day of visiting open houses, we apparently landed in Norman's sweet spot for the things we want. It looks like the properties on the east side of town, about halfway between the town proper and our first house, are just right in terms of size, price, commute time, and telecommunications. Now it's just a matter of finding the right property.
The first one we visited yesterday was actually in Goldsby, Oklahoma. It was a farmhouse with a lot of updates and upgrades, but it had a scary amount of work still needing to be done. It also spooked me on the potential for a bad foundation. So we wrote that off, but are leaving Goldsby as a potential backup plan.
The second place was the right price, with a dog-proof fence all the way around the 2 acres. The house didn't have any good spots for a gym, and none of the outbuildings were the right size. That would be the immediate downside. Also, the current owners are apparently fascinated with brick pathways, and have completely ruined the back yard by zigzagging bricks every which way, over a good half acre or more. It's amazing to me what some people consider improvement.
The third place was huge, with an awesome second living room that would be an incredible workout room. Unfortunately, Mrs. Curmudgeon said "no way" to that idea, because I might wreck the tile with my weights. The property was laid out in such a way as to have a great place to build an outbuilding, so a potential solution existed there. The main issue with the property is that it was at least $50k over what we're really interested in spending.
Speaking of too expensive, we're looking at a place tonight that by all appearances is our perfect dream house. It has a huge outbuilding that is insulated and heated already, a nice set of interior features, lots of trees and apparent privacy, and very nice decor throughout. Its main issue is that it's $75k above our proposed budget. We could probably afford it (the mortgage and such would still be well below all the standard guidelines), but we're not sure we want to go in that deep. We still want to look at it because it will likely be the standard against which we measure future contenders, but odds are we won't buy it.
There's also the fact that Mrs. Curmudgeon discovered that the current owners bought the place in 2007 for $60k less than their current asking price. This smells like someone looking to make a quick buck off a flip, despite having bought in as the housing boom was already showing signs of losing steam. I'll be interested to see if they can justify $60k worth of upgrades in the last year or two, or if maybe I should just look for another house like it for $60k less.
Even if we don't buy anything and stay in our present house forever, I'm having fun. This is way more entertaining than watching other people shop on HGTV.