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House hunting

What are the things that puzzle, enrage, delight and tickle you as you go about your life in Madison?

House hunting

Postby narcoleptish » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:44 am

I'm always checking the MLS these days, mostly because I want to move but also just out of curiosity about Madison housing prices. The one neighborhood I just don't understand, price wise, is between Monroe and Regent. West Lawn, Keyes, Fox, etc.. Stuff there routinely sells for over 400K with property taxes approaching 10K. A new one just popped up asking a half million with 1.5 baths and no garage? Who buys this stuff, anyone on here? What's the draw as opposed to say the Marquette neighborhood, which I think is also over-priced but can be had for less, with no football traffic. Schools? Don't tell me this is an east side/west side thing.

And enough with the stainless steel appliances.. That's going to be the Harvest Gold of the 2020's.

And the granite. What I wouldn't give for some mid-century formica and flat-front cupboard doors.

And ceiling fans. Does EVery single room HAve to have a big dusty, shaky ceiling fan?

Anyone else here in the market?
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Re: House hunting

Postby fennel » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:56 am

I'm with you on the granite. Too damn hard for a work surface. And I think Avocado appliances are poised to make a comeback.
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Re: House hunting

Postby rabble » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:28 am

narcoleptish wrote:The one neighborhood I just don't understand, price wise, is between Monroe and Regent. West Lawn, Keyes, Fox, etc.. Stuff there routinely sells for over 400K with property taxes approaching 10K. A new one just popped up asking a half million with 1.5 baths and no garage? Who buys this stuff, anyone on here? What's the draw as opposed to say the Marquette neighborhood, which I think is also over-priced but can be had for less, with no football traffic. Schools? Don't tell me this is an east side/west side thing.

I always assumed that was tenure territory. That's where you go if you get tenure but still can't afford the stuff on the other side of Regent. Or newly promoted UW management staff.
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Re: House hunting

Postby Stebben84 » Thu Mar 06, 2014 10:00 am

narcoleptish wrote:And enough with the stainless steel appliances.


I agree. I went with black appliances with my new house. I have noticed a trend towards more appliances with color. I remember seeing red as a popular color.

narcoleptish wrote:And the granite.


I don't have granite but my sister does. I will say they clean up really easily and depending on the kitchen style, they look pretty swank.

narcoleptish wrote:And ceiling fans. Does EVery single room HAve to have a big dusty, shaky ceiling fan?


I have one in almost every room and I love it. I personally think it maintains a nice airflow and helps cool down the house in the summer along with my AC.
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Re: House hunting

Postby jman111 » Thu Mar 06, 2014 10:26 am

narcoleptish wrote:And enough with the stainless steel appliances.

And they will slap "stainless" on any POS appliance these days. Just because higher-end appliances are generally constructed with stainless steel, are people fooled into thinking that the presence of stainless steel indicates quality?
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Re: House hunting

Postby snoqueen » Thu Mar 06, 2014 10:43 am

I think the neighborhood you asked about has some of the following features people like:

Popular school full of university-family students who get into good colleges and earn advanced placement credits

Relatively low crime rate compared with other areas

Walkable to University, shopping, a nice grocery store, restaurants, arboretum, etc.

Bike path runs right through. That's turned in to a huge property value enhancer. Some families can drop to one car instead of two, and thus feel virtuous.

In addition the houses themselves have features people are looking for:

Woodwork-real wood floors instead of that plywood plank stuff

Absence of the McMansion look (two story foyer, giant truss roofline, nice front but cheap vinyl siding on sides and back)

Pretty decent fundamentals in 1920's era construction, a time of prosperity in American history

Small lots so you don't spend the whole weekend messing around with the lawn

Political compatibility if you lean liberal, which tends to confer a degree of comfort regarding future neighbors for some people

But, yes. The east side has a lot of the same features and prices are way lower. Once something gets going it's hard to stop, and that price differential has been in place for many decades. You paid more for your house, you expect to sell it for more in ten or twenty years.



