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Turning the Century: On the Hunt

The decision to buy was one we had been hemming and hawing on for a long time. In our five years together, my husband and I had lived in five apartments, one worse than the next: too small, too illegal, too drafty, too isolation, too many bugs.  Now, expecting a baby in late fall, we decided to take the plunge.

We had been looking at houses since early in 2012 and had had and accepted offer, but while we had the contract in front of us, the seller decided to pull the property off the market.  In the spring of 2013, we saw a number of houses around our price range -- prices were starting to rise in our small upstate New York community as the arts, food and local merchants gained national attention, and we began to worry that although it was great to live in a boom town, we'd be shut out of the real estate market if we didn't make some tough decisions quickly.

My husband convinced me to see the little gray house on a Friday morning, before we left for a weekend trip out of town. I was relatively unimpressed by the listing; it had been up for months during our house hunt, with just two dismal photos of the property: an outside wide shot of the house and yard, and a dimly lit shot of an old builder's kitchen. Stepping inside was even worse. The beautiful exterior and charming cedar entrance room gave way to a smell that hit any visitor in the face straightaway: wet dog.  Wet dog all day.  Old carpets, ancient washed out wallpaper, dark, dingy bathroom.  I could see immediately why no one took a second look much less made an offer.  

The realtor, when my husband inquired, revealed that beneath the carpet was most likely a hardwood floor and, because the house was pre-1900, it was probably a wideboard floor.  She waited outside while we roamed the upstairs.  Two closets, three bedrooms, no upstairs bath.  The master bedroom floor was, how shall I say it?  Springy?  Saggy?

We began to strategize out of earshot.  The house was small and old, sure.  But the asking price was extremely low; the homeowners having had to move out more than six months earlier were desperate to sell.  I ticked off a list of things that would need to be done before we could move in -- I fantasized about turning the smallest bedroom into an upstairs bathroom with a tub, since the falling apart bathroom downstairs did not have one, and we would have a small child who would need to be bathed. New walls and paint for the nursery, sanding and sealing whatever wood we'd find after pulling up the carpets, new walls and paint for the living room. 

When we got home, my husband and I drew up a budget for some light remodeling that could be done before we moved in, and we settled on a price we were willing to pay. We put in the offer at five p.m. and after one round of negotiation, we went to contract after our weekend getaway.

Convinced we saw what others did not, we set out to find a contractor. Compared with the house hunt, how hard could that be?...Right?

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