Okay, devoted readers, if you were underwhelmed by my home decor diatribes on things like curtains, pillows, Ikea and more curtains, then you are really in trouble now. Get ready for the impending onslaught of over-thought heading your way as I chronicle my adventures as a first time homeowner. Yes, it's true, we bought a house!
It's a hot little number, a 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch in the Valley. I say hot because it was about 100 degrees when we started some work on it this past weekend. That work, unfortunately, did not include air conditioning repair (still pending).
While we'd been shopping for a home in fits and starts since the beginning of the year, we got really serious about it one particular Friday when my friend Hayley was visiting from New York. My houseguest probably thought she'd spend time at the beach or sightseeing in Hollywood. But I knew what she really wanted to do was take a driving tour of modest neighborhoods in the vicinity of the Van Nuys airport. You're welcome, Hayley. I am, if nothing else, a devoted hostess.
First we saw a house that Devin really liked, but which struck me as possibly pre-fab and definitely adjacent to a creepy vacant lot with a pigeon coop and a sign that boasted (deceptively, I assume) "No cat traps." Then we saw a recently flipped house with nothing special about it other than the peacock living in the yard across the street.
We very nearly skipped the next house our list, but for whatever reason decided to stick with it. I led the group in through the front door. I hadn't even made it through the hallway before I turned around to gauge Devin and Hayley's reactions. They mirrored mine: This was our house. It just had to be.
I can't say exactly what about it spoke to me. The layout was cool, for one thing. It felt like there were lots of places to go, rooms to pass through on your way to other rooms. Many of the homes we saw were set up with a conglomerate living room/kitchen/dining room thing, and then bedrooms separately down the hall. This floorplan bothers me because it gives me the same feeling I have in my apartment: when you stand up, there's nothing to do but sit back down again.
We also liked the high ceiling in the living room, the ample wood paneling in both (yes, both) living rooms, and the two (yes, two) fireplaces. It was cozy, like a cabin, but at the same time felt distinctly Californian.
Immediately we put in an offer, then waited until Monday for a response. Along with our offer we included a letter to the sellers about how much we loved the property and how, unlike so many investors who were snatching up homes like theirs, we wouldn't change a thing about it. We loved the house just the way it was. (Except for the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter shade of yellow slathered on half the walls... and even the baseboards. The baseboards!)
The real estate market in the area is out of control these days and crazed buyers get in bidding wars over total dumps. So I'd already made peace with the fact that we were never going to get this house when our realtor called on Monday afternoon and told us our offer was accepted, no counter offer or anything. I was relieved. I think he wanted me to sound more excited, but I had trouble checking back in with reality. We chatted about next steps. I asked dumb questions, poorly phrased on account of my shock-induced stupor. Then I hung up the phone and immediately began to wonder, "Wait... does this mean we offered too much money?"
From that phone call until we closed escrow this past Friday, a mere 25 days total, I was in hyper-alert, panicky state. I'll spare you the details of what paperwork and events happened when and why (mostly because I will get everything wrong), but suffice to say I was certain that at any moment, some unforeseen factor would derail the whole operation and we'd be homeless. I was so paranoid that I refused to tell most people the house was even a thing. When we finally went public with the news, the general reaction was, "Congrats!...What?"
At last, we're over the hard part. We've leveled an acre of forest to produce all of the paperwork we signed. Our bank accounts and credit scores are no longer up for inspection. And our mortgage has already long since been sold to China.
Now the fun begins! The instant I walked into the house as the actual owner, I took one look at the place and concluded I had to change everything about it. I know I promised I wouldn't. But now I must. You know, over time. Everyone needs a hobby. And blog fodder.