Details: I think the granite counter thing will pass like all other fads, but they're supposedly less likely to offgas chemicals and solvents compared with Formica. There's probably a third alternative on the way. I agree about stainless appliances, but there's nothing like a stainless sink. People put them in restaurants for a good reason.

I am not crazy about fans either but more on the grounds they always squeak. Still, if they cut AC usage they can't be all bad.

Add to your list of so-called upgrades that get torn out by the next buyer: giant jetted hot tub bathtubs that double your entire day's energy usage just to heat the water.

I think buyers should take a look at the mid century modern and ranch style houses in the west side's next ring. Construction values are not generally as high as in the prewar houses, but being all on one floor is nice, they have more space, and they have a stylishness all their own. Prices are comparatively much lower, street layouts and lots can be attractive.

Downsides: big windows that need replacing, general difficulty of making spread-out houses as energy efficient as more compact houses.
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Re: House hunting

Postby fennel » Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:09 am

Vinyl siding is a crime.

Most SS appliances use a low grade of steel, but nice stainless is pretty durable and doesn't require fussing with to stay looking good.

Interesting the mention of trussed roofs. It seems to me they're an immense waste of space.
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Re: House hunting

Postby narcoleptish » Thu Mar 06, 2014 12:22 pm

I"m not anti-ceiling fan, it's just that most of them hurt my eyes, aesthetically. We have one plain white commercial style without a light and it is definitely preferable to the 4 foot high, unstable, creaky oscillating fans from my past.

A knocked over wine glass has a chance on formica or vinyl, not so much on granite. And if it's vintage, most of the off-gassing should be over.

fennel wrote:And I think Avocado appliances are poised to make a comeback.

Actually I love Avocado green. My fridge predates even those, white but with a funky decorative panel.

All of Sno's points about that neighborhood make sense but those prices still stun me. It just seems so crowded over there and in my experience growing up in an original New-Urbanism style neighborhood with the front porches and the shared driveways and the houses 7 feet apart, the reality of the tight-knit community comes with a heavy dose of the tight-assed community that needs to know everything about everything, knows exactly how you should be cutting your grass, and can recommend a good painter in case you might be looking.

I guess I just want a little more space even though it's not the "correct" way to be thinking these days.

snoqueen wrote:I think buyers should take a look at the mid century modern and ranch style houses in the west side's next ring. Construction values are not generally as high as in the prewar houses, but being all on one floor is nice, they have more space, and they have a stylishness all their own. Prices are comparatively much lower, street layouts and lots can be attractive.


Yup, but not necessarily the west side. They're already very popular and don't last long on the market. I differ a little with you on the construction values. Houses from the 50's and early 60's tend to have very high quality lumber for the framing, lot's of copper plumbing, and solid non-crumbling foundation walls. At least in the ones I've seen. Much of the plywood can be a little rough but I can deal with that. Pre-war houses while solidly built, are still pre-war houses. They're getting old and wood doesn't last forever. They all have rot somewhere, lots of old wiring and old plumbing. And no fucking closets.
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Re: House hunting

Postby massimo » Thu Mar 06, 2014 12:34 pm

We've been targeting the east side in our hunt, and because of what we're looking for in a house (3+ BR, 1.5+ bath, 2 car garage, decent sized yard) and what we're willing to pay that's meant Lake Edge, Glendale, Monona, maybe Waunona. We'd like to avoid crossing Stoughton Rd. if we can help it. Monona would be ideal, we like their swimming pool.

But what we're seeing available right now just... depresses us. Perhaps it's the winter market, perhaps we need to spend more to get a house that isn't... depressing. Maybe we lack the vision to see a house with good house DNA and/or don't know enough about renovations to want to take that particular plunge.

Anybody here watch Property Brothers on HGTV? I feel like I want to hook up with people like THAT. Is it really possible to gut and redo a house for under $100k, or is that just fiction?

Also, we've met with four realtors so far and I'm not impressed. Even the ones with "experience" didn't know how to perform a simple MLS search. Sno, you're not a realtor are you?
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Re: House hunting

Postby kurt_w » Thu Mar 06, 2014 12:36 pm

narcoleptish wrote: A new one just popped up asking a half million with 1.5 baths and no garage? Who buys this stuff, anyone on here?

