31 March 2010

Sign here.

Signing papers is harder than it looks.

First of all, there's a lot of them.

So many, you need cute tabs to organize things. These from my sticker book Tu Peux Venir Quand Tu Veux did nicely. (Thanks, Belle!)

And of course, the cat has to be nosy.

29 March 2010

Inspecting. (Now with post-script!)

"Toxicity Inspector," print, Shepherd Fairy

Akash and I have an appointment at 9 a.m. tomorrow to meet with the inspector at House No. 6. We're so excited to have another chance to prowl all over our home. We're taking the measuring tape with us. Will the piano fit along this wall in the foyer? Can Voldemort squeeze into this alcove under the stairs?

Becoming homeowners is a little like being in love; we want to see this house every day, be with it inside and out and care for it faithfully. Yet we can't -- not for another two months! Someone else stays in our house and has the right to walk where we wish to walk and look out the windows we wish to call ours. It's dreadful. And to think, tomorrow may very well be the last time we get to visit it, till the end of May.

PS-Inspection went very well! The owner was so sweet; she had baked blueberry muffins and brewed coffee for us, Shepherd, Buddy and Mike (the inspectors), and made sure everything was neat and tidy. When it's my turn to sell a home, I have a most excellent example of graciousness to follow.

We stayed nearly two hours, glorying in the house. That is, Akash and I went about glorying in the house; I think the menz merely tolerated our beautific smiles and my squeals of delight. There definitely was some bemused headshaking at our expense:

"You need to be young to deal with an old house."

"Yup. All that wind blowin' in."

"Doors don't shut tight."

"These rollnig floors are what you call 'character' in an old place. New-built, it's called severe structural damage."

Mirthful chuckles follow.

Oh, and piano and Voldemort will absolutely fit in the foyer! And I peeked under the beds to make sure they really were a double and a queen, and not twins pushed together. They were, so now I can rest easy about getting matresses upstairs.

26 March 2010

Two and two are four ...

Whew! Akash and I spent too many furitive moments in the third-floor company telephone closet today, stealing away to phone our loan processor, furiously pounding out calculations, carrying this digit, rounding that numeral, crossing them all out and starting over again.

Oh dear, here I go being an unreliable narrator again. Let me stop a moment and unequivically state that it was Akash sweating the numeric bullets today, not I. (No surprise to anyone who knows me.) I'm honestly not sure where we are in the loan approval process, but I do know we have locked in a rate. And also that insurance and taxes are not pleasant items, and they compound to create what's worth a monthly car payment, in my mind. And I'm not getting a Mini Cooper out of it, either.

I do wish Anthropologie would name a particualrly lovely blouse Insurance & Taxes. Then maybe I'd like them again.

Also, Montgmery didn't mention anything about points or interest rates when she wrote about Dad and Jane buyig a house. If I recall correctly, Dad found Jimmy John over at his farm, and paid him cash outright for Lantern Hill.

25 March 2010


(Just to be 100% clear, "kitty" = the current owner of 808 Bolling Avenue!!!)

After we told my parents, we popped and drank this:

While listening to Beirut's "Mimizan."

Almost there ....

Shepherd just rang A., reporting back on how the owner initially reacted to our offer and Shepherd's points about how we arrived at our numbers. She seemed to react to everything positively, and didn't protest anything right off the bat. She wants to review it with her lawyer, of course, but we're cautiously optimistic about the answer we'll get tomorrow.

And by cautiosuly optimistic, I mean that we're both about to jump out of our skins for joy.

24 March 2010

An offering.

We're going to put in an offer tomorrow morning for House No. 6.

Here's a picture of how we feel about it:

(Heart and Key print, TheBlackApple)

Cool Hand Luke

During our second visit to House No. 6, on Monday, Shepherd figured out that the upstairs does not have central AC. I am a Southerner, and I do not do window units in a Southern summer. Especially when the ceilings are sloping and low and therefore cannot sport a fan.

So we asked Shepherd to get an HVAC guru in there to estimate what it would cost to install central AC for the upstairs. Although we checked our gmail accounts 10 times more than was necessary an hour, no word from Shepherd.

"What if he's not calling us because he found out it'll cost a million dollars and he doesn't want to crush our hopes and dreams?" I wailed, in turn, to my boss, my co-worker, my Heads, and my beau.

Fortunatly, we found out at about 9 last night that it will not cost a million dollars, but about a grand less than our utmost fiscal comfort point.

So that's really good news!

21 March 2010

House No. 6

(No MLS; house for sale by owner)

This afternoon, Akash and I found a rarity: a house in the city, complete with magic.

