Before you sign that purchase offer

nandina(8b)September 20, 2010

And yet another one! They just keep coming! Post after post. "We have just bought a house and have the following problem. Please solve it for us and, oh yes, we are on a strict budget, want the design to be entirely maintenance free, etc. etc." When I click on the pictures provided I wonder why in heck they bought into nightmare problems such as steep unmowable hills, erosion problems, severe drainage problems, flooding? I also wonder if many about to purchase a house/property take the time to study the surrounds looking for problems or think about the cost of repairs and landscape changes?

The house you intend to buy may have granite counter tops but it may also have some outside secrets that you do not have the ability or dollars to correct. Hopefully as a potential buyer you will pay more attention to the yard. Or if buying in a HOA situation read the landscape rules carefully before buying. It is possible to present a purchase offer with some conditions such as your desire to meet with a landscape architect on a problem(s) you note for advice on the fix and cost before completing the deal.

The maxim is...Buyer Beware. May I add...Buyer, know yourself and your limitations. Do your homework both inside and outside before making a house purchase.

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Frankie_in_zone_7

nandina, I love your post because I remember some time ago I posted offering a view on how much I've learned about house-hunting, the hard way. I was asking whether there was any concept of a pre-purchase landscape-inspection service, like the house inspector, that tells you, oh, this has great potential and is not too hard to fix vs. yikes! Of course you can find someone you could pay to do that, but it doesn't really seem to have its niche so I don't think anyone thinks of it.

I am not good at either home remodeling or home landscaping or hiring for either, but I've begun to think the house is easier to fix! Of course, "it depends" on each situation.

Also in all fairness it is an evolving concept--the more one becomes tuned in to gardening and landscaping, the more one realizes how important the site is and certain basics of hardscaping or lack thereoff.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2010 at 11:03AM
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tkhooper(7)

I just love a hardcase. I think you were describing my purchase 2 years ago exactly. I'm on a steep slope and the soil is clay and large gravel sized rocks. 2/3rds of the acre and a half is wooded with all the local trees and their saplings plus every weeds native to the area.

Yes it's a challenge and I'm doing a lot of stair step gardens and using weed barrier to keep bought top soil in place while my plants dig in. But I'm still loving it. Each year I take an area get the soil tested at the university coop and dig in. So far in three growing seasons I'm made 8 flower beds, 1 mulch pile (branches for the chipper) and 7 compost piles.

I have a 10 year plan for the gardens and that's just to get everything in place. It's a challenge and a work out but it's so worth it every time I walk out the front door or sit on the deck.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2010 at 4:27PM
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duluthinbloomz4

tkhooper, you might be the exception in even recognizing a hardcase and what it takes in time, effort, and expense to remediate it.

The problems exist when you're in the pursuit of the dream of home ownership - either too much blank slate or the zero lot line, poor grading, water retention, neighbors who collect and display their trash, backing up to the butt end of a Wal-mart or busy highway. It seems largely true that people buy what and where they can afford and just figure a little dabbling will take care of any exterior shortcomings.

Lurking around home decorating sites, I conclude people have the same problems with interiors - quandries on how to decorate an open floor plan or how to make the beloved barcaloungers and outdoor theater sized TV look "cozy". No one seems to want to "dig in" without affirmation it's right and will look good.

I know I'm at the stage where any needed dabbling or major tinkering is over without professional assistance.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 11:39AM
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tkhooper(7)

This is the first home I've owned where I'm actually trying to decorate. It's heel-arious. I have absolutely no talent in this area and understand the desire to be lead by the hand.

I've been watching Sarah's house because she combines so many patterns in one space and makes it work. I love her designs and have started to use here technique of finding one item and basing my color scheme on it.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 8:11AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Nandina, I think your point is a good one, and "Buyer, know yourself and your limitations" is brilliant.

It is often said that people buy houses intuitively (implying too intuitively) but I think intuition is often underrated. The process, while unconscious, nevertheless consists of the brain identifying priorities and calculating trade-offs. And the brain is pretty good - it often puts you in a house that is right enough for you that you are willing to cope with whatever it throws at you - my new neighbours were out putting a tarp on their roof yesterday in anticipation of more rain coming later this week, but they looked happy. They are happy. They are in the right house for them.

But where conscious trade-off calculations are being done, I think the phrase to watch out for in your head is "we can fix that" or "we can deal with that." The thing you have to be sure you can deal with is what if you can't change it. Either, as Nandina says, you don't have what it takes, or, what if the previous owners did all that could be done with that slope/view/privacy/traffic issue, and it stays as it is? Can you live with it?

All that being said, I don't have a problem with people coming to the forum for help solving the problems that were evident when they bought. What I have trouble dealing with are people who come to the forum looking for people to solve them FOR them.

KarinL

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 11:58AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I think I got lucky when buying my house because I just happened to do it at the rainiest time of a rainy year, so every place that was going to have standing water did and it was really easy to see. I went to one house where the entire sub-floor was filled with water and at least a quarter of the acre of property was bog. If I had gone in the summer I might never have known...

The place I did end up buying has a couple of issues, but I was aware of them. The biggest one for me is a hideously ugly shed, an eyesore that blocks the view of my beautiful oak trees and must be demolished. Other than that we have a couple small areas that become ponds in heavy rain and a neighbor's dog that barks incessantly. All things that are fixable.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 2:44PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Awesome post,Nandina. I get at least two of these/week at the garden center. And they NEVER come in with a even a plat. If I'm lucky they show up with a picture on a cell phone...

frankin-in-zone-7...you may have a business model there. Hmmmm. Wonder what sorts of expertise one would need to spot the problems?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 1:22PM
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pam29011

ITA! I'm amazed at some of the tradeoffs people make (granite counters in exchange for a lot 2x larger with mature trees). Then spend $8k - $15k putting in shrubs & trees, hoping they'll grow. Different strokes, I guess.

In good news, our massively overgrown backyard will take less than we expected to get it into good shape. I met with a tree guy (we've used him before, great guy) and he can drop & remove all the small junky trees & underbrush for a price I can live with. That will leave us with 5-6 massive trees (4-5 red oaks & 1 maple) which should provide a nice mix of sun & shade. The trees we're keeping are so old they have flared out at the bases & they're 3-4' in diameter (1 or 2 people can hide behind them easily).

I'll gladly renovate 2 older bathrooms in exchange for such massive specimens in my backyard :)

    Bookmark   October 8, 2010 at 10:17AM
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