I had been searching, combing through the various website for months. My budget was on the bottom end of the range, so I knew I would have to be patient. Buying off-plan didn’t really enter onto my radar. New builds tend to have very small rooms. I currently live in a beautiful two bedroom, one bath that is about 85 square meters. In Geneva, it is considered a four piece: 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a living dining room. When looking for a property to buy, I was ok with going smaller, but not as small as what the builders were offering. The bedrooms are tiny, your kitchen and living/dining are all one space. Now I love open concept, but I was looking at four piece apartments that 72 square meters. And they were out of my price range! I knew from my own finances, and what I was putting away in savings for the Notary fees and all, that I really couldn’t go above chf650’000. Which really doesn’t get you very far. But I figured, I have a car. Geographically, the canton is one of the smallest, I figured I could commute from anywhere.
Over Christmas break, I saw a handyman special advertised at chf500’000. It was off the market before I even got back, but if there was one, there would be others. But was I really up for the work that a renovation would require? Probably not, I thought, but I was still a little disappointed not to even get to see it.
I found a charming apartment in Chancy. It was only a couple of years old, had a terrace, interior parking, and was mostly in my price range. It would have been a little bit of a stretch, but the running costs would have been super low as it was Minergie standard. And then, just before I called to make an appointment for a viewing, I thought I would check the commute to work. Nope. Not in a million years. Hard pass. It turns out that geography was actually going to play a much larger role in my process than I realized. On a good day, with no traffic, at non-peak time, it was a 25 minute drive. During commuting times, it would be more like an hour. I already have a not awesome commute that is inconsistently an hour going home in the evening. To commit to an hour each way every day, I wanted to weep right then and there. So the number one axiom of real estate, “location, location, location” held true even in tiny Geneva.
There was a lovely flat that came up in Céligny. Céligny are these two tiny pieces of Geneva canton that are surrounded entirely by the canton of Vaud. Outposts, really. It was a beautiful, though, small flat. It was price controlled for the time being. But it was not near a shop, nor bus, nor any infrastructure really. I live right downtown in Geneva. My entire life except for my work is within an eight block radius; from my doctors, to the vet for the cats, my supermarket, my cocktail bar, the post office. I can easily walk to all these places. I wasn’t really ready to trade that for the literal boonies.
So I kept trawling the web sites, realizing that I was seeing the same places over and over again. There just was so little in my price range. I practically had the ad for the 4 piece in Avanchets memorized. But I kept visiting the range of regie sites as well, and finally, a beautiful sunny day at the start of May, I saw a house on a website. It was an old house in a commune where a colleague of mine lives, and the bus that runs right to school terminates in her village, running through the village where the house was situated on its was. So, tick that box, I could take the bus and be dropped off at the one site in 15 minutes. I could be at the main train station ten minutes after that.
All right, location was good. The ad did say that the house needed a new heating system, so ok, there was probably some work to be done. But I had a friend who had renovated a house in France with her husband. He had done most of the work, but the house had needed quite a lot of help. I asked him if he would go look at the house with me.
I called for an appointment and right off the bat, the realtor wanted to make it clear that there was no garden, and no parking. But there was plenty of street parking, he said. I’m ok without a garden, though at the moment, I at least have a balcony. We agreed on the time.
It was the tenth of May, 2017. We met in an extremely picturesque village to see the house. It has neighbors (separate walls, it turns out, but you can’t tell) to each side and the back, so there are only windows on the front façade. The house itself is down a tiny side street that works as a driveway for three of the other houses down at the end. I knew the house was bigger than my apartment, but as it is stacked over floors, it didn’t seem very big. The downstairs was also being used as an office by the owner’s brother so it was rather full of furniture. My friend’s husband looked around, and thought it was charming and the renovation requirements weren’t extreme (of course, it’s all relative and the house that he and my friend had bought had a tree growing out of it). I queried the holes in the doorframes, but the realtor said it wasn’t a big deal and we don’t have termites in this area. (I still don’t know if the termite thing is true, but the holes turned out to be an indicator of a very big deal).
There was an attic space that was accessible by a ladder. A huge, beautiful, glorious, unfinished attic space. And that rather clinched it. But the realtor suggested returning with an architect to look at the space to figure out if walls could be moved. I already knew from doing some research that I should have a CECB+ done on the house. But for the moment, I was happy to just look at the unoccupied rooms upstairs (floor between the entry level and the attic) and think about the attic. I will admit to ignoring that I hate stairs. But the stairs between the entry level and the next floor were stable and pretty big, and I figured I could work with that.
So, I had found a house. Or had I?