Ben and I bought our first home in March of 2008. We were in a bad rental situation at the time—our landlord had stopped paying the mortgage on the house we were renting and foreclosure notices were being delivered every week. It was incredibly stressful and I wanted out. I was determined never to rely on someone else to pay our mortgage again, so we decided we’d start looking at houses to buy and, if we could find one, break our lease.
On a Sunday, I drove Ben to the neighborhood I had set my sights on: Kessler Park in North Oak Cliff. It’s a beautiful neighborhood full of historic homes, old trees, and just about the only hills you’ll find in the area, all just minutes from downtown Dallas. We walked through two or three open houses—our first ever—to get an idea of what these older homes were like. Neither Ben nor I grew up in an old house, and we were renting a new build at the time, so at first we were a little underwhelmed by the tiny closets, the creaky wood floors, the compact floor plans. But we quickly realized that these were just standard old-house quirks that came with the territory when you were shopping for eighty-year-old homes. But one of the open houses we walked through—a small brick Tudor with only one bathroom—didn’t display its age so obviously. It was clean and bright and on a very nice street, and for some reason the fresh pink tulips on the island in the kitchen made an impression on me.
On Monday, I called a realtor who a couple of my co-workers recommended: Dori Warner (who is awesome and who you should definitely hire). She said she had three homes to show us that afternoon, if we were available. We were. She took us first to an adorable old home with amazing period detail, but that really had only one bedroom and one bathroom, which was just too small for us. She then took us to a three bedroom/two bathroom home that had more space, but that felt older and more run down. Finally, she took us back to that one-bathroom brick Tudor that we had walked through the day before. By then we had seen a grand total of something like a half dozen homes(!), but I was beginning to sense that this house was more special than the rest. It just felt good. After walking through it again, Dori and Ben and I sat down on the couch in the living room and I said that the house was growing on me—that, in fact, I really liked it. Dori was glad, but said she had to warn us that someone else was making an offer on the house that evening. So no pressure, but if we were serious about the house, we would need to make an offer right away.
Ben and I drove home and talked about it long into the night. I was becoming more and more sure that this was the house for us, but what would people say? Heavens, what would my parents say? In typical impetuous-Emily fashion, was I going to buy a house after looking for just one day? And almost the first one we saw?? It sounded crazy. It probably was crazy. But we wanted out of our rental situation and we really liked that house. And I believe the old adage that you regret only those things you don’t do…so we decided to go for it.
On Tuesday morning, I called Dori and told her we wanted to make an offer on the house. We were so determined to get what we were convinced was the perfect house for us that we offered $10,000 more than the asking price—I didn’t want to have any regrets. Later that evening, as Ben and I were driving to dinner, Dori called. I can still remember the feeling of butterflies in my stomach as I answered the phone and she told us that the homeowners had accepted our offer. We were officially under contract.
So just to recap: we began looking at houses on Sunday. On Tuesday, we were under contract. It was definitely crazy, but Ben and I never regretted it. Not for a minute. We loved that house. I mean, loved it. Everything about it. Even the outdated kitchen and one tiny bathroom, because we were going to make them better. And when we outgrew the existing space one day, we were going to expand into the attic and turn it into a dream master suite. Because we were never going to leave that house. We said over and over again that we were never going to move.
Four years passed. We became more and more attached to the house as we invested time, money, and our own sweat into dozens of different projects. Painting. Landscaping. Decorating. I became obsessed with interior design. My favorite thing to do on the weekends was to rearrange furniture and knick-knacks. The house just made me happy. It was my favorite “thing.” So when I got pregnant, we decided that would be the perfect time to finally undertake that big kitchen remodel we had been dreaming about. We wanted to turn it into a special place to make memories with our kids. So we lived through a grueling eight-week renovation and wound up with our perfect kitchen. And I put together the perfect nursery for our baby boy. The house had never looked better and we had never been happier there. We were definitely going to stay there forever.
