House-Hunting in Grosse Pointe: The Short List

In my last post, I revealed that we already found a home here in Grosse Pointe (we close next week!). Here, I’ll show you the homes that were on our short list, and give the reasons why they didn’t make the cut.

RADNOR CIRCLE

homes.radnorhomes.radnorbackRadnor Circle is little street in a quiet neighborhood very close to “The Hill,” a shopping district about three blocks long (coffee shop, a few restaurants, a high-end shoe store, Brooks Brothers, a couple banks, a real estate company, Rite Aid, kitchen showroom, and a handful of businesses that end with “Associates,” “& Company,” or “Enterprises.”).

The house was (yes it’s still standing. It just makes more sense for this story to put it in the past tense) 3100 square feet with four bedrooms and built in 1950. It had a huge backyard and what seemed to be great neighbors, one of whom was tending to her raspberry bushes the day we looked at the house.

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The kitchen overlooked the backyard (my ultimate), but the style wasn’t my favorite (I’m highlighting kitchens because it’s the most important room in the house to me). The home was in okay condition, but needed updates. The master bath was tiny (my husband gets claustrophobic, especially with bathrooms and especially when our two little girls insist on being in the bathroom with him at the same time) and two of the bedrooms had low ceilings (the husband would have to duck). There was also no family room (though there was a sunroom extension off the dining room, but it would not be usable during winter).

Ultimately, there were too many dislikes and we also felt it was priced a little high (and since we first looked at it, the price has been lowered twice and is still on the market at the time of this post).

N. DEEPLANDS

homes.deeplandshomes.deeplandsbackNorth Deeplands lies in the city of Grosse Pointe Shores. It’s right off Lake Shore Drive and not too far north, which makes it a desirable location for most. The home was built in 1959, and was 3800 square feet with four bedrooms. One cool thing was that it shared a backyard fence with my husband’s dad’s final home – something which felt comforting and was definitely a plus.

homes.deeplandsbarhomes.deeplandsentryhomes.deeplandskiWe quite liked this place and went back and forth about it for a long time. The rooms were dated, but there was something about the way the house flowed that felt right (good ju-ju). Loved the wet bar in the family room and the fact that the kitchen overlooked the backyard.

The bedrooms were fine, but the room that sat above the garage was slanted and odd and if I remember correctly, the upstairs bathroom situation was also weird. And no fifth bedroom for my husband’s home office, which would mean he would have to work in the basement, which was not ideal, especially in this case.

The house price was lowered one time, and is now off the market, which hopefully means it was sold to a great family who will love it there.

RATHBONE PLACE

homes.rath homes.rathbackWe were “this close” to placing a bid on Rathbone. In fact, we called our realtor, told her we wanted to make an offer and met her at the property to see it one last time. The home sat on a dead end private street (meaning the residents living on that street were responsible for repair, snow plowing, etc) in the city of Grosse Pointe. The street itself is beautiful, lined with large stately homes (most much larger than the one we were looking at). It was 3200 square feet and built in 1956.

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The home had many great updates, but unfortunately, not in the style that we prefer. Lots of dark and lots of gold. The selling agent made a point of telling us that all the fixtures in the home were recently updated to brass (which we would have switched out first thing). Still, the home was well taken care of, something that is a huge selling point for us.

The best thing about this place was the backyard. A built-in fireplace, new patio, lots of space and a “secret” doorway to access the city park, which was just over the backyard fence. When we first viewed the house, we didn’t pay much attention to the park, but the second time we went there (the day we were planning on placing a bid), it was Memorial Day. From the backyard, we could see and hear the 30+ groups of people enjoying their holiday. As my husband pointed out, it was a happy kind of noise and something we probably wouldn’t notice after a while. Me, I wasn’t so sure. I felt exposed and hesitant to share my living space with all of Grosse Pointe.

We talked it over that night and decided not to make an offer. My husband wasn’t in love with it, so he was fine letting it go. Plus, it was at the high end of our price range, which would mean we could do very little in terms of remodeling or decorating. It sold a few weeks later.

 STEPHENS

homes.stephenshomes.stephensbackStephens is a coveted street in Grosse Pointe Farms. Meaning that if you say you live on Stephens, people might say, “oh!” Meaning, it’s a very picturesque area, with beautiful (and expensive) homes. This particular home was the Canadian consulate. It was in pristine condition and everything was redone. It had a great open floor plan with sliding doors off the family and dining rooms. At 4600 square feet and six bedrooms, it was a little out of our price range comfort zone, but we looked at it anyway.

homes.stephensliving homes.stephenskitch homes.stephensentryMy husband really liked the spacious rooms and the fact that he would be able to have an office not in the basement (which actually would have been a great place for an office – it was finished like a main floor). And yes the kitchen had the best appliances and cabinets, but the whole place felt very sterile to me and I’m not sure that could have been remedied with decor (which we wouldn’t have been able to afford anyway, had we bought the house).

