I was reading a post this morning on Our Suburban Cottage, where AnNicole told the story of how she met her house, and invited her readers to link up to their own stories. I thought that was a neat idea and realized I’d never told the story of how I met MY house.
I started my house search two years ago. I was living with my parents, 28 years old, and convinced that I would never be able to afford a place on my own. They live in one of the most expensive counties in the country in terms of both home prices and property taxes, so that ruled it out for a single gal like me.
We’d spent most of my summers growing up at the Jersey shore, where my parents met, and to me, that was really home. I’d had some of the best times of my life there, so I thought, if I have to leave the county to afford a home, why don’t I move somewhere I love?
I started my search by signing up for new listing alerts online with a local realtor. They were fairly uninspiring and hours of searching made me excited, but also worried – what if I NEVER found anything?!? My mom came with my on my first trip down here to look at condos and we saw about five of them. There was one that I really loved, but it was a one-bedroom (I was looking for two because I work from home and wanted an office space/guest room), and it was on the first floor. As a single woman, I wanted a bedroom on the second floor for safety reasons.
But I mostly saw places that were empty, uncared for, dirty, and didn’t show well. I could take care of those things, of course, but it was depressing.
I saw another condo that might be workable in the same neighborhood. It was a two bedroom, mostly well-maintained, but you could tell that an older woman was living there, so the decor would have to be updated. Not a problem as far as I was concerned, although the bathrooms were WAY outdated, as was the kitchen. Plus, the condo really didn’t get a lot of light. But I made an offer anyway, thinking it was the best thing I was going to find.
My offer was rejected. Not because of the amount, but because the seller changed her mind about selling. I wasn’t disappointed because I knew something better HAD to be out there.
I arranged to come down again to look at one more condo in that neighborhood (a two-hour trip is kind of a long drive for one place) and my dad happened to search some places online that morning for me before I left. He found one in another development in my price range that I hadn’t seen before. It was a three-bedroom. I asked my realtor if we could see that one too, and she agreed to find out where it was (Side note: my realtor was very nice, but I knew more about looking for houses and the home buying process than she did. And it was my first home. She’s since quit being a realtor).
We were able to get in, but the homeowner insisted on being there for the showing – she had three cats in the house, and one of them had feline AIDS, so he had the third bedroom all to himself. I think she was worried that we’d accidentally let him out. The house was NOT fit for showing. She had boxes everywhere, her daughter’s stuff was all over the upstairs sink, the carpet was OLD and gross, and it smelled of smoke.
Something in me could really see the potential of this little place. It was MUCH bigger than I could have expected for what I could afford – the homeowner had lost her job and was moving to Tennessee to live with her brother, so she had to sell quickly (plus it was at close to the low point in the housing crisis). All of other homes in the neighborhood for sale were priced at least $40,000 higher than this one. It had a big yard fenced in on two sides, a deck and new pergo floors. The kitchen was outdated, but big and workable. And the bathrooms were updated. I put in an offer pretty much as soon as I got home that day. And after the general frustrations and craziness that home buying entails, it was mine. Well, the bank’s, but a little bit mine.
Before I moved all my stuff in, I borrowed an air mattress from my sister and slept in the master bedroom. I didn’t have a tv or many lights and I was never a big fan of being alone (I’m a bit of a nervous nelly in the dark) and I thought “Oh my God, what did I do??” I didn’t even want to put bare feet down on the carpet and the whole place smelled funny. And I didn’t have my dog yet (though Barney was born a week before I closed and I knew he was going to be mine then). It was depressing.
But little by little, I made the house mine. I painted every single room, taking advantage of the horrible carpet and not putting down drop cloths. I realized the previous owner had painted everything an off-white color that looked dirty - I thought it was just from them smoking in the house, but she’d actually painted it that color ON PURPOSE. It was so depressing. So I opened windows, freshened up the paint, CLEANED like a maniac, replaced the carpet and the 15-year-old hot water heater, started bringing in furniture, and slowly it became mine.
And it’s been great to turn it into a space that I really feel comfortable in, that reflects who I am – one of my friends said the first time she visited me here that she couldn’t really explain the style other than to say it was so “me.”
How did you meet your house?