Thursday, February 19, 2015

Not Where We Expected to Live (a very long post)

This is our house
When Husband and I started dating he lived in a tiny little starter house he had bought when he first moved to the Big City.  We both loved old houses, though, so we spent most of our weekends looking at real estate, haunting open houses and deciphering cryptic ads.

In fact, the weekend I met his parents for the first time we spent an afternoon driving around, checking out For Sale signs and speculating on whether that chimney was attached to a working fireplace. His parents were in the back seat, holding hands because they could not have been cuter, and Husband-to-be was driving.

"The thing you have to remember," his mother said idly, "is that the most important part about choosing a house is making sure there are good schools in the neighborhood."

Did I mention that we weren't engaged yet? As I watched Future Husband's knuckles tighten around the steering wheel and the color go out of his face, I wasn't sure we ever would be, but less than a year later we were actually married and I moved from my apartment to his house and we began house-hunting in earnest.

We knew exactly what we wanted: Something old, big (at least three bedrooms), two stories, big kitchen, plenty of character, with a basement (because we live in Kansas).

Soon we found it! Yay! The perfect house, at a price we could afford, in a neighborhood we liked. We knew we couldn't afford two house payments, so we prudently did not put an offer on the perfect house, but a realtor's For Sale sign went up in the yard of the tiny little starter house.

This is where the needle screeches across the record. Our perfect march toward domestic bliss derailed when the tiny little starter house refused to be sold. It was in what's euphemistically called a "changing neighborhood," and none of the upgrades and cosmetic improvements Husband had made were worth a plugged nickel compared to the obviously deteriorating financial condition of homeowners a couple blocks away. Buyers ooohed and aaaahed about the new shower and the interesting wall treatment in the living room, then invariably bought a different house in the suburbs.

The perfect house sold to someone else, so we found another perfect house, which also sold. By then Boy#1 was on the way, and we had had only one offer--an offer that would have required us to leave the appliances, then write out a hefty check to the buyers for taking our sweet house off our hands.

We prayed for a buyer, and we lowered the price several times, and I cried, and still we were stuck in the tiny little house.

Then Boy#1 was born, and out of nowhere Husband got a call from the president of the college where he had graduated. They needed someone to teach an evening accounting class--would he be interested? The college was only an hour away and he'd always wanted to try teaching, so he agreed.

He was a good teacher, and when the president learned that the full-time professor was leaving he asked Husband to apply for the position. It was a perfect opportunity to fulfill his dream of teaching, and my dream of raising a family in a small town. And there, right across the street from the college, was our dream house. It was old (a 1927 Sears kit house), big (five bedrooms), two stories, big kitchen, plenty of character, with a basement.

There was only one problem--we STILL hadn't sold the tiny little house. But the time had come for a Joshua 3 moment. We closed our eyes, stepped into the water, and made an offer on this perfect house. A few weeks later, on the exact day we took possession of the House on the Corner, our Big City realtor called. She had a buyer for the tiny little house, but that buyer didn't want to wait to move in. He wanted possession of the house within a few days, and would pay rent until the closing could be completed. And so it came to be.

Twenty-three months. The tiny little house took 23 excruciating months to sell, but if it had sold any sooner we would have bought a perfect house in Big City, and would not have moved to Small Town, and would never have lived in the House on the Corner, and our lives would have been so much poorer.

I tell this (interminable) story because I have dearly beloveds in my life who are finding and losing perfect houses. To those loved ones I say, keep the faith. In spite of its eccentricities (and sometimes because of them) I have loved the House on the Corner beyond what is reasonable. I have loved its cockamamie layout with four doors in the living room that befuddle the arranging of furniture. I have loved the creaky wood floors that make sneaking around impossible. I have loved the memories that hide in the corners with the dust bunnies and swirl around my knees when I walk through a room.

It's not where we expected to live, but it's been our perfect house. Dearly beloveds, your perfect house is out there, too.


  1. Thanks for sharing. It's so true. My husband and I tried to sell our condo and the market kept dropping. We finally pulled it off the market and a couple of months later found out he had cancer and needed chemo. How lucky we were to be in familiar surroundings, without additional debt and the work that goes with moving and owning a new home. His health is back on track and now we just wait for the condo market to start going up again!

    1. What a lovely happy ending. Crossing my fingers that your perfect house has exactly what you've dreamed of finding.

  2. Great story! Also a good example of our wish does not seem to be coming true and then we realize that it was because something better was coming along.

  3. Excellent advice! The house I just tried to buy fell through. Sigh, back to house hunting again...

  4. Hi, I am visiting from Kristy's blog. Your comment made me laugh, so I figured I'd hop over :-)

    My husband and I found our perfect house a few months after we got married --a mutual friend said "there's this little white house with a white fence, on this corner". We drove out to see it and found out it was sitting on five acres of wooded land, was built in 1845, and we fell in love with it while in it's permeable limestone basement filled with cobwebs. We've loved it ever since :-)

    1. Ooooh, the five acres of wooded land was on our list, too, but probably just as well you got it instead of us since the Boys were sneezers. Welcome!