It has been over a year now since I bought my first home and I must say that it has been an adventure. I have learned a lot to say the absolute least. Some things I learned were more on the handy side, like waterproofing your screened porch, wood staining and just becoming familiar with Lowe’s overall. Other things were considered more like…life lessons. Basically, never allow Four Loko at your first party in your new place (or ever really, am I right?). Anyway, that is a story for a different day. I wanted to share some of the many ups and downs of my first year of homeownership in hopes of providing some tips I learned along the way and advice on how to deal with #adulting.
The thing that resonates with me the most is this: Take your freakin’ time. I know. So simple, right? Here lies the end of my advice. But in all seriousness, there is nothing truer than this. When I was looking for the “perfect” house, I was renting. I had to be out of my townhouse by the end of the month and I started heavily searching only four months prior. In hindsight, I should have started looking sooner but I was worried I would find a house sooner rather than later and therefore, would have to break my lease early, pay fees, blah blah blah. Needless to say that was an unrealistic expectation. Cue: 100% Freakout Mode.
The house hunting process is something that should not be rushed and refuses to be rushed. I looked at countless houses online and in person (I was just a tad picky). Each one had something that I liked and disliked. Sometimes the house was right but the neighborhood was wrong and vice versa. Some were in my price range, and others were just not. I even found a house that I really liked, and put in an offer which the seller accepted. We were under contract for a total of 20 minutes (no joke here) before the seller changed their mind. That was a fun roller coaster. Because I was under crazy self-induced stress due to this time crunch, especially after the latter experience, it was hard for me to really take this advice then. However, if you are in the first-time-home-buying process right now try to remember to, as my mother would say in her southern twang, “take a chill pill”.
1,284 houses later and I found my gem of a home.
The next thing I learned is also a little cliché but it’s fitting so who cares. When you are house hunting, all the houses you see seem to run together into a giant real estate blur. However, when you find the right one you really do “just know”. I wanted to poke everyone in the eyeball that told me that. When I look back now though I reckon they were right.
When I was under contract on the house that I mentioned before where I suddenly had the rug ripped out from under me, I was honestly devastated. I literally sat on my couch and sobbed. My home décor daydreams were quickly cut short. I had been searching for so long and I had so many offers rejected. Great! Another door slammed in my face. I had my mini melodrama and off I went searching again.
I started looking around neighborhoods I hadn’t been looking at previously. I had been a little choosy about the neighborhoods before, but at this point, I was willing to be more open-minded as long as the area was safe. There I was driving when I found him (yes him). I got out of the car and started walking around the property. The house was raised so I couldn’t get a good view of the inside. I immediately called my godsend of a realtor (the real gem) and asked him to look it up. He sent me pictures of the inside and my heart melted. So. Fucking. Cute. Not to mention vacant with no pending offers and…a tad out of my price range. Shucks. I had been deflated too many times and was not about to pass up this house.
During the offer/counter-offer/negotiation phase, I probably drove by that house every day. I took my mom, friends, boyfriend, Jesus, etc. to go see that house. They all confirmed what I already knew. They could just “see me there”. It had that vintage feel I loved with the original hardwood floors, glass door knobs, old school pink tile and tub in the bathroom and a killer back porch. I was in love and I was determined.
When we finally were under contract, I kept waiting for something to happen. I knew to hold off on the home décor daydreams this time and not get my hopes up too high too soon. Thankfully, closing day came and went without a hitch and the seller handed me the keys. I went from deflated to elated and couldn’t wait to open the door to my new abode with my own damn keys (*hairflip*).
There I was lying on the floor of my 1940s cute AF house. The hardwood floors had just been re-finished and there was sawdust everywhere so I probably shouldn’t have been doing that. I didn’t care. I was in love with every inch of my 650-square foot “doll house” as my friends and family sometimes called it.
Moving day arrived. I was surrounded by boxes and furniture. I wanted to get as much unpacked as possible but I didn’t really know where to start and I was overwhelmed. I immediately wanted to start decorating but some things had to come first. My last piece of advice, as painful as it is, is to be patient. Accept that everything will not be done in one day…or month or even a year. There is always something that will need to be done. Whether it is painting, rearranging a room, etc. just when you think that you have everything complete, you’ll find yourself redoing something all over again. However, it can be so fun and rewarding to let those creative juices flow so let it happen and enjoy it!