We didn’t have to discuss it long, though, because two days after we looked at it, our realtor called and said the sellers had received multiple offers (one of which they accepted later that day). It had been on the market for three days.

CLOVERLY

homes.cloverlyhomes.cloverlybackCloverly is a street one block parallel to Stephens. Another coveted street in Grosse Pointe Farms. Of all the places we saw, we loved Cloverly the most. It had a gorgeous facade, big backyard and lots of character. It was built in 1929, was 4200 square feet and had five bedrooms. The owners took excellent care of the place and it showed.

homes.cloverlyliving homes.cloverlykitch homes.cloverlyfamiliyBUT….the garage was small. It wouldn’t fit the motorcycle and it probably wouldn’t have fit both of our cars, or if it did, no one would be able to open any doors. The kitchen needed updates and it faced the street. And it was segregated from the rest of the house (being part of the servants, area back in the day) so whoever was cooking (me) would be totally alone (and not be able to keep an eye on the kids). And, if again I’m recalling correctly, I think this is the home where the basement ceiling was also quite low, which meant more ducking for the husband.

No matter how much we tried to justify its shortcomings, we could not bring ourselves to place a bid. After our first walk-through (I think we did three?), the owners lowered the price by $25,000 (or $30. Something like that). It sold shortly afterwards.

We still look longingly at the Cloverly house when we drive by. It was the one that got away. Fortunately. Because Lord knows I would not be happy up in that kitchen.

 

 

House-Hunting in Grosse Pointe

homes.mansion2

I have a confession to make. We’ve actually already bought a house (no, not the one above, sadly). BUT we haven’t closed on it yet, so I don’t want to jinx anything by posting much about it. I will tell you that when we first saw the house, we nixed it off the list. But more about all that later.

When it comes to describing homes in Grosse Pointe, the words “formal,” “traditional” and “decorative” are at the top of the list. If you want a mansion, there’s one waiting for you here in Grosse Pointe. All these beauties below (and the one above) are on the market right now…

homes.mansion homes.mansion3.4 homes.mansion3

Our needs (and budget) don’t call for a mansion or anything close. Just wanted to give you an idea of the larger homes in the area. Most of the larger estates line the waterfront, with a view of the beautiful Lake St. Clair, but many can also be found inland.

Moving on. Many of the homes currently for sale were last updated in the 60s, 70s or 80s, so the interiors leave much to be desired. At least by me. Although we have seen some homes that were recently updated and they also seemed to be heavy and ornate for my taste (we’re not in Northern California anymore, that’s for sure).

Some trends I’ve found:

1) Pool Tables. Grosse Pointers love them a game of pool, apparently. Usually the pool table is found in the basement or a wood-paneled room (which is another big trend – lots and lots of wood. The darker the better.).

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2) Grosse Pointers also love roosters in the kitchen.

homes.chicken homes.chicken4 homes.chicken3 homes.chicken2

3) And stone fireplaces. (and maroon leather couches. That one came up a few times, too.)

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4) Matchy-matchy. Especially matching curtains to other pieces of furniture (bedspreads, chairs, couches).

homes.matchinghomes.decor3homes.matching2

5) Telling stories on the walls. With paint.

homes.painting homes.painting2

6) Wallpaper. I don’t think I saw one wallpapered room my entire 18 years in San Francisco. Here, it’s everywhere, in every house. Maybe just one room, maybe the entryway and hey, maybe on the ceiling because why not? I have to say that the whole concept of wallpaper is growing on me and I’m actually considering redecorating the new downstairs bathroom with some funky wallpaper (what is happening to me?).

homes.wallpaperceilinghomes.wallpaper homes.wallpaperceiling2

7) General over-the-top-ness. Let’s put down three Persian rugs in the sitting room! On top of each other! Or, wherever are we going to put our hundreds of wine glasses? I know! Let’s build an entire room for them. Made of dark wood, of course.

homes.overthetop homes.overthetop2homes.decor2

8) Black toilets. And sinks. And bathtubs.

homes.blackbath homes.blackbath2

9) The “I hired a designer” look. And by “I hired a designer” I mean, “I hired a Grosse Pointe designer.” Though I am sort of loving the pink chairs. Loving.

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10)  One of the trends I think is great is that many of the family rooms or dens here have built in bars. Useful and fun.

homes.bar (518x376)Many of the photos above were taken from homes we didn’t see, but some were taken from homes we did walk through and put on our shortlist (and one of the photos is from our new house!). House-hunting in Grosse Pointe has been a fun adventure (house buying, that’s a different story). It’s much harder to picture a house as your own when it’s not cleaned up and staged, but I’m glad they don’t bother with that here. I love looking through a home and seeing how it’s been lived in. How it was loved. (And sometimes how it was neglected).

