This weekend was full of house hunting, house thinking, house obsession. We thought seriously for the first time about what we really wanted in a place. And I realized how attached I had grown to Irvine. It is hard for me to imagine how I, a city girl, born and bred, from a tough blue collar Philadelphia neighborhood, and hence, I thought, skeptical about suburban splendor and little-box mentality. But I have grown attached to the amenities in this place, the beautiful trees from all over the world, the thoughtfully designed walking paths, the amazing ethnic grocery stores and other shopping, and most of all, to the proximity of our digs to our places of work. That, by far, for someone who does not like to drive and has a car that is admittedly somewhat old and on its way out in the next couple of years, is the largest concern.
Irvine is full of short sales and foreclosures, and they look affordable, even for us. We must save our money to help our son transfer to a four year school, and if he plans to go all the way to the prize, an advanced degree in psychology and eventual career, something I hope with fervor that he does do, though I recommended that he go the education route and teach small children, something he would be very very good at, without the need for so long a haul, we need to help him with money and perhaps a place to live down the line. So we are looking for a 2-3 bedroom place, and our ideal place would also have two full baths. But in Irvine, these are tough to impossible in our very small price range, especially since I refuse to move into a place where I will not have my own washer and dryer.
Over the weekend, we (I got R to come with, and he participated with enthusiasm that surprised me) took a trip with the realtor to look at places. Our first journey was quite short--several doors away to look at the place one of my former students and his family was losing in a short sale. His mother was there, looking about to cry, and it was awkward, to say the least, but although I am ready to say yes to this place, so are lots and lots of other people, who are going to bid it up way beyond our means in no time.
Then we went to Lake Forest. We looked at 4 places there. The first was respectable. It had nice wood floors and a granite counter in the kitchen as well as its own personal little laundry room out on the huge patio. True, the neighborhood was a tad questionable, the parking scanty, the HOA very large (in fact all the places in Lake Forest had huge HOAs, though the cost of the houses was extremely low), and the carpet upstairs and on the stairs as well as the curtains gruesome. But it was really large, had three bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths, and nice storage space of all kinds. The next place was the stuff of nightmares, with a drooling and barking pitbull whining for our blood locked in a crate in the kitchen. The whole place looked like a drunk who had had a very bad night. The cabinets were scored and scarred, the walls painted intense, almost dayglo colors, the closets covered with makeshift curtains, and the bathrooms dingy and tiny. I hated it with a passion I seldom feel about anything, even though the realtor said he could get it really really cheap and then we could tear it apart. It was huge, almost 1800 sq ft. The third was in some ways worse than the second, being located in a complex that was so poorly designed we wondered at how someone could have screwed up so badly (on coke? drunk? hard to say). There was nothing at all good to say about it, and it was weird in a way that is not interesting enough to examine here, especially the enormously high ceiling that looked like one could shoot a rocket from it or set up an enormous telescope, something R might have been tempted to do if we were foolish enough to buy this place. The final one was sublime, from the moment we opened the door and saw its immaculate garage and stairs. It was not a short sale, though it was very cheap. It was beautifully kept, with dark wood cabinets all over the house. Even the pantry shelves slid out so one could see what was in the back, something I desperately need because there are things in the back of my cabinet I forget almost immediately, and hence waste lots of money buying again. There was a huge linen closet. The bathrooms were generous and had new looking fixtures. There was a patio the whole length of the place, but one I could not think of a use for since it was up over the garage, not on the ground. The ceilings were so low, they even made me feel oppressed, and that was worrisome, but R, seeing that this would be a great place for the pool table he was dreaming about, which will double as a dining room table, wanted to buy it right away. At first I thought it was okay with me, but the more I thought about it, the less I thought that was true. I want to stay in Irvine, if that is possible. So the search continues, if, as I expect, the bid on the house next to ours falls through.