Monday, February 17, 2014

House Hunting

                                                                                                        picture from our road trip summer 2013

The clock is running and our time in San Antonio is almost up.  I'm not yet ready to announce where we'll be moving on the blog, but we do have a destination.  Is it a done deal?  Well I guess there's the possibility that things could fall through in the next 5 months, but barring any major curveballs we know where we will be establishing our lives for the next 30 or so years.

It's crazy to make such a long term commitment like this.  This is where our kids are going to grow up and in a few years when people ask, So where are you from?  We'll most likely say we're from Blahbittyblah and that will feel weird.  A few years ago we would have never imagined setting down roots in this place, but we're excited.  We feel good about it.  Or so we tell ourselves.  

I know, I'm such a tease.  Patience grasshopper.  All will be revealed in time.

In the meantime we're looking at houses and yikes, such a tough process.  We have some very specific needs with Lamp and her power chair.  Ideally we'd find a one story ranch, or at least a house with a bedroom on the main floor.  However, the house also needs to be easy to get a power chair in and out of--that means at least one outside door does not have stairs leading up to the door or there is a reasonable possibility of installing a ramp.

As you can imagine this limits our search quite a bit.  So far we've only found one house that meets those standards while also being in a good area/school district.  But it's a pretty rough looking house.  There is not a single room I wouldn't want to do some work on.  I'm all for remodeling and making the house our own--in fact I'd prefer to remodel an older home rather than build a new one.  But I wouldn't even know where to start.  B and I are definitely DIY type of people--I feel confident that we could do a lot of renovations ourselves, but at this point in our lives I don't think we have the time and desire to take on a full home renovation.  So even the idea of hiring a lot of this work out seems stressful.  For example the kitchen would need to be gutted in this place... so where do you begin?  Who do you call and where do you search?  Do you need an architect, an interior designer or a structural engineer?  While I have a lot of cool kitchens pinned on Pinterest, I would feel a little overwhelmed trying to create my own space from top to bottom.  DIY network makes it look so easy.  If not easy, at least doable.   

I'd love to hear from those of you with home renovation experience.  Have you ever bought a fixer upper (in another state no less)?  What did you hire out and what did you do yourselves?  Regrets, frustrations, advice?  To be honest, I think we're just going to pass on this house, but I feel like I need to start thinking about this stuff!  


**Also if any of you out there have a family member in a power chair did you make special accommodations on your home or did you just figure out how to work with your space?  (FYI a power chair and a wheelchair are two different things...a power chair is extremely heavy is not something one person can lift on their own.)

22 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:24 PM

    i would suggest if that much work needs to be done you consider just building a new home that fits all your specifications. even if the power chair can get into the house, there are other considerations like bathroom, doorways being wide enough to fit through, being able to reach everything in the kitchen. a lot of people i know with a kid in a powerchair/wheelchair build the house from scratch. there are builders/architects that advertise accessibility as a specific thing they will plan for.

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    1. Anon--yes at some point I plan to renovate a home (I still prefer an older home) and include all those things in the plans. Right now, we just don't have the time/energy to start this process. But yeah, it makes the most sense.

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  2. Anonymous11:28 PM

    I know what you mean about the power chair being heavy. Once, an empty power chair was parked in front of my kid's drawer at Respite Care. I could not get the power chair to budge a single millimeter. I had no idea they were that heavy. I just gave up on getting into my kid's drawer that day. Didn't want to bug the busy staff.
    Mel in Fort Collins (are you coming here?)

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  3. I never would have bought my house had I been mindful of accessibility issues (stairs into every entrance). But we have considered retrofitting a ramp. We're a bit away from that, but it seems doable.

    That being said, I hope you find a house that is comfortable for all five of you! And, I selfishly hope it's on the west coast! :)

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    1. Oh man, even with Uly you're thinking about this huh? I'm assuming for his walker--will he need some sort of chair down the road?

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    2. stairs are hard to navigate! and even with prostheses, there can be skin issues or bone overgrowth or all kinds of things that keep a person out of legs. and I do think he will want a chair when he's bigger. I fantasize about a rambling single level.

      and I look forward to reading more about your home choosing process!

