Adventures in Home Buying: My Top Five Actual Deal Breakers

The third in a series on the agony and ecstasy of real estate acquisition.

Once the gnashing of teeth over the house on Vaux Street ended, we took a little time off from seriously thinking about home buying. It was October and we knew there were still months before we would be in a position to make a serious offer. There was baseball to watch and Halloween to plan. I celebrated my 33rd birthday, which felt rather auspicious.

We limited our interest in new listings to my side gig and to the occasional open house. Because we’ve been visiting open houses for three months now, here are some universal truths we have established.

Leave the car at home. One of our favorite things about living in Center City has been that we don’t need a car. We are determined not to be interred in our new car because we are moving further afield to East Falls. We try to avoid driving from our apartment to open houses at every opportunity. It gives us a better idea of what public transportation into and out of downtown will be like in a few more months. I need to know exactly what my walk to the train station will be like on frosty weekday mornings and what my walk home will be like late on Saturday nights.

Hang out in the neighborhood. Neither of us has ever been the type of person to buy into the mentality that you should move into the community where your pre-approval gets you the most bang for your housing buck. We deliberately wanted to find a neighborhood where we could feel comfortable outside of our new home. We try to stop into a new shop or restaurant with every trip to check out an open house. We stumbled into Epicure Cafe during the freak snowstorm last month and were delighted.

Not all the deal breakers are really deal breakers. We had some preconceived notions about what we must have and what we could not abide before we started visiting open houses. (Although I, for one, remain disappointed that they don’t all smell like freshly baked cookies to this day.) There is something to be said for an emotional response that overrides a checklist.

The biggest shock came when I realized that I was willing to consider buying a place without all of the fancy finishes I’d thought I wanted in the kitchen. A gas stove had been on our must-have list until I found a kitchen that was bigger than a studio apartment I once rented and rife with charming tile and granite countertops … and an electric cooktop. I conceded that buying a gas range later wouldn’t be the end of the world. So it also went with a dishwasher and central air.

Learning that there are things that can be changed later (appliances, for example) and things that can never be changed (a darling, tree-lined lane versus a wider, more trafficked road) was important.

With that said, there remain some actual deal breakers.

Drop. ceiling. I can tolerate drop ceiling in a finished basement. I understand its utility and its economy. What I can neither understand nor tolerate is drop ceiling in my kitchen. Nor in my bathroom. Nor anywhere else above ground.

Sliding glass doors in the bath. Yes, I’ve Googled “how to remove sliding glass shower doors.” No, I do not think it’s in the realm of what either of us is capable of doing.

Shower-only bathrooms. I have way too serious a relationship with boozy, book-fueled bubble baths to consider even the fanciest, tricked-out shower stall. I am willing to concede that not every bathroom must have a tub, but at least one must.

No outdoor space.  We both agree that while Center City’s parks and squares are lovely, we miss a patio/deck/yard of our own. Mostly, we miss a place to put our grill.

The burbs. We both grew up in suburbs and have family in those suburbs. We love visiting them. We just don’t want to live there.