I alluded to this in a post last week, but we bought a new house a few weeks ago. It’s kind of a long story . . . but the short of it is that Mark and I bought an investment property in Austin, Texas about 10 years ago (a city we love) and finally decided it was too hard to manage from across the country. We sold it, and then needed to buy another property to avoid capital gains taxes (bla bla bla first world problems), so we suddenly found ourselves with a major deadline to buy a new place. We started looking and quickly became discouraged by the fact that pretty much everything within a 20 mile radius was out of our price range. Orange County, man. The weather is idyllic. The housing prices are not.
We were just about ready to eat the tax penalty and walk away from the whole search when we took a walk around the block one evening and spotted our neighborhood’s real estate agent in front of a neighbor’s house. This particular neighbor, Ann, is recently widowed and we had heard she was looking to move closer to her daughters in Arizona. We called the agent the next day and asked if Ann was going to sell her house, and the agent explained the predicament. Ann needed to sell, but her house was in such bad repair that the agent was concerned it would be impossible without some repairs first, and Ann didn’t want workers coming in and out of her home. Ann also needed to be able to live in the house for an indefinite time after it sold. Well, this scenario was perfect for us . . . we wanted a place that we could fix up exactly to our tastes, and we weren’t looking to move. And the fact that we bought the house “as is” meant that we could afford it. The house never went on the market so we saved agent fees as well. It’s still surreal looking back . . . I think all of us were worried that it was too good to be true, but 30 days later, the house was legally ours. Ann will be living there for a bit longer, and then we’ve got our work cut out for us.
The house was built n 1952 and very few changes have been made. It still has the original kitchen, complete with a turquoise vintage stove built into the brick. Why yes, that IS an indoor BBQ grill! So glad you noticed.
The bathroom has mint green sinks and a matching mint green bathtub. I’m actually a little bit fond of it. I’m still trying to decide if I should try to work with it, or tear it out. (What do you guys think?)
Most every room has some mold damage, along with freaky asbestos tiles and a slew of other issues. This will be a big project, and we are equal parts excited and overwhelmed. Since Ann is still living there, we’ve been hard at work on the front yard. Step one: pulling out a giant evergreen tree whose roots were entangled with the sewage pipes.
Pulling out the tree ended up being a three-day, multiple-person affair. All of the neighbors came out for the final fall of the tree, which required a chainsaw and then a major truck hitch to finally get it out of the ground. The neighbors on both sides have been helping us on the weekends, which has been really fun. This house is 5 houses down from our current house, and it seems like we are trudging back and forth all day. It’s weird how we’ve gotten to know our neighbors better in this last month than we did over the last 10 years.
The kids got in on the action, helping to chop the branches into firewood. They are still thoroughly confused as to how it can be our house, but with someone else living there. Jafta told us that when Ann moves out, he would like to find a homeless person to live there. If only, Jafta. But I love his heart.
We haven’t told the kids yet, but we are thinking we will probably move into this house and then rent out our current house. The new house is slightly larger, and I think that once we get in flooring, it will be more convenient (and more cost effective) to finish the remodel while living there.
It’s a bit daunting to think about remodeling a house with four kids. Prior to having kids, Mark and I were big-time DIY’ers. We bought, remodeled, and sold several houses before moving into the one we are in – it was the only way we could afford to own property on a pastor’s salary. We started with a one-bedroom condo that we bought at an auction (before even seeing the place!) and moved our way up to a single-family home. When I get overwhelmed about our new purchase, I try to remind myself of what our current house looked like before we moved in. It was such a mess. Here, I’ll show you:
This was me, laying the flooring in our house. Mark will never admit to this, but I think I am handier with a tool belt than he is.
Here I am tiling the bathroom. I was pretty proud of this one. Notice that instead of mint green, this house had a mustard yellow tub. The original designer of this neighborhood was a fan of the pastel bathrooms. We did not keep it.
Another thing we did not keep was the soap-on-a -rope the previous owners left hanging in the master bathroom for us. Seriously . . . I was so grossed out by that. And by the soft toilet seat with cracked plastic. Barf.
The outside of our house was a pretty dramatic change, too. This “before” picture makes me laugh because it looks like it is from the 70’s but really that was taken in 2003. It’s amazing what a little paint and landscaping can do for the curb appeal. Also, those shutters? I MADE THEM. Handier than my husband. . . I’m telling you.
I’m looking forward to watching this new house transform – we’ve got big plans for it, and I will probably bore you with every detail of the remodel, asking for advice along the way. Speaking of . . . mint green sinks. Yea or nay?