I’ve had several friends in recent months complain about the chore of house hunting.
“It surprises me,” I told Man. “You and I have had some of our best laughs while house hunting. It’s always been so fun!”
“That’s because we’ve been in a position to afford a nice house,” he reasoned.
“Not so. The first time we bought a house we could not afford much but we still had loads of fun.”
“Oh yeah!” he said and we began to reminisce about our experiences and of our past homes.
Our first home was an apartment built in the early 60’s. No matter how hard you tried to keep it clean, if you had dirty neighbors the roaches would run amok. There was a creek that ran through the middle of the complex and the laundry room was near the creek. The creek was full of ducks, which sounds lovely except that these were those ugly ducks with the red fleshy stuff on their faces. There were also geese that would hiss and run at you. So doing the laundry was always exciting… Across the hall dwelled a mariachi band. We’re pretty sure they were migrant workers because they were only one to two bedroom apartments and there were about 4-5 Mexican men living there. Sometimes. Sometimes there were only a couple of guys. They rotated in and out. They also practiced their mariachi music at various times during the day. Depending on what time of day that was, it was kind of nice really. One of them bought My Man’s Ford Festiva. It was royal blue. The hood had blown off one day when he was driving down the highway but he replaced it with another hood that he found at the junk yard. A cherry red hood. He spray painted the hood to “match” the car. One of the migrants bought it. It was a sort of sketchy deal as he did not have a social security number. After selling it, we later saw the Festiva with a racing stripe added.
After a few years with the ugly ducks, the hissing geese, the roaches and the mariachi band, it was time to move on. We found a realtor who was a young guy, about our age. He was already cleaning up pretty well selling large expensive homes in the Plano area but he was happy to take us out to find our starter home. It was disappointing and the homes started to become blurred in our memories. Was it the first one that I liked and he hated or was that the 3rd one? So we developed a grading system. After looking at each house we gave it a score on a scale of 1-10. We’d also write notes as to why something got a high or low score from us and we’d average our score for the final score on each house. Through this process we were able to figure out some of the things that we each really wanted or did not want. For example: if we turned down a street to see a house and there were lots of cars parked along the curb, I would tell the realtor to not even bother. I couldn’t stand the cluttered feeling of a street lined with cars. Man wanted a place with shade trees to help keep the house cool and the cost of running the AC down. I would love a house with bay windows. Man would like a nice yard. I always liked a cul-de-sac because you can see the kids playing and all of the neighbors can easily keep an eye on one another’s homes. Man liked brick houses.
One day Man called me on his way home from work.
“I just found our house.”
He told me he went driving around on his lunch break and found a house on a cul-de-sac.
It had a huge shade tree in the front yard.
It had bay windows in the front.
*gasp* Three…maybe four points!
There were vaulted ceilings and a little sun room off of the master bedroom. This place was already up to 6 points for me and I hadn’t even seen it yet.
“I’m coming to pick you up. We’re meeting the realtor there and then we’ll go to dinner.”
On the way there he warned me that it would need “some fixing up.”
“Oh that’s ok! I really look forward to adding my touch to our home.”
We pulled up and there were indeed bay windows and a shade tree. There was also Japanese Juniper (if I recall the name correctly) growing in the front bed. This is a very invasive and hard to remove ground cover. I hate it.
There were vaulted ceilings and ledges for interest and for decorating. I could already see Christmas garland draping from them.
The carpet was disgusting. Apparently, the former owner was a single guy who worked from home. It appeared that he may have dropped a pizza slice or Chinese take out a few times and perhaps just rubbed the mess in with the toe of his shoe to clean it up.
The sun room off of the master bedroom was small, un-air conditioned and spider infested. I could imagine it washed clean and brightened up with white paint. A cute chair and table found at a garage sale and it would be an adorable little sanctuary.
We went out into the back yard. The weeds and grass were up to my eyes or taller. The fence was falling down and aged.
“What were you thinking?” I asked My Man. “This place is pretty rough! What makes you think this is our house?”
“I just…I do.”
“Well, Mister….I know this is crazy but…so do I.”
We bought it on stipulation that they changed out the carpet. We invited friends over for pizza, beer, painting and weed whacking. Over the years I updated the kitchen cabinets with stain and re-glazed the counter tops in the bathroom. (They were that old swirly gold stuff…) Man installed a new fence (a year or two after living there) and once the weeds were gone a cute little patio was revealed. My friend Tara and I spent a day hacking and pulling and digging and hacking and pulling out the Japanese Juniper and planted some hostas and begonias in the front bed under the bay window. We decorated one room for a nursery for Buddy and then Bug-O came. The boys shared a room for 8 months and then we were transferred to MO. It was a slow transformation but when we listed the house, the realtor described our home as having a decorators touch, a compliment that I still makes me very proud.
