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Almost 20 years ago, when my husband and I were house-hunting. I would often discuss our progress with a co-worker. He was at least 30 years older than I was, and had bought and sold homes several times.
He pointed out an error in our strategy. We would choose a neighborhood we felt we could afford, and then look for the nicest home there in our budget. We were getting frustrated because the nice homes we liked, were in somewhat depressed neighborhoods.
My friend suggested the financial adage- Look for the worst house in the best neighborhood. We took his advice, and looked in one of the nicest neighborhoods in my town, right on the water, but minutes to town. It seemed silly since every house we saw was almost twice our budget.
Then, in that lovely neighborhood, we found a house at the end of a quiet lane. It was ugly as hell. The front porch was just a 5 X 5 foot slab of concrete with 2 steps leading up to it. There were crazy overgrown bushes everywhere. There was a splintered, wooden porch across the width of the second floor that looked like it was about to fall off, and almost every window was full of condensation from broken seals on the double paned glass.
We almost drove away, but we decided to look inside. It had plenty of large bedrooms and baths, and even through the fogged-up windows, the house was full of sunlight. There was even an in-law apartment for my Dad to come stay with us. It was also close to half the price of comparable houses in the neighborhood.
People thought we were crazy when we bought it. But when we ripped down the falling-off porch, put a balcony across the second floor of the house and built an entryway and garden in front, they understood. It even turned out that replacing the window seals was not that expensive either.
We had taken a butt-ugly house that had sat on the market forever, and turned it into a place that fit pretty well into the upscale neighborhood. It took some time, effort and of course money, but 19 years later, I am very glad we took my friend’s advice.
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