rivka: (Baltimore)
Look, here are some pictures of our new house!

(The same ones that were on Facebook, if you already saw those.) Read more... )
rivka: (I love the world)
We won't move until October 15, but we're buying some new things and moving them in now. I am particularly happy about this lovely midcentury sectional:

IMAG0913

I'm not a hundred percent sure how all our living room furniture is going to wind up looking when we have it in there together. The space is designed as one big living-dining room, and instead we're going to use it as a living room-study. Our current living room contains one very nice two-year-old dark chocolate-colored couch, and two awful ancient armchairs I bought secondhand when I moved to Iowa in 1995. We won't be moving those. Instead we bought this nice sectional and - this is the part I'm nervous about - a bright lipstick-red armchair. My hope is that the pillows on the sectional will help bring the colors in the room together.

The other thing, of course, is that having our study in our living room will mean that we have to keep the study neater. That's part of my master plan. This house has such a rational layout that I'm hoping we can set things up in the first place in a way that will foster better organization. (For example: all the homeschooling materials (1) together, (2) next to my desk, (3) with a table that is not also our dinner table, and (4) with plenty of space for Colin to play nearby. All the toys downstairs in a confined space. A place to keep the cookbooks in the kitchen. And so on.)

In other news, Colin is going to have a big boy bed in the new house. He asked for one.

IMAG0912

We decided to forego a toddler bed this time and go straight to a twin. I'm a bit concerned about height (it's waist-high on Colin), but we can put a mat on the floor until he learns not to fall out. He's going to have transportation-themed bedding and also a wall border and, well, you see the rug. It's much more theme-y than anything we've ever done before, but we promised Alex that she could have her room painted and it only seemed fair to give Colin special decor too.

Alex has chosen aqua walls, and a beautiful sea-colored duvet and sheet set to replace the bright, cheery toddler bedding which now offends her sense of dignity. I think this new set will age with her nicely. We also got her a filmy tulle bed canopy and a fun, silly floor lamp from Ikea, because dignity or not the child is still six.

Oh, and Michael bought a self-propelled cordless electric lawnmower! Because we have a lawn now, and boy does it need cutting.

So our house is still almost empty, but it does have porch furniture (left by the sellers - we ordered new cushions, though, and we need to give it a good scrubbing), high captain's chairs at the kitchen bar, a sectional sofa with jazzy pillows, a couple of lamps, a lawnmower, rakes, and a big boy bed.

You know: the basics.
rivka: (I love the world)
We closed on our new house yesterday afternoon! We are homeowners!

Up until the very last minute - even when we were driving to our real estate agent's office holding a comically large cashier's check - I kept expecting it to somehow fall through. They'd rerun the credit check and an unpaid parking ticket would surface, and then the bank would rescind our loan. (Or at least our lovely 4% interest rate.) Some crucial piece of paperwork would turn up missing. Something. But instead we sat at a table and signed a million pieces of paper, and then each of us got a bright, shiny key.

A key to our house.

We won't be moving for a few weeks, but we went out and spent the evening at the house with [livejournal.com profile] lynsaurus and [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb, who will be our neighbors now. The seller had left a box of cookies and a sweet little note on the counter. The family also left us some of the furniture (the seller's in assisted living now, and her children live out of town), so we have a wicker porch set and high bar chairs at the kitchen peninsula and a few other things like that.

I turned on all the lights and we spent a lot of time wandering through the big bright rooms that belong to us now. We watched a big brown rabbit hopping around the back yard. Then we sat out on the screened porch and ate sushi as night fell.

Here are ten small things I'm cherishing about our new house right now:

1. Central air conditioning.
2. Large, soaring kitchen with room for a crowd.
3. Won't have to carry Colin up two long flights of stairs at bedtime.
4. So many closets and cupboards.
5. Full-size freezer in the basement.
6. Warming lamps on the bathroom ceilings.
7. Gas-powered "wood stove" in the family room means that we'll have heat even when the power is out.
8. Flowering ground cover in the back yard.
9. Efficient to heat, so that we won't be paying astronomical power bills to shiver in drafts.
10. SCREENED-IN PORCH.
rivka: (trust beyond reason)
I can't quite believe I haven't posted to LJ in this long. I missed my ten-year LJversary on August 3rd. I didn't mean to stop posting... but it does seem like fewer and fewer people are on LJ anymore, which makes me less motivated to write here. I'm posting a lot on forums these days, instead. (Which is funny, because I originally moved to LJ from the "forums" of ten years ago, i.e., newsgroups.)

So. Where were we?

The big news is that we're buying a house. This house. (The listing has been taken down because the house is under contract, but fortunately, the seller's agent has a blog.) We close a week from Friday.

