Houses are a lot of work. And the more time you spend in your house, the more work you find to do. Or, in my case, the more things that you add to the mental list of what you wish you could do if you only had the money and the time to do it
My husband and I house-hunted for over a year. We saw dozens of houses. Every house had some things we liked and some we didn’t. But nothing really spoke to us. Our realtor worked tirelessly to show us everything he could find even if it didn’t fit all our specifications. And that is because he knew a lot more than us. We had our budget and our wants seemed to always outstrip that budget.
We were both approaching 30 and yet knew ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. our respective parents never sat us down to explain to us what adulting really means. No one told me how much student loans would come back to bite me in the ass. And no one explained to my husband how it was important to have SOME credit as an adult (he literally had no credit score the first time the mortgage guy ran our credit). And also, no one told us that the best rates and the best loans come with the stipulation of a 20% down payment. I was teaching at the time, driving a relatively new car, contributing the maximum to my retirement plan and buying what I wanted. We didn’t have 20%. It was a hard pill to swallow but it really woke me up in terms of what I need to prepare my children for. In addition to their college funds, their savings accounts and their life insurance, my husband and I opened secondary bank accounts where we contribute just a couple times a year. We are hoping that if our girls decide to marry or buy homes as adults, we will be able to gift them with these bank accounts to help them out. I don’t want them to have to face the same stark reality that we did as we went into the house hunting procedure completely blind.
Needless to say, we had to re-evaluate our must haves. One of mine has always been to have more than one bathroom. Growing up, our grandparents lived with us. So with seven people, having 2.5 bathrooms in our medium sized home was a huge benefit. I didn’t always have the best stomach and being at a friend’s house where there was only one bathroom I would get anxiety thinking that the bathroom wouldn’t be available if I needed it.
I also was not going to budge on having a yard. We had one growing up. Fully fenced in, but not super big. But enough for an above ground pool, running space for ‘kick the can’, and a swing set and cabin my dad built. Our neighbors on either side were only a driveway apart. It didn’t bother me then but when we started looking we both agreed that we wanted more space between us and our neighbors.
What I did give up on was the garage. Growing up we had a single garage all the way in the back of the yard but it was basically a tool shed. We grew up shoveling out the cars when it snowed and shoveling the driveway ourselves. But it just seemed that the houses we saw with garages were always lacking something more important. Or they were raised ranches, one style that I just couldn’t see myself living in.
When we first toured our current house we both liked it. It was just flipped and we were told that the person who bought it and flipped it wanted to rent it out but got no takers so he put it on the market for a short while. It was a very old house but completely refurbished, with a new roof, new drywall, new electrical and no one had lived in it since it was finished. This was a huge plus for us as we weren’t super handy and wanted a move-in ready place. From the outside it appeared to have a single attached garage but it was really two additional small bedrooms. It was billed as four bedrooms, two bathrooms, with a sunroom and a screened in porch. It sounds like a big house but it’s really not. It’s just super cozy. There was even a small stream running through the backyard. What turned us off initially was the height of the basement. My husband was just too tall to be fully upright in the basement. We didn’t pursue it at that time because the realtor was told during our visit that if an offer wasn’t put in in the next three days it was being taken off the market. And as much as we like it, no one would force our hand – especially when we were only a couple months into looking.
And then we saw months of crap. There were a lot of partially finished houses, houses with damage, one that was missing appliances and even one with second story patio doors that led nowhere. We initially started looking in the town we both worked in but eventually chose to look elsewhere, something that I will forever be grateful for. If I run to the store I just want to run to the store. I don’t want to have to question my hair or my clothes for fear of running into a student!Almost a year later we found that this house had come back on the market (thank you Zillow) and asked our realtor to take us back. Seeing it that second time did the trick. It was LOVE! It wasn’t just, we could put this here, and that there, it was we can raise a family here, and grow old together here. Home inspection was painless (and the seller readily agreed to a few fixes), radon was clear and we only had one baseboard panel by the front door that tested positive for lead. It was a go!
We’ve made some decent changes since we’ve been here. Bathroom upgrades, lighting upgrades and most importantly, we destroyed a first floor bedroom to make a mudroom. It was awful having to enter the house by the front door. There is no roof over the door and once you stepped in you either had to go upstairs or turn right to the dining room or left to the living room. There was no place for shoes or coats. We tracked mud and dirt and road salt all over the old hardwoods. So the front bedroom in the fake garage was turned into a mudroom. We moved up our washer and dryer, put in a row of coat hooks and shoe racks, and used the closet to store all of my husband’s musical instruments. I guess the most important part is that we slapped on an exterior door. Inow we enter the house though this side door and keep all our dirt out of the living quarters. It was seriously the best decision we could’ve made. Granted we probably decreased our home’s value by losing a bedroom but we don’t plan on leaving this house until our kids ship us to a nursing home.
The remaining first floor bedroom (which is the back of the fake garage) used to be the man cave. It still has a closet full of games and all my husbands music but it also has two bookshelves, and my desk. And it’s where the twins nap in the afternoon so there are two playpens in there too. So if you’re doing the math you will see that at this point we only have two usable bedrooms now. And three children. Our second floor is two bedrooms, ours which has an attached bathroom, and one other. Each are the entire length of the house but with no attic, both rooms have sloped front and back walls. The girls room holds three cribs in a row against the outside wall, and still has two small closets, space for a bookcase, bureau and two night stands. But we know that as the girls get older, it’s not going to work.
Our goal is to enclose our screened-in porch at the back of the house as a family room and above it build two additional bedrooms. Cutting down part of the girls’ current room will give us enough space for a small full bath for them. Our kitchen is pretty tiny so we would open it up to the family room. Our badly placed first floor bathroom will be shrunk to a half bath with a door off the family room rather than the kitchen, and the rest of the space will be a walk-in pantry. Our second major goal is to pay for this renovation in full, without any bank loans or remortgaging. So given that I’m currently not working, we’re estimating that we can save up enough in about six years time to get this addition done. Of course, getting an actual estimate would help but we are hoping our goal of $5,000 a year for six years should cover most of it. We hope to be able to do a lot of the demo ourselves (with my dad, brother and father-in-law). We’ve lucked out with the electrical cost as new wires were run during the last reno specifically for an addition, and our porch already has electrical. The first floor plumbing will need to be shifted, but a new bathroom upstairs would line up right over the first floor bathroom which should help with the cost as well.
We’ve just recently demolished our badly placed backyard shed and will be fencing off an area of about 40 x 15 to create a play area for the girls. I’ve decided to forego my veggie garden for the summer so that we can outfit and finish this play area. We have just a slide, sandbox and sand & water table at present, but are hoping to add a climbing dome and play house before the summer is out. Our first step though is to jackhammer the shed’s concrete foundation.
Should be fun. After all, I thorough enjoyed sledgehammering the ugly ass shed!