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6 Jarring Reality Checks We Found Hiding in Our Dream Home

March 9, 2020

deberarr/Getty Images; realtor.com

We love our home, a 100-year-old row house in the West Harlem section of New York City. When we purchased this place 14 years ago, we couldn’t believe our luck. It was the ideal space for us to raise our family, we thought—and perhaps even to live in forever.

But no matter how perfect a home might seem at first glance, you can rest assured that reality will soon make itself felt, in an array of jarring and often unwelcome surprises.

After we moved in, some crazy things caught us off guard—a few of which we probably should have anticipated. Others, though, were simply shockers through and through. So here’s what we learned after moving in.

Read on, to prepare yourself for the nightmarish surprises that inevitably accompany finding a dream home!

Our house in West Harlem in New York City, in all its holiday finery

William Geddes

1. Our adorable couch didn’t fit

Our overstuffed three-seater looked massive and awkward in the new living room.

William Geddes

We moved from a spacious two-bedroom, prewar apartment on the Upper West Side to an old, 16.5-foot-wide house with tiny nooks.

Our living room barely fit two club chairs, and the huge, traditional couch we lugged in didn’t work there at all.

Our next thought was to put it in the basement den for TV viewing, but we couldn’t squeeze it down the skinny flight of stairs. In the end, we had to abandon our beloved couch on the street (sob!), where it was quickly snapped up.

Lesson learned: Measure every room and passageway of your new place before you commit to bringing all of your old furniture. We knew that this smaller setting might be a tight fit for some of our larger items, but we figured that we’d somehow make it work. (Obviously, we were wrong.)

2. Not all the bathroom pipes were hooked up

Our young girls took a bath together the night after we moved in, and played Stormy Seas, which, of course, is a competition to see who can create the best waves. Alas, the overflow to the tub wasn’t connected to the main drain, and water poured down the wall into the dining room.

Lesson learned: We now know that on the final walk-through before buying a home, you should make sure to turn on every faucet in every sink and tub—and fill each one up to see if you spot any leaks.

Then, poke your head inside the bathroom vanities, to check for any drips or dampness. Had we done that, we would have realized that something was up with that tub, and been able to negotiate for the seller to repair the problem before we moved in.

3. The glorious skylights had leaks

At first, we were thrilled to see skylights. The problem? During the week we moved in, a huge rainstorm revealed that these lovely skylights were riddled with leaks, which dripped straight onto the floor.

After the tub debacle, I was convinced that water damage would ruin this house in our first month there.

Lesson learned: If possible, try to tour your home in rain, snow, or other inclement weather, to see how the roof holds up. This is particularly true if you have skylights, which are notorious for leaking—even the best ones.

4. The cozy fireplace was ridiculously tiny

We were thrilled to buy a home with a working fireplace, but when we went to build a fire, we found that only two small logs would fit. The firebox was the size of a microwave—something we hadn’t really considered because we’d never had a fireplace before.

While ours does throw off a decent amount of heat, we would have been wise to have asked more questions, rather than just swooning and saying, “Oh, a fireplace, how romantic!”

Lesson learned: Ask the listing agent about details you’re unfamiliar with. For example: How much wood can fit in a fireplace and what’s the strength of the flue’s draw?

Even if the fireplace looks functional, make sure you ask whether it is. Sometimes, fires, even in functioning fireplaces, aren’t permitted by condo boards or can pose safety risks.

5. The backyard had bugs

We love our (now) sunny deck—and so does the neighbor cat—with space underneath that is dry and airy.

William Geddes

At first, we were delighted to discover that a wooden deck had been built outside the kitchen’s backdoor. However, we didn’t look too closely at what was underneath that deck, because it was late winter and we didn’t feel like checking it out.

As the weather warmed up, however, we saw that the space under the deck had become wet—a prime breeding ground for flies and mosquitoes, which soon filled our backyard.

Lesson learned: Know that dark, enclosed outdoor spots can become a problem, and try to get a sense of what lies beneath. Had we investigated this area, we would have noticed the clogged drain, and realized that the wetness would attract mosquitoes and other critters.

We’ve since replaced this wooden deck with a new one that allows the space underneath to air out. That keeps it bug-free.

6. We found a hidden closet—3 years later

This narrow spot was tucked between the doors of a bathroom and linen closet.

