I have had this post in my drafts probably since I first started the blog, a little over a year ago. I write a lot about decorating and renovating our current home but the journey to owning this home was about 10 years in the making. In fact, there would be no blog without this journey. Compass is running right now called Starter Stories and I knew that it was finally time to tell the story. They are a newer company that helps connect those looking for a place to call home in New York based on their personality and desires. I knew that our fresh start home was a story I wanted to tell but it’s a long one. How do you fit 8-10 years of your life into a blog post? I struggled with how to convey (in one post) the hard work, determination, and a level of budget savviness that I have never really talked about on the blog before. So let me go back to where it all began…
OUR FIRST HOUSE
The year is 2006. The ink on my college diploma wasn’t even dry when I landed my first professional job. I was so excited to marry the best man I ever met. The timing seemed right to buy our first home. The housing market would crash the following year, but at that moment, the future looked like only blue skies. The house was a pale blue 1600 sq ft 3 bedroom, 2 bath definition of a starter home.
With our seriously limited budget, we took on several big projects like those pictured above. We made a man cave in the basement and decorated every inch. We built a fence and I learned to grow a garden. We made it a home and we loved it.
TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE LEAP BACKWARD
Fast forward 3 years to Nov 2009. I had been working side jobs for a couple of years in order to help my husband through school. He was to graduate the following semester but did not have any firm job prospects. I was six months pregnant on the day I was notified that my research facility would be closing, thus meaning I would be laid off. I cannot describe the panic that set in my mind in that moment. Our world was collapsing.
Both my husband’s field and mine are rather niche specific. Looking at a map, the best places we could each find work was either Texas or DC. Shockingly, I was offered a dream position the day after I was officially laid off. And, thus, we packed up the house and moved 13 hours away with the hope that my husband would find work in DC. We quickly settled into a cramped, run-down townhouse. My kitchen table consisted of a glass patio table with a table cloth over it. The dishwasher door almost touched the fridge when you opened it. Have you ever seen kitchen drawers made of thin plastic? I have. It was so bad. After a year, my husband finally hung stuff on the walls while I refused to accept our situation. That townhouse wasn’t ours. It was beyond frustrating to have things break and not be able to really fix the problem. With only me to support our family financially, we had no choice. Daycare costs are so prohibitive that my husband ended up staying home with our son for 18 months.
We ended up in staying in that place for 5 years. Even though my husband found work, we decided to save every single penny we could. We could afford that place with only my income, so it left my husband’s income free for savings and daycare. It wasn’t easy. We brown bagged and cloth diapered. We ate outside the home about 2-3 times a year. Christmas presents were things we needed. My son received new toys twice a year – his birthday and Christmas (and he had plenty). I paid attention to every dime incoming or outgoing and scrutinized every charge on our checking account. In 3 years, we saved almost $75,000. We dreamed of our home again, but we were much smarter this time around.
OUR FRESH START HOME
Our dream home that we purchased last year needed a fresh start as much as we did. This is the master bedroom before we moved in. It was disgusting. But the main room alone is 20×19! It has an attached nursery room that is big enough for a small bedroom, a jacuzzi tub in the master bath, and a his and hers walk in closet. The entire house is 2900 sq feet plus another 1500 sq feet in an unfinished basement. I tell you this not to brag. Every day, I want to pinch myself!
We were blessed by the experience of our first home to know what kind of home owners we (hubby and I) were. We love projects and understood the benefits of a bit of hard work. We gained confidence in the tasks we could take on and how we worked with each other. It was that mindset that allowed us to look beyond the rough and dirty interior of this house. However, nearly all of the damage was cosmetic. I always tell people look beyond the decorating. “Move-In Ready” is a myth. Since this home was a foreclosure, it was a steal! We had prepared for this opportunity for 3 years and we were ready!
As you can imagine from our previous two homes, we were not expecting anything like the house we currently have. I will never forget when, after our very first walk through, our real estate agent asked me, “So what do you not like about this house?”. My only reply was, “Nothing.” I was in shock.
This is my journey to our dream home and I know there are so many stories like mine, but maybe they haven’t quite reached that payoff yet. Don’t worry, keep your chin up, and keep plugging away. I will tell you that the American dream is still reachable with a lot of work, a little bit of luck, and a whole heap of discipline. But you gotta be prepared for the right opportunity.
I hope you found something meaningful in my story! Here are some of the projects we have completed-