By: Revanche

What are your home dealbreakers?

March 13, 2017

On the trail of a likely home: Shh! We're huntin' houses![Part 2] We’ve been going over our priorities for a new home for weeks now. There are the obvious ones: near public transit, in good school districts, walkability score, safety.

Then there are the personal things: I don’t want anything with stairs, my joints need to avoid that kind of daily up and down. He wants something facing east.

What’s tough is that this market is unnerving and bizarre. Most listings are in contract within 7 days of the open house, if not sooner, typically sell forΒ  20% over their list price, and it’s not uncommon for them to go for more than that.

It’s such a seller’s market that we’re at a huge disadvantage making offers against people who have oodles and oodles of money. We can’t make an all cash offer, and we aren’t willing to go into a multi-million dollar loan. In some ways, it’s a good thing. We simply can’t be tempted to buy too much house! (And who wants to clean 5,000 square feet of living space??)

I looked into foreclosures but they’re priced just as badly, well north of $500K, and the buyers would have to take on the property as is. It’d be one thing if I were healthy, we can learn to be handy, but since I’m not, and we’re not renovation experts, that’s out.

We’re seeing some trustee sales which mean there’s less information available, but that doesn’t stop people from buying, and some are even buying sight unseen before the listing agent has a chance to host an open house!

Speaking of weird, I’ve even seen houses renovated without things like full showers or ovens. What? Who completely removes an oven from a kitchen? These Bay Area people, I don’t understand them. Who puts in a shower so narrow that I’d be claustrophobic in it? I’m tiny, and can fit into some bizarrely small places, but those showers are scary. Then there’s the places with almost mini-fridges. I think that’s an old timey thing, when fridges weren’t the monsters they are today, but we need our fridge space. We’re big eaters, here!

It’s strange, I tell ya.

The other half of my work this quarter is getting our place ready to sell, which means going through all kinds of disclosures that we’ll have to declare (nothing major, a few dents and scratches), and learning what sellers are required by law to declare.

One of the disclosures stood out to me: sellers must declare whether there’s been a death in the home in the last three years.

Would you be bothered if there had been a death in the home that you intended to buy, assuming it was because of natural causes?

I’m not sure if it would bother me, but I’m not sure we can afford to be picky about that, either πŸ˜€

As PiC said, “what are you gonna do when you’re bringing a knife to a gun fight?”Β  (Me: “Bring TWO knives!”)Β  We are enormous dorks.

Edit to add information people have shared on Twitter

Death doesn’t seem to bother anyone but you have to actually asked if meth was ever made in the home, they aren’t necessarily required to disclose that, and you can still get sick even after it’s been cleared out.


:: Would you consider a home that didn’t have a built in stove, oven, dishwasher, or fridge? What would you be willing to give up? When’s the last time you had to go home-hunting?

Before: Background, Part 1

Next on our Home Buying Adventure: Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11


42 Responses to “What are your home dealbreakers?”

  1. I’ve noticed that duplexes in your area seem to stay on the market longer.

    In one of the properties my father used to own the husband shot the wife to death in the study. He ended up donating the property to the local university there and taking the tax deduction rather than selling. (They did get the carpet replaced first…)

    In graduate school we had rentals with mini-stove/ovens, without dishwashers, and only having space for a mini-fridge. We bought a regular-sized fridge and put it in the living room. I am very glad to have a dishwasher and a full size stove/oven. The mini-stove isn’t so bad, but the mini-oven is kind of a pain. Also very glad to have a w/d in home.

    It would be extremely difficult for us to move back to an apartment building with shared walls and ceiling/floors. We were lucky we didn’t have to last year.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted…Why DH’s retirement account sent us a check for >$3000My Profile

    • Revanche says:

      You might be right, I haven’t seen any duplexes. There was one quadplex but that was listed for just a couple of weeks. I was tempted…

      Wow, your dad’s experience!

      I do so much oven cooking, I’d have to find a way to get one put in.

