It’s official! We bought our first house!
After 5 years of planning and saving, giving up in frustration and stepping back mindfully, working with real estate agents across two states, and picking through thousands of listings on Realtor.com only to find what we were looking for when we weren’t actually looking, we finally found her.
We are over the moon in love with her, and completely overwhelmed by the care she needs. She is exactly what we were hoping for, and we can’t believe she is actually ours. It feels like she should have been out of our financial reach, but as we spend more time getting to know her, it’s like, ok, we get it now.
The house needs a ton of work to help her come to life, and we are all in.
House Shopping = PIA
If you’ve ever purchased a home, you understand. If you’re getting ready to start house shopping, the single best piece of advice I can offer is to be prepared for your emotions to get completely assaulted.
Our list of must-haves started out pretty simple and we assumed we had a pretty healthy budget that would get us a nice home with a bit of character that would likely need a bit of updating, but nothing major. New carpeting, new tile, some work in the yard, and we’d be done.
You know what they say about assuming.
Using Renting As Our Homeowners Training Program
At this time, we were renting a 1600 sq ft 1960s ranch home on an abandoned golf course. The home had a lot of issues due to it’s age and a bad – like, BAD – DIY renovation, but ironically the bad renovation is the only reason we were able to get into the house in the first place. The neighborhood would normally have been way out of our budget so we were pleased as punch …
… even when my husband got locked in the basement because the door was broken and our cat disappeared under the stairs because it wasn’t drywalled properly.
Don’t worry, we got both of them back. I’m pretty sure the cat enjoyed his adventure more than my husband did.
We decided that this house would be our Homeowner Training Program to see how we *really* felt about taking care of the (constant) repairs and maintenance ourselves.
We loved it.
Everything from lawn mowing to leaky basements. It all felt like an adventure to us. The pride we felt in improving the home ourselves, the frustration over being limited in what we could improve, and the lifestyle improvements like being able to have people over without tripping over the coffee table trying to scoot by to get to the bathroom proved to us that a purchase was our next best move.
House Shopping near Chicago Didn’t Go Well
So we started shopping …
The shine wore off real fast.
Lake County property taxes made even moderately priced homes a bad investment. I mean, does anyone else feel like a $9,000 tax bill on a $250,000 house is out of whack? It’s not just us, right?
Then one night …
I was in bed and Greg was brushing his teeth at the sink. He stands straight up, whirls around with the toothbrush still in his mouth and asks, “Do you want to move to Louisville??”
I giggled. Considered it carefully for a few seconds.
A few weeks later, we were on our way to Louisville for a scouting mission.
House Shopping in Louisville Didn’t Go Much Better
It went a little something like this:
Find a great home in our price range with taxes that didn’t make us squeal in shock. Schedule a time to see the home. Get a call from the Realtor moments later to say it had gone pending.
People were putting in offers without even seeing the house!
It was exciting to see how much more we could get for our money in Jefferson County, Kentucky over Lake County, Illinois but fat lotta good that did when we couldn’t get in to see anything.
So we ended up renting for our first two years in Louisville.
In the end, we were happy that it worked out that way. We were able to get familiar with our new city, save a little more, and get really clear on what we wanted from a home and where we wanted that home to be.
The House Hunt Parameters Will Probably Change
Flexibility, I think, is a big factor in a successful home search. What you think you want and you actually need can be very different.
We started out thinking we wanted a huge wooded lot – several acres – a little further out from Louisville. It didn’t matter if the home was a fixer. The home could be changed. The lot could not.
Then we were like, what are we going to do with acreage? Look at it? Pay taxes on it? Mow it? We wouldn’t have a real use for it. But we would have a real use for the house. And how much of a fixer did we really want?
So we flip-flopped. Don’t be afraid to flip-flop as you define your actual needs over your perceived wants.
We jumped to the other extreme. Building a new house on a small lot with a wooded view. That would be so great!
So then …
It was perfect.
We walked the lot the salesperson suggested for us.
It was perfect.
We were all in.
Then we started building it on paper.
Added the lot. Added the elevation. Added this. Added that. It zipped past our budget and kept right on going.
We grieved over that one for a while.
We pretty much stopped looking at that point. This is the overwhelming emotional part of house hunting. Falling in love only to be disappointed over and over again.
Then one day …
Greg was on his way out of town for a week. Because of course he would be.
Our plan for the day was packing him up and spending time together before his flight early the next morning.
Just for funsies, Greg opened up Realtor.com to browse.
He browsed because I said there was nothing on the market.
“That’s nice. Let’s look at that one.” I can’t remember which one of us said that. He clicked on the listing and scrolled a few photos.
Greg was just about to click the back button when the photos of the pond and the back deck scrolled up.
We were writing an offer a few short hours later.
We bought a house.
It snuck up on us when we weren’t even looking.
Does everyone feel this way when they buy a house? Like, you’re waiting and planning, waiting and planning, and then all of sudden …
Boom!! You have a house.
Just as soon as you lose hope that you’ll ever find what you’re looking for …
Boom!! You have a house.
After a handful of disappointments, feeling like you found the perfect house only to discover there’s some reason you can’t have it …
Boom!! You have a house.
We can hardly believe it.
And we almost overlooked it because of lackluster photos! We were one click away from missing out on our dream home.
One of the images was of a shower curtain!
Just … why? Why was that included?
The property is what sold us on the house, 150%.
A wooded view with a large deck, a walkout basement, and a private lot was on the top of our we-can-wish list and underlined 3 times, but the listing photos glossed right over them.
It kind of makes my stomach hurt to think how close we came to missing out!
Now the Home Renovation Planning Can Begin!
We are going to be giving this house the overhaul this beautiful home needs and deserves. I discovered yesterday that even the microwave is 14 years old, so literally everything is going to go through a replace – or – rejuvenate process.
We’re going to give ourselves some time to get to know the house and how we live in it before really getting down to business with planning renovations, but there are some things that clearly need to be addressed.
Because we are first time homeowners, there’s going to be a lot of on-the-spot learning going on, so things could get … erm … interesting.
Look for my next post, because I’m taking you on a tour of the interior to talk about our future plans. You’ll get to see the orange sponge painting in the dining room, the ridiculously huge light fixture in the breakfast area, the weird thing they did with the window trim in the bathroom (it’s really weird), and tons more stuff that needs to go away!
We don’t have a big budget, so the renovation will happen over time (so much time), but we are going to have a steady stream of DIY renovation projects to talk about!!
I cannot wait to share everything that happens since we bought our first house and I really hope you’ll share your home renovation or refresh projects with me! I live for this stuff and would be thrilled to swap stories!