There’s something surreal about walking into a stranger’s home. All their things, just out there. What bedspread they picked out, what kind of clothes they wear, which photographs they have on their mantel, what kind of pasta sauce they use. House-hunting has given me some insight into the people of Grosse Pointe (said as if they are aliens). Some are conservative and uptight, some are showy and want to be seen, some are laid back and comfortable, some are fun and eccentric, and some are busy and frazzled. I hope our new home will be a true reflection of who we are, too. Funky downstairs bathroom wallpaper and all.

*All photos taken from Trulia.com.

 

 

 

Twelve More Things I’ve Learned (about Grosse Pointe).

Lake St. Clair

Lake St. Clair

A few weeks after we moved here, I made a list of twelve things I’ve learned about Grosse Pointe. Now that another two months have gone by, I’ve learned a few more things:

  1. Wow. Your bedspread matches your curtains. In every room. (More on house-hunting in another post.)

  2. The electric oven is eons better than the gas oven. There, I said it.

  3. Everyone I’ve talked to has warned me about the vigilant and prominent police presence. Above all, do NOT speed, they say. Police are everywhere. Okay, done. So why does everyone ride so close to my bumper? Stop tailing me. Where are you even going? I would say that every time I get on the road, someone gets all up on me at least once. Some old guy in a Jaguar actually passed me the other day on a 25 mph road.

  4. I knew produce was going to be sad. Still. My one girlfriend here (also a California transplant) said to me with a shrug of her shoulders, “I hate to say this, but you really just have to…you know, lower your standards.” Now when I buy avocados, I buy at least five at a time, in case the first two I cut open aren’t usable.

benchpark
5. Lazy summer evenings are easily one of my top five most favorite things in life.  Oh how I’ve missed you, Summertime! Contrary to popular belief, San Francisco does not have a true summer. Certain pockets of the city might, but much of the city is covered in fog and cold during the months of June, July and August. Which is why tourist stores display their “I heart San Francisco” sweatshirts at the front of their shops in summer. And why I continue to see Facebook photos of my friends wearing parkas.

6.Kids live here! Sure, kids live in San Francisco, too, but you don’t really see them. It’s hard to explain. In Grosse Pointe, kids are everywhere and they’re made to feel like part of the community. Often kids are unaccompanied or even alone. I’m talking about little kids… five- and six-year olds taking their dog for a walk around the block or riding a bike up and down the street.

7.Running along the lake is just as great as running through Golden Gate Park. Although the dirt paths in the park were a little easier on the knees – yikes.

8.Seriously, stop tailing me already!

9.I may never eat good Chinese food again (unless I’m in Hawaii or San Francisco or London. Or maybe China).

10.Trader Joe’s is the only store that sells organic milk that is not ultra-pasteurized. I’ve looked everywhere. If you don’t know the difference between pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized, you can check out this explanation at Musings of a Housewife.

11.What’s that smell? Oh, it’s just pesticide. You know, a bunch of chemicals that are harmful to people and animals. It is pretty much on every front lawn. sigh

12.When all else fails, go for a bunny walk. This has helped stave off many a meltdown at our house. We haven’t actually seen any bunnies on these walks (although oh my gosh you guys, I saw a little baby bunny in our backyard last week. It was sooooo cute!) I’m sure the huge, black dog has something to do with that. But we have seen many from the car on our bunny drives.

I’m enjoying these lists. I may just make it a regular thing.

Sold!

 

condo

Our (former) San Francisco home. Top floor.

We are no longer San Francisco homeowners. We closed on Monday!

The real estate market in San Francisco is beyond crazy right now. In order to sell our place, we shelled out 5K for a new paint job (inside) and another 5K for staging, and multiple other dollars for cleaning, gardening and a hardwood floor repair and polish. Was it worth it? Absolutely. It sold for well over the asking price.

livingroom

The living room, all pimped out.

After all the primping, the selling process was quick and easy. We had two weekends of open houses, a few agent showings and accepted bids on one day only (that’s the way it works, there. You do not accept any bids before the official date). I have to say that even with things being the way they are, we were still a little nervous about how everything would turn out. Selling your home is a stressful process, no matter what market you’re in.

kitchen

The kitchen, looking into the dining room.

dining

Dining room looking into living room and foyer.

2ndbed

Second bedroom and office nook.

backyard

The backyard.