  2. When I was a kid, we moved from California to Maryland. When we arrived, it turned out that we now owned two refrigerators–the one we’d brought with us, and the one that came with the house. Apparently in Maryland (at the time–it’s been decades, so who knows?) it was illegal to sell a house without a refrigerator.

    I really don’t get how California determines what is and is not legal in terms of housing. If it can’t count as a bedroom without a closet, how can it count as a kitchen without the standard features that let you store and prepare food?
    Tragic Sandwich recently posted…Fat TuesdayMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      State housing laws are so strange!

      I wonder if we would be looked at weirdly if we DID sell our place with a refrigerator and washer dryer. I don’t know if that’s normal here, that’s another question to ask.

    • Leah says:

      Yes, I was shocked when my brother told me he had to buy a fridge for his rental in LA. What? Such a weird, weird law there. I suppose it helps landlords not be out a ton of money when a fridge goes out. In Michigan, my landlord had to give me a rent credit for spoiled food when our fridge died. Only $50, and I had to finagle to get that, but it was technically in the law (tho the amount wasn’t mentioned).
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  3. Joe says:

    Good luck. It’s a tough market. My brother wants a house too, but it’s just too expensive in the Bay Area.
    I thought the market is cooling down, but apparently not from what you’re saying. We have a European style fridge. It’s smaller than the normal US fridges, but it works for us.

    • Revanche says:

      It’s really expensive. I hope not prohibitively, but it sure feels that way, especially with the tales of it taking dozens of offers to land one.

  4. eemusings says:

    Yeah when people say ‘buy a do up’ or ‘townhouse/apartment’ that’s still over 500k here! Gah.

    Houses for sale aren’t generally too bad (aside from being very out of date and falling apart) but in rentals I have seen carpeted kitchens and no stove or oven just a hot plate… My parents have no oven as they built their house and just don’t use ovens in their day to day (not common in my birth country).

    Whiteware (so fridge washing machine) are not usually included in sales or rentals. Stoves / ovens are I would say less portable, and ditto with dishwashers (although dishwashers are rare).

    What is a not full shower? I can guarantee you would freak out about our bathroom though ha. Shower only and the bathroom is barely big enough to turn around in.

    My deal breakers – sharing a driveway with too many other houses (have own drive at and it’s great). Prefer single level, and generally flat ground. Need some degree of outdoor living space and ideally some greenery (grass, trees).

    Deaths (natural) wouldn’t bother me but a suspicious death would.
    eemusings recently posted…Link love (the reminiscing edition)My Profile

    • Revanche says:

      No stove or oven? GOOD GRIEF. I mean, I can sort of understand, my parents didn’t use ovens too much, but to also eliminate a stove just boggles my mind.

      The shower I saw looked like it was MAYBE 18-20 inches across!

  5. Linda says:

    One of the houses I looked at here in Napa actually did have someone die in the home. And he was murdered, too. It was sort of a fluke crime; there aren’t a lot of murders in Napa, much less ones in homes. The agent had to disclose that to me by law. I didn’t end up buying that house, not so much because of the murder but because of the weird layout.

    While the kitchen did have full appliances, there was no room for the refrigerator in the kitchen as it had been remodeled. You had to walk around the corner and about 10 feet down a short hallway to get to the laundry area and a location for the refrigerator. That was an odd location, but there truly was no place to fit it in the kitchen unless one wanted to remodel and relocate walls.

    I’ve lived without a dishwasher for large portions of my life, but I vastly prefer having one. I could not live without an oven and cooktop or combined range. I cook a lot. And no fridge? No way. I can’t go shopping for fresh food every day. I also would have a hard time adjusting to living without a washer and dryer again. Lugging stuff to a laundry center or dueling for washers and dryers in a common laundry room really sucks.

    Tragic Sandwich’s comment about refrigerators points to one oddity of California: it’s quite common to need to move your own refrigerator from place to place, even if you’re renting. I was astounded by this. In all my years living in and around Chicago in apartments, condos, and houses, a refrigerator was always included in the price of the rental or sale. It was rare not to have all appliances — including a washer and dryer — not included in home sales.