But then I had our baby. And Ben says that my tune changed dramatically about four hours after Quinn was born. Shouldn’t we live closer to his grandparents and aunts and uncles? Wouldn’t he be happier growing up with his cousins? And how would I ever leave that sweet little baby to go back to work? But how would we be able to afford the mortgage if I didn’t? We began to think that moving sixty miles west to Weatherford, the small town where Ben grew up and most of his family still lives, might actually be the best thing for our little family. It was going to be tremendously difficult to say goodbye to our home, but a house is just a house after all, right??
In June of 2012, when Quinn was about a month old, we were still ambivalent about a potential move, but decided to call Dori again and explore the possibility of selling our beloved little home. Dori met with us on a Tuesday afternoon and told us that if we thought we wanted to sell, the time was now. She went home, did her homework, and came back Friday afternoon with comps and a recommended listing price and marketing strategy. She thought that there was a perfect opening in the market right then because the other comparable homes at our price point had all been sitting on the market for awhile without selling, so we would be fresh and well-positioned. Dori wanted to take advantage of the situation and put our house on the market the following week, as soon as we could manage to get the house cleaned and staged for showing, and she planned to hold open houses over the next two weekends. We were a bit dazed by the speed at which things were moving, but we agreed and promised to work all weekend to get the house into shape by the middle of the following week. But just a few hours later, Dori called us back and said there was someone who’d like to take a look at our house on Monday, if that was okay. Sure. Somehow we’d get the house ready by Monday. And just like that, all of a sudden, it was happening. We were really going to put our house on the market.
We spent that entire weekend—dawn till dusk and late into the night—scrubbing baseboards, mopping floors, detailing grout, touching up paint, clearing clutter, rearranging furniture, washing windows, tidying the landscaping…all the things you’re supposed to do when you get ready to sell your home, but I took them to the extreme. I felt like this was my big chance to show the world how wonderful this little house was, that this was when all the love we had poured into it over the past four years was going to pay off. I wanted it to look better than it ever had before. So stopping only to nurse Quinn, I worked my fingers to the bone to get the house ready to be seen by potential buyers on Monday. But on Saturday, Dori called again to say that someone else wanted to take a look at the house on Sunday, if we were okay with that. “But the house won’t be ready!” I told Dori. “I know,” she said, “they understand that but they still want to see it.” Well, I sure wasn’t going to let anyone see the house before it looked perfect, so we called in help and by some miracle, managed to get the house looking pretty close to perfect by mid-afternoon on Sunday. It was Father’s Day, Ben’s first. We were dirty and sweaty and exhausted, and were just putting a six-week-old Quinn in his car seat when the potential buyers knocked on the door. They were a young, nice-looking couple, maybe a few years older than us. We shook their hands, got in the car, and drove to a nearby park to wait.
Dori called us a a short time later to say that we could go back home and to casually drop the bombshell that the couple wanted to make an offer on the house. I felt a lot of things in that moment: happy, proud, and maybe a little smug— “of course they want to buy my beautiful home,” I thought, “who wouldn’t?”—but also sad that this sale was becoming real and—once again—shocked at how fast it was happening. The couple sent over their offer later that evening for the full expected list price. The next day, Monday, we honored the other showing that Dori had already scheduled, but the young couple then increased their initial offer a bit and we accepted it that evening.
So just to recap: we met with Dori on Tuesday to talk about the mere possibility of selling our home, and by the following Tuesday—just one week later—our house was under contract. It sold before it even went to market. (I told you, seriously, hire Dori.)
Thus begins and ends the story of my crazy love affair with our first home. I was a bit disappointed that we never got to have an open house, that no listing photos were ever published—in short, that I never got to show off our home at its best. But with it looking that good, you better believe I took my own photos—just a little something to remember it by. So had our sweet house ever made it to market, here is what you might have seen:
Random tip from Dori: when you take listing photos and when you show your home, every single light and lamp in your house should be on. It makes it look more lived-in and inviting. (And it also saves potential buyers from fumbling around trying to find light switches.)
Aaah, sweet house, I do miss you. This photo was taken right before Quinn and I left for good:
It was hard to let go—and I will admit to driving past the house a few times since then to see what the new owners have done to the place—but I think I can now finally let it rest. Onward and upward, right? Because there is plenty of work to be done at the new house. More on that to come…