Well folks, it's official. We sold our first home! Let me start by saying thank you. Thank you to those that were on their knees praying, lighting home shrine candles, sending us good vibes, and repeatedly telling us that everything would be ok along this wild ride to selling in 60 days. We signed the papers and closed on the house, and it feels so good. Meanwhile, Danny is doing cartwheels or something causing lots of commotion in the empty living room. This a huge relief for us.
Most recent view from the kitchen window...
Somehow September decided to get us involved in everything possible. Four weddings, a bridal shower, a bachelorette party, closing on our old home, packing, moving our whole life to a storage unit, buying a new home and a few work trips to the Golden State and elsewhere is all about to commence within this fine month. It's all really wonderful things that are happening, but all at once. We're very tired and would willingly buy some sanity for a pretty price if we could.
A now a little about how we got to where we are now…
It's wild to think that we were standing in front of this sold sign just over a year ago when we bought it.
Or doing some sort of strange jump with a wild head of hair!
Let me preface this by saying we were not left with the best possible situation when we got the house, and it's really our fault for being clueless first time home buyers. The garage, basement and attic were full of the previous owners' belongings after 40 years of staying and "making it their own." No more could fit in the old owner's condo, so it just stayed here. The home was in much worse shape than what we could see, as everything was covered in wallpaper and window treatments. There were endless trips to Goodwill (17 just this summer), countless Craigslist sales, multiple donations to the local Habitat ReStore, free junk put out on the curb, and three 20 yard dumpsters later, and we were still trying to get rid of junk that wasn't ours. You better believe we "blessed" the new owner with some of it. We came across some pretty cool stuff that we kept, but the rest of if resembled an average episode of Hoarders. The backyard was taller than me and I stand 5'7". I'm not really sure what we were thinking to be honest with you.
The day after we returned from our honeymoon, our basement flooded. Honeymoon's over! I'll never forget our frustration levels while I stood in the basement in my pajamas, hooded sweatshirt and rain boots at 5am, scooping up buckets of water from a toilet on the first floor that had been pouring water into the basement all night long. Our honeymoon paradise was only two plane rides and a mojito away. Can we go back yet? I could have cried, but I kept it together like any brand new wife would and kept scooping up buckets of water, mixed with shreds of an olive green rug that was most likely 60 years old and disintegrating by the minute. I'll forever treasure the moment my husband said in his calming voice of concern, "I'm very sorry this happened. This just isn't how I wanted our marriage to begin." Little did we know, this was only the beginning of a long year of renovation projects that would test our patience and relationship more than we ever thought possible. I know it's been done before, but no couple should have to learn how to renovate an old home on top of getting used to living together and the ins and outs of marriage. No one will ever really understand what kind of stress it put on us, but hey, we made it out alive! I could give you extended example after example about all the happenings at this place, but I'll save you some time and keep them short.
- I clogged the garbage disposal with too much spinach, which resulted in spinach flying out of our washing machine. Yes, spinach was flying out of our WASHING MACHINE. I had to take a "plumbing lesson" from Danny and unclog the drain myself. Gagging was a side effect of this procedure.
- At one time we had Roto Rooter, the county engineer, an intelligent neighbor, Danny and his dad in our basement, all inspecting the backup in our main sewage line. We found out that our individual sewer runs 200 yards down our street, in the opposite direction that the county records had on file.
- There was a time when we were both covered in poison ivy from tearing up the backyard, so bad that we were miserable and had to get shots.
- We've had over 14 different neighborhood cats on the prowl (a few more are on the way).
- While I was home alone and Danny was traveling for work, it was dark out and a random person was knocking on our front windows. I nearly turned into the crazy woman you hear about on Dateline NBC.
- Our crazed neighbor once told me that he was driving to NYC for the 4th of July weekend "to watch the ball drop and all that jazz." HUH?!
- The same neighbor is also known to do a few Elvis impersonations in his garage. But it's not just any impersonation. We're talking about an impersonation of "Burnin Love" in nearly his birthday suit - and into his megaphone no less!
- We had a crack addict on our back porch, trying to get in our French doors. This person then proceeded to fall face-first off of the porch, 4 feet below and onto the concrete drive. Mind you, we slept through all of this havoc and found out through the neighbor the next morning. Thank goodness the security system was armed!
- The tennis racket at the bottom of the attic stairs was "the bat-swatter."
- There were 30,000 bees and 100 pounds of honey in the side of our house. Read more about that here.
- Danny came home from work one day to find the town police in our backyard, looking for a gun that had been tossed over our back fence the previous evening.
- There's a boatload of more stories, I promise. You can ask and I'll bet we have one pertaining to some form of home-ownership.
