I have been house-hunting.
Prices have fallen drastically and I am feeling it is time to face the fact that I am not just visiting the city I've lived and worked in for nearly 8 years. I thought the move here was temporary, but it wasn't.
I've been longing to go back to New Hampshire, but could never quite visualize making that move in practical terms, and if I can't dream it, I can't do it. My current plan is to try and find the things I loved about New Hampshire -- living in an older home, being part of a real community -- closer at hand.
After cruising the MLS listings with those thoughts in mind, I asked a realtor friend to show me some houses. This was the "coffee date" portion of the pairing process, if you think of it as internet dating: no matter how attractive the profile, it takes a face-to-face meeting to know if there's any actual chemistry.
The first house was not really my speed -- a traditional 4-bedroom Colonial in an awkward location. But I thought I would look anyway, for comparison purposes. Once I stepped inside, though, I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Not only was it in really daunting shape (threadbare carpets, fallen plaster gaps in some of the ceilings, peeling, grease-covered kitchen walls, etc. ), the upstairs bedrooms had apparently been rented out and each of them had a deadbolt key lock on the outside of the door. Those rooms were all painted in garish saturated colors and filled with unmade beds of psychedelic sheets accessorized with overflowing ashtrays and permeated with the smell of smoke. I could have taken photos to convince you it was a crack house, no problem.
At one point I opened a door to one of those bedrooms to take a peek inside. Apparently I didn't close it tightly enough, because as I turned to walk away it soundlessly swung open again, causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. Fortunately there were no other signs that a ghost was present (I'll tell that story someday!), but even so, I had seen enough!
Definitely a "no"!
The second house was the charmer, and I said "yes" in my heart based on first impression alone. From the photos I was prepared love it, and sure enough, despite the work it obviously needs, I am smitten. It is a farmhouse style, with a small front porch and a high Victorian profile, but very plain (more craftsman influence than fussy gingerbread). New wood floors, new plumbing, new wiring, central heat and air, and open shelving in the kitchen. Not all of the upgrades are the best, and a few are still works in progress, but I can live with that. Did I mention it has a metal roof? (Imagine how lovely that will sound when it rains!) It's on a double lot that is already fenced, with citrus trees and a small patio. Lots of chemistry with this one! It just needs someone to love it, who can also afford it. I sure hope I am that person.
Not only "yes" but "yes please."
The third house was such a sad contrast that I could hardly muster any interest at all. It had been totally remodeled inside to resemble a mobile home. It was built in 1925, so I'm sure it had charming features at some point, but now it is all cheap paneling, drop ceilings that are probably full of asbestos, and formica countertops. The landscaping was designed by someone who hates nature: the tiny strip of lawn is surrounded by a chain link fence, and half of that width is covered with cement pavers. I felt so bad for the house -- like its soul had been amputated.
No, no, no -- though I actually felt bad leaving it to its fate.
But, oh the second house has soul to spare! The work it needs means I can afford it, the location is only 5 streets away from the ballpark, and in the other direction a short walk to downtown to the farmer's market, the used book store, antique shops, restaurants, and a lakefront stroll. And its street has a name, not just a number.
With chemistry like that, it must be a match. Saying "yes" is only the beginning!