Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New City, New Home, New Life

This post is long-overdue and as the kids and I prepare to head back to Harlem today where this blog first started, I decided it was time to share...

This Friday marks one month since we've lived in our new city of Boston in our first home. The way that it came about was a whirlwind - I posted a little teaser here. Basically, Uka's job took us from NYC-metro to Portsmouth, NH two years ago. Uka's lived all over the world, and I've moved 11 times since graduating college in 2002 (not that I'm counting!) so we're pretty used to being transient. That doesn't mean I like it. Uka left the firm that relocated us to New Hampshire a year after we relocated there and instead started traveling to Boston most days out the week. While we thought we could stay put in Portsmouth, the daily commute was brutal with Uka sometimes spending 4 hours a day in his car depending on traffic. We set our sights on moving to the Boston suburbs the summer of 2017 once Nia finished 1st grade, but when Mr. Lovebird suddenly told me in August that he had found a must-see Boston, I had lots of trepidation. 

See, I spent 5 years living in Boston post-Wellesley College and when I left in 2007 for a 7 year stint in NYC I vowed never to return. Boston was the perfect place to cut my teeth before living in NYC and set me up in some amazing ways for success, but at the time I really believed that it was only the city of my early 20s and I *really* didn't want to ever go back. 

One of my favorite homes I used to pass in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Uka's owned investment property before, but this was our first foray into personal home ownership. As we started to casually explore neighborhoods earlier this year and as well as the type of home we wanted we were torn between the historic, beautiful homes we saw in Portsmouth, but we also appreciated the worry-free aspect of a custom-built/planned community home. 

We visited this model suburban home earlier this year. My first thought: who's going to clean it? It also brought this hilarious but true Tumblr to mind!
I admit, I was completely skeptical about home ownership. I'm more about experiences over things and would be happy to live in a small modest home especially if it meant it gave me the ability to travel all over and have more experiences away from home. Also, from what I know about economics the "value" of home ownership is also debatable. Most often, I think it's a hold-over from post-war days and the vapor that can be the American Dream. 

We loved this farmhouse built in 1875, but didn't love all the 19th century issues it had!
Still, Mr. Lovebird convinced me we'd causally shop with a loooonnng timeline and our wonderful real estate agent we worked with was respectful of this (BTW we connected via a Facebook group - don't sleep on them!). One particular Sunday when we had to drive down to Boston we decided to add in visits to four open houses to our schedules. They were allll over Boston-metro, and included a beautiful 19th century farmhouse, updated to include a pool, basketball court, and a stunning red barn all ready to renovate as well as a modest home from the 1930s that had a basement that scared me SO bad. The very last house was the one actually *in* Boston, and I approached it with caution. It's in an historic part of the city that rarely has homes for sale, and while it feels very suburban, it is steps away from the urban conveniences we appreciate: three train lines, bodegas, our bank and a stunning library and YMCA. Oh and it's 15 minutes to Wegman's (yes, I have an obsession!). 

We just had a feeling that *something* had to be wrong. The thing was, there wasn't something wrong. The home had been on the market for only 2 days when we saw it and as we passed another family, also with 2 young children, exiting the home as we walked in, we wondered if it would sell super fast. After a walk-through and talking it over we called our agent to let her know we were going to put in an offer. Needless to say, she was surprised - to move up nearly a year from our original move-date shocked her and she made her way over to the home to see for herself and quickly called us to say, "DO  IT!"

I've read enough home blogs/watched enough HGTV episodes to know the ups and downs of buying a home and have known many friends report getting their dream home ripped out from under them by all-cash buyers so I didn't get my hopes up. Uka called me a Debbie Downer, but also warned me from his own investment property experience. When things started rolling quickly along, he assured me each step of the way that it was atypical. I didn't sweat, but proceeded with caution. 

An example of the beautiful work the developer of our home does - their attention to detail is impeccable!
The inspection was near perfect with only a few minor fixes - the home's previous owner is a developer who built it from the ground up a few years ago and respected the architecture of the neighborhoods' local homes which date to the 19th and early 20th centuries. It blends the best of both worlds: the classic and the modern. It truly is a forever home. 

Start to finish the process took 4 weeks. Not typical.

But you know what? After all the housing drama and multiple moves Uka and I have gone through (including a landlord breaking my 1st lease when I moved the NYC to 18 months fighting a slimey landlord in housing court spanning when I was pregnant with Nia to her infant-hood), it was time for something EASY. 

I'll take it!

Now I'm busy dusting off my Pinterest boards and carefully selecting how we'll decorate this home. And the best part is at some point we'll get to experience a little HGTV-inspired renovation action for our unfinished attic and bringing our partially finished basement up to the level we like. 

For now I'm enjoying being walkable to all the things I love to do with my family. We have an 89 walk score here compared to 55 where we used to live in Portsmouth and 95 in our old Harlem neighborhood. It's a happy medium plus we get access to all that Boston has to offer and heading the other direction can quickly get out to friends and family in the suburbs as well as to our alma maters. There are so many wonderful events coming up at both Wellesley College and Boston College including the recent inauguration of President Johnson - Wellesley's first African-American president - that I was able to easily attend.  

As my best friend (who I first met in Boston!) advised when I told him I was nervous about returning to Boston: I'm definitely finding living here 9 years later since I left very different with a family, including young kids in tow. 

It's a good thing.  

Tell me about your home ownership experience! Are you a first time homeowner like us or a happy life-long renter? Are you shopping for your dream home? Fixer-upper or new-ish? 


P.S. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter for all the fun during our visit to NYC the next couple days!