During renovations, it's the overall stress of living in an unfinished home that really puts a dent on an individual and a marriage. It's a huge strain and not one I would wish on anyone. We've grown closer because we've learned about our strengths and weaknesses, but it's also caused tension about the dumbest of things. Who thought deciding where an outlet should go would cause such a fuss? There are constant decisions that need to be made (extremely quickly) and when you have a designer and an engineer, things are about to get real interesting. I'm the wild dreamer and Danny is the thinker.
This home has stood the test of time, but similar to so many others just like it, it's in a neighborhood that will never be what it once was and it's value is on a constant downward spiral. It maintains a marvelous and mysterious beauty. It's grand and stoic. It's huge and historic. It's perfect for entertaining. While its beauty is obvious to the viewer, nearby homes of similar capacity and stature are chopped up into rentals and people simply can't afford the upkeep… and when rentals are near, that never tends to be good news. In a larger metropolitan area where locals appreciate historic homes and can afford to make constant improvements on top of the payment, this place could bring home half a million without question. However, foreclosures were going up left and right on that street and homes were for sale for $15k. That was hard to compete with at our home's size and price. It belongs in another place and another market. I'm sure you're saying to yourself, "location, location, location." Yeah we got that now.. but just a little too late.
The truth is, I find fulfillment in staying busy and accomplishing anything design related. But when we flipped ten rooms of this 2,800 square foot home and didn't reap the benefits like we hoped we would, it's an awful feeling. Don't get me wrong - we learned more about home ownership and renovation than any early 20-something couple should ever need to know. We needed to move because of job changes and a desire to be in a safer community. It's amazing what you're willing to leave behind for personal safety. But more than anything, our sanity and relationship was starving for attention.
So I guess what I'm saying is that if you're young and think you're ready for a giant renovation project, I hope you just won the lottery. However, if you didn't just win the lottery, you should just go buy that subdivision home and start there instead of where we did a year ago. Let your neighbors be all up in your business instead of letting yourself stand tippy-toe on a ladder, stretching to steam that last piece of wallpaper on a Friday night. No, most of those homes don't have character and 9" baseboard like a Craftsman home. There most likely are no built-in shelves and sweet laundry shoots or old-time intercom systems. You might even pull into someone else's driveway because their house looks identical to your house. You won't feel like the home has ever been lived in, nor will there be a giant porch to sit on and not get wet while reading during a Midwest monsoon. You probably won't find treasures in the attic, and the yard… well there probably isn't much of one. But what you will have is time. And energy. And money to save for when you do decide to work on a renovation project at the right time and in the right neighborhood. You'll have a chance to be young and do things that a normal 24 year old couple would do. You'll have the time and energy to travel, have fun, be healthy, and work on your relationship, not a house. We missed out on a great deal of that this past year.
Although it's been a rough year full of many "firsts," we have learned so much and have grown tremendously as a couple. I'll take so many memories from this house and cherish them forever. Here's a few highlights...
- Danny was proud to carry me over the threshold here as his new wife.
- I found a vintage 50's dress in a costume closet in the attic. A lovely lady from DC purchased it through my Etsy shop and wore it to the White House Correspondents Dinner. Here she is!
- I watched as someone lost complete control of their car and took out the nearest curb, stop sign and almost telephone pole because they were staring at us do lawn work like the two psychos that we are (Danny with a turbo-back-pack-leafblower and myself with a giant orange hedge trimmer). We sure have caused some serious commotion here.
- We threw a dinner party for 20 of our closest friends here and that night will forever go down in history as one of my favorites. Dancing on the kitchen counters with power tools in hand was just one of the highlights. See more of that night here.
- We shared our first Christmas as a married couple here.
- A beautiful historic home was restored. My prayer is that the new homeowner treats this place with the respect and care it deserves. However, this gal has no idea what is to come! I hope she's ready for wild neighbors, a heard of cats, and lots of drama.
We're on the road to bigger and better adventures in a new part of the state (a safer one too). While I will forever miss the character of this home, I can't wait to shave my legs and paint my toes when they need it, instead of pouring Calamine lotion all over myself because I'm covered in poison ivy. I can't wait to run the garbage disposal with less than a 90% chance that leafy spinach will clog the drain and spew out of the washer. I can't wait to have sane neighbors. I can't wait to read a book and not feel guilty because I'm not painting or stripping wallpaper. I'm excited for entertaining family and friends and not worrying about how their food was most likely made in a kitchen full of asbestos.
We're in the process of finalizing the purchase of our second home. It's much different… and much newer! The weekend involved moving everything from a 2,800 square foot home into a 200 square foot storage unit. What a chore! A big thank you goes out to our wonderful parents and a great friend, all of whom helped us with the moving process. Nielsenhomestead.com will continue, no matter where we end up. I can't wait to continue sharing our adventure together with you. As much as Danny hates to hear this, I'm ready for some new projects! Cheers!