Three years ago today, we moved into our house in the ‘burbs. Much like today, it was insanely hot and humid. We hired movers (best money ever spent), and the three incredibly tall and thin college-age Eastern European guys ran up and down our stairs, carrying two boxes of books at a time. I kept sending M to the store for more gatorade.
At the time, we were newlyweds. We had gotten married in October, and by January, we were house-hunting. The apartment we had shared for two and a half years was a nice one, second floor of a two-family home in a quiet neighborhood. But we were ready to have our own space that we controlled, and to not hear our downstairs neighbors… ahem… at 3AM. Nevermind that it was the absolute peak of the real estate craziness. Hindsight is 20/20, and we were thankfully not taken in by the whole sub-prime mess, so it’s all good.
So, prices were crazy, houses were moving fast. You practically brought your checkbook with you to showings, and seldom was there enough time to actually go back for a second look, or so it felt. We hemmed and hawed and places we thought we liked disappeared off the market in a heartbeat. We finally decided on a house built in 1895 that was vacant and had wood paneling in every single room and a seriously old kitchen, but we saw potential. The sellers were a pain in the ass, and we probably should have walked away, but we were first-time homebuyers and stuck to it. Finally settled and we were on track. Until five days before our scheduled closing, when the realtor and attorneys finally “remembered” to tell us about this enormous easement going through the yard, yadda yadda, we backed out. Ugh.
Back to looking. We even branched out and looked at some townhouses, including some brand new ones (brand-new construction, do you know how rare that is in Massachusetts?!) that were very tempting, but in the end not what we were all about. We wanted independence (not a condo association) and space (not a shared back porch and nowhere to put M’s tools). April came, and M saw a nice-looking picture on our list of new houses on the market. It only had a single bathroom, so I almost didn’t schedule the showing. But he liked it, so fine.
So many of the houses in our price range were old, in questionable condition, had odd and awkward layouts and additions. We were perfectly willing to overlook outdated decor and nasty carpeting. We were actually looking for something that we could improve upon and therefore increase the value. But some of them seemed downright hopeless. And then we walked into the sideways-facing colonial with only one bathroom. Despite the peeling apple wallpaper in the kitchen and the overcrowded dining room, we both knew it was a good find. It had a good layout, and lots of potential for making it look less dated. I’m pretty sure we made the offer by the next day, and one of our contingencies was that the sellers had to give us their answer before the Sunday open house. I think it had been on the market for three days.
Oh sure, the inspection revealed an old roof and some previously unknown termite damage. But no truly fatal flaws, and we got the price down to something that seemed reasonable (I don’t want to think about what it might go for today, but that’s not the point). We closed Memorial Day weekend. M and I both walked out of the closing, new keys in hand, and had the same thought: are we really old enough for this? It seems very important and official, shouldn’t our parents be signing something? Nope. We were married adults who had just put a down payment on a house and signed our names to our 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Wow.
Moving day, as I said, was sweltering. High-80s, at least, and humid. The movers were drenched within about 15 minutes, but man were they fast. It took the whole day to load the truck and then unload it again, but by 6pm, we were sitting and eating pizza in our brand new house. Well, our 85-year-old, hideously-wallpapered, sorta-smells-like-cats new house. Close enough.
I think we went to Lowe’s at least four times a week that first month. Every day, there was a new discovery, yet another reason to exclaim, “WTF?!” One outlet in each bedroom was wired to go on and off with the light switch. There weren’t ANY light switches on the first floor (only lamps and pull-chains, very classy). The kitchen ceiling has no fewer than four layers of drywall and plaster. The wallpaper upstairs hid the fact that they’d never plastered the corners between pieces of drywall, simply covered them with wallpaper. But over time, we got all the wallpaper down, new furniture, remodeled the den, added a downstairs powder room, replaced the roof… it’s all ours.
It’s not perfect, and we’ll never be “done.” The upstairs bathroom is too small, the kids’ room doesn’t have a closet. If you want to start a fight between me and M (and we really don’t fight, it’s not our thing), ask about whether or not the kitchen is going to be remodeled. But we have enough bedrooms that we won’t outgrow it anytime soon, enough space in the yard for a swingset (and maybe a new patio this summer?). It’s a nice old house, and it’s home.