We had the home inspection for the house in Newton yesterday. Whoa. While friends who own old houses have told us that they always have a long list of repairs and improvements, we had no idea of what that actually meant. This house happens to belong to a home inspector; even so, the list of problems that we received yesterday includes many items that need to be done soon, and some that will be very expensive. If we add up the crucial ones, and then add in the improvements and changes we hoped to make, it's mind-boggling.
Yesterday's session with the home inspector also helped us to realize how much time, energy and money it will take to simply care for the house and yard. And then there's the heating cost. We like to be very warm in the winter, and our gas heat is included in our condo fee, so we never think about it. This Newton house is large and expensive to heat even to 60 degrees in the winter (and 50 at night). I've seen the monthly bills for that piddly amount of warmth and they are high. So do we learn to freeze, or figure out how to handle a huge heating bill on top of our new mortgages and taxes and other expenses? We realize that we bundle up and huddle under throws in our apartment now, even with the thermostat set to 76 (at the behest of a neighbor who wants to feel even warmer than we do). How we'd manage in this house is an interesting question.
We also learned that installing central air conditioning would be out of the question for us, given the expense and amount of work. (I had this idea, from the Intertubes, that it wouldn't be so difficult. Ha.) The house is on a busy street, so it's best to keep the front and side windows closed to traffic noise and dirt. But window air conditioners just keep getting noisier, and New England summers seem to keep getting hotter and more unbearable without air conditioning. But I can't sleep with one in the bedroom, so we need to figure that out.
I'm trying to keep in mind that it's just another old house with the usual set of old-house issues. It all seems reasonable, in theory. But if we want a well-kept, clean, sound, and comfortable big old house, it's going to be much more work and expense than we realized.
Then there's the issue of the neighborhood. I'm not sure how easily I'd be able to get to know people there since we aren't churchgoers and have neither kids nor dogs, which are what bring most people together in the suburbs. We've been out there walking around, and it's a far cry from the city neighborhoods I know and love. There's a Whole Foods, a pharmacy, a bakery, and a few other shops snd restaurant within a half mile or so, but we're admittedly spoiled with a multitude of options here in the heart of Boston. (There's also a lake and a park, to stand in for the Charles River Esplanade and Public Garden.)
On the other hand, we'd have privacy and independence, and a measure of peace and quiet that is rare to find in a condominium. And we'd have a secluded patio of our own, something we've dreamed of for a very long time.
We need to decide soon, so we're weighing the costs and list of repairs, examining the floor plans and trying to decide whether we truly want to try suburban living. My lifelong dream of owning an old house and having a garden may finally come to pass, or I may decide that I'm a little told old for this sort of adventure. (The people who own this house are about our age, and they are downsizing.)
The cats are all very wisely keeping their opinions about all this private, although I'm sure they are desperate to speak up since we accidentally mentioned that there are mice in the attic.
I will keep you posted.