Home Buying Story

backyard fireplaceI had to keep so much quiet during our home buying adventure that I wanted to circle back and memorialize the abridged version here! It started as a slow, casual slog, but ended in a whirlwind.

We’d been casually dropping in to open houses in Lancaster City now and then since mid-November. I’d see something that was about what we were looking to pay and within a reasonable walking distance to the middle of town, and we’d plan an afternoon drive from Philly to Lancaster.

It started as just a thought. I didn’t have any solid plans or timelines. Our apartment in Philly was fine. We were steadily increasing our savings. The first house we saw didn’t have a yard, just a concrete strip. It was newly flipped, but large given its relatively small city footprint. The no-yard thing was a total dealbreaker, but that didn’t stop me from thinking about this house all. the. time. I think it’s just because it was the first place I ever pictured myself buying. It’s easy to fixate on your first, y’know? We saw a couple others, but nothing that seemed like the one. I turned on Zillow alerts and started getting emails about houses as they came on the market. One Friday in early February, a house listed as a 4 bedroom, 2 bath, for not a ton of money, dropped into my inbox. It seemed like a good possibility, but my in-laws were coming in to Philly to visit that weekend and we hadn’t officially been working with a realtor, so it seemed like going to see it immediately wouldn’t work out. I was pretty sure that given its location and price, I wouldn’t get a chance to see it before it sold.

That Saturday, I briefly mentioned something about the house to my in-laws, who promptly volunteered to take a look at it with us if we could get a viewing scheduled. We’d met two realtors we liked during the open house visits, and I had to decide which of them would be most likely to be reading and responding to email on a Saturday to get us a next-day showing on a Sunday so we could follow our in-laws out to Lancaster on their way back home.

I picked the right one. He got us into the house on Sunday, and let us know that we wouldn’t be the first to see it, nor would we be the only ones looking at it during our time slot.

I’ll stop here to say that I am usually someone who can see the potential in things. But because I’ve never bought a house before, and I had no prior knowledge of how much work changing things would be (When I was 2, my parents hated their ancient farmhouse, and for good reason, so they knocked it down and started again, and thus I grew up in new construction.), I thought I wasn’t interested. The floors were rough (but wood!), the upstairs layout was strange, there was some suspicious wiring. My in-laws, however, have been buying and selling houses their entire adult lives, and are intimately familiar with the level of difficulty involved in various home improvement projects. They’re not flippers, but they know how to love a house well enough to make some money when it’s sold.

We went out for brunch with them after leaving the house. I gave it a solid “meh.” They were pretty excited about it though. The stuff I was mostly meh on was cosmetic or moderately-to-easily fixable. They talked us through all the things we could do to both enjoy the house more and increase its value over time. By the end of the conversation, I was neutral to positive on the house.

Chad and I drove back to Philly, debating and dreaming the whole way. That night, we made a bunch of lists — lists of all the features we’d ever want in a house or a new city, lists of the pros and cons of leaving Philly, lists of the pros and cons of buying versus renting, lists of the pros and cons on this particular house. And the house won. I was starting to picture myself in it and all the things we could do to make it feel like ours.

About four phone calls to the in-laws later, we emailed the realtor back to tell him we were interested. Our offer was submitted that Monday, two days after I casually mentioned it to my in-laws, and one day after we saw the house.

But someone beat us to it. The sellers had until 5 pm that day to decide if they would take the first offer. I made my peace with letting this one slip by. It came out of nowhere, after all. I hadn’t been actively looking for it. There’d be other houses. Easy come, easy go, etc, etc. But then the sellers declined the first offer. Ours was next in line, and they accepted.

So, four days after seeing the listing on Zillow, three days after mentioning it to my in-laws, two days after seeing it in person, and one day after submitting our offer, we’d bought a house. Contingent on inspection, of course. Subject to negotiation. But we’d done it. It was, tentatively, ours. Cue the freak out.

