Our New House

We've lived for nearly 13 years in Mount Lebanon, in an old-fashioned brick Tudor-style house on Cochran Rd (right scross from the high school). We suspected the house was too small when we bought it, but we knew we could afford it. Finally, this year, I got Jim to look for a bigger house. We found a much bigger house. It's way, way out in the country, but since Jim can work from home and there are companies within about fifteen minutes of it where I can look for work, we think we can deal with it. And it's only a half hour back to Pittsburgh at any time other than rush hour.

AttributeOld HouseNew House
Lot Size4,800 sq. ft.14,500 sq. ft.
Finished House Size2,400 sq. ft.
includes attic
4,400 sq. ft.
includes finished cellar
[2012 observation - it's interesting that Maronda no longer builds our style of home (the Wyndham). We always felt the Wyndham had too many bathrooms (5.5, which included a full bathroom in the basement), but is otherwise a well-designed house. One nice feature Maronda currently includes in about half of their home designs is a full laundry room on the first or second floor. Some homes also include an optional sun room. After a few years of slowly building homes in the development, it looks like all of the lots in our development, some 200 in all, will be completely built-out either late this year or early next.]
Year Built19252006
Frontage40 ft.50 ft.
Width of Back of Lot40 ft.116 ft.
Length of Lot120 ft.160 ft.
Ambiant Noise LevelDon't askVery, very quiet. Maybe some geese.

For comparison, here's a photo of current house from last summer. Note that the neighbors are 8' away on either side. There are also neighbors only about 50' away on the other side of the back yard:

Our Old House

Here's a photo of our new house from late March 2006. Note that the neighbors aren't readily visible. They're at least 40 feet away on either side and we have no neighbors in the back other than trees:

Our New House

Our New House

House Plan (the graphic is big so it opens in its own window)

When we visited again on April 9, the house was pretty much done! We had a formal walk-through, and closed on April 26.

How far out in the country are we? Well, luckily Robinson, which has most of the stores we like, is only about 15 minutes away. Currently, there's nothing within about five miles of our house other than houses and farms. We drove all over the area and confirmed that, as of now, there's nothing out there. And that's OK. We're also near at least two different entry points of the "rails to trails" hike/bike paths.

Have I said that it's quiet? Even though we're not too far from the airport, we don't seem to be under an overly-used flight path. We're on the outer loop of a big, circular road, and we're near the top of the circle, so we should get even less traffic than most of the development.

We'll be able to have parties at some point, and, the guest room has its own bathroom. Guests to our current house have a very small, noisy room, but no more!

I don't want to say what we're paying for the new house, but I will say that for about the same amount of money we're paying for the new house in the country west of Pittsburgh, we could have bought a 1200 sq. ft. condo in Eastern Massachusetts, or maybe a ranch house, or a garage in the San Jose area. So while the new house isn't "cheap," it also isn't outrageously expensive either.

11/06 Note: The old house went on the market in late May, and was sold on October 31. We wound up getting $23,000 less than we originally asked for it, partially because the market softened, but also because the house is old and needed cosmetics. So we lost $3,000 on selling the old house, and none of the costs of the improvements we made over 13 years (new roof, new furnace, many new windows, new driveway, new garage door, some new carpets, new paint, et.c.) were reimbursed. Still, we did a little better than when we sold our Massachusetts house back in '94. We lost something like $20,000 on that house, and got nothing from that beyond a payoff on our old mortgage. This time, we were able to send our new mortgage company a very large check after selling the old house. So we managed to pay off half the new house mortgage in just over six months of ownership. It's unlikely we'll pay off the rest of it that quickly. ;->

3/07 Note: We visited this neighborhood and saw this house for the first time a year ago yesterday. On the whole, we've been very happy with the purchase. Yes, Jim really wishes there was a Caribou or Starbucks he could walk to. But, a couple of times a week, he takes a longish coffee break and drives to Robinson to get some coffee.

We enjoy having the additional space. Setting up the basement as Leslie's apartment (virtually) has worked really well. Given the additional size of the house, I was worried that the gas and electric bills would be much higher. While water and sewage bills have been noticeably higher, the other utilities have been only slightly higher. The gas bill has probably been only slightly higher due to a very efficient, new furnace.

We don't tend to crank the heat very much (in fact, we keep the vents closed in the upstairs libraries and guest room). As the master bedroom has a cathedral ceiling, it can get pretty cold in there. So, we wound up buying a space heater, and using our ceiling fan to push the hot air back down.

The builder (Maronda) has been very good about coming out and fixing weird little things. Basically, they'll come out and fix almost anything that was their fault the first year. When we realized that our master bath floor was really squeaky (the same floor that needed a quick repair after a flood), they came out and fixed it. When some shingles came down and a few parts of the hardwood floor buckled, they fixed it. After several of us reported crumbling driveways, they redid four driveways last August (well, I think the subcontractor who put in the driveways in the first place redid the driveways).

The main thing they won't do is fix grading problems in the yard. I think they will fix things if you can show the grading is damaging the foundation, but, otherwise, no. Unfortunately, we have a bit of a marsh in part of the back yard. Unfortunately, It's partially under where the deck will go. So, before we can put in a deck, we're probably going to have to get a French drain put in.