Let us start from the outside and work our way in, up and back. House No. 6 is a Sears & Roebuck craftsman cottage, built in 1925, with an addition in the '40s. It has a teeny front yard, "the size of a postage stamp," as Alcott wrote of Meg and John Brooke's Dovecote. Said postage stamp has been mulched and planted with hardy species that would withstand winter's cold, summer's heat and Cole's black thumb. The porch is open and wide; it's the kind of porch you put Jack o' lanterns or tubs of mums on. Definitely room for a swing or dumpy wicker chairs.

Inside the yellow-painted foyer is open and welcoming. There's a spot just right for the piano, and another for me to place my much-desired take-off-your-muddy-shoes-and-store-them-here bench. To the right is a grey room for our cherry-red couch and TV. To the left is the staircase, which has sweet, scalloping details along the sides. Upstairs are two bedrooms, tucked under the sloping roof. One is painted light green and is small, but breathable. The second is wee, with a bed tucked under the eaves. It would be good for a guestroom, or office, or nursery. In between is a full bathroom with a claw-foot tub. Granted, the roof slopes so much at this point that one could not stand to take a shower in said tub, but there's another bathroom downstairs that we'll get to in a moment, which would accommodate that need. There are dear little doors that access the space under the eaves, for storage, though I would call one To Narnia and the other To Bag End.

Back downstairs, through the foyer, is the dining room, with a reading nook in the corner. To the right is the rose-painted kitchen, replete with gas stove, dishwasher, island, fridge, and space for a teeny table if that's what we desired. Behind the dining room is the purple bathroom, which is large enough that half of it acts as a laundry room.

Off the kitchen is a closet for the water heater and other mechanical necessities. The backdoor opens onto a screened-in porch, which leads onto a sandstone patio. Two bright-pink crepe myrtles arch over the end of the patio. And then comes the recently seeded grass. The yard is fenced in, and the current owner's yellow lab showed how much a big dog could like it.

This house is comfortable and charming, like a woman advanced enough in age to feel wholly at home in her own skin and who has the grace to love and envelop all of those around her.The house is in a safe, quiet part of Belmont. We have friends in the neighborhood, and could walk or bike to work. The restaurants and coffee house Belmont is famous for are within walking distance, but far enough away that we won't have to deal with the drunk hipsters spilling out of The Local or Mas at 2 in the morning. Walking around West Street last night, I told Akash I would be a bit uneasy asking either set of parents to stay overnight at House No. 5. No such qualms for House No. 6, though we'd have to warn them to duck at the top of the stairs.

We liked it very, very much. However, so do four other potential buyers, though the current owner didn't seem quite taken with any of their offers. So we're going to have a go at it, and see if we can come up with something more suitable. Sounds like the poetry part of house-seeking is already over, and we're in for a great, long chunk of prose.

(If you'd like to see a slide-show of House No. 6, e-mail me at my g-mail account, and I'll forward.)

19 March 2010

House No. 5

(MLS 474382)

We're visiting this house tomorrow morning. We were slated to see two properties, but learned that the Rose Hill one is now under contract. So we'll just have a peek at this renovated 1935 farmhouse. Our Shepherd knows the carpenter/designer who did the renovations, and knows his work to be solid, detailed and in keeping with the ideals of historic preservation. All pluses, but the street felt a bit cramped on our drive-by.

Cristmas roses.

While my concept of home has been shaped by Montgomery's works, the feel of a home that I aspire to emulate stems from this description in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (1868):

[W]e will take this moment to give ... a little sketch of the four sisters, who sat knitting away in the twilight, while the December snow fell quietly without, and the fire crackled cheerfully within. It was a comfortable old room, though the carpet was faded and the furniture very plain; for a good picture or two hung on the walls, books filled the recesses, chrysanthemums and Christmas roses bloomed in the windows, and a pleasant atmosphere of home-peace pervaded it.

I have yet to discover what "Christmas roses" are, but they sound absolutely delightful, as though the promise of June is made apparent in winter. I like to wonder what Alcott considered a "good" picture, and I bless her authorial decision to allow us the reader to decide that for ourselves. And of course the recesses filled with books warm the cockles of my heart. Nooks and crannies, filled with what I love best! I also like the implied, unpretentious feel of the furniture.

Montgomery would take issue with the lack of a cat, but Alcott does get around at some point to noting Beth's armful of kittens. Also a must for me!


Jessie Willcox Smith (1924).

17 March 2010

House No. 4

(MLS 474327)

No thanks, Harris Road. You are busy, and this house is perfunctory.

Also, I have no wish to pay a premium to live in amongst undergrads.


