'Bad layout' and other dealbreakers

drybeanJuly 10, 2012

I'm curious what are the dealbreakers for you when looking at a home to buy. Popcorn ceilings, no en suite master bath, etc.?

Also, when you say a home has a bad layout, what exactly does that mean to you? A master bath off the kitchen? Ha.

We are in escrow on a home that I just realized has no backyard access from the street. The garage faces the street, so one must go through garage or house to enter backyard. On one hand, this is good since there is a pool, but I'm wondering if it will be a huge pain for us or a turn off for resale.

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When we were last looking, it was "anything that can't be changed to make it what we want." We looked at about 60 houses, and I can't remember what we disliked about each, but here are some I remember:
1. Master bedroom entrance off the foyer (too public).
2. Dated stone facade on the house (could be changed, but pricey and no payback on resale).
3. Master closet too small, not expandable because on outside wall.
4. Driveway too narrow, not allowing enough space to back out of side-load garage without doing a 3 (or more) point turn.
5. Foyer/entryway too small or cramped, stairs too close to door.
6. No breakfast nook in kitchen.
7. Yard had a weird configuration making it not very usable.
8. Backed onto a busy street.

I wanted a large kitchen, spacious foyer, and large master suite, so anything that didn't have all 3, or the potential to create them, got crossed off the list.

We were definitely looking with the potential for remodeling in mind, and we often walked around the house moving walls and updating fixtures. But we still rejected a whole lot before we found weedy acres.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 10:21AM
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Our dealbreakers were:

1. Updated kitchen that we didn't like (didn't want to pay a premium for something that it would make no economic sense to change)
2. Too-small master bedroom/no attached bath for master
3. So-called bedrooms that were too tiny to be anyone's real bedroom
4. Lack of good flow and charm/interest
5. No 2-car garage

For everything else, we were open and knew there would be tradeoffs.

To us, "bad layout" was rooms that didn't flow well into each other, or odd, random placements of rooms (like the one house we saw where I opened what I thought was the door to the kitchen pantry closet and it turned out to be the master bedroom). We also looked for rooms that were well-proportioned both with respect to each other and to the size of the house.

A backyard with no access from the street, while not optimal for us, would not have been a deal breaker. What was a deal breaker in one case was a backyard with no access from the back of the house.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 10:33AM
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No matter what kind of responses you get here, remember that everyone has their own list of dealbreakers--what's on one person's list might not even be a consideration to someone else. And since you're not looking for multiple buyers--just the one right one for your home, it's not worth getting into a tizzy over stuff you can't do much about.

For us? when we bought our retirement home, we had to have: everything on one floor (including laundry, freezer, etc), decent-sized kitchen, individual driveway (a common driveway would have been a deal breaker), fireplace, 2 baths. Anything with 2 floors, one bathroom, tiny kitchen, shared driveway would have been deal breakers. Otherwise, I'm pretty flexible and tend to look at the whole picture, not just one little inconvenience.

With our first house--Schools were important, nearness to our work. We WEREN'T concerned about sharing a driveway, or the fact that the only bathroom was on the second floor.

My point being that even one buyer's needs/wants may change over time. Just do what you can with what you have, make it look pretty and attractive, and don't worry overmuch about what YOU view as flaws. Lots of people looking aat houses 'forget' to look at a lot of the practical stuff anyway--they're attracted by the look or location.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 10:46AM
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Azzalea-oh for sure I understand what you mean. I wasn't specifically asking so much for myself, I was just curious as to what other people considered their dealbreakers, as a conversation piece, so to speak. I find it interesting what some consider no big deal, and what makes others walk out.

We have lived all over the country and also in the UK, and I've found the houses so different in each location. What is the norm in California is so different from what is expected in CT.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 11:16AM
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No backyard access through a larger opening that can support large and dirty items wouldn't be a deal breaker to me, but I would make sure the garage could be done so I could have a large opening and not just a regular door access to the backyard and would probably discount the price I was willing to pay if the house was priced the same as others with easy access.

The reasons for this would be if I want a load of mulch delivered for my back yard. I'd like to have it delivered outside and close to the place where I need it - not have to drag it through normal sized door in smaller bags and that won't fit a wheel barrow. Same with dirt/plants and large patio furniture etc. Or if I wanted/needed to do some construction/landscaping/tree removal I would at least want to be able to have access for small equipment or adding/removal of supplies easily.

However, I would not use an access to the front of the house/street on a daily basis so could probably live without it, but would get annoyed those times I need it so making a large access opening through the garage would be on my list of must haves.

