It took us a few weeks to get over losing the storybook-like house on West Penn Street. Once we did, we behaved like anyone on the rebound: we scheduled five home tours one afternoon at other properties in East Falls in the hopes that sheer quantity would erase our memory.
It cannot be overstated how much we learned between our first open house and our most recent private tour. Open houses used to take us about 30 minutes. We would open cabinets and run the water and spend lots of time talking about flooring and layout. Touring with our realtor Jack felt like research. We spent a half hour in the basement alone, meticulously inspecting pipes and joists. Had the original cast iron been replaced by PVC? Was there evidence of leakage? We stood out front in the polar vortex for another 20 minutes discussing window framing and the pros and cons of stucco. We felt like experts even while we admitted that an eventual professional inspection would probably leave us feeling bewildered.
We had been amassing a list of properties we were interested in touring, a few of which we had seen casually at open houses. One of the first properties we toured that Sunday was a home that held a lot of appeal on our first visit. By the time we left, I was glumly agreeing that it was probably not right for us.
Somehow in the morass of a very crowded December calendar, we carved out a Sunday afternoon to go on our first official home tours with our realtor Jack. We’d been stalking a handful of East Falls homes online since September and had spent most of our fall Sundays visiting open houses (to varying degrees of success).
I thought a few houses would take two hours or so to examine. No, we didn’t need to have lunch first. How long could it take to run through a few properties? Five hours later we were staggering into the East Falls Taproom, wondering if our state of starvation had induced hallucination or whether we had actually found the most lovely available home in the neighborhood.
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Once the gnashing of teeth over the house on Vaux Street ended, we took a little time off from seriously thinking about home buying. It was October and we knew there were still months before we would be in a position to make a serious offer. There was baseball to watch and Halloween to plan. I celebrated my 33rd birthday, which felt rather auspicious.
We limited our interest in new listings to my side gig and to the occasional open house. Because we’ve been visiting open houses for three months now, here are some universal truths we have established.
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People who crow that life is about timing usually fill me with fury, but I have to concede that these days, timing is a very unyielding mistress. My husband and I live in a Center City apartment, the lease on which is up this July. When we signed a few years ago, the longest part of his commute was the wait for an elevator in our building. Within a month of renewing our most recent lease, his commute ballooned from three blocks to 20 miles via the Schuylkill. We reluctantly went from being CarShare people to car lessees and set about finding a garage that wouldn’t bankrupt us. He began plotting alternate routes to King of Prussia and I continued to enjoy my 15-minute subway commute.
We had long-ago agreed that this would be our last apartment before buying something. Between the two of us, we had spent the last decade or so living in almost every neighborhood downtown. When we moved into our Center City high-rise it felt a lot like a real estate rumspringa before buckling down and finally investing in property. Within a month or so of the new commute, we knew the jig was about up.
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