Curb Appeal

It's hard to believe we've finished our second winter in Warner, New Hampshire.   It seems only like yesterday when we started our long journey from the United Kingdom to the USA...

After getting married in Aldershot Hampshire England and starting the paperwork to get Georg's Green Card, we set out to find a new home 3000 miles away.   We relied completely on the resources available on the Internet, searching MLS databases and Realtor websites for homes that would suit our combined wants and needs....   Nice house, some land, a place to keep our two horses, easy access to a Sun office, affordable (as in little to no mortgage), and within 3 hours drive of my parents.   Our criteria was set before the Summer of 2004 gave way to Fall.

Using the Bean Group Realty's fabulous website, we were soon spending evenings and weekends browsing information about equestrian homes in New Hampshire.   The "tax free" status of New Hampshire and its lower property prices quickly turned our focus towards the little New England state.   Massachusetts was simply out our price range considering what we wanted.

We planned our first house viewing trip to the USA for October 2004.   The timing of the trip would allow us to enjoy family events as well as leaf peeping.   And the weather was likely to be crisp, maybe a bit rainy, but not yet snowy.

With a well populated spreadsheet of over 150 equestrian homes in New Hampshire which met our basic needs, we needed to narrow things down to a list of 12 for viewing on our trip.   After weighing various criteria, including house style, acreage, distance from Sun's Nashua NH office, and price, we selected a mix of properties and towns to view.   Our househunting trip would take us to 12 different towns across New Hampshire, viewing a range of house styles including New Englander Colonials, Cape Cods, Split Entries, and Modern Contemporaries.   It was gonna be a whirlwind trip, but hopefully, insightful and educational.

As October approached, we arranged exact viewing times with various Realtors.   We had not selected a single Realtor with which to do business, so each Realtor was not only going to be showing us a home, they would be interviewing for the position of being our estate agent in whatever transactions transpired.   Before we hopped onto a Virgin Atlantic flight to the USA, we had a full itinery lined up.

Basing ourselves at our timeshare property in Boston, the Marriott's Custom House, the October trip started with visiting family.   Then the property viewings began.   And with each viewing, we not only saw a house for sale, we visited a New Hampshire town.

First impressions were swiftly reached and sometimes quite brutal.   We visited towns which looked tired and run down, some which were painfully difficult to reach, and some which simply left us thinking, "How blah was that?"   While we had not given the town itself a weighting in our decision analysis, we soon could see that the town itself was going to have an impact on our choice of new home.   We wanted a nice town.   We were looking for a town with Curb Appeal (or "Kerb Appeal").

As we viewed the houses, we also learned more about our individual tastes and preferences.   We discovered where our tastes overlapped and where we had differences of opinion.   But the big things we agreed upon.   We wanted a dry location set back from the road, a home with a big kitchen, at least one fireplace, good sized bedrooms, and, after seeing a couple nice homes situated right next to truly dumpy ones, we wanted to live in "tidy" neighborhood.

After a nice, but long journey up two interstate highways cutting through fall foliage that had just peaked in colour, we reached another town for another property viewing.   We were ahead of schedule and were due to meet the Realtor in another hour and half.   We had time to kill.

We had already driven to two other properties, arriving earlier than planned, and called into the Realtors to cancel the meeting.   First impressions were that bad!   So, once again, having arrived early, we decided to drive past the property and see what was what.

This time, something different happened.   We had to drive through the town center first.   And, lo and behold, it was down right appealing!   It was the first town that really made us sit up in the car and say, "Okay, now this is more like it!".   And so, the little town of Warner got two thumbs up, just on curb appeal alone.

We drove past the house...   and were only a little surprised to see it was not as nice as it had appeared on the Internet.   That was consistent with what we were experiencing throughout the trip.   We drove past it, a little disappointed, but also hopeful that the badly peeling sky blue exterior paint was going to be the only surprise.

Reaching the end of the road, we "found" the gate to Rollins State Park and a Park Ranger who happily collected a visitor's fee from us.   Okay.   We drove on, taking our rental car up the windy narrow mountain road up Black Mountain and then Mount Kearsarge.   Near the summit, we parked and hiked along the well prepared path to the top of the granite dome where we enjoyed a spectular 360 degree view of New Hampshire.   It was truly breathtaking!   Warner earned a couple more points while we fell in love with its mountain.

Soon after, we viewed the 43 acre horse farm in what must have been record time!   We were in & out in less than 60 minutes.   We whizzed through the house, walked around the barns, saw the indoor arena, walked into a couple pastures, and explored a little of the woods on the north-western edge.

Like many houses we had seen already, the house was stuffed wall to wall with the possessions of the current owner, making the viewing feel more like a walk through a maze.   We were smart to have gone a bit over the top with our photographic records of each room of each home we viewed.   It helped us make sense of the massive jumble of mental images we carried back home to the United Kingdom.

We had only viewed the big horse farm, ranked 48 on our spreadsheet, as it was fully ready to operate as an equestrian centre.   However the price, while fair, was well beyond our planned budget.   Our intention was simply to get an idea...   Something for comparison sake.   What can $X00,000 buy you in New Hampshire?   That kind of thing...

As we got into our rental car to set off to the next viewing, the sense that this was "the one" was overpowering.   Driving down the driveway was emotionally painful.   I did not want to leave Warner.   I did not want to say goodbye to this farm.

It took several months and a lot of juggling of numbers.   But suffice to say, two years ago this week, we closed on the Warner property.   We moved in a month later.

Did we make the right choice?   Without question!   Not only do we love our home, we found a fabulously wonderful community.


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