Several of my friends have joined — or soon will join — the homeownering business.
This itch to own one's own little piece of ground seems to have a lot to do with age; they're all about 30. Maybe it's simply maturity.
Or maybe they've all suddenly recognized that income taxes are eating them alive.
They already know the basic stuff to look for, of course: size of the rooms, age of the furnace and AC, condition of the neighborhood, schools and bus lines.
But it occurs to me there may be some things that haven't occurred to them. So here's …
The HouseWorks Guide to Stuff You Never Thought About
(in no particular order):
• Orientation: If you live in snow country, you want a driveway that's pointed south. Well-aimed sunshine will save you all sorts of shoveling and slip-sliding in the winter.
I've owned five houses over the years, but I've never had a south-facing driveway. The first pointed west, but all the rest were on the north side of the lots. Learn from my repeated mistakes.
• Mature trees: If you're a gardener, you'll plant trees.
I've planted 10 trees in the past 11 years. Four survive; drought got two, bunnies got one, squirrels got another and the others simply failed to thrive.
But … the lot came with five full-grown trees planted back in the ’50s, and they throw sufficient shade to keep me happy.
That's my point: If you want your lot to be shaded and don't expect to hang around for the next 30 years to see it happen, buy a place where another gardener has laid the plantwork.
• Functional kitchen and baths: You're looking for decent cabinets, double sinks, working appliances, good layout and acceptable floors.
Down the line, you can put in the dishwasher, the pantry unit, the tiled shower and the granite counters.
• Flow: Although it's true you can correct any flaws with enough time and enough money (and, despite careful calculations, even more time and still more money), it's wicked hard to change the basic floor plan of a house without embarking on a major construction project.
So if the only route to the bathroom of the place you lust over is through a bedroom, keep looking.
• Hardscape: Things such as sidewalks, driveways, retaining walls, fences and outbuildings should be in decent shape and pretty much where you want them to be.
Again, nothing is sacred and anything can be changed, but life will be a lot easier if you don't have to worry moving anything that weighs more than you do.
• Utilities: Look for copper plumbing, a breaker panel (with room for expansion) and underground service. All those will limit maintenance headaches.
• Storage: There will not be enough. There is never enough. Castles on the misty moors of Ireland do not have enough storage.
But do the best you can.
Look for wide garages, backyard sheds, easily accessible attics (stairs, not a hatch in the hallway) and built-in cabinets.
I took this to heart in my newest house. There were so many nooks and crannies and cubbies I've even eliminated a few, and there are two that remain empty.
But I'll fill them. It's been only 11 years.
(Send your questions to HouseWorks, P.O. Box 81609, Lincoln, Neb. 68501 or email email@example.com.)