    I hope your house-hunting luck improves.
    Linda recently posted…The housing updateMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      I did not expect to have as many as two of you who knew of murders in a prospective or owned home!

      That reminded me that I did spend time in a country where not having a fridge was the norm. It hugely changes the rhythms of your day to day life.

      You know, it never occurred to me that it’s weird to have to bring your own fridge because we always did so. It IS weird when you think about it.

  6. andee says:

    I know for a fact someone died in our house. Our neighbor is a nurse and she came over and checked to see if he was gone while the EMS was on the way. It doesn’t bother me a bit.

    • Revanche says:

      I’m a little surprised that so many of us aren’t that bothered by natural death. But I guess if you don’t know the person, it feels less like a fraught issue.

  7. SP says:

    We didn’t make a list at the onset, but came across some deal breakers as we looked:
    – Major renovations / “contractors specials” were not suitable for us. We needed it to be move in ready.
    – Seismic soundness was a priority. We toured some houses with sloped floors, which was a “NOPE!”, but also toured some nice-seeming houses that were on fault lines or in liquefaction zones.
    – We really really wanted a 3/2, but were willing to settle for a 2/2 if we were priced out of the market for 3/2s
    – no gigantic long stairs from the parking location to the entry of the house

    I don’t think I could have done with a mini fridge or mini oven.

    It is very likely one or both of the married original owners of my house died in the house. Another family had it in between so it wouldn’t fall into the disclosures.

    One of our showers is really small. I measured it just yesterday since we have to retile it soon, and it is about 33 x 33 inches. I’ve used it and it doesn’t bother me, but I typically use our other normal size shower.
    SP recently posted…February Wrap-upMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      We’re finding that our list grows as we look, too!

      How did you vet for seismic soundness? I feel like I might have asked this before, sorry if I have!

      The shower that I saw in that one listing seemed to be around 18-20 inches, MAYBE 24 inches across. It was awfully tiny.

      • SP says:

        Well, we are from the Midwest and paranoid about these things. Real Californians seem to assume it will work out and they are probably right. But – ideally, a home is on bedrock, and not in a liquefaction zone, and not in an earthquake induced landslide zone, and not on a fault line very very close to one.

        There are USGS maps of shaking hazard, earthquake induced landslides, and and liquefaction zones. If a home is in an official hazard zone, it will be in the disclosures. If this is a deal-breaker for you, it saves a little time by knowing where these zones are in advance. I will have to do some remembering of exactly where I found them, but I had the local “earthquake induced landslide” maps bookmarked since this was a common issue in the areas where we were looking. I think googling the city your are looking in and hazard maps should do it, although i do remember finding an easier to use map at some point. Most easy to find are pdf “quadrangle” maps.

        We also hired a geologist to evaluate the property / foundation during the inspection period, and later paid for earthquake retrofitting. Many competitive offers pre-inspect or waive inspection contingencies – so not sure if that is realistic.

        But also, we just ran away from houses that had slanted floors or were on top of a fault, or known active landslide areas! Realistically, pretty much all of the bay (and much of Cali) has very high shaking hazards, so just be sure that normal precautions are taken (secure water heater, etc.)

        Our friends are under contract for a $1.2M house in a liquefaction zone – so clearly not everyone is as paranoid about this stuff.
        SP recently posted…February Wrap-upMy Profile

        • Revanche says:

          I’m Californian through and through but I feel the same way as you do. This is a HUGE asset / liability to risk. We carry earthquake insurance but that’s simply not enough for my peace of mind. Thanks for the extra info!

      • SP says:

        Also, it seemed most houses we saw were to be sold with appliances, but rentals did not always come with fridges.

        I too found this bizarre and inefficient. We bought a used fridge for our rental on Craigslist, then sold on Craigslist when we moved out. I assume whoever moved into our rental next had to do the same. I don’t get it. Fridges are hard to transport, and used fridges must be transiting all over california’s cities. Why???
        SP recently posted…February Wrap-upMy Profile

  8. We DID buy a house without a dishwasher, and spent years handwashing. (Well, Jon did most of the dishwashing.) And even though we installed one, it meant we had to move our fridge into an awkward space. Our plan is to do several more adjustments, and the dishwasher install was just phase one, but we’ve made little other progress.