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  4. Oh man!! I'm dying to know where you are going!! Provo would be a blast.... Good luck on your house search. We bought our house and now have already outgrown it! So we may be looking to move in a year or so. I was so surprised how hard it has been for me to figure out different reno projects on our house. Being an artsy person who has dreamt of it her whole life, I thought it would be a snap. It's still so fun, though. I bet you and B are pretty good at agreeing on house stuff. I had to give up some things I love for Josh who doesn't love mid century modern or plain white walls:/. But I have gotten my way on so many things. I bet you will have a fun time with whatever you buy.

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    1. You know while I never wanted to settle in Utah, Provo is looking pretty great these days. So much happening there right now! Well B I think mostly comes my way when it comes to design/aestetics as he doesn't care as much... but still we don't always agree. So we'll see. :)

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  5. Terese10:54 AM

    that was Terese^ oops.

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  6. I don't know if I could handle a full reno at this stage (with small kids). We just got through a mini remodel because of water damage, and of course it took twice as long as we thought it would, and was twice as hard! We lost two of our three bathrooms for three months, and that was enough. I can't imagine not having a kitchen for months on end.

    By the time we need to remodel our kitchen, I might just throw my hands up and call IKEA for everything (appliances, cabinets, countertops... ) rather than deal with a contractor.

    Good luck with the move, and yes, I'm very curious to know where you and family are off to :)

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  7. Anonymous2:12 PM

    My parents live in an old home that they have tried to modify to suit my mom who has advanced MS. The pros are that she gets to be at home and feels happy there. The cons are many. The house is an old 1930's Tudor style home, with stairs all over. There are two separate stair glides to get upstairs (because of a landing) and the transfer from one to the other has become difficult. The doorways are quite narrow for a power chair. I do dream of her in an accessible house that will make her difficult life slightly less difficult. But she says she is happy where she is for now.
    And, if you are moving to someplace that has winter, keep that in mind. Snow and ramps and ice and salt combined with power chairs can be tricky! Move somewhere without snow!

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  8. I'm a single woman who bought my first home at 28, and was it ever a fixer-upper. Of course all the work needed was "cosmetic" (ha ha haaaaaa), so the price didn't come down as much as it should have. It's a 1926 710-sq-ft bungalow. I've done the lion's share of the work myself--hired out refinishing the wood floors and my parents gave me an electrician for Christmas the first year to update the outlets so they were grounded. My parents have visited several times and are always a huge help. I have stripped ungodly amounts of wallpaper off plaster, skim coated and patched miles of plaster, drywalled, taped and mudded a teensy bathroom (with a friend I paid to help), painted, stripped and scraped paint using the silent paint remover, sanded plaster and wood to death, and learned how to install things with screws (and drilled guide holes). It doesn't sound like lots of skills, but it was all stuff I didn't know how to do before. Oh, and completely rehabbed one of the original windows, with plans to do more. My dad has rewired at least one socket, and installed a few light fixtures. Oh yes, and also, paid to have the washer hookup moved to the basement, and have a laundry tub installed. The dryer vent was already there, and I put together the exhaust hose and installed that myself. I recently investigated and mostly resolved the dryer making a horrible screechy noise using $35 in parts. Not gonna lie, it's taken insane amounts of time and effort. It would be at least 200% easier with a partner (my ex boyfriend found and fixed a leaking water hookup in the yard when it was draining into the basement--would definitely have had to call a plumber on that one if he hadn't been around!), and 200% harder without a good friend with All the Tools nearby, and parents willing to fly in and help yearly.

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  9. Anonymous3:05 PM

    So we're building. Never done the remodel thing. But as for the chair, we decided to make the whole house power chair accessible. A few items we changed, that I think would work for you, too, in a remodel: Wider hallways (4 feet or more), lower kid bathroom light switches (our thought is D won't want to get in his chair in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom - he'll probably crawl or scoot - so want to make it accessible), microwave and other kid-kitchen things in the kitchen island down low (so he can get his own snacks and microwave food if he wants), ramp in the garage into the house, and all front-button appliances (ie, washer and dryer with buttons in the front so he can do his own laundry eventually, oven with buttons in the front, etc). Hope that helps some :). Kristin

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  10. Anonymous5:15 PM

    We're in San Antonio. I've been here for 20 years, so I know the town very well. DH's late wife was in a wheelchair for her last couple years and they built temporary ramps throughout the house. We are in a large ranch--over near Castle Hills--but there's a lot of the single steps up and down into various rooms. It's an older home with really good bones. In the case that you are staying in San Antonio, I would look carefully at Castle Hills. The location is fantastic. The lots are huge and the homes are older. I've been in a few homes that are nice, stately ranch houses that wouldn't need wheelchair friendly renovations. We do private school, but the Castle Hills schools (part of Northeast ISD) are good. If you do stay in SA and have some questions, I'm happy to answer them.
    Laura (from Costco and I suppose the park where I bumped into your husband and girls) That's what they say about SA--the biggest small town in the world.

