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  • Writer's pictureJessica Nacovsky

74: Observations while Surfing Trulia

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

simple graphic of house

Howdy! My husband's been casually surfing Trulia for the past couple of years. Whenever we're in a nice neighborhood, for an estate sale or whatever, he'll open the app and have a little looksie. Now me, I am incapable of having a passing interest. I either care a great deal or not at all, unfortunately. The internet's been cracking jokes about a potential housing market collapse (so it is foretold, so it shall be) and I figured I'd see what's out there. Unlike my husband, I did not narrow my search to local neighborhoods.

At first, I scanned the entire continental US. Then, as we chatted over where we want to live (closer to family on the East Coast), I excluded the West Coast, then the Mid-West, and finally, everywhere but New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia and Ohio. While our families live largely on Long Island, in New York, we also have family upstate, and in Florida. My husband's been hoping for Florida, but frankly, the houses are more expensive there than in those remaining states. We also would have been open to more states bordering New York but they have high taxes. Frankly, I don't have strong feelings about taxes. I mean, somebody has to pay for infrastructure, schools, and the like, right? And while I'm no Democrat (Green Party if anything), I get along better with liberals than right wingers, so socially, higher-taxed states are a better fit for my personality and belief system. But marriage is a compromise, and my husband is correct in that every money saved is money we can use for something else (like travel, or mutual aid where we know the money is going directly to the people in need, as opposed to getting tied up in administration costs).

I first set the budget between $50-100K, then shifted it to $50-$130K, occasionally going as high as $150K. Ideally, the mortgage payments will be less than our current rent. We will not buy in an HOA. We've been warned against newer assembly line properties, and would prefer a home that was intended as such from the get-go, rather then some kind of financial investment. Some search terms I've used include, "victorian," "tudor," "gothic," "queen anne," "craftsman," "tradesman," "stained glass," "transom." "leaded glass," "pergola," and "parquet." Mainly, we want a house with good bones, that's been maintained hopefully by generations of family as opposed to renters, with some details that give off a little personality. Does the house have to be old? Nah. But if it looks like it has ever received the "landlord special," I'm outie. Rule of thumb, any landlord that primered over the crown moldings, light switches, dead insects and gum, is the kind of landlord who's tenants would feel justified dripping bacon grease and coffee grounds down the plumbing.

We wont be able to seriously start the process of buying a house until February at the earliest, but because of who I am as a person (broken, obviously), I already have a selection of 20+ houses saved. There were many more but I've been disqualifying properties as I go. if you're trying to sell a house, this list of disqualifying factors may interest you. If the house doesn't have a fridge, oven, washer, and dryer, hard pass. I don't want the house if I've got to figure out new appliances. Period. That's a whole ordeal during the move-in process on top of traveling across the country separately from all of our belongings and doing without until they arrive. Nope. Does the house need minor construction? Then it's not for us. Move-in ready or bust. I don't know how to fix janky cracks in the floor, or mold in the ceiling, or any of that nonsense. That's a big factor in why I don't want a property that was rented out or flipped. Landlords and flippers will just paid right over mold. Scratched up floors are fine, even if they're laminate, but water stains are a no-go. Husband is convinced that means mold. If he sees a long crack in the driveway or anywhere in the foundation, that suggests greater structural issues so that's a pass from us.

I'm excluded homes for social reasons too. I there is a MAGA sign out front, a Confederate Flag, or hand written bible verses on poster board like you see at "pro-life" protests, those don't indicate great things about the neighborhood. If you're not crazy, I don't care about your guns. But when you have a massive sign out front calling all gay people horrific slurs and condemning them to your imaginary hell, yeah, you probably shouldn't be armed (and doubtless are). Anyway, good luck selling ~that~ house.

Murals are fine, even tacky ones. Worst comes to work, covering those up will be a fun creative project. Husband isn't a fan of red carpeting or walls, but we aren't disqualifying homes for that. Color can be fun. When the house is all beige and white, grey and white, or blue and grey, especially with the grey laminate floors that are so popular, it reeks of being flipped.

Ideally, the house should have a fenced in yard, off-street parking, AC and heating, but we can budge on the AC up north, and off-street parking if the neighborhood is safe and lively.

I get physically offended when a place is obviously falling apart and the sellers have had the audacity to raise the price, or when the blurb mentioned unfinished rooms but doesn't include pictures of those spaces. The places with only one picture, usually from Google Street View, are an immediate pass. Also hate when the blurb mentions the housing needing work but not stating what work is needed nor where on the property. Rest assured though, the property is being sold as-is!

Trulia also has a lot of issues regarding functionality. It's impossible to bulk-unlike properties. On the computer, it takes two-clicks to unlike each property. On mobile, it's one but then the entire list reloads. saved search settings always forget "No HOA Fees" so that needs to be re-included every single search. It's impossible to look at saved properties on a map, excluding unsaved properties. There is no option to exclude certain words from searches, such as "pool" or "mobile home" (a deal breaker for my husband). The app spams me with daily updates for properties I've already unsaved. The mobile map does not indicate state boundaries which is super frustrating. There is no way to search amongst saved properties for key words, nor to separate out those that are "pending," "under contract," "accepting backups," etc, other than scrolling to manually un-save them. They also got rid of the crime map which sucks.

One feature Trulia should definitely add is listing if the previous resident was a smoker. One of our old apartments was rented by a smoker for like a decade. He was good about not smoking inside except in the bathroom. But that bathroom was icky brownish yellow and smelled. I tried cleaning to walls but no amount of wiping would get the walls clean and every time one of us took a shower, the wall perspired tar droplets. it was disgusting. I'd prefer not to buy a home from a smoker and assume other nonsmokers feel likewise.

We have not begun trying to buy a house. There was one we asked to see, with the intention of buying, but it was already pending, and had seven back up offers. The agent also wouldn't answer the question of whether the property was reserved for senior citizens since they had "senior community" selected when we moved beyond the blurb to read up more on the property, on the Trulia website (Misclick? Maybe). That's the experience so far. Thanks for stopping by. I hope any of this was interesting. I drop a new blog post every Monday. Toodles!

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