On Houses and Cucumber Sandwiches

It’s been an exhausting two years, friends.  It’s been nearly that long since Ryan and I began our search for the perfect home to purchase and begin the next phase of our life together in.  In those two years, we have looked at a countless number of homes, of all different sizes, shapes, styles and locations.

Of that countless number, we have agreed on four that we’ve found to be acceptable to our unrealistic ambitious expectations.

Of those four, not one has worked out.

The first one we found just a few short months after beginning our search.  It was a contemporary style home, with a beautiful cherry kitchen, high ceilings featuring skylights, and a two-tiered back deck, all on a very quaint street in a quiet little neighborhood.  Unfortunately, our offer was not what the sellers were looking for, and they flat-out rejected without even countering.  It was ok with us though; we consoled ourselves with the fact that we had just begun our search, and if it was meant to be, it would have worked out in our favor.  So we moved on.

The second house we fell in love with was a more traditional two-story, one street over from where my aunt and uncle bought their first home together nearly twenty years ago.  The neighborhood was familiar to me, and it felt like home to both of us almost immediately.  We fell in love with the house, even though it was just out of our price range, and continued to watch the market for the price to come a little closer to what we could manage without overstretching ourselves.  Finally last summer, our dream became a reality; not only did the price come down, but our first offer was also accepted!  I began packing up our belongings in August, certain that everything would go smoothly and we would be able to move in on our closing date.  Unfortunately, the home inspection did not go as we had hoped, and the one major issue we found with the house became an issue the sellers were unwilling to negotiate on.  Finally, after weeks of offers and what-ifs and phone calls and tears, we decided to terminate our contract on our dream house.  Again, we decided that it was just as things were meant to be.

This spring, after my job crisis and resulting decrease in our monthly income, we readjusted our expectations and our reality.  In March, we found a wonderful compromise: an adorable ranch with plenty of space and tons of natural light.  It was on the opposite end of the street from the first home we offered on.  But this time, our contract was being considered with another buyer’s competing offer.  The other buyers got the house, and we went back to our search again.  At this point, we didn’t even bother with the consolation anymore.  I was optimistic enough to have made some appropriate comment about how the third time’s supposed to be a charm and all that, but even saying it, I knew I was projecting more hope than I really felt.  Because what I felt?  Was exhausted.

The paperwork, the waiting, the searching, the hoping, the planning… it’s draining in a way that really makes me wonder why anyone ever moves.  Ever.  Because that’s just the first step.  Once the offer is actually accepted, there are still so many hurdles to overcome, from securing the professionals to conduct inspections on the house and the insur-ability of the the house and the appraisal and the financing… all the while, the interior designer in me is mentally inventorying everything I own, trying to figure out what is going in which of the boxes stacked in our basement, all waiting for the day something actually works out for us and I can unpack it all in a new house and make it all look brand new.  The optimist in me says there’s something out there for us.  The realist in me wonders if we’ll find it before we’re grandparents.

Two weeks ago, we submitted a contract on our fourth house.  This one was a spacious split-entry, one street over from the traditional dream home.   A split-entry was something I had promised Ryan I could never-ever!- be happy with.  This one was different, though, with two bright sun porches and a brand new kitchen and a couple of adorable fireplaces.  It’s cozy but still spacious, with most of the major items from our must-haves list.  Also, it was the first house we looked at when we began this search.  Two years ago.  We’re both so battle-weary at this point that we decided to put in a very high, very fair first offer to try to get things resolved as quickly as possible.  Our poor realtor, Suzanne, has had the patience of a saint throughout this whole process, but I think even she is ready for this to just. be. over.

Anyway, they counter-offered.  Without any thought for negotiating.  Their counter-offer was the same number as the purchase price of the house.  We countered, adjusting slightly and excluding a major amenity.  They countered back, with the same number as their first counter offer.  Minus the major amenity.  We terminated the contract.

We were expressing our frustration with this whole process last night, wondering what we need to do differently.  We’ve already adjusted our expectations for what we’re looking for in our new home.  Rather than looking for our perfect forever-home, we’ve decided to look for something a bit more reasonably-priced but with still enough space for our family to grow and space for entertaining our friends and family.

While we were talking about how many more “necessary” items we could scratch, I mentioned that I could give up the idea of having a “real” dining room as long as there’s a nice open-concept floor plan joining the kitchen to a space large enough to accommodate a big table (preferably in a space that would wear plum-purple on the walls.  I have this image in my head of a plum-purple dining room and I will not rest until it’s become an absolute reality.)  Ryan, however, is insistent that we have a dining room.  Since we began our search, that was the one item on my list that I wanted more than anything, and he has been very sensitive to that request, gently reminding me when I fell in love with places that didn’t have one that I would eventually regret finding a house without a dining room.  It was then that Ryan really put things into perspective for me.  His search for the perfect home can be compared to his search for perfectly-prepared food.

See, until I met him, I always thought I had high expectations.  Once I set my mind to what I want, I go for it.  Nothing short of the apocalypse will get in my way.  Come hell or high water, “determined” is what the “D” in my first name stands for.

Ryan, on the other hand, doesn’t know exactly what he wants; he just knows that it has to be perfect.  Obviously, nothing in this life is perfect; not one of the houses we offered on were perfect either.  They all had little quirks here and there that I would have changed.  They all had little quirks here and there that couldn’t be changed.  But regardless, they were all close enough to what I had been looking for that I would have changed what I could and look at the rest as long-term goals and projects.

Last night, though, as we were talking, Ryan pointed out his absolute intolerance for imperfection.  He compared our home-search to my cooking:

(*Ed. Note: I’m paraphrasing here, and possibly combining two different conversations.  Regardless, we arrive at the same point.)

“See,” he said, “It’s like your cooking.  You’re a good cook. I like your cooking.  But if my broccoli doesn’t taste right or if the meat is overcooked, I’m gonna tell you about it.  Because that’s just how I am.  I find problems with everything, even if it’s just to nit-pick at something.   Now, the way you make cucumber sandwiches is perfect.  You make ’em just like my Grandma Merrow used to.  She made the best cucumber sandwiches ever, and you make them just like she did; that’s why I can’t make my own.  I’ll just mess it up.  There are two things in my life that I can’t complain about not being perfect: my wife, and her cucumber sandwiches.”

Food analogy aside, and the fact that I fall into rank with my ability to toast two pieces of bread, slather them with mayo and slap on a few cucumbers and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, is that not the sweetest thing ever?  See why I married this guy?

And so friends, as we continue this journey to find our perfect home, I’ll just keep reminding myself that our cucumber sandwich is out there.  Somewhere.  And yours is too.





4 thoughts on “On Houses and Cucumber Sandwiches

  1. Deborah the Closet Monster says:

    You know, before I read this, I think I would’ve been dubious a complimenting involving cucumbers could really be that sweet. I would obviously have been mistaken.

    Living in Los Angeles, I’ve long been comfortable with the idea I might never own a home. I was a little bit wary about the property management side of things even apart from the finances, but going through the process of selling my mom’s house pretty much made me see that the house acquisition process is the worst piece of all. If I someday see the right house, it’s not like I won’t pursue it, but from here I’m content to call a property management company to fix whatever ails my rental.

    Good luck finding your perfect house! I hope this is one of those situations where all these doors needed to close to get you through the just-perfect one in the end.

    • daniellemerrow says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words and the encouragement. This post had been brewing for a long time, but I refused to publish if I couldn’t make light of it. It took me awhile, but I’m there. I’m ready to keep searching, frustrating as it may be.

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