In every house we've lived in, I make mental notes of the problems and issues so that I will not make the same mistake again. For example, the rental house the twins were born in had a bunch of choppy rooms, one of which was so oddly laid out, we never used it, and it accounted for half the downstairs square-footage. My mantra in buying our first home was "flex space:" room for all the exersaucers, swings, and pack n' plays. (We had a "few" with infant twins) After buying our house, the house with absolutely no walls downstairs, nothing but a huge greatroom, I realized we had no way to contain a Christmas tree and presents from grabby hands. Eventually the girls grew out of the large entertainment/placation items and I was no longer needing extra exersaucer space. Lesson learned- open spaces are good, but make sure there is some sort of space for confining a Christmas tree.
"The List" is growing a little too voluminous for the confines of my memory. So, Future Me: buying the next house, here's what we're looking for!
(I'm page breaking this, because it gets long. I get yappy when it comes to talking about houses)
Hardwoods > Linoleum > Tile.
I can see you there, cocking your head in disbelief: Linoleum! Better than TILE?! Some of the major drawbacks of tile: grout lines! Grout lines are a haven for the icky floor gunk, and impossible to get actually clean unless you are willing to spend your afternoon on hands and knees with a toothbrush. Your knees will start complaining against the hard tile, I assure you. Linoleum is a bit easier to keep clean ( I say a bit because the linoleum in our current place is "textured" to help with the appearance of tile, which means I still have to scrub junk out of the grooves) in the end, linoleum still looks cheap. Another problem; do you know what percentage of things will break on tile when dropped? 100% of stuff will absolutely shatter when dropped on tile, as opposed to linoleum, which is only a 50/50 shot of absolute break-age. I am hoping hardwoods will be (a) measurably easier to clean and (b) class up the place. You may notice carpet didn't even make the list. That is because I am so done with carpet. So. Done. Never again, carpet. Burn in hell, carpet!
Granite counters > Laminate =/- tile counters.
I am not a huge fan of laminate countertops- I know of no one that is really in love with laminate, but whatever. I will still state my case against laminate. Laminate burns, and what else are you supposed to do with hot pots that need to come off the stove or out of the oven?! This is an eternal quandary for those with laminate. (I have laminate in this rental, and it is killing me) Oh! And laminate stains! Pomegranate lemonade, a small drop... forever on your countertops. Tile counters... again with the grout. Grout is evil. So very evil. Even granite tile countertops- no. I WANT SLAB GRANITE. (and I like saying SLAB)
French Doors, Not Sliding Glass Doors.
I am telling you, I will never live in a house with sliding glass doors. Ever. In my lifetime. If I have to, I will rip that sliding glass out with my bare hands... and a sledge hammer. Not only are french doors easier to open, keep kids from opening, abating the sun's scorching rays, they also mean fewer hours windex-ing jam handprints and wet doggy noseprints from glass. That is years off my life, I tell you.
Expansive Kitchen Islands = A Must. Expansive Kitchen Islands with a Sink = A Dealbreaker.
I just want a flat surface to put stuff, to do stuff on, stuff that is generally guaranteed from getting wet. Putting a sink in there is simply a waste of a good kitchen island. This rule can also be applied to stovetops. Stovetops should also be relegated onto normal counter space with a backsplash. This is one of the things I love about the rental- huge, sinkless, glorious kitchen island.
Master bathroom must have drawers!
I have lived in drawerless bathroom after drawerless bathroom for years, and now in our rental we have actual drawers beside the sinks, four of them! It has been heaven, I cannot go back to living with bins stacked on each other in tilting skyscrapers under the sink. I cannot!
Double Sinks. Otherwise, Divorce.
He needs his own sink to be gross in; To leave dried up shaving cream that has to be scraped off with a sharp blade. I need to not wash my face in such a shaving cream/toothpaste encrusted sink, somehow it is written in my genes. Double sinks save marriages, people.
Plantation Shutters or Bust.
