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.





For Just One Day

Today, I’m allowing myself a little bit of pity.  A little time to wallow in the fact that adulthood is not the day at the park I always imagined.  In fact, today, I’m just going to come out and say it: being a grown-up sucks.

Since August of 2009, Ryan and I have been looking for a home of our own.  We started out with big dreams: at least one acre.  Cherry cabinets, with granite countertops.  Four bedrooms, two and a half baths.  Nice neighborhood.  Finished basement with space for his “man cave.”  A real dining room.  Two car garage… or larger.  The list goes on and on.

Since that time, we have looked at countless homes.  Really, we can drive down any given street and know that we’ve been in no less than two homes on it.  Within a 20-mile-radius.  I’m not exaggerating (much).

Maybe my expectations were too high.  No, scratch that.  I know they were.  I was dreaming big, and wasn’t really thinking realistically.  In the years since we started our search, we have toured well over fifty homes; in fact, I would be very surprised if we haven’t doubled or even tripled that number, or more.

Of those, only four have been ones we have seriously considered buying.  Of those four, we have written offers on three.  Obviously, of those three offers, we have not managed to see one through to the end.

Our third offer was rejected last night.  Offer #1 occurred in September 2009, and we were flat-out rejected.  Offer #2 was accepted in September 2010.  However, we ran into some issues that caused us to decide to terminate the contract.  And offer #3 found us in a contract competition with another couple.  Their offer was apparently better, so we’re back to Square One.  Again.  I’m losing stamina, patience, and hope over this whole situation.  I’m tired of searching, tired of touring, tired of waiting, tired of thinking.  Tired of numbers, tired of weighing options.  I’m just tired.  I’m not sure what this means, since I’m usually the optimist and the hopeful one in our marriage, but I’m pretty sure it’s not good.

In other news, we’re counting the days until Nicole and Joe’s wedding- 10 days today!  We have a spa day scheduled Saturday for the bachelorette party: an afternoon of fun and relaxation for our bride and bridal party.  My dress is back from the seamstress’ with all the alterations complete…though, if I continue to pack in the extra-large-movie-theater-popcorn-with-extra-butter, the ice cream, and the E.L. Fudge cookies (I’ve eaten an entire package since yesterday.  Disgusting.) I’ll have to take it back and have her let out all the seams.  With two weeks to go.  Both she and my bride would love me.

However, Clohe and I did get a walk in tonight, and in record time.  Our stroll around the lake allowed me time to blow off the extra steam, and I came home feeling a bit better than when I left.  Add an extra glass of wine and the last of the E.L. Fudges, a box of hair color, and some Cougar Town, and I feel like a new woman.

Thanks for listening, friends.  I’m done feeling sorry for myself now.