This is one of those grainy realtor photos that you find on Trulia or Realtor.com. Not a great shot, horrible lighting, and awkwardly cropped, and yet . . . and yet.
After months of clicking through homes and feeling like Goldilocks--this one's too big, this one's too small, this one's outrageously overpriced AND too small, this one has no soul, this one has lots of soul but no yard, this one's a gem but in a run-down neighborhood (I've rented and owned my share of those, thank you very much)--I stumbled last week upon a fixer-upper. That's a glimpse of the living room in the photo above. It's a Victorian on a pretty, tree-lined street in one of my favorite neighborhoods. It's near coffee shops, restaurants, and nature trails, it has a large old barn out back and, while the yard is on the small side, there's plenty of room for gardening.
Most of all, it has rooms like this one: hardwood floors, lovely woodwork, two slate fireplaces, and loads of potential. It's cheap because it needs work, and it has beautiful bones. Like Goldilocks finding Baby Bear's porridge, when I gaze at the photos, I think to myself, "perhaps it could be just right."
Only one other house has made my heart sing quite like this one during my search these past several months. It was a pretty Greek Revival with parquet floors that sold for tuppence last June. Four months later, it was back on the market for twice the amount. Someone had bought it, "fixed it up" very cheaply (and I think poorly), and turned it over. Believe me, I know the very same thing could happen with this one if we don't move quickly.
And yet . . . and yet. I hesitate. It's not the fact that the house needs TLC that makes me pause. That has never scared me before. In fact, Mr. Magpie and I have bought two homes before, and both times we jumped in without a second thought. We made an offer on our first home after looking for just one day. Our offer was accepted and we were moved into the house in a month's time. We bought the second home, a loft in an old textile mill, while it was still under construction. In fact, it was basically just a white box with some windows overlooking a canal the day we made our offer. That's how we've always rolled when it comes to buying homes. We love it, so we take the leap.
What's different this time? Honestly, I think it's age and life experience. I think it is finally finding (or in our case, coming back to) a city we love and can imagine staying in for the rest of our lives. One might think this would make us more willing to dive in even faster, buy a place, stake our claim. Instead, we are taking our time, proceeding with caution, tasting many, many bowls of porridge before deciding which one is just right. I don't mean perfect, nor do I mean lavish. I think the right home has more to do with a gut feeling than designer back splashes and custom shower heads. While those things are dreamy, what makes me stop in my tracks when I see certain homes has much more to do with the way sunlight falls on the wooden floors or the care a master craftsman took a hundred years ago when he built the front stairs.
And all this brings me to wondering what you love in a house. I'd love to hear what makes a certain entryway or kitchen or porch feel just right to you.