Best intentions to update apparently have gone well awry during the second half of this year. But there’s an explanation for that! (There always is, isn’t there? But I mean it this time!)
As most everyone in my personal life knows, I bought a house this summer!!! (Yes, it does require three exclamation points. I’m actually holding back on the excited punctuation.) It had been something I’d been thinking about for a while (pretty much since graduating back in 2010), and I was finally able to get my (mostly financial) ducks in a row and go for it.
It actually started out with me not expecting to get a place quite so fast (once I started looking)! My parents and I had finally talked about it and decided it was time to start looking around at what sort of places were on the market. I’d gone to an open house back in February, to a place that I did NOT like, and the effort had pretty much died there. But June came around and we decided to go out and see a few open houses during a weekend when we didn’t have anything else to do.
There were four going on that Sunday (in my possible price range), but one I wasn’t too sure about. We threw it on the list anyway, and because of the timing and locations, it was the first one we went to (I’m sure you can see where this is going).
Now, I have been an avid viewer of HGTV for years. Years! And I like to think that I’m a pretty logical person (about some things, at least), so I was aware that any house I was looking at (translation: in my price range) was going to need work. That’s just the way it goes. Less expensive = more work. BUT! It also means that if you’re willing to put in the effort, you can really make a place into something personal and really nice.
HGTV viewership aside, nothing quite prepares you for actually going into an open house. Maybe the house will be good! Maybe it will be very very bad. Maybe it’ll be somewhere in the middle. …Maybe it’ll be pretty much everything you’re looking and hoping for, but the smell of the place will be HORRENDOUS.
Maybe it’s that last one that actually happened.
Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. If that’s somehow news to you, then I’m not sure where you’ve been hiding for the past few decades. But it’s also not great for things around you, too. Like your house. And when you sit in your house (for years and years) and constantly smoke, it gets into your house. Into the carpet and the walls and the woodwork and everything else, and then it stays. And then when you try to sell your house, everyone opens the front door during your open house and is smacked in the face by that odor. You can’t get rid of it. Not even with plug-in air fresheners. (Side note: The air fresheners just make it worse. Don’t do that.)
It was honestly the very first thing we noticed. You opened the door and it was just THERE. Greeting you. Following you.
Clinging to you.
It was gross. There’s no other way to put it. Gross. Ew ew ew.
And yet the house itself was great. A little Cape Cod, built in 1949 when the city was starting to spill outwards after the war. The other houses on the street all look pretty much the same, but not exact cookie-cutters. There are trees and neighbors walking their dogs and flowers in the front yards. It’s a 3 bedroom with a partially finished basement, small but not TOO small, and pretty much exactly the sort of place I was looking for. And (if you could ignore the smell), it was in really good condition. Sure it needed cosmetic updates, and sure there’s some things that will need to be replaced in the near-ish future (windows, doors, siding), but the bones were good bones. Foundation, roof, furnace – all good.
((The realtor was a good guy, too. We hit it off in the first few minutes of me looking at the house, and I’ll admit I spent time talking to him about various odd things as my parents went around to actually look at the house. If you’re in the Milwaukee area and in need of a realtor, let me know and I’ll get you his info. His name is Dan and he helped me get through the process of being a first-time home-buyer with as little pain as possible. And for someone that tends to worry about EVERYTHING, that’s a good deal.))
The problem was that I hadn’t been at the point of actually buying anything! It was just supposed to be a day of checking on current open houses in the area – to see what was out there. So I gave Realtor Dan my info and said I’d be in touch. What I didn’t expect was to hear that same night that there was an offer put in on the house. One I could definitely beat. Or so I thought. Cue a panicked rush to try to get pre-approved. Watch as things popped up that needed to be addressed before I could get that pre-approval. At one point, I decided to step back, figuring that the timing just wasn’t right, and that if it was meant to be, it would have sorted itself out, but that this wasn’t the right time. And then things sorted themselves, everything proved me wrong, and it all fell into place.
The process of finances and bids and offers all seemed to simultaneously rush by and also last forever. My one tip for this process is: it would probably have been easier to have the pre-approval before I stepped into that house the first time. I know you see that on all the house-buying checklists and tip lists that are out there, but it really is true. And had I actually meant to start the process, I would have had that taken care of. But the house snuck up on me! In a good way, I promise, though I had my fair share of stress and sleepless nights where I was convinced this was the worst wrong decision I’d ever made.
But it wasn’t, of course. I closed on August 15th to kick off an already-busy weekend, and then began two full months of renovation before I could even think about moving myself in. Still staying with my parents gave me the luxury of not having to live in the space while we were working, which was a very (VERY) good thing. My parents and/or I were over there nearly every single day for those two months to do the work that needed to be done. Cleaning was the #1 thing, because seriously, everything was SO GROSS. Most everything fell into the categories of smelly or sticky or both. My mom says she now knows why people come in and gut a place and start from scratch – because it’s less work than having to clean it all. And then painting and tearing things out and putting things in… it was a huge job. And one that I could NOT have done on my own.
But oh, we did it! I moved in mid-October and started settling myself into my NEW HOUSE. It still seems surreal most days, like I’m just house-sitting for someone who has very familiar stuff. And of course, there’s still a ton of work (and decorating!) to do. I have nothing on the walls yet, but it’s getting there. Slowly, it’s becoming home. And I love it.
And of COURSE I have more pictures! But! Since there was so much renovation to do, I’m going to post stuff room by room. I’m going to try to set it up so that it posts on a regular basis for a while, so hold onto your hats!