House No. 3

(MLS 474273)

Uh-oh. House No. 1 has a contender. Granted, the list of (comparative) Have-Nots is long: no French doors, far fewer windows, no wood-burning fireplace (actually, make that no fireplace); no slate-tiled kitchen floor. The trees consist of three spindly maples; the fence is not board-rail but chain link (truly one of the most hideous inventions of house-designing mankind. That and pine-paneled walls). The bathtub is not claw-foot, but tiled in a hue of pink not fashionable since 1964. The siding is vinyl, so we'd be stuck with white. Not an offensive color, to be sure, and, certainly, Jane and Anne both would rejoice over the white siding and green shutters. It's just not my taste, and I think Emily would agree that grey houses are the best.

There are also two fairly major structural snafus. The deck is three or four years past being up to code, and the basement is only accessible through an outside entrance, which requires one to trot out the front door, around the house and to the backyard to enter.

Did I mention the washer and dryer are sandwiched in a corner of the only full bathroom in the house?

But ... the "but" is big.

This farmhouse, built in 1925, is at the end of a residential street in Woolen Mills. It's a 5-minute drive to work, coffeehouses, restaurants, friends, the farmers market, etc. It has heart-of-pine floors; the rooms are large and well-proportioned. There's a nook in the dining room that would just fit the piano. The stove is gas. There's a cupboard under the stairs, and I think Harry would appreciate an old-fashioned door knob to get In and Out. The bedroom upstairs has no closets, in keeping with the popular use of armoires back in the day, but there is an alcove that would easily convert into a generously sized walk-in closet. And our Shepherd pointed out that it would be possible to put in a small woodstove, where the plastered-over fireplace graces a wall. The basement's finished (a little too finished; there is a stove and sink we'd want to move out of there). The backyard is a nice size --- plenty of room for Bucket, a Goldendoodle and even a swingset one day --- and gently slopes away from the house.

There's no magic, but there is potential. We could plant some. And then take a stroll to the Downtown Mall or the Rivanna River.

16 March 2010


We have an appointment tomorrow, 3:30 p.m., to see two more houses. And we have an appointment for Saturday, 10 a.m., to see another two houses. They are all some variation on our pre-war, 1,000-sq-foot+ theme.

Is it terribly telling that I'm secretly hoping there's a significant defect in all? And that I spend most of my day dreaming of ways to furnish House No. 1?

14 March 2010

If the bedroom's a treehouse, why can't another room be the forest?

These I found at Anthropologie.com. Despite their birchness, they are the only wall-paper that has ever reminded me of the scene in Emily's Quest wherein she is decorating the Disappointed House, especially these lines regarding her choice of wall-paper:

Aunt Elizabeth approved of the cupboards but thought [Emily and Dean] were clean daft in regard to the wallpapers. Especially the living-room paper. They should have had something cheerful there--flowers or gold stripes; or even, as a vast concession to modernity, some of those "landscape papers" that were coming in. But Emily insisted on papering it with a shadowy grey paper with snowy pine branches over it. Aunt Elizabeth declared she would as soon live in the woods as in such a room.

House No. 2

More Web browsing led me to this small city home, built in 1946 and located in a good neighborhood. Not a fashionable neighborhood, mind you, but one that is truly residential, a quick drive to work and the local elementary school (doesn't hurt to think of the future, folks). There happened to be an open house this afternoon, so after brunch, my partner, his parents and I drove over to check it out.

And since Montgomery has already said it so well for me, I defer to her:

The seventh house seemed to be all a house should be. It was a small bungalow, new and white, with a red roof and dormer windows. The yard was trim though treeless; there were a pantry and a nice cellar and good floors. And it had a wonderful view of the gulf.

Dad looked at Jane.

"Do you sense any magic about this, my Jane?"

"Do you?" challenged Jane.

Dad shook his head.

"Absolutely none. And, as magic is indispensable, no can do."

They drove away, leaving the man who owned the house wondering who them two lunatics were. What on earth was magic? He must see the carpenter who had built the house and find out why he hadn't put any in it.

Back to that lively envisioning ...

If we did move to the country, the little silver two-door would be traded in for the above (or similar).

Trucks, of the vintage persuasion, can have magic, too.

When I was a young girl and learning to drive, my father took me out in the family minivan. Later, I managed to fail my driver's test by crashing the new Volvo into the parallel parking markers. (Not to imply this was the result of my father's teaching.)

And one time, my neighbor and teacher, Mr. P., allowed me to drive Old Blue.

The proud owner of this comfortable, easy blue pick-up truck would likely be aghast that I know neither the make nor model -- never mind the year --- of Old Blue. I'll say she was a 1960 Chevy, because it sounds nice. Her grill was cream-colored against the navy-blue of the body, and the leather bench seat was cracked and warm against bare legs. She was a solid, old truck. It was an honor to drive her down "Swervey-Swerve."

