SO WE BOUGHT A HOUSE
CHAPTER ONE: WHERE BROOKLYN AT?
It just dawned on me the other day, that while I have been sharing details and behind the scenes stories about my home purchase on Instagram, I haven’t really taken the time to tell you guys, those of you who visit here the full story. It’s a very long story so I may have to tell it in parts. There’s everything from the search, the find, the loss, back to searching, finding and losing out again. So let me start at the very beginning: THE SEARCH.
My husband and I have always been semi-structured people with traditional jobs and careers. However, at the same time, we shared aspects of the free spirit; open to travel and adventures, planning on maybe living in a different part of the world- we loved the possibility of it all. Every year it would seem, we would pick a new location where we would consider picking up and moving to. But in many ways, we knew that wherever we may go, New York was home and most specifically, Brooklyn is where we wanted to be.
I grew up in Douala, Cameroon and my introduction to New York City was taking the LIRR as a teen from the suburbs of Long island maybe once a week into Penn Station and making my way to the Virgin Mega Store in Times Square. My husband, on the other hand, moved to Brooklyn at a very young age from Grenada, so in many ways, Brooklyn was always home to him. And our first years of dating was him helping me discover and fall in love with the neighborhoods he grew up in – from Bed-Stuy to Fort Greene, to Flatbush to DUMBO and Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and beyond. We did it all: dates, meals, walks, gatherings with friends, stoop hangouts, etc, we did it all there and we hoped it could someday be home.
But wanting is Easy, Getting is Harder. And boy did we learn that quickly. By the time, we had barely gotten comfortable with our student loans and decided to drop by open houses, it was clear that we were late to the game. Neighborhoods my husband could remember as being less desirable to most were now listed at numbers we could barely fathom. So after a few rounds of open houses, we thought to ourselves, we’re just going to have to stay in Queens, or go to Philly or go to Canada- there were options and we would have to consider them all.
But try as we may, visit as we may, we actually spent the summer of 2017 driving to Philly on most weekends as we tried to imagine u0p and coming neighborhoods like FishTown as a possible home for ourselves. We tried to go to Montreal out of season (our regular summer trips) and realized even though New York has horrible winters, we weren’t going to sign up for one that was significantly worse. Montreal would have to remain a summer escape and not our everyday home.
In New York, we made an offer on what at the time felt like a massive co-op in Riverdale (it was bigger than most everything else we’d seen). I never really wanted to live in the Bronx, but Riverdale is nice and it was close to the train, next to a beautiful garden and I thought to myself. This might just work or might just be the starter home we need. It was far from so much we loved, but being the traveling types, we know how to find amazing people, food and experiences anywhere. However, when the seller insisted we put more money on the table, not once but twice, that was more than enough for us to let that one go. We actually felt a huge sense of relief that it didn’t work out. There was also the condo in Queens by Corona, and the other one in Jackson Heights, we came close both times, but never close enough.
And then Brooklyn happened. We met our broker and she vowed to get us into Brooklyn regardless of our less than competitive budget. She educated us on the value of a 2 family property and how we could leverage potential income from a tenant unit. We did the math on what garden apartments go for and how much we would need to fix a place. We researched 203K loans and conventional loans and increased our savings.
I lost count of the open houses, the overpriced homes, the totally rundowns, the blocks I didn’t feel comfortable in, the homes I fell in love with and realized I could not afford, the brownstones that had been cut into teeny tiny condos, the condos that should have been called studios. It was madness and frustrating and I was about to give up.
And then we found a place. A super narrow at only 16 feet wide townhouse and also super short at 32 deep, but it was in Bed-Stuy proper and it was close to friends and to so many places we loved. Saying it needed work would be an understatement. Its condition was so bad, I refused to go in and when I eventually did, I refused to go to the basement. We were gonna clear it all out and clean it up and we would have an inspector so I wasn’t going to look at it. In light of all the problems it had, it was going at a crazy low price- we knew they wanted All cash buyers but we wanted to try.
We took all our time to write our offer letter including photos to show that we were a good and worthy couple. We had everything ready to go- broker, lender, down payment, lawyers, everything, everything. And then we waited and we heard back and it was YES!!!! And that’s where it should have ended- we got a verbal YES but they wouldn’t sign the contract for one reason or other so we waited. And waited and waited. And we played a game of today is the day for well over 4months until it became so very clear to us that there had to be a cash buyer hanging around and we were just the back-up plan.
This was the point I was done. We couldn’t compete. Who needs to buy a house anyways, it’s not that important and who cares about Brooklyn, we told ourselves. Forget the 2-family house, maybe get a super modest condo. But our broker had one last place for us. Just one last place.
And just like that- that last place is now our home- A WORK IN PROGRESS.
To be Continued.