It Happened!! We Bought a House.
I’ve recently learned that buying a house is a little like the initial stages of pregnancy. There’s an initial rush of giddy excitement when after months of trying you finally get good news (“Your offer has been accepted!”), followed quickly by self-doubt and indecision (“Oh my God– can we afford this? Is it the right time?) followed by several waves of panic, a few gnarly bouts of stress diarrhea and multiple rounds of crippling nausea.
Also like pregnancy, you are apt to keep the news mostly private until you’re totally in the clear.
We are finally in the clear.
We bought a house.
(Hold on a second– I need to run to the toilet again.)
Okay, I can finally say this with enthusiasm instead of abject terror… We bought a house!! We closed on Cinco de Mayo and frankly, I’ve never needed a jalapeno margarita more.
We’re more excited now, but these past few months have been incredibly stressful. I won’t get into details of working with banks and brokers and PMI and interest rates because frankly I’m just so sick of talking about those things I could spit. I will say briefly that getting this house was no slam-dunk, everything took longer and was way more expensive than anticipated, and we are grateful it worked out because there were many points along the way when we were pretty sure it wasn’t going to. We’ve spent the last four and a half months waiting for the other shoe to drop, and we’ve both been doing so much stress-eating we should probably just go ahead and throw out all our tight pants and start over.
House hunting in New York City was a pretty disheartening experience. The houses here are small and old, and many of them are in pretty crappy condition. They’re dated, they’re filled with problems in the walls and foundations, and they’re aesthetically unimpressive. These stats don’t preclude them from being incredibly expensive, either. Just the opposite. You’re paying for your location, not the house you get. And the competition is very fierce for these small, old, incredibly overpriced houses. There’s simply no land left to build new houses on (oh they’ll make room for new condos).
We put an offer on another house (a foreclosure) a month before finding the one we bought. There were 31 offers in four days, we bid over asking price, and still ended up number 16 in line. Still, we look back on the house-hunting days with sugary fondness compared to the gut-punch of getting a mortgage. Why don’t I hear people complaining about this more? That was brutal!
(This is not the house we bought (unfortunately). This was typical of the houses we saw in Brooklyn. GORGEOUS with classic details but newly renovated and really spacious. I loved almost all of the houses we saw in Brooklyn. They were all in our price range and under, but were all in areas where we just didn’t feel safe. One particularly beautiful one had been a well-known crack house six months before the new gut renovation. No can do.)
(This house was in an awesome location– our own Astoria, right by the N train, but it was crazy dark inside and we’d need to spend 20-30K to RAISE THE CEILING and it was already over budget. Another one we saw in Astoria tried to pass off a walk-in closet as a second bedroom and you had to enter the house through the bedroom (we forced our friends to do that in our old place for 9.5 years. We’re all over it.).
(This dump in Astoria cost almost 2 million dollars. No one cares about this crap house–it’ll be torn down immediately and transformed into condos– but it sits on a large plot of valuable land that you can’t see in the picture. But now you see the shite we’re dealing with here.)
The first place we ever inquired about in 2014. A total teardown we saw in Astoria and thought we could get for cheap since it was in such terrible shape. Ha! Sold for 1.25 mil. Take a look at it now…
But alas! All of my Texas childhood dreams just came true and I am settling into an attached brick house in New York City with my Queens-born husband Vinny. There’s a bodega across the street and a wash and fold on the corner, just down the street from an Irish pub and around the block from a large Indonesian temple. The city bus drives by my living room window every five minutes.
I grew up on a sleepy cul-de-sac on the Gulf Coast. Our house perched on a small lake where we pedaled paddleboats instead of bikes and floated lazily on hot black tires. We lived a mile from the beach, next to a sharp fork in the road called Dead Man’s Curve. Sometimes I still shake my head in disbelief that this place that’s so different is really home, not just for now, but very likely forever. I feel appreciative, excited and grateful. But still, I can’t help but find life pretty funny too. I could have never predicted this for myself. I guess I’m a real New Yorker now?
It’s been a really interesting time to work in a community mental health clinic, and a lot of countertransference has come up for me in this time. I have several clients who live in shelters and city housing projects, some who’ve spent their lives on and off the streets. Buying a house is enormously stressful, but everyday I’m smacked in the face with reminders that it’s a brand of stress I’m extraordinarily privileged to have. Vin and I worked really, really hard to get to this place together, but we are two people who also really lucked out in the family department, and to say that didn’t make a difference would be a bold-faced lie.
We’re still kind of in disbelief, but somehow we found just the kind of home we hoped for: a multi-family house where we can both live and earn passive income. So now, not only are we about to become home owners, we are also about to become landlords, which is alternatively hilarious and terrifying. Vin plans to wear a tool belt at all times, and I’m going to invest in a pair of tiny reading glasses I can push up the bridge of my nose whenever I march upstairs to demand the rent.
The happiest news of all is that we are staying in our blessed, beloved Astoria, the neighborhood I have been fawning all over in this blog for the past five years. We’re on the other side of town now, which feels fresh and new, but still the same distance from the 24-hour fruit and vegetable stand and fried chicken place we’ve grown so attached to. The first morning I woke up to sun streaming in the windows, I cried. When you live in a basement for almost ten years, you forget how something as simple as a beam of light can affect your mood. I feel like I woke up to a brand new life and I’m surprised by how emotional I’ve been since moving in. “Don’t Stop Believing” came on the radio while I was unpacking the other day and I broke down and sobbed. We’ve had friends and family pop by every night with flowers and champagne, and it makes me really emotional to think of how happy our loved ones are to see us finally reach our goal. It’s been a really magical, wondrous time, and I anticipate it will be until June 1st…when we have to make our first mortgage payment:).
Here are some old house-hunting posts if you’d like to read.
Sorry for the extra-light posting over the last few months. I’m not a good stress-writer. Hope to be back soon with some home-related stuff. I have a feeling there’ll be a lot of new stories to write here.