House hunting in MO was a little different. We were being relocated so there was some help from the company. They provided us with a realtor who we got along with so well he became a friend and even introduced us to our dearest friends in MO who we are still very close to. The houses there were different. Lots of siding which man…prefers brick. We stuck with our scoring system and with little newbie Bug along, we set out to find our second home.
There were some DOOZIES! One house we went into was a mess! It looked like the folks had been raptured! There was unfinished breakfast on the table and spilled cheerios everywhere. The dishes were left in the sink. Towels on the bathroom floor. Seriously, I began to question my salvation. I had not gotten much farther than the living room when Man and Realtor came out of a room.
“Don’t even go in there,” Man said. “It’s evidently a teen aged boys room.”
I pulled me Baby Bug closer to me and opted to just wait in the car.
We titled the house The Rapture House and gave it a two because it had walls and roof. We laughed until we cried.
At another house on this hunt, our Realtor called ahead and we got the all clear from the house owner’s realtor. When we arrived there was a car in the driveway and one parked at the curb.
“Are you sure they’re not home?” we asked. Our Realtor checked and he was certain that we had the OK.
Inside the décor was…interesting. Looked like maybe an older couple lived there. There was a glass cabinet full of porcelain miniatures, mostly of farm animals. I checked out the hall bathroom while Man and Realtor checked out the Master Bedroom. There were a couple of empty wine cooler bottles near the tub and a pair of panties on the floor.
“Um…guys…?” I called to them just as there was some sort of commotion down in the Master. They shut the door and pulled me into the living room. Apparently, they walked in on a young man and his girlfriend. They had no idea we were coming. Soon a teen age boy sheepishly left the house with a young woman following in her over sized t-shirt and cut offs. She carried her flip flops in her hand as she made her Walk Of Shame passed us and out the door. After some investigating we learned that the parents were out of town and one brother received the call at work for a showing and approved it.
“He did that on purpose!” Man laughed.
“Well, I hope they learned a lesson,” I said indignantly.
We ended up finding another house that…I wouldn’t call a fixer-upper like our first but it needed upgrading. There was industrial carpet in the kitchen and bath that we changed out for some beautiful coffee bean colored wood floors. Paint, paint, paint and crown molding. It was adorable and once again, when it came time to move, I was complimented by the Realtor’s listing of “Pottery Barn colors and upgrades.”
Our move back to Texas was easy. Our realtor there had a daughter who recently moved to a neighborhood that we might like. We did indeed love the 1/2 acre lots and found a home that was BRAND NEW! We didn’t have to paint, repair or upgrade anything. It did not, however, have a lawn. We sodded and made flower beds and eventually got our yard the way we wanted it. We also became life long friends with the realtor’s daughter and her family. I miss that house and those friends both so much!!
And then we moved to CO. Please God, let it be the last. Originally we thought the move would be temporary and so we thought it would be fun to buy a vacation home in the mountains. We could live in the suburbs anywhere but now we could have an experience that not everyone is fortunate enough to have. It might have new challenges but…hey, it’s only two years! The score system was the same. The homes were very different. There are not a lot of cookie cutter houses in the mountains due to the varying terrain the builders have to work around. Also, most areas do not have deed restrictions or home owners associations so you might live next to farm animals or you may find a high dollar home across the street from a lean-to. The house we chose was not Man’s #1 or my #1. I think it was both of our #3’s and the fact that we both ranked it the same made us want to check it out again. On the return walk through I couldn’t recall why I had ranked it lower than the others. I loved it. Man was still not convinced. We went out to dinner and reviewed our score sheets again. The next day we made our offer and the rest is home sweet home.
I would suggest that home buyers not look alone. Walking in on two young “lovers” is probably way more awkward when it’s just you and your realtor. It’s a hilarious story when you have a friend to laugh about it with! Another persons thoughts and input don’t have to be taken but should be considered. I would never have thought to look for a tree to shade our yard to keep costs down. (Which in Texas is really something to consider!) Don’t take it too seriously. The right house will come to you! Try to look past other people’s decorations and lifestyles to see what’s underneath the industrial carpet, the weeds, the falling fence, etc. And it’s ok if you can’t fix it all right away. Paint does a WOLRD of good to a home! If you can’t upgrade everything right away you can more than likely afford paint. Take a deep breath and have fun!