It was about this time last year that we started house-hunting. We spent ab0ut four weekends in January and February driving around with a local realtor looking at houses, surveying neighborhoods, analyzing commute times, and weighing all of the different options that come with buying a house. We had a healthy list of must-haves, which included things like a yard (fenced, or fenceable), two or more bedrooms, close to work, and a house that was detached (so no townhouses/condos, etc.) Finally, after days of “this one is too small, too big, too far, too old, too expensive, and so on” we put in a contract for the very first house we saw – a 3 bedroom 1950’s brick ranch house two miles from work. What sealed the deal? The 1/2 acre back yard and the 1,300 square foot unfinished basement.
Oh sure, a yard and an unfinished basement might not be what everyone else looks for in a house, but both were unlike those of any houses we saw within our price range. We had spent the last few years living in over-priced apartments and townhouses that varied from a 600 square foot one-bedroom to a 1,100 square foot townhouse with a tiny fenced yard. In addition, we always rented a local storage unit for things like summer clothes and bikes in the winter months, and winter clothes, snow shovels, and Christmas decorations in the summer months. A 1,300 square foot basement meant no more storage units. It also meant a wood-working area, potential studio and rehearsal space, and a full-sized washer and dryer.
We looked past the tiny bedrooms, shiny-lacquered-varnished knotty pine cabinets, as well as the pre-move-in need for bathroom renovations and full hot water pipe replacement. The previous owners had lived in the house since they bought it in the 50’s, and it was pretty obvious. This was not a granite counter-top and stainless steel appliances sort of house. We put the contract in with our realtor on a late night in February, we negotiated and closed on the house in mid-March. From mid-March to June, we had contractors, plumbers, and electricians welcome the house to the 21st century. We had a very nice man put up a fence (PS – ours is the “4′ Pressure Treated Spaced Picket” example. It’s like we’re local fence celebrities).
During the renovation time, we picked which bedroom would be the master (when they’re all that small, the master isn’t that obvious), we designated which bedroom would be the spare, and which one would be the office. We painted the dining room blue. We determined that the living room would be relatively sparsely decorated, and that half of the basement would be the recreation room, with the entertainment center and gaggle of recliners we’ve collected over the years. We moved in sometime in June, after witnessing the yard’s transformation from dead bushes and grass to blooming azaleas and greenery. We bought a lawn mower.
It was also when we decided that we’d like to have a kid, which was a complete about-face from where we were mere months, weeks, days prior. While house-shopping, we didn’t research schools nearby, nor were we concerned when the home inspector said our deck railing wasn’t to code (i.e. a small child could wander through the bars and fall right off.) But sometime between eating dinner and playing backgammon on the deck every night and having a ten minute commute, having a kid suddenly sounded like a really good idea.
So now, my wife is dismantling the office, carrying boxes and armloads of books downstairs, removing diplomas and certificates, and moving bookcases and file cabinets to make way for the crib, changing table, and rocking chair that will soon occupy the space. Mostly, I would like to thank our town, our jobs, and our house for shedding some light on us, and making room for this now very real kid-having situation we are in, for if we were still driving our 45 minute to-and-from commutes, coming home to our too-expensive and too-small house, and taking our dog on ten walks a day, we would have never found ourselves here.