I've got a lot of friends who live in that neighborhood. I also used to rent there, a long time ago, but when we bought our house we went further west, where prices were significantly lower.

A lot of the people there moved in 10-20 years ago, when prices were rising but not so outrageous as now. Those folks did pretty well.

As snoqueen says, a lot of the construction in that neighborhood is really solid (not all of it, though). Looking at the number of bathrooms is deceptive, because a lot of those older houses are large, and solidly built, with lots of great wood, windows, etc. but have fewer baths just because that was characteristic of the time.

The main reason, though, is that ineffable and self-fulfilling concept of the "desirable neighborhood". There are some objective factors (proximity to the university and to the whole Lake Wingra/Arboretum/parks nexus) but it's also just that once a neighborhood is perceived to have that cachet, people pay more to move there, and it just kind of snowballs.

Schools? Don't tell me this is an east side/west side thing.


Schools, yes, somewhat. And it also is an east side/west side thing.

snoqueen wrote:I think buyers should take a look at the mid century modern and ranch style houses in the west side's next ring. Construction values are not generally as high as in the prewar houses, but being all on one floor is nice, they have more space, and they have a stylishness all their own. Prices are comparatively much lower, street layouts and lots can be attractive.


Yes. All very true, except for the "stylish" bit which is over-generous.

As I mentioned, while in grad school I rented in the neighborhood narcoleptish is asking about. But when it came time to buy, I went further west, to the other side of Glenway, and got a ranch that was somewhat boring and not as well built. I would have liked to be closer in, but between the bike path and buses we got by fine with one car on what I called the "Mid-West Side".

(Kurt's theory of Madison west-side geography: ask anyone on the west side where the boundary between near-west and far-west is located, and they'll inevitably tell you it's a few blocks west of wherever they live.)
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Re: House hunting

Postby fennel » Thu Mar 06, 2014 12:37 pm

I think the Marquette and Atwood-Schenk neighborhoods are mighty crowded, too, which is why we ended up in Sunset Village. But even here prices never really tempered. Last year a cape cod cinder block box sold for 285K.
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Re: House hunting

Postby clyde » Thu Mar 06, 2014 12:42 pm

massimo wrote:We've been targeting the east side in our hunt, and because of what we're looking for in a house (3+ BR, 1.5+ bath, 2 car garage, decent sized yard)


This has pretty much been our exact search criteria as well.
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Re: House hunting

Postby snoqueen » Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:18 pm

To answer somebody's question, no, I'm not a realtor. I couldn't sell vodka to the Russians. Wish I could give a recommendation but my favorite realtor changed jobs and isn't available.

Mid century stuff can be really stylish! Look at some of the houses up and down the hillsides around Sheboygan Ave and the other streets with Wisconsin county names. They look like each one should have a 1960 Oldsmobile in the driveway.
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Re: House hunting

Postby Stebben84 » Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:26 pm

massimo wrote:We've been targeting the east side in our hunt, and because of what we're looking for in a house


Have you looked in the Eken Park Neighborhood? I'm seeing a lot of new people moving into the neighborhood. The housing is extremely affordable. Some streets can be hit or miss on the quality, but I see it as an up and coming neighborhood. This is especially true once Union Corners gets done.
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Re: House hunting

Postby massimo » Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:31 pm

clyde wrote:This has pretty much been our exact search criteria as well.

Oh then IT'S ON, prepare for battle! Nah, our tastes and needs are pretty much middle of the road, so we understand that when the house comes on the market, there will be a swarm of potential buyers.

snoqueen wrote:I couldn't sell vodka to the Russians.

Exactly why I'd want you as a buyer's agent.

Speaking of which, does anyone have experience with a buyer's agent who will split off a portion of their MLS-standard 3% commission and rebate it back to the buyer? I've seen this advertised here in town, and I'm wondering if this is becoming more common now that there are tools like Zillow out there.
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