What kind of home would you live in if you could go out right now and buy a place? I’m not talking about the pie-in-the-sky fantasy here (I’m going to buy my own island!), rather asking what kind of home would ideally fit your current lifestyle, interests, and approximate budget?
The American Dream
Amy and I lived in apartments for a long time. After college we were working in the Boston area and weren’t mentally or financially prepared for a home … so we lived in an apartment. From there we moved to Charlottesville and knew we would be in town for less than 2 years because of our degree program … so we lived in an apartment. As we considered job opportunities at the end of those two years, one of the important factors was whether or not we would be able to buy a home in our new town.
Our goal at the time was to find an average home. Something much larger than our smallish apartments, but nothing crazy. A home comparable to the places we grew up in back in Vermont. Amy’s folks live in a Colonial, while mine lived in a Split. Both were in quiet suburban neighborhoods that can be found in most Greater Hartford towns. We wanted a reasonable sized yard, and were willing to take on a project or two to make the place our own.
Unfortunately, the super-hot real estate markets conspired against us. Everything we were interested in touring sold by the time we made the trip up from Virginia to look. We ended up rolling the dice on a home that was larger than we needed, and older than we were familiar with. But it had a great location in the West End of Hartford, and had fallen into our price range after languishing on the market. That first purchase jump started our interest in real estate, so we kept looking at properties once we arrived and were settled.
Our next phase was to look for investment properties, but in the back of my mind I was also looking for interesting old buildings that could be turned into spectacular homes. My favorite TV shows at the time were the ones where people converted old industrial buildings in to loft-like homes on a grand scale. We were serious about the investment property side of things, but I really enjoyed thinking about how to covert the more interesting buildings into a home.
We checked out a huge Victorian mansion in Bristol with major fire damage (top picture). It was an incredible structure, and would have been a gorgeous home or investment property, but was well out of our league in terms of the repairs needed.
We also visited out a turnkey apartment building in New Britain. No dream home potential here, but it seemed like a solid investment for the right buyer, which was not us.
We looked at two larger homes in the West End that had amazing architectural features, but needed quite a bit of updating. They would be very nice places to live, but definitely didn’t qualify as investment properties.
Finally, we toured a partially leased commercial building in Broad Brook (picture above). This one was my favorite because it had amazing potential as a residence, and really fit my vision at the time. But it was rather far from work, and not economically responsible to convert to a home.
In the end, our practicality carried the day and we bought a one bedroom condo to rent (picture below). The thinking was that if it worked out, then perhaps we could add more properties over time.
Real Estate Overload
Our next, and current, real estate phase is simplifying. Once we got into the business of helping people buy and sell homes, I found that I was less inclined to also make real estate my hobby. I did not want to deal with tenants, so we sold the condo that we had been renting. Maybe one day we’ll get back into real estate investing, but there will definitely be a property manager involved.
My dream home right now? I don’t think I’ve quite transitioned over to wanting a condo, because I still enjoy spending time outside in the yard, but I want my home to be easy. Easy to maintain, and easy to live in. The honest answer is that my current dream home is probably a fully updated version of the home we initially set out to find when we first moved to town. So it’s too bad we weren’t able to find one of those.
But we’re not going anywhere, our place is close enough to what we want. As an older home it needs more maintenance than many, but our gung-ho efforts in the first few years set us up pretty well. The main projects on our to-do list are “easy” things like painting and redecorating (why did we pick bubble gum pink for the hallway again?) or stuff that will be hired out.
Our home is a work in progress, which seems to be true for most people. We’ll continue to do a little bit here and there to bring it that much closer to being our dream home.
What kind of home would you live in if you could go out right now and buy a place?