Househunting has been rather depressing lately. I got attracted to a neighbourhood that was about 15 – 20 minutes closer to town and shopping than where we were originally looking, but that one place (which was cheap due to some unique circumstances) has not worked out (owners won’t reduce their price) and most everything else in that area is outside our budget. Now the original area seemed so much farther away. I found myself drawn to an alternative solution…
There’s a new townhome development (all duplexes) that is surrounded by parkland on three sides and in the same area as the place that didn’t work out. You literally walk outside your back door, onto the trail, and can run for miles without crossing a road. The homes are gorgeous, both inside and out. The place is all landscaped with native plants and various environmental considerations have been taken in its design. I went to visit and was blown away by the showhome. We could get a brand new home, 3000 sq ft (that includes a large semi-unfinished basement) with fir doors, trim, earth tone walls, the works. It was nicer than my mother’s place. And the price was cheap by city standards. I went back and forth on it for a few weeks, and then after it seemed this last place fell through, I came to the conclusion that we should just buy the townhome.
I got very excited thinking about my beautiful master bathroom with its double sinks and deep soaker tub, about my kitchen with huge pantry and tons of cupboard space, about my living room with built-in tubes in the walls to hide the cords, and about the trails. And in this frenzy of home design lust I told myself that it didn’t matter that there was no yard (all common area outside) and that I’d be living in a strata community (where the largest vote wins). And so while Husband was off on a weekend road trip with Daughter (her first foray from home without mama!) I dragged Son and my mother back to the display home for another look. Mostly I was hoping to get her blessing so she could side with me and convince Husband to go for it. As we walked through the available unit, which now had paint, cabinets, and flooring, I was trying my best “look at this!” and “look at that!” sales pitch to Mum (yes, at age 41 I still crave approval from Mother). Suddenly this little voice popped into my head. It said: “You know, it’s just a house”.
That voice was unbidden, unappreciated, and unwanted. It was raining on my unbridled joy. I ignored it and continued on, chatting with the charming salesguy and trying to figure out how I was gonna talk Husband into this within the next 7 days (which is how long they agreed to hold the unit for us). I left with a stack full of papers that included strata minutes for the last 2 years (from earlier phases of the development), and couldn’t wait to settle down to read them.I didn’t know where that little voice had come from, but I was determined not to let it discourage me.
So that night I poured a cup of Caf-Lib and curled up with the papers. As I read through them, that nagging voice came back, only this time it was building in strength. I began to get cold feet. I began to worry. Was this a mistake? Why was I suddenly feeling the need for time and restraint when, had Husband been there, I would have begged him to put a deposit down that very day.
Well, in the end it was the strata minutes that took the wool off my eyes. I am so NOT a “rules and regulations” type of person! Reading about how I’d have to fix every nick, dent, and scrape that showed up on the house regardless of the cause (my kids or a storm) immediately (with only the approved materials, no budget shopping here), how I’d have to choose from only certain colours for curtains (not that I wanted any – the place came with wood blinds), and how I’d have to submit a detailed plan, in writing, with drawings (!), if I wanted to so much as put a potato plant in the ground outside my back door (or even place a raised bed container on the ground out there!)…well, it all started sounding like living in No-Fun Land. I spent years straining under the limits of my mother as a youngster (and she really wasn’t all that strict) and the idea that I would willingly subject myself to a committee of strangers overruling every domestic decision I made…well, it was just too much.
I went to bed that night and thought about that uninvited voice – and I realized what it was. The showhome was like that dress you see in the store window, you know, THE dress. You dream about it, you dream about how you will look in it, about how much your friends will admire it, about how grown-up it will show you to be, about how Happy you will be when you own that dress…And then you bring it home and you hang it in the closet with all your other clothes and suddenly….it’s just a dress.
And that was it. I realized I’d been sucked in by all the glittery design elements of the display suite and the new-home smell of the place. The entire development was one big display window and the sales people made it all sound so fabulous. But at the end of the day, the granite countertops and trendy dark-stained cabinets are just that, countertops and cabinets. I KNOW from experience how quickly newness wears off. Would I be as happy as I thought when that happened?
And then, in a twist of fate, a book I’d placed on hold came available for me at the library the next day after viewing the townhome. It’s called Made From Scratch: Discovering the pleasures of a handmade life, by Jenna Woginrich. I’d heard about it on a simple living blog somewhere and gone and requested it from the library. The next day I had it in my hands and it was like a reality check, like coming home. I’d spent the last year or two immersed in the philosophy of simple living, dreaming of a little acreage so I could plant a bigger vegetable garden, have backyard chickens, let my kids out to play unsupervised, continue composting. I wanted another dog, a cat, and maybe some other animals one day. What the HELL was I thinking??? I almost moved our family into the epitome of suburban life, but without even the modicum of privacy that owning your own backyard brings. A strata community? For me? The rule-hater? A place without yards, no chickens, no hanging your laundry out to dry because we’ll all look like peasants?????
All I can say is thank GOD, or FATE, or the UNIVERSE or whatever was looking out for me that I saw the light before I put any money down. And I want to put a special shout out to my dear, sweet, wise Husband, who allowed me to follow my irrational thinking to its logical conclusion (had he fought me too much on the townhouse I likely would have stubbornly dug in my heels and not resorted to reason). He said he knew I’d see the light eventually. Bless him! I love that man.
So tomorrow we are off to look at four properties, all but three are over 2 acres and one is exactly 1 acre. Ironically, one is the very first place we looked at, a bare lot that we almost bid on but then decided the grade was too steep. We just may bid on it again (with a lower offer now that it has been sitting unsold for a couple of months). I decided that even a steep acreage is better than no acreage, and this one is in a lovely semi-rural neighbourhood just a short bike ride away from our favorite summer swimming hole. I’ll let you know how it goes.