Head, Heart, and House Hunting

To recap the last couple years, off and on this blog has been a writing tool and way to journal about the home improvement and DIY projects I’ve tacked. However, these have not been on my own place. Most have documented the improvements to my mother’s home, so that she has a house to serve her long term needs and keeping in mind qualities that will need little maintenance in the future. But with my job now being full time and the desire to start roots here, I’ve been house hunting.

And so I should probably explain my choice of title. Because 4 months ago I was not even thinking about a house of my own. A spacious loft apartment, yes perhaps. But home ownership? Sure, I have the knowledge to do a lot of the work, but I thought that was years off. Now I’m not so sure. That’s why these last few months have also been head and heart “hunting.” Or maybe that’s just my way of saying, soul searching. Determining what I want in my future, and deciding that a fixer-upper house in a nice neighborhood is a plan that makes sense both in my head and heart, and in my budget. I think I’ve shown on paper that it will be a smart step for now and also for the years to come, and of course with my love of DIY, my heart was already into it.

What would I want in a house? Being single, I wanted something small and efficient. As a lover of all things old, I wanted a house with charm and character (“they don’t build em’ like this anymore”). And with a desire to do all things myself, I wanted a fixer upper (DIY or die trying). And I knew I was on a budget, looking at the middle to lower realm of the housing market in my area (including many foreclosures).

I found that homes meeting this criteria fell into 2 main categories. Either they had owners who slapped on inexpensive and crappily done “improvements” (I’m talking cheap quality, glue down flooring, flimsy paneled walls, cardboard cabinets, and plastic baseboard); or, they had gone without maintenance so long that the original character wasn’t worth saving (holes in the roof, holes in the exterior walls, windows falling out, floors falling in). I finally told my realtor; I want as authentic to the original home as possible, but in the best possible condition. And small, but in a nice neighborhood. And less than $50k. I think he was about to give up on me.

And then I found the right street. An older neighborhood of mostly large, character-rich and wonderfully loved and maintained homes. Lining the last 2 blocks are several little bungalows, all very similar in size and style. And several of them for sale. And of those, a few right in my price range!

I know they say don’t buy the first home you look at, but it was love at first sight. Craftsman built ins, small and efficient, needing DIY TLC, beautiful woodwork, stained glass details, great foundation and decent roof. So I made an offer and waited. And that funny positive feeling that said, “this is the one?” Wrong. I waited about 2 weeks, only to find out my offer was rejected, and the home was now under contract. Well shoot.

Ok, what about the second home you look at? And right across the street from the one that I was unsuccessful with? I looked at it, very similar in size but different in the types of work it needed. Roof is sagging, windows not in great shape, but the same built ins and a better layout! And a few of the neighboring houses have recently seen very nice renovations. Let’s put an offer on that one!

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