Speaking of the crazy housing market, did you hear about the 3-unit building in Pacific Heights that went for $1.7 million OVER ASKING? According to Curbed SF, the list price was $2.095 million and went for $3.801 million, which means that it sold for 81% over the list price. Or the 4-bedroom home in Noe Valley that went for $1.31 million over? Or the 2-bedroom home in Glen Park (not one of the top most desirable neighborhoods in the city) that sold for $600K over asking? The list of these ridiculous offers is getting longer and longer.

pacheights

The Pacific Heights home that went for $1.7 million over asking last month.                                              Photo credit: sf.curbed.com

So who or what is driving up prices? A lot of it is due to the ever-booming tech market (Google, Facebook, Twitter and various IPOs) and foreign investors are also a factor. Another reason is because there just isn’t a whole lot of inventory out there right now. According to a local news article (KPIX 5), real estate agents said that if “new properties stopped coming on the market, San Francisco would run out of homes in five weeks.”

We’ve already started the house hunt here in Grosse Pointe. The market isn’t as bad here, of course, but it’s still a pretty hot market, considering, and there isn’t a whole lot of inventory here, either. For example, a home we looked at least weekend went on the market on a Friday afternoon and sold by Monday morning. But we’re hopeful. That at least we’ll find something by winter (please God!).  Stay tuned.

*photo credit for all our house photos: zephyr real estate

 

Twelve Things I’ve Learned So Far (About Grosse Pointe)

I’ve been living in Grosse Pointe for a little over two weeks now. Here are twelve things I’ve learned so far…

1.  The Starbucks in the Village makes a better dry cappuccino than any San Francisco branch. (milk foams better here, too. humidity levels?)

2.  Every second car is an SUV or truck. Every 20th car is a cop car. Every 50th car is foreign.

3.  An unexpected snowstorm in April is magical, revitalizing and cathartic.

snow in april

4.  Detroit-style pizza is going to be the death of me. (If I can’t fit into my swimsuit this summer, I blame you, Buddy’s!)

5.  I can make a perfect grilled cheese on an electric stove. Sushi rice, not so much. Pork cutlets, a struggle. Stove = 2, Me = 1.

stove.grilledcheese6.  Nope, that’s not a cute cottage, that’s a garage.

garage7.  Fire hydrants are red.

hydrant

8.  Squirrels are creepy.

9.  Japanese beetles are not ladybugs (and they are all over the apartment. and also creepy).

10.  A quarter will get you anywhere from 20 minutes, to and hour and 15 minutes, at a meter (and look at them!).

meters11. Detroit is beautiful.

detroit212.  An after-dinner family walk makes everything better.

walk

Moving Day

movingvan

Friday was moving day. A big, bright orange van with the words, “San Francisco Bay Area” pulled up in front of the apartment a little after 8:30 in the morning. It took them all day to unload (I think they left at 5:30pm-ish).

My husband said the movers (the same crew moved us out of our SF place) kept commenting on how heavy the boxes were. “In my 35 years on the job, never have I…” and so forth. I did most of the packing. Whoops. But absolutely nothing broke. Except when I dropped part of the espresso machine as I was taking it out of the box. Yeah, well.

The first time I walked through the apartment, I was underwhelmed. No closet in the second bedroom (unless you call a 6-inch deep x 4-foot wide space a closet) and a somewhat similar “closet” in the “master” bedroom. The kitchen was tinier than I thought (and most of the counter space was taken up by a behemoth microwave from the ’80s). And there were dead flies all over the attic (which made the baby cry and want to go home).

movingapt

Looking at the apartment from the backyard. Second floor.

After my husband arrived (five days after I did), he and Sam the Labrador slept at the apartment, while the girls and I continued to stay with his mom (so much easier to be in a furnished home with a stocked fridge, especially with little ones).

The girls and I still haven’t moved in officially. The fridge and the washing machine are both on the fritz (to be fixed tomorrow). Not to mention the boxes everywhere. But I’m already growing fond of the place. I managed to fit all my cooking stuff (meaning the stuff I didn’t put in storage), save a couple bulky items (slow cooker, mixer), into the tiny kitchen. We figured out solutions for the clothes situation and the attic is a super play area for the girls (and it has air conditioning!).

movingsam

Me and Sam in the backyard on moving day.

And the backyard. Oh my gosh. Having the girls be able to go downstairs on their own (carpeted, not scary stairwell inside of the house) is a million times better than our situation in San Francisco. And I can see them from the kitchen window. Dream come true.

A lot of our things we allocated for the apartment didn’t fit into the small space. And I kind of love that.  I loved putting books, artwork, clothes, dishes, back into boxes and labeling them “storage.” I loved the process of “no, we don’t need that.” I feel clean. And I feel like, yes, we can move from a 1700-square foot home to an 800-square foot apartment and live to tell about it. Very excited to move in (tomorrow?) and really get this adventure started.