Eight Months of House Hunting

As you may recall, we went and saw a farmhouse out in the suburbs back in December. It had amazing bones, big rooms and windows, but it needed a full gut down to the plumbing, electrical, kitchen, baths, windows, not to mention there were issues with the foundation… and we really didn’t love the street it was on. So we quickly moved on… but a farmhouse still remains on my list of dream homes.

After that, probably in February, we started looking more seriously at homes in the city, assuming we wanted to stay a few more years downtown since schools are not an issue yet, and I’d have a close commute to our office. All of our family lives in the suburbs so we assumed we’d end up there one day. But we really weren’t ready and thought 2-3 more years in the city sounded great. Our lease technically isn’t up until December, so we were by no means rushing. We figured having all that time would let us find something we truly loved! But boy did it get discouraging fast.

Over the next four months, we looked exhaustively in the city.

We were very open-minded about any type of property, but I am overly picky about the home’s space, character, and bones. I can see past dated fixtures and was totally on board for a fixer-upper. But natural light, number of rooms, large living space, windows, ceilings, square footage, storage, parking… those were things we were fixed on and nothing we looked at had everything. Or if it did, it would have something else seriously wrong with it. Something bigger than what we were willing to tackle.

We weren’t in any rush so we figured hey, we have all this time before we have to move, we’re bound to find a dream home! And that way if we do, we can move on it. If we don’t, no big deal… no rush! No pressure!

We looked at timber lofts, traditional condos, four-story townhomes, a few 100-year-old single family homes… pretty much everything was dated and needed some work, lacked any architectural character I love, or quite frankly – was listed too high, both for our budget, for how much work it needed, and many times, quite frankly, for what it was. A lot of the new construction was at the top of our budget and had fixtures I didn’t even love which I just couldn’t wrap my head around – spending all that money and not even loving it.

About two months in, we ended up finding a place we did put an offer on: it was a two-flat that would have been an investment property which meant we would have seriously downsized to a two-bedroom, one bath apartment for two years. We wanted to update the kitchens, baths, lighting… it didn’t need much! Just surface finishes. It was VERY reasonably priced and well maintained, so of course it ended up in a bidding war with 7 offers the weekend it was listed, and we lost out to one other offer that went in just a bit higher. So that was that.

Then one day, my mom emailed me a listing to a gorgeous house out in the suburbs near her. It was… way out of our price range. But I love looking at homes so we went to see it just for fun. Glad we did too because I saw it wasn’t remotely right for us – the layout was choppy, not open like we hoped for, and the bedrooms were awkwardly small, bathrooms needed updating… BUT it was on a stunning street and my mom’s tactic had worked. I no longer hated the thought of living on a lovely street with a beautiful yard. ie I didn’t hate the idea of moving to the suburbs.

At that point, we broadened our search of looking at home listings online in the burbs, as well as continuing to look in the city. Then, literally the weekend Henry was born, we more or less gave up on the city and really felt the urge to go suburban. Closer to grandparents, cousins, family.

It was obviously difficult to look at homes with a newborn and recovering from surgery, so we were more picky about listings we made time to see in person. After all, our lease wasn’t up until December and we weren’t in a rush.

But same old. Very little in our price range in the towns we were looking at, and if they were, they needed a lot of work or felt too small. Or were so old and needed things updated like roofs, HVAC, plumbing, electrical… stuff we didn’t want tackle. Cosmetic upgrades sure. Structural updates, no thank you.

We looked at dozens of homes, and arguably well over a thousand listings. Here are the few we liked...


1. The Cape Cod Split

There was one Cape Cod split level that caught our eye and I just couldn’t get out of my head. I saw us living there. I had vision for it! The property was stunning. The curb appeal – an A+. The rooms were large, big windows, location we mostly loved (it was farther from town than we wanted). But it hadn’t been updated since the 70s and needed a ton of work.

I even had a whole inspiration board for it… so yes, this was very high on our list.

And when we looked at it a second time with my mom and sister, we saw it needed 3 times as much work as we had originally even thought.


2. The Farmhouse

There was also an amaaazing farmhouse on an acre of land that was just… wow. Wrap-around porch. Stunning kitchen. We loved loved loved it.