It'd be rather awesome to have an Old Blue of my own. To run the garbage out to the country dump.

13 March 2010

Our shepherd

A word, or two, about the man who likely will shepherd us through this process. He was friendly and open, pointing out defects in the property we were visiting and envisioning how they could be solved, and the costs involved. He asked us relevant questions and shared his experience with us. A couple we are friends with and whose values we share had recommended this man as a buyer's rep., but we hadn't had the chance to reach out to him yet.

We ended up meeting with him serendipitously today.


House No. 1

A smallish cottage out in the country, House No. 1 was built in 1930 and has been renovated and expanded. The MLS listing features several photos of: the wood-burning fireplace; the slate-floored kitchen; the light-filled dining-room; the French doors, the French doors and the French doors. But it was this photo that particularly held my eye. It would be like waking up in a treehouse, to see all these blooms and branches outside, from your bed. Magic.

The visit this morning did not disappoint, though perhaps a bit of the glimmer was worn off. First, the drive: 30 minutes on a road threading its way through farms and woods. I've made this drive before, to visit my favorite local winery, and always found it charming and relaxing. Somehow I get the distinct feeling said charm and relaxation will dissipate in the early morning and nightly commutes.

The train tracks we didn't mind. Honest. A passenger train came along once while we were visiting, and it wasn't loud and sped along nicely. A privacy fence would easily block the view of the occasional passing train, but not the Blue Ridge in the distance. The view from the front windows and screened-in porch was pastoral enough to please Pan: a rustic farmhouse in the distance, with fields and fields shorn golden.

The lot is a long, narrow 2 acres. It has magnolias, a maple, dogwood and a fruit tree right out front. Little purple flowers were already blooming in the wooded area, and I could see bulbs had been planted in nooks and crannies.

Magic. Magic. Magic.

Not-so-magical: No Internet access unless one uses an air card; no garbage pick-up; and the oil tank is a 1,000-pound silver beast snoozing in the side yard. (To be sure lattice and trailing vines could do wonders for that.)

We had lively visions of trading in the stick-shift and four-door for a Subaru and vintage pick-up truck. Of a firepit in this corner of the yard and Anthropologie tablecloths upon the little table on the porch. But the Internet connection may be a deal-breaker.

Verdict: Lashings of magic, and enough prose to please the parents. But this would be a better country vacation home than a primary residence.

A dash of prose

We're pre-approved for a loan! We'll be taking that bit o' info to our house-viewing this morning.

My mother's father gave me many, many gifts, small and large. The most-prized were of an intangible nature and laced with love. Having the privilege of being a member of a sound financial institution --- especially in our current economic environment --- because of his military service is one last gift he has given me. I thank, and miss, him. Hard.

Ce qui est "Lantern Hill"?

Jane of Lantern Hill is one of the many novels written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, one of Canada's foremost authors, and was published in 1937. The concept of home is an integral part of Montgomery novels, ask any feminist lit-crit grad student. I shan't bore you with the examples I could trot out from the Anne series, Emily trilogy, or the Pat books, although I cannot promise you that snippets of them will not appear in future posts.

But I chose a quote from Jane of Lantern Hill to grace the blog's home page because it best exemplifies the essence of my own house-seeking: the need for magic. Or, as Jane later summarizes for her father, "You want to feel the house is yours before you buy it."

Yes, yes, I understand the need for a solid foundation, copper pipes, new roof, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, etc. Very prosy, but necessary, prose. But I will not be satisfied with merely that. (And luckily for me, neither will my partner. I rejoice in his similar need for magic.) I want poetry. I need poetry. And my house, when I find it, will have it in abundance.

"We must go and buy us a house soon, duck."

Hello, reader. Today is a heart-fluttering sort of day. I am going to look at a house. For the first time. Ever. In my 30-odd years of life.

Actually, that's not strictly true, and I've just established myself as an unreliable narrator. Wonderful. My mother and father brought me house-hunting with them when I was five, in Savannah, Ga. I remember being quite taken with one brick ranch in particular because it came with a water-bed. Or so I thought. I was much disappointed to learn furniture does not "convey" with houses. (Mother and Father found a home with French doors and pink-and-white azalea bushes. The magnolias with their red-seed pods were my especial favorite.)

So, to amend: Today I am going to look at a house with the intent to purchase it. Now that I have certainly never done before in my life. Hence the heart-flutters.

This blog will chronicle my house-hunting, though that's a rather ugly phrase. It is not my intention to spear and bag my house and carry it in a bloody sack upon my thin shoulders. So allow me my childish delight in referencing an author much-beloved, and say that I am Seeking Lantern Hill.