    We also have a tiny claustrophobic master bath. Bothers Jon to no end, so last month he took all the shelves down as phase one of that project. I’m guessing it will be fixed around 2023.

    That said, we got a predominantly one-story house (big incentive after I tumbled down the stairs right after I found out Little Bit was coming) in a terrific neighborhood with great schools on a bit over an acre for a reasonable price. And that was largely because the house is so dated.
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    • Revanche says:

      Would you believe that we have a great dishwasher and still handwash?

      We’re having trouble finding a one-story here but I feel strongly about getting that. My knees!

      How many projects do you have on the list?

  9. Anne says:

    The oven thing is hilarious. Friends once bought a house from the online listing (they were moving back to a town so she could do her PhD, so knew the neighbourhoods and whatnot already). When they arrived, they also discovered that their newly renovated kitchen did not have an oven. They bought a fancy pants BBQ to sort of make up for it. It was SUPER weird, because the kitchen was max 2 years old, but apparently the previous owners weren’t into ovens??
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    • Revanche says:

      That’s brave – I don’t think I’d dare buy just going by the listing now that I’ve seen how people manipulate photos here!

  10. Do they assume buyers would want to get their own appliances anyway or something?? Still doesn’t explain a tiny shower…

  11. Jax says:

    No oven?! How? Why? No, I could not live without an oven in my kitchen.

    We bought a house across the street from a cemetery. We loved how quiet it is and how beautiful it looks when it snows, but we did ask ourselves whether that would affect the resell value of the house. I don’t think anyone has died in our house, but it’s possible. We’re only the third owner and the first record of the house is from 1950 but I think that’s just when our city decided to start recording. The wife died in 2012 and it was a rental for 2 years before we died. I would not be surprised if the husband died in the house.
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    • Revanche says:

      Honestly! I can’t either. But having to install one wouldn’t be so crappy if the rest of the house wasn’t so expensive.

      There are some neighborhoods around here that are nothing BUT cemetaries so apparently it doesn’t faze people.

  12. I’d buy a place where the appliances were taken out as long as the hookups were kept since we basically had to replace all our appliances anyway. Though out here it’s very unusual for a house to be sold without appliances included. I’d also buy a house with a recent death as long as it wasn’t because of a problem with the house like asbestos or high crime rate in the area. Not actually sure someone hasn’t died in our place (apparently our parlor was originally a wake room???).

    My deal breakers were bad location, serious foundation issues, dark/no sunlight, no back yard, oil heating, and no gas line to the kitchen. Everything else was basically fine. 30 year old roof? Replaced. Bad neighbors? Whatever, we got earplugs. Oh you want my first born child? You’d be doing us a favor, not like we can afford daycare out here anyway!

    • Revanche says:

      I was also surprised to find that any house older than 30 years is just expected to have asbestos and lead paint and you have to just leave it alone to avoid spreading it. I really hated that part.

      Those are pretty good dealbeakers!

      • We almost certainly have lead paint all over the woodwork in our house since it’s over a century old. Full remediation is expensive and we’re likely to kick up more lead dust trying to replace all the woodwork than just leaving it be. So we’re leaving it alone too. Apparently there have been studies in our area, and you’re likely to have higher lead concentrations in air just on a random street corner than in your average old home, so it feels pretty fruitless to try anyway.

      • Bat Wiiiitch says:

        My agent said if it had lead paint, don’t eat it, but don’t teat it down to find out… LOLReference

  13. Ann says:

    We’ve purchased homes with appliances in them. This was generally fine to start with since they were operational. However, in all cases we purchased new energy-saving appliances or upgraded what was in the home when we bought it (e.g., a kitchen top stove and separate tiny oven that wouldn’t hold a cookie sheet was replaced with a full-size stove/oven combination).
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    • Revanche says:

      I think we’re going to replace a few appliances, too, when we buy. Stoves seem to come standard, in varying degrees of quality, but we’ll find out about the refrigerator when the time comes πŸ™‚

  14. I’ll admit that I’d be creeped out to know that someone had recently died here. I’m the type of person who asks if the place is haunted. The meth thing is crazy and should be addressed by lawmakers.