We were pretty open on most things when looking layout wise and location wise except the following. It either had to exist or have space for us to be able to create it:

-6 Car garage - or the space to build it.
- 3 Bedrooms min, 2 baths min where master has a private bath
- 1 story or at least 2 bedrooms incl master on 1st floor.
- All rooms have windows.
- Some separation of master/bedrooms to living/great room.
- Mudroom/family entrance
-Backyard access from Living areas
- Foyer - don't like walking right into a room. Don't mind if it is visually open to other rooms, but want at least a separate area defined as an entry area.
- new/old/fixer upper didn't matter as long as the price was reflected correctly for amenities or fix-ups needed.
- nice surroundings and an area where there were no unknowns as to what could be done to the surroundings. Ie residential area and not commercial property potential or oil/gas wells, power lines etc.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 11:35AM
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The backyard thing was a problem in a house I rented in Alameda, because it meant the side yards were inaccessible, too.
This resulted in the garbage & recycling cans (3 total: garbage, paper/metal/plastic, yard waste) that the trash company picked up once a week, had to be kept in the front inside the garage, because our garage was packed with our utility trailer and bikes and Christmas ornaments and stuff like that (no attic or basement). There was no way to make room to drag them from the side-yard garage door all the way across the garage to the driveway. Also had to lift the kayaks over the yard wall to take them to the pond across the side street. PITA.
There was really no driveway to speak of either. If all the parking slots were taken in our cul-de-sac, we could park the small car sideways (parallel parking) into the driveway in front of the garage door, and it wouldn't stick out into the road much more than the bushes.
I saw other people put their waste cans in their front courtyard area (so they couldn't be seen from the street, as required) but what an ugly entrance for visitors.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 12:12PM
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Functionality has always been my biggest concern. Here are some of the things I think about.

I have kids so I have always looked at whether or not I could easily live in a house with them. Hazards like busy roads, pools or other bodies of water, powerlines, etc., are a turnoff. I also check to see if it is a safe place to ride a bike. The back yard has to be big enough to play in.

House flow is very important. I check to see if I can easily get to where I need to be or if there are a lot of stairs or winding hallways or disjointed rooms. Is there enough storage? Are there enough rooms for privacy so we don't all have to share the same open space? I am not big on homes with lousy remodels like turning a garage into another room. Owner remodeling often turns out to be udesireable remodeling. I've started avoiding that. I also check out storage areas to see if I have enough.

I check out the kitchen, can I move around in it easily or do I need to do a lot of manuevering to use the appliances and storage? I look at faucets, appliances, and flooring to get an idea of how much end of life replacement I am going to need to do.

Laundry rooms have become a bigger concern. Where is it positioned in the house? Where is the outlet for the dryer? Is it a straight shot outside so the vent doesn't get clogged as fast and where does the lint go after that?

Where are the bathrooms? Are they easily accessible? If a guest asks to use the bathroom, how visable is the rest of the house?

For us, it is important to have a wood burning fireplace where we can have a wood burning stove added.

We pull Google and other maps to get an idea of how the surrounding area looks and what types of nuisances there might be as far as industry.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 12:38PM
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I agree - this is a very interesting topic! Of course it's very personal and subjective but interesting, none-the-less.

We're planning a move from flatland Chicago area to hilly (and then some!) Asheville, NC area. While the topography is one of the things we love most about the area, we dislike what it does to many homes because they are built into or on top of hills. My husband is in the home remodel/repair business so needing to do an addition/remodel doesn't put us off. In fact we prefer a house that we can customize which is why we are really drawn to small, 50's & 60's brick ranches on acreage - they are little fortresses with a million possibilities!

Deal breakers:

1. Having to haul groceries up a flight of stairs from the back or side of the house, or go through the front door to avoid stairs.
2. Walking out to a deck perched on stilts then having a long set of stairs to reach my backyard.
3. Gravel road(s) to access home.
4. Bad updating, poorly designed or worse, poor workmanship which seems to be more common in newer homes we've seen.
5. If drive to house is through industrial area or rundown trailer park, even if house is in otherwise great neighborhood.

There are more, particularly from my picky husband but those are the top ones that come to mind.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 12:46PM
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I think the biggest dealbreaker for me would be no street parking. Our little suburb prohibits parking on the street on several of the main roads. I would never want friends and family to have to park around the corner in order to come to my house.

Living on a busy residential through street in general would probably be a dealbreaker, too.

