Adventures in Home Buying: Here Is the House That We Own

We are renters no more.


We’d spent months traipsing through strangers’ houses. We’d navigated enough of East Falls to count off the cozy street names by memory (some day, someone will explain to me how a true Fallser is meant to pronounce “Vaux”). In aggregate we’d probably spent entire days with our mortgage advisor. But even with a settlement date in sight — even after the appraisal was worked out — it hardly felt real.

Our closing was scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m. The night before — mindful of having only two weeks between settlement and move to do things like clean, paint and furniture shop — we found ourselves at a suburban Home Depot, standing in front of a wall of interior paint samples. In a sea of technicolor options, we were united on French Silver and Caribe. Still, as the sales associate was having the colors mixed and we were choosing paint rollers, it did not feel real.

As we sat down at the Trolley Car Diner for a quick breakfast before our final walk-through at 9 a.m. on Friday, it felt like another normal trip to East Falls. I drank my coffee and C. and I mused about our common hope that developers might begin flipping some Ridge Avenue properties in earnest. We finished our meal like we’d done any number of times before and met our realtor at the house.

My internal commentary still hadn’t caught up with the occasion, and I could feel myself counting off the home’s attractive elements. Nice kitchen, I thought. It’s good that they are including the pot rack in the sale. I had not yet graduated to wondering exactly how our pots would fit there. As our realtor hugged me and congratulated us on getting to settlement day. I still felt like a renter in disguise.

Since I moved to Center City in 2003, I have moved no less than eight times. There was the five-person apartment on 13th Street, the wretched one-bedroom in Rittenhouse Square, a studio and then a two-bedroom in the same Fairmount high-rise, the Three’s Company situation in NoLibs, a newlywed home in Fairmount and a very small one-bedroom Center City apartment. So I’ve signed my share of lease agreements and spent quite a bit of time boxing up my books.

As far as I can tell, the difference between those moves and this one is the amount of paperwork. But signing and initialing enough forms that my name no longer bore any actual resemblance to English words had nothing on the abject terror of going to the bank and retrieving a cashier’s check for the amount of our life savings.

Now, with six people around the table, each of whom came with a pile of pages, the actual moment of closing was anticlimactic. At some point our mortgage advisor stopped putting papers in front of us and we put down our pens.

Afterward, everyone we loved wanted to know how we felt. And much like nothing felt immediately different after putting on wedding rings, we couldn’t exactly enumerate any real changes upon leaving our realtor’s office with a deed in hand.  

The rest of Friday was a blur. Our first stop as homeowners? CVS for a mountain of cleaning supplies. Our second? Wine and Spirits. We hemmed and hawed over exactly which bottle of champagne to buy. After signing up for six figures and 30 years of debt, we figured it was not the occasion for our typical $7 bottle of Andre. Then again, having signed up for six figures and 30 years of debt, we also figured Dom would be imprudent. So we went middle of the road. (When you’re about to embark on hours of cleaning and vacuuming, I strongly recommend fueling your labor with quality champagne. Mere sparkling wine will not do.)

By Saturday evening, we had welcomed family and some of our very favorite friends into our home. Our home.

The room that will soon become our office was introduced to us back in February as a bright yellow nursery. By bright, I mean neon macaroni and cheese. Nothing in nature could produce this hue. And so it was the obvious choice for our first tape and paint project. It was about 5 p.m. on Saturday and there wasn’t anything else left to do but start sealing off the woodwork and the windows with FrogTape and say a silent prayer that Caribe would be an improvement.

By 9:00 p.m. we were close to finishing the first coat of saturated turquoise. The carpets were covered in plastic sheeting, my iPhone was nearly dead after serving as a makeshift radio for four hours, and we were both coated in blue paint (yes, there were copious Tobias Fünke jokes). I was struggling with a mini roller under a windowsill when a cool breeze kissed my face. I looked at C., was grateful one of us is tall enough to get the high corners, and it felt very real.

Laura Kicey’s gallery below somehow manages to make me love our new home even more.