GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations: What You Get For $500K

Gray Lady hasn’t had her coffee today and is totally over work because it’s August and settles for giving us a list of the totally ordinary houses you can buy for $1,500,000. Like this one in Shark Key, Florida:

Shark Key is a gated island community seven miles west of Key West. The island is about a mile long and only two lots wide, with a saltwater swimming lagoon in the middle. Community amenities include two tennis courts and a clubhouse. Shopping and dining are within a 15-minute drive, on the palm-lined streets of Key West. This house is on a peninsular lot near the southern tip of the island, surrounded by water on three sides. … The house is on about an acre, lush with mature banyan, coconut and banana trees. Parking is in a covered spot under the house. There’s space to pull a pontoon boat in and out of the water.

Yawn.

Let’s see if we can find something more exciting in this week’s edition of GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations: What You Get for $500,000.

“Secrets” to Buying a House Without Getting Hosed

Vox presents six secrets to getting a house without getting hosed. It’s an interesting read, but I’m not sure if their tips are actually secrets or even whether I agree with all of them, so YMMV. For instance:

Choose your realtor carefully. … When evaluating real estate agents, it’s important to keep in mind that their incentives aren’t aligned with your own priorities as the buyer. You want the best home at the lowest price — and you may be willing to wait quite a while for the right deal to come along. In contrast, agents make more money when they can close deals as quickly as possible — and they make more money when their clients spend more.

Yeah! Which is a good argument for not using a realtor. Partly because I’m historically anti-broker, we didn’t employ one when we were house-hunting; I had Excel and an obsessive nature and I put both to good use. Honestly though I’m not sure what a broker could have added to the experience? Doing the work myself wasn’t that onerous and saved us a good chunk of cash. We didn’t do a mortgage broker, either, or any other middleman. More relevant to our peace of mind was having a smart, kick-ass real estate attorney. Ours once answered the door in a robe and slippers, but underneath that terrycloth she was a shark. Hers was the only expertise we paid for, and it was well worth it.

I think the best advice in that Vox article is to buy less house than you can afford. It’s tempting to get pre-approved for the biggest loan you can and, once you see that amazing condo / horse farm / converted 1830s mill, go a litttttle over-budget because what’s the harm? But in a couple of years, you and your partner might both decide to DWYL, at least part-time. You might get laid off, or get sick, or develop an itch to learn Spanish in Ecuador. Having low monthly mortgage payments will allow you so much more flexibility and room for experimentation in your lives. The pleasure that room will give you will be more lasting than the rec room with a wet bar in the basement.

GOOD ENOUGH Homes and Destinations: What You Get For $750,000

The Grey Lady is feeling, like, Iggy Azalea-level fancy this week. Her latest “Great Homes and Destinations” looks at “What You Get For … $1,750,000” and comes up with “a Richardsonian Romanesque mansion with six bedrooms, six full bathrooms and two half-baths.” I don’t know what “Richardsonian” means: not like Terry Richardson, I hope? But when the NYT actually calls something a mansion, you know they’re for serious.

The fireplace in the dining room is almost large enough to walk into. Off the kitchen is an octagonal sunroom with five large arched windows overlooking a pond. Bedrooms are upstairs. The master has a dressing room and French doors that open to a private deck. Two bedrooms have walk-in closets; one has a fireplace. Also on the second floor is an office. The third floor, reached from the original spiral staircase in the dining room, has four more bedrooms, with original wide-plank floors and built-in desks and storage. Downstairs in the walkout basement is a den with heated floors and another enclosed porch, with a fireplace.

OUTDOOR SPACE: The spring-fed pond is suitable for swimming and skating. There is a nine-stall barn with an apartment upstairs.

Skating on ponds always makes me think of Amy falling through the ice and Jo hesitating for a second about whether or not to save the brat who will one day go to Europe without her and marry Laurie. Here are some GOOD ENOUGH Homes and Destinations for $750,000: real estate suitable for the March family rather than Aunt Josephine.

Millennials and Tiny Houses: A Match Made in Heaven

What does it mean when the top mortgage salesman in the US can’t convince his own daughter to buy a house?

“We would drive around neighborhoods and he would point out houses,” chattering about curb appeal and prices, Sara said. “I’ve heard about this my whole life. In my head, I always figured at the age of 27 or 28 I’d buy.” She can, but hasn’t. She’s a legislative aide to Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat. Her fiancé, Dan Nee, is a software developer. Their jobs are steady and their combined income is $107,500. The car is paid for and dad is ready to help with a down payment. … [but] “A house is a five- to 10-year commitment,” Sara said. “I’m hesitant about diving in and feeling like I’m not financially ready.”

