Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Place to Be?

As mentioned, we've taken a big step in making an offer on a condo! While waiting for the bank to (fingers-crossed) approve the short sale, I am definitely having fun thinking about all we can do with this in our hands. Starting the search months ago, I came into this project thinking I would have very specific likes and dislikes. New construction and granite countertops good. . .vintage bad. Large balcony good. . .no outdoor space at all bad. Laundry in unit good. . .laundry not in unit is not even an option.

I surprised myself along the way by realizing the cookie cutter 2 bed/2 bath new construction condos left something to be desired. We wanted something with a little more character (one of those words that is often used to describe older buildings). So when we first spied an amazing 3 bedroom that fit our price range a few months ago we thought we hit a home run. Great location, upgraded kitchen, seperate library and did I mention 3 bedrooms? We actually put in an introductory offer, but reality set in when we ran the numbers and the extremely high assessments couldn't be justified. The mortgage price and taxes were decent, but when the assessments add another 1/3 to that amount each month we could see that getting old very fast.
Last month we thought we nailed it once again: a foreclosure right in the heart of Lakeview, large 2 bedroom on the top floor. High ceilings with sun-drenching skylights. A living space that was at least 25'x20' which meant we could break it out into at least 5 separate areas (entryway leads into the media space and sofa, library/sitting area in a bump out near the windows, bookshelves seperate an office area and on the other side of that would be the dining room table before you found yourself back at the kitchen). However, getting that full story when it comes to foreclosures is always key. Insanely expensive taxes coupled with some dicey financials for the building quickly put this on the burn pile. Sigh.
And then there was number three. I got a call from Bob when I was in Vegas the other week for work and he said, "you gotta see this place." The 3 bedroom from Scenario 1 was also found by him during an open house when I was on a work trip so I'm beginning to think there's a pattern here. . .

Close to Wrigley Field,  but not so close we'd be living like those fresh out of college kids. Loft style building that started as a soap factory and transitioned to being a car dealership until it was made into condos about 13 years ago. Exposed brick, 20 foot ceilings and a lot of potential. We think we found the balance between move in ready and total fixer upper. Grant me the next few paragraphs and allow me to dream. . .

Comparable to the great room we saw in that last foreclosure, there is plenty of space to break out the living space into a library/sitting area around the fireplace, media center and sofa on the opposite wall and a dining table closer to the kitchen.
Disclosure: This photo is not from the unit we are looking at, but as it is the same layout I thought I would share a different angle that really hammers home the scale of the room.
With a kitchen and 2 bathrooms along these lines, we can easily save some scratch and tackle one room each year or so. The Kitchen already has a massive island for food prep and ample cabinet space. An upgrade to appliances, the countertops, thrown in a backsplash and a stain on those cupboards might be all we need.
There is plenty of usable space in both bathrooms. The idea we had was to create a linen closet or shelf system in the 2nd bathroom and expand out the tub and shower options in the master suite. New tile and vanities could really spruce them up. The door to the master bath wastes alot of space when it swings opens the whole way so I would love to look into replacing it with a pocket door. Could be a fun project!
I loved when we would look at places and the in unit laundry wasn't just shoved in a closet, but included actual space to use around the washer and dryer. I like the idea of getting stackable units and putting shelving all the way up along the other side. This would also leave room on the other side of the floor for the cat litter - always a tricky thing to find a place for in a condo!
Of course, one of the easiest things we can do is choose some paint colors! With 20 foot high ceilings, the logistics of painting could be interesting but challenge accepted. One of the benefits of saving some money by living in a one bedroom month to month now is that we could always juggle a month or two of mortgage and rent so that if we wanted to take the time before move in to paint and stain the floors we could do so without shifting around all of our stuff as soon as it found a home!
You might be thinking to yourself, "But Lydia, didn't you say in a previous post that you were now committed to finding a 3 bedroom?" I struggled with that myself, but we resigned ourselves to the idea that our second bedroom does not have to be a bedroom first and foremost. We don't have guests all the time, so why not actually use the room ourselves? Plans are to set up the second bedroom - you can see the loft influence in that the walls at the top are exposed - as a workspace with our computer desk and a craft table I plan on making out of a couple bookshelves and the headboard from my disposed of IKEA bed. Guests of Lydia and Bob will live in the lap of luxury when we invest in one of those ultra-posh Aerobeds that blow up to just about the same size as a real bed.
The master bedroom has a large walk in closet that was already decked out with an elfa set to give us ideas on how to best utilize the space. The room is brick on 3 sides - apparantly it was the car lift space from when the building was a dealership! I like to think the thick brick will help insulate noise as I don't always love when bedrooms are right off of the main rooms and not down a hallway.
Have you noticed which area I haven't covered? One deterrent is that there is no balcony. Pros and cons were weighed. How much did I really use the balcony other than to grill? Was I really going to take gardening so seriously that I would have filled the deck with veggies and flowers? Could we still grow a few things inside the house but against the windows to get them some sun? Could we store the grill in the garage and pull it out into the alley on rare occasions? All valid questions. In the end, it was not make or break for us. I might just have to invest in a really nice grill pan for the stovetop as I don't intend on ever eating hamburgers that don't have grill marks on them.

So could this be the place for us? We'll hopefully know in the next month or two. In the meantime, we'll keep looking and stay on alert so we don't miss out on something else should this one fall through. . . .the wait continues.


  1. Oh Lydia! It is amazing and I can totally picture all the wonderful things you can do with it. I really recommend painting and refinishing the floors before you move in, like you suggested. It made a huge difference for us this time (not that we are done painting yet...) I will keep my fingers crossed that the bank approves the short sale!!

  2. P.S. We too are going the 2-bedroom house, aero-bed for guests route. It's OK!