Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When You Just Can't Take It Anymore

I am talking about my house here. I bought our little "salt box" house (some people in the Northwest prefer to call them Cape Cods, but they are not real Cape Cods and they are just fooling themselves to say that) before we got married. It was all I could afford by myself. It was a bare canvas. No updates and old wiring.

Slowly, but surely, we have worked on the house. I tiled the bathroom. We remodeled the kitchen and dining room. We had a rock wall built up front. We built French doors off the back of the house and added a Trex deck and dug up the back yard and put in a fence. We converted the 2 car garage into a perfectly decent studio space for my artwork.Now, 7 and 1/2 years on, it is just not doing the trick anymore.

I know, I might sound a little pathetic, whining about a perfectly reasonable house that was purchased at an insanely reasonable price. And it has been a good house and we have no plans to sell it anytime soon. I think it will be a great rental.

However, we have come to the point: If we put any more money into this house, we will have priced ourselves out of our neighborhood. (You should never own the nicest house on the block.) Also, our needs are not quite being met. The layout of the house is poor with lots of doors and angles and small rooms and little storage and a cramped upstairs. We can't get any serious furniture up the stairs. We can barely turn around in our bedroom. And my husband practices piano (sometimes 3 hours a day) smack dab in the living room because there is nowhere else in the house that you can maneuver a piano with ease. Our square footage is just about right (1600) but the layout is horrible. And there is little charm in these salt boxes. They were built right after World War II with returning soldiers in mind and without eaves or built ins or attention to fine artistic detail.

My fantasy is to add about 300 square feet and pull the whole house down to one level and open it all up and voila! we would be in a mid-century ranch house.

Yesterday I took the monumental first step to start looking at houses. Luckily, I have a Realtor in the family and so we can go and look without a lot of pressure. After 9 houses plus (I lost count), I came home with one very important realization.

We cannot afford the house we want.

I don't see this as necessarily bad or a reason to get depressed. We are basically starting from square one since we are not planning to sell the house we are in now. To be perfectly honest, I don't want to move into a moderately expensive house that is ready to go because I will still find things I want to change. I prefer to find a shell of a mid-century ranch and then have at it myself. I like projects like this.

What is stopping us from getting a house anytime in the next week:

1)Tacoma is not flush with Mid-century. We have to turn away from downtown living and look out in the narrows. It is still only 5 miles give or take from downtown, but this is a big emotional leap for us.

2)Banks are holding onto roughly 4000 (not a misprint) foreclosed/abandoned homes in the area that they are not selling because they don't want to flood the market. Our dream home might be waiting for us in that pile of houses.

3) We both work from home. This might sound like a blessing, and it is, but we have specific needs that most people don't have to think about. Like two separate offices where we can spend all day without bugging one another as well as a workshop space for me.

4) We need room for (an eventual) baby grand piano for my husband.

5) I would prefer a larger than normal lot to allow for garden and studio space. This is the most flexible of the 5 needs but still pretty important.

Phew! You'll be hearing a lot from me in the coming months on this topic. I have photos of houses we have been looking into that I will post soon.


  1. When I read #4, I had to do a double take. I thought it said: "We need room for an eventual baby." Whoa! Then I read it again and the baby grand made sense... whew. Best wishes with the house hunting. It sounds very exciting!!

  2. Please do keep us posted. House-hunting can be such fun and such agony, too...
    We're also in a Cape-Cod style home, although quite different from yours. And although the layout isn't bad, I could definitely make improvements if starting from scratch.