I have wanted to live in this area since I was twelve years old. My Dad’s friend had a place in the country, and we went to visit. I’ll never forget driving up the road toward his house. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I knew at that moment that I wanted to live here.
I was 38 before we finally made it. We had careers and responsibilities in the city, so even though we’d looked at houses several times, over the years, we’d never made the leap.
Then came the summer of 2007. The housing bubble was bursting. The house we were living in was leveraged to the hilt. The clock was ticking. The only way out was to get a new house, get moved and get our house sold before everything fell apart. Like, NOW.
We decided to get a “paint and paper” job — ugly but cheap and easy to fix — as a hedge against the possible drop in value. We’d ride it out, put in our sweat equity, and buy a country property just as the prices bottomed out. It hasn’t worked out that way, but that’s where we were at the time.
So. We rejected “pre-war construction” (too expensive to fix up). We rejected two-story houses, or houses with stairs to the entry (my Dad is in a wheelchair and we wanted our home accessible to him). We rejected anything with a tiny backyard (kids! garden! BBQ!). Which left us with ranches from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
Well, I say that like there were a bunch. There were three.
The first one sold to someone else the day before our scheduled trip to see it.
The second one had a large yard on paper, but in real life the yard was 200 feet deep but only 15 feet wide, plunging down between two apartment buildings. Um, no.
The third one, I refused to even consider on principle. It was SO UGLY.
You know the old rule, right? Kitchen, bath, curb appeal. That’s what you want in a house. And this house had
I rest my case.
Mr. Magpie, of course, thought this was the house for us.
Him: “But it’s the cheapest price per square foot of anything we’ve looked at!”
Him: “But it has a whole bonus suite for your office and sewing space!”
Me: “Hmmm. No. UGLY.”
Him: (Going for the gold). “But has a huge yard!”
Me. “Hmmmm…… But, UGLY!”
(In retrospect, how spoiled was I? Yikes. But then, we hadn’t had the next five years yet, so I didn’t know yet just how lucky we were/are.)
Him: “Hon, I love you, and I know you have ‘aesthetic needs’ and all, but, um, we kinda need to make a move. Like, NOW.”
So we toured it. It had everything we needed, and I loved the yard. But I still couldn’t get past the flaws. But there weren’t any other options unless we looked at houses way outside our criteria. Like, houses with only one or two bedrooms (again, see spoiled, above), or houses with stairs that my Dad would never be able to come to. I didn’t want to do that. So I sat down one night at the computer, and had myself a good think.
I wasn’t worried about the bathroom because we’d renovated our last bathroom and I loved how it had come out.
We had renovated our old kitchen, too, and I had loved the results there. This was the before (the original listing photo):
This is how it looked when we moved out:
But the house Mr. Magpie wanted to buy? Honestly, I wasn’t sure it was possible. This was the original listing photo:
I decided to do a quick and dirty digital makeover and just see. This is what I had come up with, way back then:
Okay…. okay…. not bad, right? Once that big ugly bar was gone, the cabinets painted, a nice backsplash, some pretty paint, some nice appliances… Not. Bad.
Still, though, curb appeal, right? I mean, we were wanting something cheap and easy to fix up! Changing a roofline doesn’t qualify. Not at all. If we moved in, we were stuck with the facade as is. So I thought, “Okay, if I can make this cute, I can live here.” So I took the original listing photo…
…and made this:
I called Mr. Magpie down to the basement (where our office and craft space was in the old house), and I showed him the makeover.
He said, “That’s cute, whose house is that?”
We made an offer the next day.
You know what? Five years later, I love my house, warts and all. And maybe we will change the roofline after all, someday. Maybe.
What about you? Did you buy the house you wanted to? Or the one you needed to?