Adventures in House Hunting, Buying a House, Unicorn Critera

Don’t get distracted by Unicorns when House Hunting

Unicorn Criteria:  The unicorn is a legendary imaginary animal from European folklore.  Unicorn Criteriais a set of requirements for a home that are restrictive, picky and almost impossible to find wrapped up in one place.

Finding a house to buy is easy.  There are tons of them on the market.  Finding a house you like to buy is harder.  You have to look at a lot of castles to find your palace.  The first thing you have to do if figure out what is a requirement, what is a nice to have, and what is straight up Unicorn Criteria.
Unicorn looking for hard to find home

Wanting a Master Bedroom large enough for a king-size bed and furniture is a reasonable requirement.  Same Master Bedroom with a master bath or a walk-in closet is a Nice-to-Have.

Same master bedroom with his/her walk-in closets, a master bath with spa shower and radiant floors in a specific city neighborhood is a lot to ask for unless your pockets are deep; essentially Unicorn Criteria.

Most city houses don’t have these features unless they are brand new construction or total gut rehab, because they weren’t the innovation back when the house was first built.  Think about it, most of the housing stock in Chicago was built centuries ago when only the rich entertained and everyone else simply rode their dinosaur to the stockyards to slaughter animals for those rich parties they weren’t invited.

Many of the hot gentrified neighborhoods today were once middle and lower class worker neighborhoods that didn’t have a lot of the amenities of today.  For instance, indoor plumbing was around but having more than one bathroom per floor was a luxury for the rich.  Spa shower?  Yeah every decade since the 50s has some version of a spa shower but unless it was put in last week, it can be pretty outdated technology.

It’s also a little more difficult to do those searches on the internet because they aren’t “codable”.  Want 3 bedrooms or more?  No problem.  Want 2 baths but willing to settle for 1 full and 1 have (1.5 or 1.1 in Realtor Nomenclature)? How about central air and garage parking.   That’s easy to search, assuming the listing agent filled out the MLS form correctly.

Want rooftop decks?  Vaulted ceilings and skylights?   skylights in the bathroom.  Does your dream kitchen require Shaker cabinets, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and a tile backsplash?  How about a double vanity in the master bathroom?

Now you have to look at the pictures or read the listing description.

When I bought my condo in 2003, I wanted:

  • Central A/C,
  • washer/dryer in the unit
  • a real not faux fireplace,
  • a separate dining room and
  • Dedicated parking.

Most of those are items that many renters lack.  I would have liked stainless steel appliances but that was more of a Nice-to-Have.  Little did I know back then.  There were so many cookie cutter condos being churned out that I wasn’t really asking for a lot.  Unfortunately, it was also a seller’s market.

Today we want a bigger wish list.  We want at least 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths and garage parking.  We also would like a finished basement and/or attic.  If I cannot stand up straight in the basement (I’m 6’2″) than we move on to another house.  We’ve passed on 1.5 bathroom listings and listings without parking or Central A/C.  Most importantly, we don’t want to have to do any major renovations and live under constant construction.  Sure we might update one bathroom or upgrade some appliances in the Kitchen.

What is your Wish List/Unicorn Criteria?  What are you willing to compromise on and what is a deal-breaker?



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