    Our house has no hook up to public water, no well, no cistern. We thought the cistern was reparable, but nope. Wish I’d asked more questions about that!
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    • Revanche says:

      That reminds me of when a small child I babysat would tell us stories about playing with “Ron”. It later turned out she thought Ron was a ghost that lived in her walls. Never was sure if she was serious or just imagining things!

      Goodness, where do you get your water from, then?

  15. Femme says:

    This makes me super grateful to live in one of the best housing markets in the country–and we’re still not ready to buy! I think the death thing would freak me out a bit. It would depend what the natural causes were, I suppose.
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    • Revanche says:

      You just keep on waiting ’til you are ready! πŸ™‚

      Natural causes don’t bother me so much as unnatural causes, and that’s just that little superstitious bit in me that doesn’t QUITE discount karma-type things.

  16. A death wouldn’t necessarily bother me. In fact, the previous owner of my condo died of natural causes in it, and we bought the unit from his family. That was nearly 10 years ago, and I’m planning to stay put so no house-hunting for me.

    Sorry to hear your market is so outrageous. I cannot believe a home would sell without an oven or a full-size shower. That’s just crazy!

    • Revanche says:

      We’ve seen homes sell without any fixtures and all the wiring ripped out of walls, so it’s a heck of a market!

  17. I would definitely think the meth thing should have to be disclosed over the death thing. My grandmother died in our house but it was because we were providing home hospice care and she had a terminal disease – literally nothing to do with house in any way. It seems crazy that should have to be disclosed.
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    • Revanche says:

      It seems they have to answer honestly if you ask the direct question about whether meth was made there, but they’re not required to volunteer that information.

      Same for my grandmother – I assume they can share cause of death to point out that it was just natural causes.

  18. Bat Wiiiitch says:

    We are also trying to buy, and although the prices are proportionally smaller, the issues remain the same. Lack of appliances, especially in foreclosures, is a common thread. Some houses built in the 50’s or prior, have no dishwashers. This house we are currently renting had to have one put in before they started renting it out to us. There are FHA regulations which state something about “carpet” is a must if the property had carpet, and it currently doesn’t have it, needs a renovation (rehab) loan to fix. We’re going to get a conventional loan, so that’s not the problem. Some of the places we’ve looked at are bank owned, and they aren’t going to fix the issues that need to be fixed, such as roofing, carpeting, appliances, etc.
    Here’s our deal breakers:
    No railroad tracks within 1 mile, no highways near without noise reduction, no CASH ONLY, No 203K/rehab loans (major rebuilding), no HOA, no mobile home parks (space rent). As no one’s getting younger, we’d like to be near a medical center, instead of way out in the country. High speed internet access (not DSL) is also a must, as my husband needs it for his job. (also negates “out in the country”). There’s a few others but they are mostly trivial things we’ve found along the way, like one was in a 55+ “community” and i can’t just grow 4 years older:).
    On the death thing: We had a neighbor down the block who was murdered by her son. Oregon doesn’t have that “murder house” clause in disclosures, so… in September the house was sold for 155K (this is already out of our price range). The flippers came through and made everything lovely and sold it last month for 229K. So, they people with cash keep coming through.
    Another example. We bid on a house that had *slight* roof problems, no carpet, but was otherwise a beautiful home priced at 116K. We offered 130K because i wanted this house, and figured we could get it. Someone came in with 165K CASH. I was devastated, and totally put off looking. As for something my agent found, we called it “the blue house”. here’s the link. Google mapping the address, you will find a railroad track ACROSS THE STREET, (in addition to a power station), the “yard” is cement. so.. there’s our choices:(Reference

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