It's funny, because if you had asked me before we started looking about what style of house I wanted, I would never in a million years have come up with "mid-century rancher!" But I found myself completely drawn to them. Maybe it's just that we've spent the last eight years in century-plus houses, but I am so attracted to the clean lines, open spaces, and thoughtful, efficient use of space.

way too much detail about our prospective new house )

It is such a house, guys. It's not anything flashy or imposing, but it is such an immensely comfortable and inviting space. We love it.

After eight years, though, we are leaving downtown. The new house is still within the city limits, about five miles north of our current location, in an old streetcar suburb the city grew in around long ago. There's a village center with shops and restaurants, and we're about a mile and a half from the light rail which takes us both to work. People who live there tell me that they still feel like they live in the city. It sure is going to be a radical change for us, though, to live in a neighborhood of detached houses with green, green yards.

We're ready for a change, though. There will be things I miss about downtown, for sure, but other aspects of it have definitely begun to pall. And we realized as we began to shop that, the way houses are priced right now, we would have to pay a premium of $50,000 or so to stay downtown. That made it an easier choice. But it still is kind of sad to be setting aside that city-dweller identity.

So that's our big news. How about you? Are you still out there reading this?
rivka: (Baltimore)
We looked at a house today that we really, really like. many small pictures below the cut )
rivka: (Baltimore)
Michael's birthmother paid us a quick visit this weekend. In the course of a day or two, huge changes were set in motion for us - an experience simultaneously exciting and dizzying.

She's in the position of needing to sell one of her real estate properties. If she doesn't buy another property within a certain number of days, she becomes responsible for paying taxes on the capital gains - which would be a huge hit. But she's trying to divest herself of her rental properties, so she doesn't want to buy another property in Oakland.

Enter us. We would certainly like to buy a house, but we don't have money for a down payment.

Our tentative plan is to use the money from Laura's sale to buy a house that's divided into 2-4 units (common in the downtown Baltimore neighborhoods where we'd like to live; think converted mansions). That way we'll have rent to cover a substantial portion (or perhaps all) of the mortgage payment, and we can slowly buy Laura out. She's suggested that she might be willing to charge us simple (rather than compound) interest, although I'm not sure if her financial planner would go for that.

If we can make this work - have a house that largely pays for itself - it would free us up in so many ways. Michael has thoughts about going back to school, for example, and then starting a small business. That would be much easier to do if we weren't struggling to meet a large mortgage. We'd have a lot more flexibility for balancing work and family. The tradeoff: we'd have to spend a fair amount of time being landlords, and we'd have to put some effort into learning how to do basic home repairs ourselves.

So far we're mostly looking in our current neighborhood, Mount Vernon, and in the neighborhood just to the northwest of us, Bolton Hill. The neighborhoods would actually take us down fairly different paths.

Bolton Hill is primarily a residential neighborhood - streets and streets of large, lovely townhouses built in the second half of the 19th century. It's a beautiful neighborhood with lots of trees, much quieter than where we're living now. We wouldn't have the experience we have now of being just a block or two away from lots of restaurants and shops. So far we're mostly looking at houses in the southern part of the neighborhood, perhaps a 10-15 minute walk from where we live now - so we'd still be within walking distance of a lot of stuff. We'd be a 25-minute walk from the library and church, instead of a 10-minute walk.

The houses we've found in Bolton Hill (this and this and this) are essentially set up as single-family homes with an apartment attached. They seem to have less of an apartment-house feel - at least, as far as I can tell from the listing and from walking by the houses. They look lovely and well-kept from the outside. Our portion of these houses would be large, and it would be fairly easy to convert back into a single-family home if someday we had the extra money and wanted the extra space. The flip side is that the rent from the apartments wouldn't cover more than about half the mortgage, so we'd still be making a substantial monthly payment.

We probably couldn't afford a house like that in Mount Vernon, where we're living now. (We can only really afford our rental because it's priced under the market.) In Mount Vernon, we'd be talking about a scruffier, larger property with more units. Instead of a "house with an apartment," we'd be looking at a "multi-unit building with owner's unit." Something like this or this. We'd be looking at blocks which are slightly more marginal, and houses that would probably need more upkeep (and perhaps some major work). We would keep the strong urban environment that we have now - close to shops, restaurants, buses, museums, the public library, and our church, but also close to drug dealing, crime, etc. Rent would probably cover almost the entire mortgage. The flip side to that: we'd have to be a lot more landlord-y.

It's all very exciting and very terrifying. We've got some big decisions to make about what we want our lives to look like over the next ten or fifteen years.

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