William Geddes

This one was also a shock, but a pleasant one. Because the bathroom door on the second floor slides open, it covered the closet door behind it much of the time. To let the bathroom door roll freely, the handle on the closet had been removed, which made it look like a plain old wall.

This closet remained hidden until my husband noticed it one day and popped it open. To this day, we call this spot the “secret closet,” and now we finally have storage space for luggage and holiday ornaments.

Lesson learned: A floor plan is easily obtained from the listing agent, and this was something we should have checked carefully, so that we were aware of every closet and built-in cabinet.

Be sure to open all the closets, and make sure that all the space feels accounted for. You never know what you might find!

The post 6 Jarring Reality Checks We Found Hiding in Our Dream Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

5 Hacks to Make a Tiny, Cramped Closet Look Huge

January 28, 2019

David Sacks/Getty Images

No matter how beautiful and spacious your home is, one out-of-sight area could still make visitors cringe: your closet. Especially if it’s small, dark, and cluttered.

“A house can be amazing, but if it has no closet space or the closets are super small, which you do see sometimes in older homes, that can be a major turn-off,” says Lori Matzke, owner of Home Staging Expert.

It’s a fact: Having ample closet space is a high priority among homeowners—all the more so if you’re trying to sell your place. After all, you never know if a home buyer is a fashionista with oodles of apparel, or just someone with tons of stuff to store (which is just about everyone else). So, trust us, home buyers checking out your house definitely won’t be shy about opening up your closets to see what’s up!

While you might be able to renovate and add closets to your home or make the ones you have bigger, that will be costly and not necessarily worth the investment. Instead, staging a closet to look its best is a relatively inexpensive way to make what you have look more appealing. Here’s how to do it right.

Declutter your closets

Get those garbage bags ready, because the first step is cleaning and clearing. You don’t want a potential buyer opening that door only to have an old box of scarves or your extra bedsheets fall on their heads!

Kris Lippi, owner of Get Listed Realty in Hartford, CT, suggests removing as many items from your closets as you can to show them off as spacious. If you have to invest in a self-storage space to hold your old boxes of letters or your holiday decorations, do it.

Add a fresh coat of paint—and a light

“Small or dark closets are never a good selling point,” Matzke warns. To maximize the space you’ve got, Matzke suggests painting the entire closet white or off-white to appear brighter and larger.

You can also add a closet light to brighten the space. This will give buyers the sense that they’ll be able to find things, even way, way in the back.

Finally, attach a mirror to the inside of the closet door or to the back of the wall, Matzke suggests, to add a sense of depth. This “can make the space feel much more livable,” she notes.

Photo by Deborah Broockerd/Closet Factory 

Add some closet organizers

If your closet always ends up as a pile of clothes, this may be the time to pull the trigger on a fancy closet organization system.

Investing in a California Closets type of system, or even one custom-built by a local carpenter, can make a huge difference. Or, on the lower end of the budget, shelves from your local home improvement store can accomplish something similar for less money. A few simple elements such as shoe organizers that make the entire closet look neater and larger will go a long way without costing you a significant chunk of change.

“There are certainly DIY closet systems, or even just individual organizers you can implement yourself and attach to the closet walls, if you’re handy or maybe know someone who is,” Matzke says. “You don’t even need an entire system.”

Display your stuff

Although it’s tempting to cart all of your stuff away to a self-storage unit, remember that part of staging a home is making it look just lived in enough for other home buyers to see themselves in your home. When you add your clothes back in, one-third of the space on each shelf or hanger rack should remain open, making the space appear useful, rather than overflowing.

Invest in some nice hangers to give it a truly organized feel, and position all the items in your closet so they face forward or are hung in the same direction—just like boutiques do, Lippi advises.

Fix what’s broken

This isn’t about space, but ease of use: Does the door of your closet stick? Is that shelf hanging by a thread? It may not bother you, but others will notice—and this detracts from their first impression. As Matzke warns, “A sticky closet door or one that just doesn’t open smoothly or all the way would be frustrating.”

Plus, it leaves the feeling that your closet presents a problem; spacious or not, this isn’t good. All in all, it’s these little things that make a closet look and feel spacious and well-organized—and can make your home the envy of all who peer inside.

Photo by Renew Doors and Closets LLC 

The post 5 Hacks to Make a Tiny, Cramped Closet Look Huge appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.