When we told people we were beginning the home search, most reactions were, “Oh! How exciting!” and others gushed over how magical the experience is. No. Just… no. It’s a nightmare. I don’t care if your budget is $200k or $2 million. Unless you’re upgrading from a tent, you will have to compromise on something.
Second: There will be weird things about every house you set foot in (who puts wall-to-wall purple carpet in a bathroom?! Seriously, I want to meet you). You have to decide (a) what your weirdness tolerance is and (b) your budget for fixing weird.
Before you step across the threshold of any home, set up alerts on local real estate sites. We found two main apps that had the most accurate and current information: Redfin and Allen Tate’s “1st to Know.” This allowed us to set expectations before seeing the home in person, falling in love and getting hopes crushed.
Elizabeth was my dream ‘hood, but with our criteria and budget, it was not going to happen. (What do you mean I can’t have a 3 bed/2 bath-hardwood floors-granite countertops-2 car garage-huge backyard within walking distance to Sunflour under $300k?) Sigh. With expectations reset, I put my mental blinders on and began the hunt.
During the initial search I became well acquainted with the quirks of online home-shopping. What you see is not always what you get, and the listing agents can be a bit, ahem, creative, with their descriptions of the property. I quickly realized two things: 1) Google Street View is your friend and 2) Certain terms were code for “RUN! Run like the wind!”
So, how do you know what is true and what isn’t? Below is a guide with some commonly (mis-) used phrases for online listings in the Charlotte area that I have translated for you:
…Tear it down. Definitely has mold damage and a cracked foundation, probably infested with plague (see also “Investors Dream!” and “Calling all DIYers!”).
…Under 1,200 square feet, only one bathroom. If used to describe the backyard, be prepared to be the proud owner of a postage-stamp-size chunk of grass.
…This is the little sister of “cozy” (closer to 900 square feet), but, hey, the windows have flower boxes!
…This could mean one of two things:
(A) this is the smallest house on the street
(B) tucked so far back into the neighborhood you will be using GPS for the next 3 years to find your way out.
(On rare occasions, this could mean you are buying a home on Queens Road West/Eastover and you are “nestled amongst” the most beautiful trees in the country. If you are lucky enough to have that pop up in your search, BUY.)
…STOP. JUST STOP. A front porch does not a bungalow make. This is probably the most overused term for homes in Charlotte. A brick ranch with a covered entry in Costwold is not a bungalow. Nice try!
“Location! Location! Location!”
…A questionable neighborhood that just happens to be a two-mile walk from a restaurant the Charlotte Agenda wrote about seven months ago (see also “up and coming” or “hot new hood!”).
…It has a weird layout in a weird location and there are clowns painted on walls. Run.
“Yard perfect for entertaining!”
…In the jungle you must wait until the dice read five or eight.
“Easy access to I-77, 85, and Uptown!”
…Congratulations, you’re in South Carolina.