Houses have souls.
Or if not souls, perhaps they have something else, a way of speaking.
That is why I believe that when one is looking for a house, it's not logic that is the number one decision-maker (although it does play a role). You will know the house as soon as you step inside -- you will feel at home.
This is, I know, a bit crazy and woo-woo for some people. After all, we have to think about many things when buying a home -- price, location, the type and amount of work that may need to be done, how long the family is planning to stay -- but ultimately, the house will just feel right, and you'll make a decision based on that.
|Rental's breakfast nook & sun room|
Or perhaps not, and you'll wonder why you don't feel quite so at home. This was the case, to a small extent, in our first house. It was a nice house and we enjoyed it -- and put in countless hours of work improving it -- but we knew we weren't going to stay there long. We thought that we would live there for ten years, but we sold after only four. It was a home that I walked in and felt was adequate -- very nice for a first time home, right in our price range, and had features that would make it easily sell-able (which we proved when we sold it in two days in a down market). But this house was never home.
When we walked into our current house, I knew. This was despite the fact that the house was dirty, had been empty for nine months, had not been updated in 40 years and had some serious issues. Oh, and we didn't know how big the backyard truly was because it was a mass of holly and blackberry brambles (half an acre of such, to be exact). But this house was home and it was ours, I knew it. We've been happily living here for five years now.
|Our current home's living room|
There are still years' worth of projects left to complete, but we slowly work on a bit every year and are comfortable in the process.
In 2010, we bought a rental property and I used the same process to determine what place to buy. I generally spend at least six months thinking and searching real estate sites to get an idea of the market before I even contact an agent. This time was no different, except for the fact that our budget was very small and the market was in the tank. Even with a down economy, most things within our budget were so run down it would probably be better to tear down and start from scratch. While we are willing to gut homes that we live in (our current house is an example), we needed a rental that would be almost immediately livable.
|Rental's french doors|
Why a rental? That is a long story, but it begins years ago with Crazymaker constantly pestering us to buy "an investment" so that she could live in a house.
Why would I agree? I am an idiot. Or a sucker. You decide.
When we finally reached a point where we could delve into the rental market, we bought this adorable house.
I love this house. Honey loves this house. We knew as soon as we saw it that we were in love.
It has its issues -- an odd backyard and, like most hundred-year old homes in our city, there is no garage and was no dishwasher (Honey installed one).
|Rental's backyard and long driveway behind the fence|
But it has windows everywhere (one of my requirements for a house), lots of open space, a fenced yard, an excellent location (two blocks from the freeway but on a private and surprisingly quiet street), and more counter space in the kitchen than my current house.
|The shed we spent our Fourth of July weekend designing and building.|
Crazymaker moved in and we cut her some slack -- rent $3-400 under the neighborhood's going rate, we covered garbage service for months, built a solid shed, added plants and a BBQ and a lawnmower, and did a million other things -- but that didn't matter. Every month she complained about how expensive it was, how horrible the location was, how inconvenient the house was, how she was just trying to be helpful to us -- all in a passive aggressive manner. (Starting to see where the nickname "Crazymaker" comes from?) Her boyfriend accused Honey of being a slum lord (what?!?), and when Crazymaker finally announced that she was moving out after just over a year (instead of her originally agreed-upon two), we met the news with a mixture of relief and apprehension.
So now we are taking this month to do a few more improvements while looking for a new renter to move in sometime in March. We are going to have to learn how to be "real" landlords. That is fine. As we look, I am sending intentions out into the world: I want someone who will love this house as I love it. As Honey loves it.
I love our current house, even with all of its quirks and all the work it still needs. But I love the rental house, too, and if I had to live anywhere other than my current house, I'd want to live in that rental. I walk inside and immediately feel at home. And hopefully soon I'll find someone who feels the same way.