She and other millennials — the generation born beginning in the early 1980s — started coming of age just as housing collapsed. Sara was just out of college in 2009 when President Barack Obama put her dad in charge of the Federal Housing Administration. Part of his job was to lobby Congress not to dismantle the financial architecture that had made it possible for generations of Americans — including himself — to buy homes. He also was juggling pleas from family and friends who couldn’t pay their adjustable-rate mortgages or sell their devalued houses.

It means she’s a bloody genius, that’s what it means.

Let’s All Buy JD Salinger’s Old House, Have a Kegger

OK here’s a great idea: let’s all pitch in some cash, not too much, whatever we happen to have lying around, and buy the rural New Hampshire house where famous American hermit J.D. Salinger lived for a while. It’s for sale, according to Curbed, for less than $700,000, and it is super pretty.

As reported by the Valley News, Salinger purchased the place in 1953 after separating from his first wife, by which time he had achieved both critical and commercial success with the 1951 publication of The Catcher in the Rye. He made the move to Cornish from his apartment in Manhattan (300 57th Street), and it’s in the small New Hampshire town where his reputation as a recluse solidified, but according to a 2010 article in the New York Times, Salinger was a relatively active member of the community.

Salinger, who sold the house in the ’60s but stayed in town, is said to have voted in elections, attended town meetings at the Cornish Elementary School, and been a mainstay at $12 roast beef dinners at First Congregational Church in nearby Hartland, Vermont. Locals, embodying what one resident once described to the New York Times as “the code of the hills,” have boasted since his death in 2010 of misdirecting the throngs of eager English majors that came looking for their resident writer. According to the owner of a local general store, just how far these misdirections took Salinger pilgrims “depended on how arrogant they were.”

GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations: What You Get For $400K

The Gray Lady goes all Dr. Evil on us today and asks, “What can you get for … ONE MILLION DOLLARS?” But then she chooses the most boring places: California, Dallas, and New York. Wouldn’t you rather see what one million dollars would buy you in Las Cruces, or Toledo, or Indianapolis? Bah. Anyway, apparently six figures will get you a live-in history lesson in the Adirondacks:

a four-floor 1830s gristmill with two bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms, and a one-bedroom guest cottage … The owners retained the mill’s open, airy feel, with exposed stone walls, wide-plank wood floors and beam ceilings. Original fixtures and mill machinery were left throughout, including roller machines, huge grain funnels, a drive shaft and winnowers to separate grain from chaff. … The skylighted master bedroom suite takes up the fourth floor. Here, a whirlpool tub overlooks the waterfall. A ladder leads to a small sitting loft. The room has a wood stove in front of an exposed stone wall. The daylight basement is used as a workshop.

OK that does sound pretty awesome, especially the tub overlooking a waterfall part. Makes it almost worth living on a mountain 75 minutes outside of Albany.

But what if you don’t have one million to spend, especially since we all know, anyway, that one million dollars isn’t cool? I’m so glad you asked. Herewith, this week’s installment of GOOD ENOUGH Homes and Destinations: What You Get For $400,000.

You Will Totally Believe Everything In This Training Manual For Real Estate Brokers

A real estate broker with an unnamed firm left his training manual in the apartment of a one Mr. James Bell, who shares the best of it with all of us over at the Guardian. It is, well, it is what you would expect.

GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations: What You Get For $490,000

This week the NYT offers us glimpses of "What You Get For ... $4,900,000," including a five-bedroom townhouse in Old Town Alexandria with heart-pine floors, presumably made with real hearts.

GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations: What You Get For $175,000

The Grey Lady is getting predictable. Her “Great Homes & Destinations: What You Get For … [$X]” feature has used a seven-figure now so frequently it’s no longer even worth bristling over. This week the magic number is $1,700,000, barely different from last week’s $1,750,000. The real estate porn is similarly porny:

The property is a little more than 28 acres, with 13 paddocks. The grounds include a 53-tree fruit orchard with apples, pears, plums, apricots, cherries and peaches. … The chestnut-log portion of the house was built about 1764, with a stone addition in the 19th century. The entire interior was renovated within the last 10 years, and is now a riff on the original house. Much of the wall paneling is caulked or chinked random-width wood. Floors are white oak and salvaged brick, and many of the rooms also have exposed hickory ceiling beams. Period and salvaged materials were often used. For example, a blacksmith reproduced an old strap door hinge found in the kitchen. But there are some contemporary touches, such as the whimsical banister made of burls in the dining room and the living room cabinets faced with birch, cherry and poplar bark.

Do you have a “whimsical banister,” plebe? I thought not.

Here is a more accessible set of GOOD ENOUGH Homes and Destinations: What You Get For … $170,000. And, in honor of the study that went viral recently claiming cities in Louisiana are among the nation’s happiest, this will be the Gulf Coast edition.

GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations: What You Get For $110,000

If you paid $1.1 million for something that didn't have a waterfall, you're a chump.