July Small Goals

July Small GoalsI can’t believe it’s July already. We’re halfway through the 2016, and I’m halfway through 29. All y’all have 6 months to put me on your “30 Under 30” lists. Get to it. Anyway, this is what was on deck for June:

1. Start painting the house. I think this will start helping me feel like it’s really mine. DONE! I had a color consultation with my sister’s friend’s sister (follow that?) who does design consults through the local Sherwin Williams, so now we have paint picked out for the whole house AND I started painting what is now the most offensive room (now that that formerly green and orange attic is finished) — the front room upstairs that will become our bedroom when it’s done.

2. Soak up as much knowledge and wisdom as I can get at Write/Speak/Code. DONE! Write/Speak/Code was the most actionable, useful, and arguably best conference I’ve ever been to. I’ve been meaning to write a reflection and recap about it, but for now I’ll say that I’m very glad I decided to attend this year.

3. Pick a mattress to buy. This one’s kind of in progress. I picked out a conventional mattress at a local store, but we’re also considering trying out a Wink. Do any of you have the Wink? I like to feel like I’m sleeping on a pile of pillows, so memory foam and latex aren’t that appealing to me. Soft mattress recommendations only, please.

4. Test out our backyard fireplace. DONE, as evidenced on Instagram, and above! I’m looking forward to roasting marshmallows over it soon.

5. Map out an editorial calendar for the Town Dish and this blog. Done-ish? I’ve got lists of posts to write but haven’t scheduled them all yet. I’m going to try batch writing this month and see how it goes. Here’s to a return to regular posting!

Not terrible for feeling like this month was about two weeks long! Now, on to July:

1. Have an excellent time vacationing with friends for the first time. I’m curious about how this will change my travel style and the dynamic that Chad and I have developed over the past 9 years since our first major trip together. Also, Iceland. My favorite.

2. Finish the bedroom. This requires finishing the paint job, actually purchasing the aforementioned mattress, and probably getting new windows installed. Hopefully before leaving for Iceland. Sigh.

3. Meal planning. Lame goal, but I’m tired of suppertime sneaking up on me without having any idea or motivation to start cooking when I’m already hangry. Also, after eating breakfast and lunch at the amazing Urban Outfitters cafeteria practically every day for the past two and half years (I know, shame on me), I’ve gotten out of the habit of feeding myself. Dumb. Time to get back to it.

4. Start learning D3.js! At Write/Speak/Code, the New York Times Engineering team was one of the sponsors, and it felt like there were a few former journalists turned developers in attendance as well. I found myself super jealous of them, and a little sad that I’d fallen out of that world after leaving my very short-lived post as an editor at a small-town newspaper. I feel like learning to make fun interactive data visualizations will help scratch that itch and potentially be useful for applying what I’ve been doing as a developer to what my natural interests have been my whole life. I’m planning to check out this book to get started.

5. Post here regularly. Take time to write, photograph, and share. I want this space to be a community and a record of the story I’m living, more than it has been lately.

On Moving, Traveling, and Being Present

Harper Lee Cat in the Yard

Harper has been enjoying our new yard!

I’ve been living in Lancaster City for two full months now. It feels both much shorter and much longer than that to me though. Similarly, we’re quite solidly in midsummer, yet it feels like the summer just began. I’m fairly certain that’s because I haven’t really been here here for a lot of that time.

I’m certainly not complaining about the amount of travel I’ve been doing, but it does make it hard to establish oneself in a new place. My goal was to show up here, throw myself into everything Lancaster, make new call-up-at-a-moment’s-notice friends for impromptu backyard hangs, set up coffee dates with Lancaster folks from Twitter and Instagram, jump into the tech scene, and just generally announce that I AM HERE LET’S BE FRIENDS.

Except I haven’t been here. And when I have been, I’ve been working on, well, work, or working on the house, which is a whole other series of posts unto itself. We’ve barely scratched the surface of all there is to be done in the moving-in, fixing-up-the-house department.

I’m noticing a pattern about what happens when we move to a new place.

When we moved to West Chester, Chad actually moved two and half months before I did. I’d travel down on the weekends, but I was loathe to quit my job and so I procrastinated joining him there.