The Home Improvements
The living room originally had three built in book cases which I absolutely loved. However, it really made the already small space even smaller. One of the first things I opted for was to keep one and get rid of the other two. I had a handy man who happened to live on my street (score!) take these out for me and redo the trim. One of the book cases was covering up a small section where the flooring was slightly damaged. I learned that my house originally had a furnace and it used to sit right where that book case was. When the furnace was removed, it damaged the flooring in that area. Mr. Handy Man epoxied and stained the floor and you couldn’t even tell. He was a freakin’ magician.
(Above photos taken from the MLS listing)
Another issue with the book cases being removed was that the paint on the wall underneath was a completely different color than the room. Instead of painting the entire room (just no), I recruited my mom and decided to do an accent wall. This was cheap and a fun way to add some color.
Now that these projects were complete, I could arrange the furniture in the living room how I wanted and get it out of the middle of the floor!
I steadily worked on unpacking boxes and soon it all started to come together…the interior of the house anyway.
I decided that my next big project would be redoing the floor on my screened porch. The porch itself was amazing, but the blue slap down tiles? Not so much.
(Above photo taken from the MLS listing)
So, one by one I picked up the tiles and piled them outside. Part 1 was done!
Part 2 was sweeping and pressure washing to get as much dirt off as possible.
Now, part 3 is where I recruited my parents to help. I knew nothing about wood staining and water sealants. So, after the floors were as clean as we could get them, we picked out a wood stain that matched the rest of the porch. The stain was also a sealant that would prevent any water damage too. This is where I started to become very familiar with Lowe’s, my favorite place on earth (*side eye*). We mopped on the stain, did a total of three coats and let it completely dry.
I was so thrilled with the result!
The last major home improvement I decided to tackle was this weird pseudo-wall and pillar in the kitchen. I didn’t like it from the start and not to mention it blocked off the kitchen in a strange way.
The first thing I did was have my dad’s friend, Pat come out and make sure that the pillar was not a supporting structure. Once it was determined that it was essentially useless, he removed it from the wall. Bye forever you ugly pillar!
Then, it was time to figure out what to do with the wall. I did not have much room for a dining table, and I could not afford to completely remodel this part of the kitchen. I thought, “Well, time to work with what you have”! I decided to do a bar/breakfast nook and I drew (sloppily) the general idea of what I wanted. Pat said he could definitely build what I needed. The angels sang! All I needed to do was pick out what bar top I wanted.
That sounded simple enough, right? Well, off I went to Lowe’s, again. I knew I wanted a wooden bar top, so I originally looked at butcher block styles. They were all out of my price range. Damn. So, I looked at countless other styles like laminate, tile, etc. None of them were what I envisioned. So, I told Pat I was having a tough time deciding and luckily, he happened to have a large piece of wood that he was not using. He said he could cut it to shape and put it in place. The rest would be up to me. Perfect! So, he drew (a lot better than I had) what the finished bar would look like. I was too excited!
Once the bar top was in place, it was time to sand and stain. I picked out the wood stain I desired. I chose a darker color and my mom and I went to work! We sanded, painted about three coats of the stain and finished it off with a clear glossy sealant. It was just what I had imagined.
The saying, “it takes a village” could not be more relevant during my homeownership journey thus far. I have so many people who have helped me along the way and I could not be more grateful. I have learned a lot from this experience and I seriously could not have done it without them. If you are going through the home buying process right now or are about to jump into it just remember, have patience (wine helps), be choosy and just know that the perfect house really is out there for you. You just haven’t found it yet!
A huge thank you to my realtor, Benjie Fisher for dealing with all of the late night texts about houses I wanted to see and just all of his patience in general. Another whopping thank you to my parents for all of their help. Mom: Thank you for helping with all of the furniture restorations and introducing me to chalk paint. Dad: Thanks for all the yard work help. I owe you a million Natural Lights. Mark: Thanks for keeping me sane during the crazy home searching and just all of your support in general. Shoutout to Pat for doing such an amazing job on my bar! Curt: Thank you for the many projects you conquered not yet written about, and of course the love. Mr. Campbell: You have heard this a million times, but in case you happen to read this, THANK YOU! Lastly, thank you to all of my family, friends and anyone I may have missed for making my first home truly feel like home.
If you are searching for a home in the Tallahassee area, here is the contact information for my realtor, Benjie with Ann Fisher Realty, Inc.: 850-545-1916 or visit the website!