“Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.”
Today, in honor of this gloriously beautiful Friday, I am launching my biggest, best feature ever! I finally closed on my first home, so I’m kicking off lots of DIY, home renovation, budgeting and organizational posts. But before I can show you all the awesome changes, I need to fill you in on the house and how it came to be mine.
After years of knowing every time my neighbors use their bathroom, hauling groceries over piles of snow, and breathing in Lincoln Tunnel fumes, I knew I needed to finally escape to somewhere green. I decided on New Jersey’s Hunterdon County since it was rural and only about an hour to NYC. I based my searching on homes that were about a 15 minute (or less) to the NYC bus. I put it an offer on one home, but that ended up falling through. I kept looking and found another house that seemed good, but I kept debating. I scheduled another visit to my Wishy Washy House and at the same time, a new house popped up that ticked all the boxes on my Wish List. It was the right distance to the bus, plenty of privacy and lots of space. It was an estate sale and had only been on the market a day and was priced incredibly well.
The outside had this amazing Black Forest German Fairy Tale vibe, while the inside was like taking a time machine back to 1976. There was green shag carpet, blue toilets, a mustard yellow bar, an avocado green fridge, 70s linoleum, but there was so much possibility. Tons of space to indulge all my interests and hobbies, two fireplaces, a screened in porch, a deck, a covered patio, a two car garage, a family room with a bar, and THREE goddamn bathrooms.
I put in an offer and so did the only other people who’d seen it before us. We had to go over asking, but we ended up winning. This house was part of an estate so I googled the owner. In what sounds like the beginning of a Lifetime movie, it turns out that the owner died on my birthday the year before. I decided to take this as an omen that the house was meant to be mine instead of a scary ghost-lures-you-in-to-kill-you situation.
THE LONG TORTURE PROCESS
So I have all my paperwork ready, the seller is motivated and I do all my inspections. Things were looking good, and then, of course, stupid crap happens. Water problems delayed the closing for months. The poor seller had to dig, like a well to China (or 800 feet, whatever’s closer) and I got stuck paying for extra mortgage rate lock extensions to keep my original mortgage rate. My closing took so long that my real estate lawyer retired. Seriously. His partner had to take over for the last month. We finally schedule closing.
I do a final walkthrough and seller has done the most horrendous plumbing work I have ever seen. I kept having flashbacks to those Holmes on Homes episodes. It’s a substantial change to the property that we didn’t approve and now it’s looking like we may not close after all.
I managed to confirm that though this pipework is hideous, it isn’t against code or dangerous. I will need to fix it though, so we argue via lawyers and finally they are willing to give me $500 in credit. It’s not great, but I locked in an excellent mortgage rate which I’m not going to see again anytime soon, so I opt to lose this battle and win the war. We prepare to close.
The morning of closing, a couple hours before our scheduled meeting, I receive a frantic call from my lawyer. The bank won’t release the packet to my title company because they say they are missing something from me and don’t tell them what it is, or respond to emails/calls. I confirmed TWICE with my broker that he had everything. At that point I was seeing colors and there was a screaming in my ears. I hunt down my broker, who calls around and it turns out someone at Wells Fargo didn’t send someone else at Wells Fargo an email. It’s resolved and the title company needs an hour to get from their office to my lawyer. We reschedule the meeting for later that afternoon.
I arrive and there is another problem. The seller’s realtor isn’t there. He was supposed take an escrow check to the seller’s attorney–without that piece we can’t close. The screaming in my head gets louder. My awesome realtor, volunteers to take on check duty and we set to work. My entire team is there and everyone is laughing and saying they didn’t think it would actually happen. My new lawyer, Bruce, jokes that my old lawyer tricked him into this by saying it would be “easy”. I tell him that at least he has a really good story and that the worst experiences always make for the best stories.
So I am now the proud owner of a 1976 raised ranch chock full of projects and responsibilities. I’ll be honest, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. But isn’t that how all great adventures start? With no real idea of what happens next?
I am most at home when I’m lost in a song where the notes are so familiar I can find them even if I’m sick, or in that moment where a story comes together and I see behind my eyes instead of in front of them. I am most myself when I am making things – music, stories, cakes, jewelry—even mistakes. I am more at home as a verb than a noun. And so that’s what I want my house to be. Alive. A place where things happen—moving and filled with space for me to do all the things that make me feel like myself. Color and light and dreams.
So be ready for everything from re-using old fixtures, to organizing pantries to scoring the best online deals. I wouldn’t say I have champagne tastes and a beer budget—it’s more like champagne tastes and a Kool-Aid from the Dollar Store budget. But let’s see what some carefully planned out splurges with a lot of creativity and obsessive stalking can accomplish. I’ve got eleventybillion pinterest boards with ideas and items I’ve have for each room so if you like home décor (and are maybe a little obsessive) follow me. I’m going with a Fairy Tale meets Midcentury Modern theme (which strangely, ends up being kind of Bohemian). I’m pretty interested to see if I can pull it off.
It’s a long road home, but they say there’s no place like it, so fasten your seatbelts.