Other than that, I have a lot of wants, but that's basically what they are - wants. With our most recent purchase, I just tried to get the best combination of wants that I could find in a house that I could afford. In the house we are currently living in, I "needed" an eat in kitchen. It was at the tippy top of my list. Many of the houses in the community are older and unique. There was only one house in our price range with an eat in kitchen and it was so plain jane and blah in so many other ways that I wouldn't buy it just for the kitchen. So, needless to say, we don't have an eat in kitchen. The house was great in so many other ways, that I decided eating in the dining room would be fine. So even some of my "needs" were wants, I guess.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 1:44PM
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When we bought, the only requirement (other than location) was: NOT a corner lot. I would have liked an attached garage (ours is detached), but it wasn't a deal-breaker.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 7:38PM
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I have a lot of wants too, but i realized I'm willing to forego a lot of them for the Right house. With each house (this is our 5th in 10 years-ay yi yi!), I find I'm less and less picky. Of course, our locations keeping getting more and more expensive too, which may have something to do it too. ;-)

For this house, which is in Los Angeles, good public schools were my walking point. This eliminated a great many homes.

I also did not like homes that had been remuddled in a way I didn't care for.
I prefer ugly original to a house that has been 'home depoted".

Lack of outdoor space was another dealbreaker. With such a fantastic climate, it would be a crime not to be able to take advantage of it.

Layout wise, I'm not terribly picky. I do prefer a foyer, but we didn't see a single home with one, I don't think. I also don't care for corner fireplaces.

That's pretty much it, this go-round, anyway.

Lyfia-excellent point about the wheelbarrow access. I'll have to check that!
C9pilot-I hadn't even thought about where to keep trash and recycling bins. Hmmm....

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 8:19PM
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We bought earlier this year and did have some things that were deal breakers:

1. Pet friendly with only very limited restrictions.
2. Must have ability for both DH and I to have our own study -- this could be by converting a dining room (which we what he ended up doing)
3. Open kitchen -- I had compromised on this once before and regretted it. I was not doing it again.
4. Within half an hour of a major hospital and major shopping (we were looking at acreage so sort of off the beaten track a bit).
5. Utility room in the house with room for a freezer -- once house we crossed off the list because the freezer could only be in the detached garage (I might have considered it with an attached garage but not with a detached garage).
6. Limited remodeling required -- we were willing to do some but did have a limit to how much we wanted to do.
7. one story only

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 9:50PM
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Dealbreakers for me:

Corrupt government
Bad school district

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 10:35PM
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Drybean, because you are in a desirable school district and have many pluses like great outdoor space (I saw your other thread and it will be stunning with a little fix-up). It sounds like you made smart choices and the negatives are things you can change except for this one item. Buyers will be in the same situation, unless you are in the multimillions and going custom you won't get everything you want, and sometimes even then you won't. No one is going to have a 5 acre horse property in downtown LA, at any price.

Every property has negatives for some buyers. A friend has a beautiful, new home on the market, one realtor told her "it's not for everyone", well duh.

Some people might look at this as a positive, no unwanted access.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 10:44PM
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My requirements were so non-traditional and individual that listing them all would serve no purpose :) but I'll do it anyway.

In a nutshell we needed a property that suited our breed of dogs- that's half why we moved to a new climate.
I needed a yard area large enough to accommodate their size and exercise requirements without all of us having to go off site everyday to keep them well conditioned.
Fencing factored into our budget as I needed six feet for the dogs.
I needed the dogs to be able to access their indoor living quarters easily and without my going nuts on rainy days.

I needed a specific location because I wanted husband to be close to work on snowy days- like biking distance close. He did not have a job when we moved (!) but I knew where I wanted him to work and thankfully they snapped him right up.

I wanted a yard to garden in- not pre-gardened but a good blank slate so that I could design it to work with the dogs and not against them. I also needed a good non "yard" area for composting, occasional firewood harvest, and as a buffer zone against close neighbors.

I wanted a home that would be extraordinarily economical to operate after we retire- energy efficient doors and windows and insulation and a sensible square footage for two adults.
Aside from the operating costs I cared nothing about the number of bedrooms or bathrooms or layout or a snazzy kitchen- I can adapt to those type things quite easily, I find. The property itself was of far greater importance to me than the structure upon it.

We ended up with the perfect house in the perfect location with everything I wanted- thankfully the home we bought had a brand spanking new six foot fence.
I have a modest 3/1 house- walkout basement with a combination dog park/botanical garden in the back yard and an additional wooded area beyond the fenced zone. I have the smallest house on the largest lot in a highly desirable neighborhood in a top notch school system- there is no way I could ever over improve my home and price it out of the neighborhood. That is important to me because I did that in our last home and we were fortunate to sell at the top of the bubble and more than recoup our investment in landscaping (which was ridiculously high).

