The cat is finally out of the bag.
Husband and I found a house and moved out of the apartment we've called home for nine years. It's been a whirlwind of activity since we saw the house for the first time in late October. I thought wedding planning was hard. Buying a house takes the cake! Thankfully, we won't be looking to do this again anytime soon.
Now that we have the keys, we are doing some work to make it feel like home for us. We are posting photos over on Instagram as we make progress using the hashtag #merlardorenovation.
Last time I wrote anything was before we closed in January. We took our time and moved in late February. Now it's end of March and we've been living in the house for a month. Seeing as how it's been a while — and I'm now totally an experienced homeowner! — I can share the 5 things I've learned over the past few months.
1. When in Doubt, Throw it Out
Just throw out your crap. You seriously won't miss it.
Anything you don't use or need, get rid of it before you decide to move. We had to purge a bunch of stuff in our apartment and that became a massive chore that I really wish I wouldn't have left for the last minute.
Things you find in an old NYC house: French horn (we think), weathered book by Lebanese poet, Jewish menorah candles, Irish trunk. . . . #multiculturalism #merlardorenovation #thisoldhouse #thebronx #otherpeoplesstuff #multiculti #frenchhorn #gibran #menora #candles #trunk #meltingpot #bx #nyc #newyorkcity #newyork
Also, if you are purchasing a vacated space, maybe clarify that you'd like the space really empty? Our seller was kind enough to leave behind some snow shoveling supplies which came in handy since we moved in the winter. However, there was also a lot of useless stuff left behind (I suspect because of the huge chore it is to get rid of stuff).
I tried to sell or recycle as much as I could but god bless the Department of Sanitation for not batting an eye at the mounds of trash we consistently left outside the house in the first few weeks we owned it. Also, many thanks to the Lower East Side Ecology Center for partnering with the city on several e-waste recycling events to help us responsibly dispose of some of that (as a techie, I have tremendous guilt about this so try to do what I can).
2. Stick to your Guns
The best advice we got was from the mortgage banker I met with months before we closed who ended up becoming our banker of choice; he told us "always stick to your budget."
After searching for the better part of a year, the idea of finding something in our budget seemed like a pipe dream but we held out and, to some extent given our circumstances, got lucky (a prior offer fell through). As we plan renovations (more on that in a second), I'm very happy we went with a price point that we can comfortably afford.
Also, as I mentioned to my husband while we walked around our neighborhood today, I'm sooo glad we decided to stay in the city versus moving to the suburbs. Walkability was a really big deal for us and definitely, again, made it a longer and tougher process. However, I'm also much happier with the end result. We really have the best of both worlds with a house in New York City, but not in Manhattan. This is the first year in my 30+ years on this earth that I have not lived in Manhattan and I don't mind it one bit.
3. Slow and Steady Wins the Race…and takes a lot longer
Did I mention that everything takes forever?
Finding the right house took a while. Getting the house emptied, cleaned out and furnished with our own choices is similarly taking forever — but we are slowly making progress.
Our living room is feeling really comfortable. We still need to fix a window treatment here or there and get some art on the walls but otherwise, it's looking really good! It wouldn't look remotely this good without a flawless foundation, if you will, applied by a skilled handyman and an expert paint job.
The kitchen, on the other hand, is going to take some more time. There isn't a ton of counter space so we are looking to update the space with an island or something like it to add that much needed counter space. And, of course, we'd love to update the appliances with brand new energy efficient options. But, mark my words, I don't think we'll have our kitchen finished until the fall at the earliest.
4. Despite all the work, there are some fun things!
We bought a house that's almost one hundred years old and I've been getting a big kick out of modernizing it with cool tech. I'm very much enamored by our Phillips Hue light bulbs. I have the app configured so, as soon as it detects I'm near the house (via my phone), it will automatically turn on the front room light. This is awesome when it's super dark out so I don't need to fumble to turn on a lamp as there's no overhead light in that room.
But that's not all! We are #TeamNest so we've got the thermostat and the security system they offer and I think we'll probably end up getting the video doorbell.
5. We Turned Down House Hunters
We could've been on the show House Hunters Renovation. Unfortunately, it didn't seem like a great deal for us.
Now, if only we could get the Gaines family from Fixer Upper to come up here and help us fix up our old urban farmhouse!
In the meantime, we'll go ahead and enjoy some warm tea until it starts to feel more like spring.