I can honestly say that the house and neighborhood are pretty much as we expected. The relatives and friends did a good job of assessing both. It didn't hurt that the friends live only a few blocks from our house. The pictures online (there were 30 of them) did a good a job of showing what the various rooms looked like. We were a little fuzzy on the layout of the rooms, but we had guessed at what the layout probably was given what we knew, and were darn close.
We're not crazy about the paint job in the house, although I suspect it would be an interior decorator's dream--3 shades of gold used throughout the upstairs with a dark brown accent wall in the living room, and one very green room upstairs. About half of the basement is painted the same green color, with the rest of the basement being painted tan. Not a white wall in the house. Logically, I understand how some people could find this pretty, but I find it overwhelming. We'll be painting. However, we suspected that would be the case when we looked at the pictures, so seeing it in person only confirmed it. (I had been hoping that once we got here, I wouldn't dislike the paint as much as I thought I would. No luck.)
(basement living room)
The room featured in the two pictures below is what I've begun referring to as the "multi-purpose room". It is our sewing center, office, and a mini kitchen--sink, fridge, microwave, toaster, and coffee pot. I considered straightening up the sewing area before I took the picture, but decided I should show it to you in its natural state. And yes! I've begun quilting again. The Juki and I spent some quality time together the last couple of days.
There weren't really any surprises, except one. The home inspector did a lousy job. We've got a phone plug in the basement that doesn't work (the only phone plug in the basement), and the plumbing in the basement bathtub is all screwed up. Water comes from both the tub and shower faucets at the same time, and the one handle that controls hot and cold will only go halfway so the water is lukewarm. I've seen this in another house and it is an installation problem. I think this one was probably installed wrong from day one, but the previous owners never used it and so didn't know. The thing of it is, even if we had come in person to look at the house ourselves, I wouldn't have tested these things out myself. That's what the darn house inspector is supposed to do!
Oh and that home warranty that the sellers paid for doesn't cover the plumbing problem because it is an installation problem; the policy covers only items that wear out.
The other thing is that we were spoiled by the oversized 3-car garage we had in Nevada. This house has the standard two car garage. No place to store the lawn mower we'll eventually need. We didn't ask about the garage in advance, but it would not have been a deal-breaker if we had known. Storage sheds for items like lawn mowers are the norm here, so eventually we'll need to get one. Luckily we're going into winter so it's not necessary that we deal with it immediately.
Despite the items I've pointed out as issues--the paint, which we already knew about; the plumbing problem that the house inspector should have caught; and the garage size--the house is proving to be ideal for our combined family. My mom and I cook the main meal relieving my grandparents of a task that has become difficult for them. We've somewhat divided the house, giving the main floor to my grandparents, while we reside in the basement. We're nearby for anything they need, but we each have our space. Given our specific needs, price range, and time constraints, I highly doubt that we could have done any better if we had made the trip to see houses in person.