What makes it all remarkable is that we bought it sight unseen from across the country- the first time I saw my home was when we pulled into the driveway to move in. My family had looked at it and sent me many photos but it was still an enormous leap of faith.
I am still shocked daily at what a nice neighborhood and home we find ourselves occupying.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 10:52AM
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I needed to be in walking distance to the same amount of public transportation and food stores as I am now. Right now we carry groceries 4 blocks and up 52 steps, so I laugh at people who won't buy something with the garage next to the kitchen, but everybody's different.

Deal breakers at this point in my life were:
Only one bathroom and no place for at least a powder room.
Spiral stairs.
New kitchens or baths done with poor workmanship, poor taste, or not my taste.

Wants were semi private outdoor space. I don't care if people see me outside but if they are three feet away, that makes me uncomfortable.

Two baths.

A real basement that was usable and stayed dry.

Since no outside space, no usable, dry basement, basement kitchens, single baths and spiral stairs are all quite common where I live in my budget, it's rather difficult to achieve. I found it, but the front facade of the house is one I used to put in the "ugliest in neighborhood" category.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 1:05PM
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Some of our dealbreakers:

1. A garage that's not big enough to actually park both of our cars in (or no garage)
2. A neighborhood where people don't take care of their houses/yards/etc. (it's not about the style of house or landscaping or anything, just neglect)
3. On a busy street
4. A commercial or other noisy/busy place right across the street or visible from the back (we looked at one place that backed up to a high school - nothing against schools, but we didn't want to deal with that)
5. Lack of enough rooms for all the things we need (offices, guest rooms, etc.)
6. A neighborhood where we just don't get the right "vibe." Hard to put into words, but we know it when we see it. We're going to be spending a lot of time there, so this is critical to us. If it's not a place I can imagine being happy to come home to at the end of the day, even if the specific reason is fairly petty, I'm not going to buy a house there. Some of this comes from #2, but it goes beyond that.

As others have said, mostly stuff that can't be changed (theoretically the garage could be changed, or rooms could be added if the lot is big enough, but that's major). There were many other items that I'd term "near-dealbreakers," where we'd overlook them if the house were truly perfect in every other way. But in reality, I don't think a house could ever meet that standard, and when we were looking there were so many houses on the market that it was relatively easy to pass over any houses with those problems.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 1:29PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

For my family, most things would be weighed and considered. The 2 things that would be absolute deal breakers for us:

1. Solar gain. Does the house get enough light through the south side in the winter to help warm the house some? The orientation of the house cannot be changed and I try to take utility bills into consideration.

2. Adequate light for gardening is a must. If this cannot be remediated, I would probably look somewhere else.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 4:55PM
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Needs, wants, and deal-breakers very considerably across a person's life span and their budgetary situation.

We purchased our first home 3 years ago (I'm 28 now), and our biggest constraint was $$$, as is true with most first-time home buyers. We live in the Cleveland area and the only way for us to afford a nice house was to purchase in the city of Cleveland. Terrible schools, some crime, etc. But at the time (and for now), it is an issue we are OK with. We have no kids and probably never will, and we are in a gentrifying area, so violent crime is quite low (property crime too high for comfort). Overall, we made an excellent choice.

The biggest deal breaker for me when we were searching for houses was the flow of the house and the construction quality. The neighborhood we wanted had lots of older, super cheap homes. But many of them were built poorly and the rooms were choppy; both were deal breakers. We finally found a house that was in good condition, well built, large enough, and renovated, and we grabbed the opportunity and never looked back. We could not afford to be overly picky.

We do not plan on buying another house - we will be probably be building a home. If we do buy another home, deal breakers would be:

No garage (I can't stand having no garage!!!)
A yard that isn't large enough for the fur babies (Hardly a yard right now!)

That's about it.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 8:52PM
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We did the LA relocation search just over a year ago and in this area schools and commute times were the 2 main search criteria. We came from an expensive northeast town, had sold at the top of the market, so luckily we had a good budget to work with, even for LA.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 9:35PM
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The biggest deal breaker for us was trees blocking the eliptical plane. Especially ones we could not take down.

It's an astronomy thing.

Our realtor never really understood. She actually showed us one house IN town and suggested we could put the telescope on the little balcony off the master!

Guess she was picturing something like those little things JC Penney sells for kids at Christmas.....

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 6:00PM
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Or type slower......

ELIPTIC plane.

It's not a rowing machine....

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 6:03PM
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Can't spell.

I need to go do something constructive.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 6:05PM
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