My fiance and I recently bought our first house, one we hope to fill with lots of littles someday. When we began our search for our first house, we found ourselves confronting the same debate over and over again—do we buy a starter house that costs less but one we’d inevitably grow out of in the next decade or do we invest in our “forever” house and upgrade to something a bit bigger that we could grow into. We went with the latter. Here are a few items we crossed off our list before we bought our forever home.
A location you love
Location is everything when you’re debating forever. We moved to the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) only four months before we started house hunting so deciding on a town was kind of a shot in the dark.
We were renting an apartment in Raleigh and although it’s a really lovely city, we knew we could get more space for less money if we ventured outside of the Beltline. Plus, I worked in Raleigh and my fiance works in Durham (two points of the Triangle) so we wanted to pick a home base somewhere in the middle for a fair commute.
Apex, NC was voted the best place to live back in 2015, and its motto is “the peak of good living,” so that was our starting place. We toured a few houses in Apex and its neighboring town with an equally shiny reputation, Cary, NC but we didn’t fall in love with anything. Then, my fiance happened upon a farmhouse in—wait for it—Holly Springs. Isn’t that the most Hallmark name ever? I was sold.
Well, not exactly on the farmhouse. The farmhouse needed a lot of work. No, I was sold on the town. All of its schools are rated eight out of ten. Even though we don’t have kids yet, we do know we want them, so finding a city with highly rated schools was important to us.
All of my go-to stores are conveniently located within 15 minutes from the house. Lowes Foods, Target, Michaels, Starbucks, and more. Holly Springs also has a business park that might make it the next addition to the Triangle (the Square?). Our house is located within walking distance to a quaint-as-can-be Main Street, complete with a library and wine bar. Like I said, I was sold.
A nice neighborhood with privacy
My fiance and I are introverts, so we really wanted as much land as we could get. We both grew up in Indiana (the land of cornfields) and moved to California (where everyone lives on top of each other) before heading to North Carolina, so we were hoping for a midrange amount of space. For example, a fenced-in backyard was a plus while a corner lot was a strike.
And although we appreciate our privacy, we at least like the idea of being social, so we wanted that option whenever the impulse struck. So, we crossed our fingers for a larger neighborhood—the ultimate trick-or-treat subdivision for our future kids.
Our house checked all the boxes above. It not only has a fenced-in yard, but it also has tall trees on both sides of the house plus a wooded lot that separates us from the neighbors behind us. When we draw the curtains, it looks like we live in a grown-up tree house.
We’re situated nearly smack dab in the middle of a family-friendly neighborhood that keeps holiday traditions alive, like You’ve Been Elfed. A few other bonuses is that we have a fairly strict HOA, which means everyone keeps their curb appeal up, and a policeman lives right across the street from us, which gives us peace of mind when we travel.
An imperfect house with potential
We quickly learned that there is simply no such thing as a perfect house. Every house we looked at had a long pros and cons list. The biggest roadblock in open houses was that everything looked so cookie-cutter. All the walls were white and the surfaces were bare. I know most advice columns tell sellers who are staging their homes for resale that they should depersonalize their house by taking down pictures and decor and letting the potential buyer envision their life inside.
Our house was the only house that felt like a home. It wasn’t perfect—I actually wasn’t all that impressed the first time we walked through it—but it had that warm, lived-in look. Hardwood floors line the first floor but, if you look closely, you can see a series of small knicks in several places. The paint colors are neutral but not boring—seaglass blue, taupe, and greige with white trim—but it could all use a touch-up. The family even left their kids’ growth chart penciled in the doorway of the bonus room.
Family pictures were hung, candles were burning, and lamps casted a welcoming glow in every room, which set a tone that forgave the ginormous traditional furniture that was otherwise difficult to look past, but seeing evidence of another family’s happiness encouraged us that we could do the same.
The house is 19 years old—not ancient but not new either—and it has all of its original appliances and systems. Somehow everything passed inspection—even the roof—despite being years passed its expiration dates. “Everything’s working now, but I can’t guarantee it will be three months from now,” our inspector warned us. So the sellers threw in a home warranty and we took on the great responsibility of a house that needs work. It’s not a fixer upper by any means, but we’ll have to have an emergency water heater fund ready at any given moment if you know what I mean.
We didn’t really care whether the garden tub could only fill halfway before running cold and we didn’t really mind that there was a cemetery within a mile. Luckily, we were able to see through the imperfections to find that this house has good bones that could bring us a lot of joy and happiness, just as it had for the previous family who lived here