Thursday, October 17, 2013

Our houses

My husband Brad and I originally moved across the state from South-Central Kentucky to the greater Cincinnati area in 2007 (when he was, at the time, my boyfriend Brad).  I had just recently completed undergrad with a degree in partying, travelling and procrastinating Psychology.  Brad had recently resigned as Director of Admissions from said undergrad (yes, that's exactly as dramatic and scandalous as it sounds, maybe more on that soap opera later, if you're lucky ;).  He was looking for new jobs while I was applying to law schools, and it worked out that he got a job offer at the University of Cincinnati at the same time I got a scholarship offer from NKU Chase College of Law.  The stars were aligned.  Our fates were sealed, (insert cheesy cliche here) and we moved to northern Kentucky for what I thought would be a temporary, 3 year move.  Six years later, we are still here and LOVING this city.

I rented an apartment near school.  Brad rented a small house near me and the Kentucky/Ohio border.  But Brad  (tired of battling the bridge traffic every day on his commute) soon rented a beautiful, old Victorian in Cincinnati's oldest, historic neighborhood, Columbia Tusculum:

I was reluctant to give up my Kentucky residency (ya'll, something about being an Ohioan kind of made me want to throw up a little). The home was beautiful and open and charming, but had recently housed college students and was in terrible shape.  As he did with all his rentals, Brad cleaned and repainted the whole place.  When we got married in 2010, I moved into the old Victorian and we loved it.  While I adored the charming house and neighborhood, the utilities in the big, old, drafty Victorian were out of control (and out of this broke student's budget), so again we moved.

We loved the neighborhood, especially the local restaurants like Green Dog Cafe, Eli's Barbeque and Bella Luna, so we relocated to a smaller, more energy efficient rental in the same neighborhood.  The house was a 1930's three (small) bedroom, one bath cape cod:

The size was perfect for just the two of us.  Again, we cleaned and repainted and made the rental as cozy and inviting as we could.  The only thing we couldn't live with was the leaky, moldy basement.  When the house next door became available, we convinced the owners to rent to us to allow the housing market to rebound before selling, and she surprisingly agreed.  So.... we moved again, this time next door:

We lived in our last rental for two years.  This was the first rental we didn't have to paint (except for one wall in the living room that was damaged by the prior tenant) and we LOVED this house.  Look at that landscaping (all professionally done before we moved in)!  However, living in this house for two years made us realize what we did and did not want in a house.  First, the neighborhood.  While we LOVED the historic, charming neighborhood, the whole neighborhood was built on a steep hill, which meant foundation and water issues in almost every house and no flat yards. (Duri ng our house-hunting adventures, I started despising the words "flat, yard, and private". The husband was OBSESSED).



Second, the home itself was choppy.  The kitchen was big, but it was separated from the living area.  The dining room was large and charming, but we realized we rarely used the formal dining room and this was a waste of space.  We also realized there were a lot of features HGTV and pinterest and home blogs and friends and family made us believe we "needed" in a home, that we really didn't.  The closets were small, there was only one small full bath (there was a weird little closet with a toilet that we referred to as "world's tiniest bathroom"), and there was no designated laundry space (the washer/dryer was in the dry and mold-free partially-finished basement).  And while that wouldn't have worked for a lot of people, it worked for us. 

Near the end of our lease term in the summer of 2013, our landlord informed us she was planning for retirement and wanted to sell the property.  She offered to sell it to us first.  We were tempted, but ultimately decided the yard was a deal-breaker for Brad and the price was a deal-breaker for me (more on the rationale behind that decision later).    So we began looking at rentals again.  They.  Were.  All.  Horrible.  We're not high-maintenance people; all we wanted was a decent single-family in a safe neighborhood, but there were nightmares in almost every rental we looked at, and the rent was so expensive!  Home prices and interest rates, however, were still low.  After meeting with a mortgage broker and getting our pre-approval, we decided the time was right to buy.  I was out of school and a practicing attorney at a great firm downtown.  Brad was loving his job at UC.  More than that, we really fell in love with Cincinnati (which still feels a little "big city" to this Kentucky girl) and realized this was no longer the temporary destination we thought it would be.  Cincinnati was now home.  Nothing was holding us back, so we embarked on the stressful, time-consuming, frustrating exciting journey as first-time home buyers, and ended up with a charming, fixer-upper, gray cape cod:

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