I think I'm finally ready to throw together my first 'real' house post! Warning: this post and all subsequent house posts might get really long and too detailed for some but I just can't help myself. Buying our first home has been quite the adventure and a LONG time coming.
In fact, let us reflect on how we even got to this point. Well, we are both 30 years old with 1.5 kids and most of our friends bought homes back in 2005. But us? We rented for a bit after our wedding in 2007 and then really considered buying a house that that time. Thank you, God, that we did not bite the bullet back then since that is right when the housing market took a turn for the worse. Instead, we decided to live in the vacant upper duplex above my in-laws while Nate went to graduate school. We moved in here on Valentines Day, 2008 and had totally planned to stay only one year, just to save up a nice down payment on a house. Um....we close on our first home on Feb 13, 2012, so you do the math:)
That's exactly four years in our cozy little duplex, and four years full of highs and lows for our family. Three pregnancies, one loss, bringing home one newborn baby--then watching him grow up here. Built-in baby sitters who live downstairs from us, which is basically priceless, right? Wonderful meals made by my loving mother-in-law, who usually has us down each night on the weekends to share in her latest cooking delight. Numerous parties and celebrations were had here--a first birthday party, a graduation party for Nate, holiday parties, and random get-togethers with friends. Yes, lots and lots of happy memories in this home of ours and it will be extremely bittersweet to say goodbye.
We've talked so much about WHEN we would buy our first home that it's almost funny to look back on how that discussion evolved. First, we were going to move out in 2009 but the housing market made us think otherwise. Then when I got pregnant with Truman, we were sure we'd just rent somewhere else to save Tony and Lois the headache of living below a newborn baby. But of course, they balked at that idea and whole-heartedly welcomed their first grandchild just one story above them---late night crying and all. Then we figured we'd buy a house right when Nate graduated, in May 2011. But then I had a really expensive miscarriage that sort of took up all of our time and big chunk of our down payment funds. So we pushed the 'start hunting' date to the fall of 2011 and that sort of passed us by, too. We had just started to truly budget with our newly acquired double income status and I just didn't feel like we had any clue what we could truly afford. I was scared to spend the money we'd spent so many years saving. I was scared that we'd have another detrimental set back on our savings, like we did in 2011, and that we'd go under because of it. So yeah, I was pretty scared and started feeling like maybe we should just stay here for another year or two.
But one day, it hit me: we'd been pushing off this major step for way too long. There will always be something that comes up, always some unexpected expense or a reason to wait. Sure, we could have two kids in our little duplex but wasn't this a perfect time to take that leap of faith and settle into our first house before our second baby arrives? This is a buyers market and especially for us, a couple that has nothing to sell and therefore is not in a rush to get into a house quickly, there is no time like the present. Sure, it would be ideal to live in this duplex until every dime of our student loans is paid off (our only current debt) but sometimes you have to just go for it and live a little (this is a VERY anti-Dave Ramsey thing to say, I know). But we have planned to keep this first house modest so that we aren't 'house poor', so that I can still have the luxury of working part time, and so that we can still put a decent amount back in our savings each month. It would have been easy to look at houses way above our comfort level for payment, but we promised ourselves we would stay focused on the big picture instead. A 'WOW' home is not everything in life and we've always felt content in our tiny, humble place anyway.
Let's talk specifics now, shall we?
Our must have list for our first home:
-At least 3 bedrooms. I would prefer 4 'just in case' we have 3 kids and even if we don't, so that we could have a true guest room for our MO guests. But really, 3 bedrooms will be just fine.
-Fabulous location. We were admitted pretty snobby and annoying with this one, and Nate was even pickier than me since he grew up in this suburb. We want to live in a district with great schools since our kids will go to public schools and our little suburb boasts some of the best public schools in the state. Within our current suburb, we had a fairly small area that would actually 'work' for us but we did look at houses all around the immediate area and into other suburbs as well. I'd say we were 80% sure we'd stay in the same suburb that we're enjoying right now, though.
-All bedrooms on the same level. This was not an original 'must have' but we quickly found out that it needed to be on our list. A lot of the cute older homes we love have one giant master bedroom upstairs and then kids bedrooms on the main level. While that might not be a deal breaker to some families, it is for me---mostly because I don't like the idea of my kids being down on the main level and us being all the way upstairs if there is a break-in. Not to mention the probable nightly trips from our master bed to the kids rooms to check on them/help them go back to sleep/etc/etc/etc. Having to eliminate a flight of stairs for those trips seems really important right now.
Our 'would be nice to have' list:
-An old house with loads of charm but with plenty of modern updates (ah, the perfect balance, right?)
-2 car garage
-A decent sized yard, since this suburb is known for tiny lots
-Decent closet sizes, which again is pretty rare for old homes
-The ability to grow into the house with updates, additions, or transforming basements/attics into living spaces. We really don't want this first house to only last 3-5 years if we can manage it, mostly because I HATE moving so much and we've already waited this long to buy our first home. It doesn't have to be our 'forever' or our dream home, but I want to make sure we could potentially last here about 10 years or more.
And then the stats on THE house that will be ours in less than two weeks:)
1670 square feet
2 car, detached garage
full basement plus a third floor attic each with potential to be a living space someday
3 good-sized bedrooms, all upstairs
one full bath upstairs, and a half downstairs
fantastic location, right across from an elementary school and on a corner lot (therefore only one neighbor!)
gigantic kitchen compared to what we have now
Let's remember that our current duplex boasts a whopping 900 square feet, two cozy bedrooms and only one bathroom. So nearly doubling our square footage is enough to make me panic and also want to cry from excitement. We also have to share the garage with Nate's parents right now, so although I'm the lucky pregnant lady who hates Wisconsin winters and therefore gets a garage spot, Nate does have to scrape his car each morning and endure the troubles of outdoor parking. We don't have a garbage disposal, a dishwasher, or a third bedroom at the moment. We are pretty limited on storage space.
Now of course, our first house is not PERFECT by any means. The biggest projects we are going to tackle before we move into the house include ripping up all of the carpets and refinishing the existing hardwood underneath; painting all of the boring white walls and the dark wood trim (more on this later, please don't threaten to kill me), and we will completely re-do the kitchen. So all cosmetic updates that will likely make the house fit more into our style. The 'to-do someday' list on this house is really quite overwhelming, but the good news is that none of those expensive things have to be done right now. We realize that owning an old home will mean a constant project and we are definitely up to the challenge, as true DIY'ers at heart.
And now, I present to you a few pictures of the outside. Our 1925 'Chicago Bungalow' style house. It's very 'us', as many of our friends have said.
More to come...