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  11. If you do buy a fixer upper, so much so that you can't live in it, you could consider house sitting so you don't have to pay rent plus mortgage. A couple with two kids, whose home was being renovated, house sat for me for 3 months while We were away. They've moved to two more house sits totaling nearly a year! There are many websites for finding house sitting gigs.

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  12. My son has special needs, he does not have a power chair, but uses a manual wheelchair and a walker. At home he mostly scoots on the floor and finding a house to fit our needs in our budget was a struggle. We live in Cincinnati, and needed a ranch style with a semi flat yard. It seemed everything we looked at was little tiny, two story on really sloped property. We had just about given up, but finally, finally found the perfect house. Ranch, open floor plan, flat yard, only one stair going into the house. The main bath even has a standing shower, which we hadn't thought about, but is perfect for his shower chair. Don't give up, you will find something that will fit your needs. Good luck and happy house hunting. ;)

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  13. an architect will do the best job in terms of design, but they might be pricier than a contractor.

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  14. Hi Miggy, I'm reaching out because I am a rehabilitation counselor, which means that I help people with disabilities live independent lives. I help people find jobs, but I also go into their homes and make recommendations for modifications. If you have any specific questions or concerns, reply to this and I can send you an email. I know that Lamp scoots around without the chair, so some of her needs can be accommodated in creative ways. For example, you wouldn't need to have room in the bathroom for her chair to slide under the sink, but it would be nice to have room for a stool in the bathroom so that she can get out of her chair and climb up on a stool to brush her teeth, for example. So, many things can be worked around with a little creativity, but here are some things to look for, as they make it easier for modifications:
    36" doorways and hallways
    Room in the bathroom for her to park her chair.
    A bathroom with a walk-in or roll-in shower
    If the house has stairs, room for an automated option, meaning the stairs need to be 36" wide.
    In general, bigger rooms are better.
    Reach out if you have any questions. Good luck on the house hunt!

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    1. Theresa--thanks so much for reaching out! I would love to hear from you and ask some questions. If you could send an email to thislittlemiggy at gmail that would be great. Thanks!

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  15. couple of things...sister in law built their home around a wheelchair family member that was going to be living with them...every detail was included and was awesome ( every flooring surface was even, showers wheelchair accessible, kitchen designed etc. My neighbor has son with severe CP- however they are in a split level home with an office on main floor and bathroom and they installed a ramp for front door access, and just modify the home for their needs the best they can. it works - not ideal. as for renovating...well that I can speak to personally. we bought a real fixerupper/foreclosed/eyesore( every room, and yard needed help...spent 2.5 years turning it into our dream home. so much money, time, fights, challenges, for us not worth it. it wasn't our full time gig- but turned every night, weekend into project time that we missed family time, and the design decisions, and budget and CHAOS of living in construction with 3 children for me...even after it was all over, I would never do again. I would rather buy newer with less work, build and live offsite, or spend the extra upfront to get what I wanted. no amount of sweat equity was worth what we went through.

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  16. Good luck on your house hunting journey, Miggy! It might be a tough job, but it’ll all be worth it when you have your dream home. It’s easier to look for houses that are sold online, and you can find lots of renovation tips there, too. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the progress of your house hunting. Keep us updated! :)

    Leslie Myers

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  17. Constructing a new house is, indeed, the best way to have the house that fits your requirements and needs. However, it’s also advisable to look for a spacious house wherein you can incorporate your desires. Through renovations, you’ll be able to dictate the mood in your house and add your own style. I hope you’ll be able to find the new house that suits your needs. Don’t rush in finding a new one. Take your time and consider all the possible options. Good luck! :)

    GatewaySelect.com

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