When we moved to Philly, Chad was commuting to Manhattan every day, and I was commuting to the western suburbs. I got home in time to make supper before he walked in the door, devoured it, and then crashed so he could get up the next day and do it again. We were so excited to finally be living in Philly, but had no time or energy left to throw ourselves into getting involved right away.

And now, during the past two months we’ve lived in Lancaster (and now three months since becoming homeowners!), we’ve collectively been to the Bay Area twice, Chicago, Chapel Hill, and back to the farm for a family reunion.

I never mean to busy myself so intensely during times of deep change, but somehow it seems to happen pretty regularly. I don’t think I’ve been doing it on purpose, especially since I had all of this travel lined up before we closed on the house, but I am wondering about how it’s become so much of a pattern, even if it is unintentional. And, to be frank, sometimes periods of big change are just weird. Both good weird and bad weird. So sometimes it’s nice to be too busy to think.

On a smaller scale though, I have been less than stellar at being present. Always thinking of the next project, the next trip, the next thing to tackle. Maybe it just becomes especially apparent during big transitions. I’m hoping bringing some self-awareness to this area will help going forward and motivate me to appreciate and be where I am right now.

I got a Lancaster County library card this week, both because I’m in need of a good summer read (got recs?) and as a small act of ingraining myself into this place.

What do big moves look like for you? Do you accidentally over-busy yourself or do you manage to be where you are?

June Small Goals

June 2016 Small GoalsSo, let’s not pretend it’s the beginning of June anymore. I’m still not sure how that happened. Anyway, I still wanted to check in for accountability and semi-consistency’s sake.

These were my goals for May:

1. Make a plan for how to paint the rest of the house. I did not accomplish this in May, but stay tuned for my June recap.

2. Feel prepared and teach a really helpful Intro to HTML & CSS class for Girl Develop It Philly. I did feel prepared to teach this, and I got some good feedback from the students. I love hearing that a workshop or class I’ve led has been helpful, and a couple people told me it was, so I’m counting this as a win!

3. Feel as mentally prepared for Google i/o as possible. Done, I think! I mapped out what I wanted to see and do, and like most conferences, I had to be flexible and adjust along the way. But it was a really great experience, and I’m very grateful to Girl Develop It and Google’s Women Techmakers for the ability to attend.

4. Work on establishing some kind of weekday routine. Still working on this. I’ve come up with a framework for a weekly routine, but the amount of travel I’ve been doing (I’m writing this now from Write/Speak/Code in Chicago) has not been conducive to getting into good daily routines.

5. Take as many opportunities as I can to make new friends here. Done! I’ve been hitting meetups even when I don’t feel like it, and accepting every invitation we get for hang out time with new friends.

So, onto June:

1. Start painting the house. I think this will start helping me feel like it’s really mine.

2. Soak up as much knowledge and wisdom as I can get at Write/Speak/Code. I’ve been wanting to attend the full conference since I went to a free one-day workshop in New York two years ago, and I’m so excited to make it there this year!

3. Pick a mattress to buy. This means that I can start putting together our actual bedroom and we can stop sleeping in the guest room/attic. If you have a mattress you love, I’d love to hear about it.

4. Test out our backyard fireplace. We have kind of a cool little stone outdoor fireplace, but it looks like it may have fallen into disrepair. Maybe it’s only cosmetic. Only one way to find out!

5. Map out an editorial calendar for the Town Dish and this blog. 

May Small Goals

May Small GoalsThis was maybe one of the weirdest months in recent memory. Not bad weird, thank goodness, just weird weird. I guess that’s what happens when you’re in the process of moving out of a city you’ve lived in and loved for almost four years. I feel like I’m still reeling from it a little, and trying to get my bearings as I root through boxes to find things like moisturizer. It still feels a little bit like we’re camping, but at least the living room and kitchen now feel like a living room and kitchen.

Here’s everything (ok, not actually everything, but some things) I hoped to accomplish in April:

Deliver a solid little idea-generating workshop that is helpful to others at The Blog Connect in a couple weeks. Done! I wasn’t sure how it would go, but a couple people came up to me after it was over and said they had tons of new ideas and even new directions to explore with their blogs. Yay!