I miss my shutters from our last home. Like the desert longs for rain. I'd like to make a few points on why it is better to spend the money, even if it is your grocery budget, on the much higher priced window shutters as opposed to vertical blinds, mini blinds, or the other things that we have in this rental, a larger version of the mini blind made of faux-wood. #1 They actually keep out the light- as in ALL the light! So you can sleep! #2 Shutters have insulation properties not to be undervalued. Partnered up with a quality (professionally installed- I have found I suck at this type of project) window film, you have yourself at least $200 of summer monthly savings right there. #3 There should be (if you're spending enough) a nice decorative moulding around the edge, that's just pretty. #4 They are 100x easier to clean than anything else out there. When you've got a two year old catapulting yogurt from his spoon, that makes a difference. Yes, shutters are about 10 times more expensive than regular blinds. I still stand by my statements. There are just some places you should spend money, even gobs of money.
The Kitchen Sink Should Never be Visible from the Front Door.
This was my mother's stroke of genius. I remember as we toured houses as a kid, one of her first criterion was the view from the front door. "You don't want an unannounced guest to see the pile of dirty dishes screaming from the kitchen sink" she would tell me. I agree; Keep your unwashed oatmeal bowls to yourself.
Gage the Distance from the Garage to the Kitchen Carefully.
Lots of kids means lots of groceries. Judging by what The Husband told me about his teenage years, I am going to be buying even more groceries as the kiddos approach the dreaded teenage years- I may need a UHaul truck just for grocery runs. The garage door should be pretty close to the kitchen when you're hauling in loads of grocery bags. It makes one less stabby when it comes time to transport the grocery bags from the car to the countertops. I remember living on the second story of an apartment complex- I cursed grocery shopping day. I even avoided buying heavy things like cans of soda because it just wasn't worth hauling it all up those stairs!
Bring The Largest Skillet (or highchair tray) You Have Along on The Search.
Try shoving the largest skillet you own into the dishwasher the minute you walk into the door of your potential new dwelling. Little Man's tiny highchair trays, and our large skillet do not even begin to fit in our rental's absurdly small dishwasher. Who could have guessed dishwashers would vary so greatly? Someone should have told me this earlier.
Take Note of Thermostat and Doorbell Chime Placement.
Is it a good idea to put a doorbell chime directly above the children's door? No, homebuilders- IT IS NOT. Also thermostats should not be placed all willy-nilly. In our old house the thermostat was at one end of the house, and to everyone's shock and horror, the other end of the house had an entirely different climate. Like it was a hundred degrees in the girls' bedroom, and perfectly comfortable in our son's nursery. In this rental the thermostat is by the front door, and the back of the house- where we do most of our "living" in the family room and kitchen... it is just about 10 whopping degrees warmer. In other words: unbearable.
Test the Acoustics.
We were unable to really do this as we bought our last house before there was even a concrete slab (SLAB!) for a foundation- we toured a model (a model with hardwoods) and chose our upgrades from there. Turns out that all the tile downstairs along with the "open" floorplan of the house made it so someone downstairs could drop a pin on the floor, and everyone, in every bedroom, with their doors closed upstairs could hear it- LOUD AND CLEAR. Too much open space- there is a downside to excessively open floorplans.
Create a Window to Wall Ratio Equation.
Oh my! I'm forcing myself to do math! Perhaps this is more climate-specific: windows = heat. They let in tons of heat no matter how many window coverings you throw at them. (take the girls' old room for example, it was a 12x12 room with three gigantic windows, two were practically floor-to-ceiling. We put solar film, plantation shutters, and threw on insulating drapes as well. It was still a good deal too warm in the summer. (see also thermostat issues above) Rental house has way too many windows. I actually have too much artwork and not enough wall space to hang it! There is 20 large windows in the 2000 sq.ft. house. So one window per 100 sq. ft.? Too much! Must do the math when out house hunting.
Check out the Neighborhood.
If you see a car up on blocks, run the other direction. Basketball hoops in the street? Beeline it to the next open house. Drive by during the time would be \putting the kids to bed- are there about 30 dogs barking non-stop? Rescind your offer to purchase. (all of these problems exist in our current rental)
So this list is long... and there is probably still more to come. I pity the realtor who takes us on. That is if we ever save a ridiculous sum of money for another down payment. Ugh.