Nest House Hunt: The McLellans | Real Estate | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
Pin It
Favorite

Nest
Nest House Hunt: The McLellans 

click to enlarge Sarah McLellan and the family dog
  • Sarah McLellan and the family dog

If you're starting to think about getting out of that rental and buying your own home, our House Hunters just might have some eye-opening tips for you. There's a learning curve, complete with near misses, drama and mystifying paperwork along the way.

When Nest first spoke to Sarah and Sam McLellan last October, the couple had recently moved to Burlington from Boston and were, in Sarah's words, "leisurely" and "super casually" starting the house-hunting process. But by January, their home-buying timeline had "jumped to immediate," Sarah says. What changed? Their first baby, a boy, is now on the way, scheduled to make his big debut this July.

"We weren't feeling too stressed at the time, and then winter came, and we found out we're adding to the household," says Sarah. "And we're like, Oh, shit! We gotta get out [of our rental]."

Sam, 32, works for the federal government and was transferred to Vermont last March. Sarah, 31, followed him in August, after completing her year as a preschool teacher. They moved into a month-by-month rental that Sarah describes as "retro" — there's not even an oven. "We've been doing OK with our toaster oven," she says, "but it's not the same."

She observes that rentals here are slightly more affordable than in Boston, where the McLellans had lived for the last two and a half years. There, "we were paying a whole lot of money for a place with mold in it," she explains. But when it comes to buying, they've struggled to find a decent home in Vermont, too.

"It just seems like there's a whole lot of demand and not a lot of supply," Sarah says. "And what is out there is really not great, especially for a young family." They've looked at homes that smelled like cat pee, she notes, adding, "My friend found a place where there wasn't any heating, and the [owner] didn't seem to care."

"At this point in our lives, we're looking for something a little bit nicer," she says.

Ideally, the couple would like a home in Burlington's Old North End, where they can easily walk to downtown. A near-to-town location is their No. 1 concern. "We saw this really lovely house in the New North End, and it was beautiful," says Sarah. "It was this cute, tiny house with a great yard for the dog. But I couldn't walk to a coffee shop in 20 minutes. It was a little too suburban for me ... Especially now, knowing that I'm going to be in a house with my infant for a while, I need to be able to get out of my house quickly and just go for a walk."

Other than walkability, the McLellans aren't picky. They're hoping to move back to Boston in a couple of years, so their only other main criterion is that the home has good resale value. With that in mind, a real estate agent friend told them, "It doesn't need to be your dream home. It doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to be something attractive." So Sarah and Sam are looking for at least two to three bedrooms, something big enough to entice a broad range of future buyers.

As Nest goes to press, the McLellans are under contract for an older Old North End home with a small backyard that's very close to downtown. "It really matches my one main priority," says Sarah. "It's so exciting but also still so very much up in the air." The sellers won't close until they've found suitable housing, so Sarah and Sam aren't moving forward with inspection or appraisal until that's been resolved.

In the meantime, says Sarah, "We'll also continue looking around, just in case."

Top Tips

The McLellans offer the following advice for fellow home buyers.

Narrow your price range. Initially, Sarah and Sam were looking at homes ranging from $150,000 to $450,000, because they didn't agree on how much they wanted to spend. "My price range would be, ideally, under $350,000," says Sarah. "He was willing to go a lot more than that." Trying to compare homes of such different values was challenging, Sarah explains. She suggests having a serious budget discussion from the get-go. She also notes that looking at the monthly mortgage with the addition of regular bills, property taxes and other expenses helped them find their comfort zone.

Mind the parameters on your property-listing cart. "Unless it's really, really a dire need, don't put it as your parameter," advises Sarah. At first, on their Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty cart, the couple ruled out any homes with fewer than 1.5 bathrooms. "But that wasn't really necessary, and it was cutting out other places that were wonderful," Sarah says.

Take a home-buying class. Sam attended a Seven Days House Party when he first moved to Vermont and connected with their real estate agent. "He brought me to [a House Party] later, and ... it was a really excellent way to learn the lingo and ask questions," says Sarah. "I definitely felt far more confident after."

When the McLellans move into their new home, we'll be giving them a housewarming present: a four-hour home-design consultation and $100 gift certificate from Stowe Kitchen Bath & Linens.

Would you like to be the next Nest House Hunter? If you're a prospective home buyer, let us share your progress, learn from your experience and, ultimately, help you celebrate with a gift to "warm" that new house. All you'll have to do is keep a few notes, check in with us once a week and send photos! Contact us at nest@sevendaysvt.com.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Pin It
Favorite

More by Carolyn Fox

  • In Season, Winter 2017-2018
  • In Season, Winter 2017-2018

    When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, Burlington will usher in 2018 with a bang of fireworks over Lake Champlain. But that’s just the final touch on the annual revelry that is First Night Burlington. Founded in 1983, the event has become Vermont’s largest single-day arts celebration, a substance-free festival serving up 13 hours of eclectic entertainment in more than a dozen downtown venues. Buy a button, then crisscross the city for a classic cabaret by Burlington’s Lyric Theatre, aerial artistry and general clowning around by Vermont’s award-winning Circus Smirkus, highenergy funk-rock by local band Gang of Thieves, and so much more. Cheers to the New Year.

    • Nov 26, 2017
  • In Season, Fall 2017
  • In Season, Fall 2017

    From bustling Church Street to the highly trafficked waterfront, Burlington is anything but a ghost town — unless Thea Lewis is leading your way. The actor, author and paranormal historian is also Vermont's queen of Halloween, and, in the weeks leading up to that haunted holiday, she presides over three walking tours rife with local history and mystery. The Darkness Falls Tour explores the spooky spirits of Burlington's downtown; the Wicked Waterfront Tour dives into shipwrecks, lake monsters and shoreline mischief; and the Cemetery Tour travels to the city's most ghoulish gravestones. These tales are spine-tingling but typically appropriate for ages 9 and up.

    • Sep 9, 2017
  • More »

About The Author

Carolyn Fox

Carolyn Fox

Bio:
Carolyn Fox was the Seven Days calendar editor from 2009-2012. From 2012-2013, she was the managing editor of Kids VT. She currently works as Special Publications Manager for Seven Days.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Seven Days moderates comments in order to ensure a civil environment. Please treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion. In other words, keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

Recent Comments

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2017 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation