Tuesday, May 23, 2017

We're Buying a House!

"We're buying a house!"

I understand that sentence now more than ever: two months of limbo, negotiations and anxiety. Also, the exclamation point. There is an end in sight, after which we'll be homeowners.

This wasn't a part of the plan for 2017. In late April, we got a letter from our new corporate landlords saying that rent would be raised over 10% this year.

Plus Sonia would have to start paying for her garage space. Plus all of the good people -- the ones who have lived here for decades and make this place feel like a community -- are being priced out.

It was time to go. We wouldn't waste another year of rent.

We looked at less than a dozen houses. In three weeks, we found an adorable stone row house in Mount Airy.

It has sun tunnels that tunnel natural light into the top floor. It has a small, carefully manicured front yard. It has a large picture window in the living room.

Before we said "yes," I emailed Sonia my list of improvements I'd like to make in 1-2 years, and improvements I'd like to make in 2-5 years. It was a cultural wake-up call.

Sonia's Korean immigrant parents moved into their house 30+ years ago, and haven't changed a thing. They didn't alter anything unless it broke.

My white parents (2-5 generations removed from their immigrant roots) built their house from the ground up 30+ years ago, and a year hasn't gone by without a major renovation or improvement.

We'd both fallen in love with our new house, but Sonia loved it as it was. I saw only potential: new flooring in the foyer and basement, new drywall in the laundry room & select replacement tiles in the kitchen and bathroom. Once we could articulate that, and I could reassure Sonia that I would not be randomly ripping through drywall in the middle of the night, we could move forward.

On Sunday, I told my parents the news. After trying to call the house, I played the coward and texted them both a long message. Turns out, they were just getting in from the beach. They did not respond with any exclamation points initially. After they caught their breath and looked the house up online, they called.

"Looks like a nice place," my dad said. "There's a baseball field nearby, I think. Did I see that on the map?"

"Do you mind if I ask how much you paid and how much your mortgage payment will be?" my mom asked, relieved when I told her we hadn't paid full asking price.

When they were 24, my parents were married. By 26, I was born and they were in their first row house. By 29, they were parents of two sacrificing daily for their dream, raising a couple of kids in the country on a homestead where, if needed, they could grow their own groceries. They don't understand city living. There are many ways in which I'm foreign to them.

Two years ago, my dad asked me why people of my generation didn't seem to care about buying houses. I realized later this was as close as he'd get to suggesting I buy a house. Such is our communication.

As we spoke about the new house, I kept saying Sonia's name: Sonia's commute would be longer, Sonia is wary of big renovations, Sonia was reading The Automatic Millionaire when we decided to buy a house. My parents didn't respond to any of those points. The conversation skated onward.

As we hung up, my dad said, "Tell Sonia we said hi."

Baby steps.