Use my manicure gift card that my sister got me for Christmas so my nails are pretty for said conference. Done! It was amazing. Having my manicurist lightly paint my hands and forearms with hot coconut oil was my favorite part. After reading some really horrific things about nail salons, I’ve been really picky about where I’ll go. I’d been wanting to try out this nontoxic natural nail place in Philly the whole time I lived there, and finally made it happen when my sister got me a gift card for Christmas last year. Thanks, Lauren!

Deal with taxes. I have an accountant, but have a sinking feeling that we are going to owe a ton. of. money. (Thanks, Chad’s former employers who never figured out how to pay the Philly wage tax.) Done, not that I had a choice. We, again, owed the city several thousands of dollars. Just the thing to put an extra spring in your step right after buying a house and paying to get it rewired. Eyeroll. At least we won’t have to do that next year. Thanks, Lancaster!

Paint the attic at the new house. Done! This absolutely needed to be done before we moved in or else I’d be having some serious buyer’s remorse. Y’all, it was that bad. We’re talking lime green and bright orange in an attic with a peaked ceiling. So yeah. It’s now Alabaster, the Sherwin Williams color of the year, and that nightmarish color scheme is now just a terrible memory. The stairs are still purple, but we’ll get there.

Deal with the wood floors at the new house — I’ve been told they’re too thin for an industrial sander, so I’m looking at DIY alternatives to hiring a refinishing service. Will this become a home improvement and interior design blog? It’s yet to be seen. I ran out of time on this one. When the electrician comes in to start rewiring, we’re going to get to look at what we think are original pine subfloors that might turn out to be salvageable and beautiful. Here’s hoping. Otherwise, we’ll refloor in a couple years.

Soak up all the Philly friends and Philly goodness I can get. Done, I guess? It did feel a little anticlimactic to be driving out of Philly on Friday night, but it felt good to wake up in Lancaster on Saturday. But we managed to squeeze in a last minute “See Ya Later, Philly” happy hour at Gojjo last week, so that was nice.

Move all my earthly possessions from Philadelphia to Lancaster. Done. Thank God. I almost thought this wasn’t going to happen when we tried to load the car up one last time, but we all made it. I’m seriously impressed with how well-behaved the cats have been given all this nonsense.

Not bad. So, on to May:

1. Make a plan for how to paint the rest of the house. The attic was obviously the most dire, but the rest of the walls are looking pretty grimy too. A couple good coats of paint will make it almost look like a whole new house inside. Hopefully it’ll make up for some of the floors’ shortcomings.

2. Feel prepared and teach a really helpful Intro to HTML & CSS class for Girl Develop It Philly. I’ve TAed this class a ton of times and taught it once in South Jersey, but this will be my first time teaching for the Philly chapter (the last time I was scheduled to teach it there it got snowed out!). I’m excited to help others get excited about learning web development! There are still a few spots open. You can register here.

3. Feel as mentally prepared for Google i/o as possible. I have what is quite possibly a once in a lifetime chance to attend Google i/o this month thanks to a generous travel grant from Girl Develop It. I want to go into it knowing what my options are so I don’t suffer from intense FOMO or feel overwhelmed with figuring out what sessions and parties to hit. I want to enjoy the time with my friends while we’re all hanging in our AirBnB house & soaking up those California vibes.

4. Work on establishing some kind of weekday routine. I have a feeling this month will still feel a little off as I’m transitioning to full time freelance for the time being. I do really well with a little bit of structure, so I’m going to make a plan for how to add that to my days.

5. Take as many opportunities as I can to make new friends here. First Friday is tomorrow, and I’m planning to reach out to an old high school friend and hit up the Lancaster Transplant space before heading out to wander around town and see what’s what. We already went to our first Lancaster Front End Meetup, which was great, and I want to attend as many meetups as I can find in an effort to drum up new friends and freelance work.

Thanks to Nicole for organizing this link up.