But we didn’t loooove where it was located – off of a road with a higher speed limit– and we felt it was priced too high for where it was (and compared to what they bought it for) that we’d end up losing money on it – especially since it wasn’t selling right away and it only had three bedrooms. It also didn’t have that neighborhood feel – it felt like a better home for older kids.

But we did love it! It would be a forever home and we’d have family over all the time. It had a pool which was amazing. I wanted to jump in when we were there. Hah Either way, we were going to wait this one out and see if they’d drop the price more.


3. The Townhome

There was one place in the city we loved – a four-story townhome much farther north. This was another one we both loved upon entering – although the three staircases seemed a little daunting as Henry becomes mobile. But it was refinished exactly in a style I loved.

But again – we thought it was priced too high for the neighborhood – and it wasn’t exactly where we wanted to live in the city. Put us much farther from family. Their seller told us to throw out a price, which we did (a low one), and he replied “heck no.”

Ok fine. We’ll wait.

Well guess what… after two months of sitting, it eventually dropped to that original price we offered. In the two days we discussed whether we should go for it, it ended up getting an offer and going contingent. Dan asked if I was sad we lost it. I wasn’t… hah so that was that.


4. The Lofts

We also seriously looked at lofts. There were a couple we liked but they all had something wrong.

One needed major renovating and the seller was again, priced too high. So it sat, and sat. And eventually he just unlisted it and marked it for rent since it wouldn’t sell.

One was awesome but next to the el and would likely lose its view once they built next to it – which is inevitable in the West Loop. It also had a super shady laundry hook-up and the second bedroom didn’t have windows, which I hate.

One was great, but too small.

This is more or less how all of our house hunting went.

So the lofts were not panning out…


Then last weekend, we popped into two open houses in the suburbs – both 100-year-old farmhouse styles (a VERY common style home in the burbs), one priced perfectly but felt too small and wasn’t maintained great. And another that was out of our price range but again, we popped in just for fun – and boy was it ginormous. Seven bedrooms. Much too big for us!

We were pretty convinced at this point that we’d be ending up in the burbs. But again – we had until December to find something! I know I was getting used to the idea of a beautiful street and a yard.

But when we headed back to the city last Sunday, we went to see a listing our realtor had just sent us – it was a new construction that just went on the market… it wasn’t even finished so the selling agent wasn’t really doing showings and definitely no open houses – she had scheduled this one hour for a few folks to stop in. We hadn’t actually seen photos of it online because it was a new construction – it only had photos of other properties the builder had done, which looked lovely, but so there was no way to know whether this would work unless we saw it in person.

Upon entering, my face instantly lit up. Like kid in a candy score, huge mouth smile.

THIS is what we had been searching for in the city. And it was miraculously at a price we could afford. In a location we really liked! I turned to Dan when the realtor wasn’t looking and just giggled… this was it. We proceeded to walk through the place…

This was me excitedly looking around, yet waiting to find the thing that was wrong. I didn’t find it.


Sneak peek:

The living space was open and big. Sunlight was pouring in.

The builder is a skilled millworker by trade, so there is wood detailing and trim all over. He has a very traditional style picking finishes I myself would choose unlike so many new constructions that have sparkly stone fireplace hearths and contemporary bathroom finishes I don’t love.

It has a fireplace, three large outdoor spaces + a small front yard (I picture Henry running through a sprinkler on it next summer), garage parking. It’s the top unit so the sunlight pours in. It’s two stories so it has that house feel. It’s on a quiet street and most of the neighbors are young couples with little kids and bebes. It’s not very far from work. It’s in an awesome neighborhood we’re excited to live in.

It literally has everything on our list. After months of goldilocks homes… we found the one that is just right.

Of course, now I have to temporarily let go of that picture I had for our near future of a big lot with a yard and family close by. But that will come in a few years… for now, I won’t have a long commute keeping me away from Henry, which is what I wanted all along.

We are currently under contract – and I am picking out kitchen, lighting, and hardware finishes and paint colors since it isn’t completely finished! which feels SURREAL! A major reason I couldn’t wait to own my own home – so of course, something could happen where we end up not getting it, I suppose. But I’m hopeful! And already dreaming up all the decorating plans and trying to figure out what works where from our current place. And I cannot wait to share more!

Funny coincidence – the 1970s cape cod we loved went contingent THE DAY after we put an offer in on our place. Which I totally took as a sign that the universe was telling us we had made the right choice.

Thanks for following along and all the supportive messages the past six months!