Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lessons in House Courtship

House hunting is a little like husband hunting.  In both pursuits, you hope to be making a long-term commitment.  It's an important decision; one that will impact every day of your life.  If you're smart, you stand back and look at the big picture. Can I bear to be seen with this house/guy the rest of my life?  Can I bear to look at it/him every morning when I wake up, every evening before I go to sleep?  And you look at the little details: Does it/he work well?  Is it/he practical?  Are its/his fingernails clean?  Does it/he smell good?  And then there's the more mercurial, but all important test questions:  Is it love?  Does it/he give me toe-curling, roller-coaster-tummy, goosebump thrills of happiness? Which, I think we all know, comes and goes in any long-term relationship, so the follow up question has to be:  Is it likely that the initial thrill taper off into a lifetime of contentment and security?

There have been verified cases of love-at-first-sight turning into life-long loves, but it's rare. There are way more cases of hate-at-first-sights, to be sure.  Very often you know right away when a guy/house are just not going to be a match.  Other times, it takes a few visits and a little more careful vetting to know for sure.  Sometimes you think you've found the right one, but you learn (hopefully in time!) that you're really not made for each other at all. Occasionally you miss out on the real deal because you can't see the moon for the sun in your eyes; sometimes you blow your best chance because you waited too long to decide.  Every once in a while you get a second chance....  But one way or another, you usually "kiss a few frogs" before you find your prince.

We've been going through this over the last few weeks.

 First of all, we had a crush on this house:

Such a lovely property, with several well-kept barns and outbuildings, right on the edge of our favorite little town.  A humble house -- which is no problem for us, but the kitchen was teensy weensy -- walls would have had to be knocked out for it to function for us, and the girls' room in the basement would have had to have been completely re-done. Never a good idea to marry a house that you know is going to require a complete rehab.  We outgrew that crush fairly quickly.

Then we flirted a little with a couple other houses that didn't hold our attention very long -- either they were too close to big roads (dangerous Jimmy Dean types), or had too many neighbors too close by (hyper-social, party animal types), or were too fancy (Liberace), or too decrepit (Oscar the Grouch)...

But, then we saw this one.  The Cary Grant of houses:

Truly a dream house, it was just big enough, not too big; a beautiful home, it has a lovely big kitchen, a gorgeous great room with a stunning rock fireplace, lots of storage, a two-car heated garage, and a big two-story barn nestled in eleven acres in the beautiful Loess Hills in Iowa, an easy drive to Dan's job and to church.  But all this came at too high a price -- and after trying to work out the details, we decided that it just wouldn't be worth the cost to us or to Dan's parents who are so generously helping us finance this new house.  Cary Grant just lives too high a lifestyle for us to be comfortable.


We looked around some more, saw a couple non-contenders, and then re-visited this house -- that we'd seen way back at the beginning of our hunt, one we overlooked because we thought there would be something better...

And it turns out, this house was almost "the one that got away." We got it by the skin of our teeth, finding out, after the fact, that someone else was right on our heels trying to snag it.  But here's proof that good character can make a thing/guy suddenly become more attractive than they were before you knew them better.  When we first looked at this house, we just weren't jazzed by its outward appearance and lack of acreage. (It only has two acres.)  But there's more to this house than originally met our eyes.

Just around the corner from our favorite little Norman-Rockwell-in-Nebraska town, it's log construction as you can see (with a lifetime warranty on the outside finish, so  the logs don't require the maintenance that most do).   It's got about 3300 square feet, plus a huge basement; five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a little office, a mudroom/pantry, a small front porch and good big back deck. It's beautifully landscaped (better than the early spring photos show off) and set up for animals already -- though we'll have to (at least temporarily) retrofit one of the horse sheds as a chicken coop.  All this, and only a half hour to Dan's work and to church -- and less than ten minutes to our favorite library!  Plus it has an option to buy more acreage if we wish.

It's not as perfect as the Cary Grant dream house.  There is no garage or barn, and, though there are some nice mature trees on the property, there are no woods and fishing hole within walking distance, and though the flow is nice and open in the living spaces, it's much smaller, definitely not a "great room" concept like the Iowa house.  But we're OK with that.

This house is the waking dream.  The practical one that won't have us rattling the last pennies out of the piggy bank every month. (Be sure to marry a guy that you know will be able to support you!) The one that's near all the services we've already discovered this past year (Your dream guy should share your values and interests, too!), and half way between two big cities -- so it has better options for if Dan ever has to go job hunting again (A potential husband has to think of the future!). The fancy dream house could only exist in a dream world where we were richer than  we are -- and, seriously, living way up on the hill in that Iowa house, a grand house in a prosperous neighborhood...  that's not really who we are. A simple farm girl wouldn't really be happy marrying a movie star.  This log house, though, is appropriately humble -- but with all the conveniences, and in our practical price range.

 It's all good. Dan's parents are our Guardian Angels on earth, helping us to buy this house -- and we're so grateful for their generosity, words just cannot express... How could we possibly look at this gift and see anything but all its benefits and blessings? It's a pretty darn good match. Thank-you, Dan and Sharon!

Our thanks also to St. Philomena.  Our very nice realtor doesn't know it, but St. Philomena is really managing this deal. Anyone reading this who's met our girl saint knows how she works.  She's all practical, with a touch of whimsy, our dear friend.  And she knows us pretty well.  She picked the perfect house for us -- hard as we tried at first to ignore it. But she brought us 'round -- and she seems to be swinging a simple and smooth process for buying it.  But, if anyone has a moment for an Ave or two that everything closes well and quickly, we'd sure appreciate it!

Here are a couple of shots of the house taken from the website:

This deck is north-facing, so will be nice and shaded most of the day.  There are hostas, peonies, and day lilies planted all over the place around the house.  You can see a hint of them here.
This is the west side of the house, just showing a bit of the full-size trees.  There's a small lawn-mower shed to the back of the photographer here, and a view of the valley as it slopes away to the west promises lovely sunsets to come.
The animal enclosures.  We'll make one of these sheds into a chicken coop.  The fences are already lined with chicken wire.  To the left (or west) you can see some of the fruit trees the former owner planted.  Still don't know what they all are, but there are at least ten little  fruit trees started.
The neat fireplace and built-in shelving in the living room.  The kids wanted them to leave the deer so we could put Santa
hats and red noses on them at Christmas...  (Don't expect them to leave them, though)
The brickwork in the kitchen and the tin ceiling tile back splash absolutely charms us.  We wish the kitchen were a little bigger, but it's workable.
The dining room is big enough for the dining room table -- the first test of any house we looked at.

What will be the  boys' room.  Nice and big - with an extra crawl-space closet that they already have big plans for.

The girls' room is, appropriately, a a little bigger than the boys' room, with two closets and lots of sunlight.  And get this: the wallpaper border matches their bedding!
A corner of the master bedroom -- a good size, with a small bathroom and a fair-sized closet.  

But, wow.  Seriously??  Breaking camp again?  Maybe for the last time?

Who knows?  I hope so, but I'm not laying any wagers on it -- I know better than that!! God's Will hath no why. We don't ask when, where, or how, either any more. :)

 * Note to y'all Big Kids who might have a notion to check your calendars to see if you can come help us move (Haha!  Right, Mom?), guess what the closing date is?  Yep.  August 11th.  So, yeah.  Anyone who doesn't like this house had better take it up with St. Philomena.  And we'll take all the help we can get, Muscle Men.  Y'all are the best moving team -- and you know you want to come see the house.  Sure you do!  (And we take any excuse we can get to see you!)

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