I love looking at houses. I love searching for them on real estate sites and I love looking at them at open inspections. I imagine us in the house, thinking about how we’d change the floor plan, which local shops we’d use and what we’d put in the garden. In the years before kids and during the property boom in Sydney Phil and I would often spend our weekends looking at houses for fun. We would go to open inspections of homes we couldn’t possibly afford and get inspired that one day we would have a home like that. Having said that, those houses are probably worth 5 million plus now, so we still couldn’t possibly afford them! But I like to dream.
So when it came time to look for our own family home, for real, I was excited. I spent hours looking online, registering for alerts and planning our weekends around open inspections. I’d feel my heart beat a little faster every time an alert popped into my mailbox and a house in my suburbs, for my budget, was listed.
Because we were looking for a renovation project we’ve looked at some pretty average houses. Houses with cracks big enough to put your fist through. Houses with rotten floorboards and crumbling roofs, salt damp, mould and every type of hideous carpet and wallpaper combination you could imagine. But the uglier they were the more it inspired me. I saw past all the imperfections and visualised how they could be. I reassured our kids that these awful houses wouldn’t always look that way and that mummy and daddy weren’t crazy for looking at them, because they had the potential to be beautiful one day.
But each time I saw that potential and fell in love with a place it wasn’t meant to be. Clearly everyone else loves finding houses with potential and they kept getting in first, or paying too much. And then came a long winter where nothing came on the market and we had to fit open inspections around soccer games and birthday parties and the kids got over it. And then so did we.
It became frustrating and tedious. We’d drive past a house and write it off without even getting out the car. I grew tired of falling in love with houses over our budget, so I tightened my search preferences so I couldn’t see them at all. And I got sick of looking at dumps that cost more than fully renovated houses and started to wonder if we crazy for wanting a fixer-upper when an already-done would be so much easier. Some days I wondered if buying at all was a mistake, when we loved the rental we were in and lived free of the pressure of a mortgage hanging over our heads.
But then we found it, the one we’d been waiting for.