Going (not a) house hunting

It’s official…we’re house hunting.

Actually, that’s a euphemism. We have a house. We don’t want another one. What we’re hunting is a condo-apartment-terrace home-urban townhouse-flat. Or something likes that. Smaller. Compact. Something we can own that doesn’t own us.

This state of (not a) house hunting hasn’t occurred suddenly. Both of us didn’t wake up this morning and decide to move. I figure my love has spent many months of her life starring at one builders’ website or another. I’ve feigned great interest in neighborhoods I have absolutely no desire to live in order to secure plans and estimates of prices of homes that might possibly be built somewhere I want to live.

But this weekend, we are going to begin a systematic approach, looking at the first (of many, I presume) possibilities in the desired part of town.  Unfortunately most of the places we like—in the places we want to live—aren’t built yet. And I consider “thou shall not buy from plans” to be the 11th commandment.

So far we’ve been very quiet about our intentions. No sign on the lawn yet; a couple of houses in our neighborhood just sold after a lengthy wait. As soon as those homes were re-peopled, a couple more went up for sale. It’s the general age of the neighbors. Some bit off more house than they can chew. We can wait. Right now, there’s nowhere to go. And a boatload of stuff we don’t need to get rid of. Houses do that. They require stuff.

Too, we just came through a pretty darn expensive cosmetic renovation that was partly for us and partly for the fact that we chose to build a house with all the “standard” finishes, knowing full well we’d have to upgrade things ourselves in a relatively short time. Builders may call that level of flooring and counters and lighting fixtures “standard” but that’s only because it wouldn’t appeal at all if they called it what it really is. It would be hard to market a new house decorated in “cheap crap.”  But still, there are going to be whose who wring their hands and say “but you put so much money into it.”

We did. But a lot of that money was spent on furniture. Furniture that we bought with an eye to a move. And I consider the rest a way to get to place sold faster. New paint and new floors always help.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that I can make more money. I can’t make more time.

This (not a house) will be my third. My love and I bought a two-story brownstone townhouse before we were out of our 20s (which was a big deal back then). I resisted. Too much like settling down. To a certain extent, I still feel that way. We bought it from my love’s dad a year after her mother passed away and three renovations later, a couple of years before we left; it was finally starting to feel like mine. But the neighborhood was going downhill. I don’t mean people weren’t caring for the yards or some paint was peeling; I mean there were gunshots and swarmings too close for comfort and the new neighbors opened a sweatshop in their basement to make cheap kid’s clothes, with industrial sewing machines whirling at all hours of the day and night.

It was time to go.

So we bought this house, twenty minutes outside the city and light years from the kind of neighborhood we were accustomed too. It far more… ok, upscale than what we were used to. In the old place, we refused to throw out boxes from new TVs or computers, it made one a target. In this place, we were the people you should hide your boxes from.

But at the time, it felt like a refuge from the gritty city. It was so quiet, we could open the windows and our neighbors talked to us, which was a novelty. We got somewhat comfortable, but honestly, never really felt at home. But that comfort was fine until we realized we hadn’t been to a movie in over a year and that our lovely three-season room was a waste because friends and family wouldn’t travel this far to visit.  Gradually, we realized we weren’t going anywhere either, aside from work and food-shopping—and that getting a hair cut, stopping by the dry cleaners, picking up some Chinese food or shopping for a pair of shoes – our normal routines— had become major excursions. Not that there weren’t other things to do—not with a big house to clean, a garden, a big yard to look after. We started feeling like prisoners of a never-end honey-do list. At some point we realized that our metaphorical white picket fence was keeping us in instead of keeping us safe.

And that’s when the builders’ websites came out.

Honestly, I don’t know where we’ll end up or what kind of dwelling—and that’s what makes it exciting. I like not knowing what to expect. But there are a few things on my list.

This next place is the last home we’ll ever buy—unless a trailer somewhere warm comes up dirt cheap—so we have to get this one right. It has to be back in the city because we miss it. A lot. Close to public transportation for when we no longer want to drive. Near stores and theatres and restaurants—because we’ve been shut-ins long enough and we’d like our regular lives back please. And, it has to be a place that either of us could keep and be comfortable in alone…should it come to that.

So this time, I won’t be looking at the size of the rooms or the number of closets or the amount of counter space—I’ll be more concerned with how close it is to the things we want to do, how accessible, how easy to keep clean, and how much time (and possibly money) we’ll save. I’ll worry about fit and comfort, not curb appeal.

Because this time we’ve decided to shrink what we own to fit the house, not shrink our lives to fit a place that  doesn’t fit who we are.

For that reason alone, I’m thinking it might feel like I’ve finally found a real home.


One Comment on “Going (not a) house hunting”

  1. Cindy says:

    Joy… Richard and I did the exact same thing two years ago. Went from a 40000 square foot bungalow on an acre in Osgoode to a 1800 square foot townhome in Riverside South. Getting rid of all that ‘stuff’ added years to my life. And yes, we have a life now. Saturdays are spent with friends and family, doing activities we love, discovering new activities or, get this, doing nothing! No more days spent doing yard work and an endless list of home projects. Yes, there are about 10 days a year it would be nice to have a bigger home, but we manage on those days, and the rest of the year our home is perfect. You won’t regret your move if you’ve prepared yourselves for the change, and it seems you have. Good luck and have fun home shopping!

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