With my kitchen 90 percent done, I’ve been thinking about putting my house on the market again come spring (which gives me a few months to complete the 10 percent). So I’ve been looking online (and visiting a few open houses) in my neighborhood.
But I’m particular (others might choose a different word)…and there isn’t much in my neighborhood (in which I’d like to remain) that fits the bill and also fits anywhere near the budget.
The challenge is (as it was last year), that I want a house with a garage or first-floor family room (read:workshop), but I also want a living room, dining room and kitchen, as I now have. And it has to have at least 2 full baths, and three or more bedrooms (one of which would be a study). Oh – and it has to have been built prior to around 1930.
At the moment, there are only two properties in my ‘hood that match; one of them is listed at $320k (it’s gorgeous) and the other at $260k (it is slightly less gorgeous, but still does not completely suck). My goal was to find one for around $120k that was livable and could become gorgeous with a lot of work. Last year, there were several of those on the market around here (granted, they all smelled pretty bad, but…). But almost everything on the acceptable streets (read: reasonably safe) has now been bought and rehabbed, or is in the midst of being rehabbed…at which point it will be listed for $250k or more. (Including the stinky ones I looked at last year.)
And frankly, I kinda like my house. Now. Now that I’ve put a lot of time, effort and money into it. (If only I had pictures and smell-o-vision of the Kelly green carpet that covered three rooms and the hall when I moved in…).
But it still doesn’t have room for a shop – no matter how many times Christopher Schwarz tells me I don’t need a dining room. (He also thinks I should “just dig out the basement” to make room for power tools down there – never mind that it’s field stone and has a recurring water feature when it rains. Also, almost zero natural light. And spiders. Lots of spiders.)
So I’ve circled back to considering an addition, with a first floor family room (shop) and an additional bedroom (or whatever) above, and possibly another full bath. (See my terrible sketch at top for the first floor…and note that I’d be tearing into the back wall of my 90-percent-done kitchen. Or someone would. Dammit.)
So today, I checked in with the zoning department. I’m screwed. Any structure or addition must be set 20′ back from the rear property line. Those of you with eagle eyes may see the 315″ in my drawing above, from the back wall of my existing house to the rear of my property. Now math is not my strong suit, but I’m pretty sure that leaves me about 6′ for an in-code addition.
If want to pursue this, I’ll need a variance. That application costs $300-$500 (it’s unclear to me which app I have to submit), plus one has to submit approved site plans, which I’m sure will cost far more than $500. That’s an expensive gambit with odds heavily on failure.
While there are many houses around me that don’t meet this particular code (among myriad other violations), the neighbor behind me is likely to say no, because he’d then be squeezed by code violators on both sides. In which case, I lose. And even if he says yes, I could still be turned down. There’s simply no telling.
I don’t want to spend $1k+ to be told, “no variance for you.”
But I really don’t want to give up my dining room.