Thursday, April 20, 2017

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Destination Dallas: House Hunting!

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A rancher shouldn't be that pricey, right? Nope: This white-brick Dallas beauty was $750K.
Talk about a real-estate wake-up call.
I never thought I’d be a Texan—I don’t like crazy-hot weather, flat land, or McMansions, which were pretty much the only things I knew about Texas a few months ago. I don't even particularly care for shiplap. But then Frank got offered a job we simply couldn’t pass up, so here we are, on our way to the Lone Star state.

Beautiful Fort Worth bungalow, with a not-so-stunning neighborhood.
His office is just outside of Dallas, so I initially focused my search on historic homes in Dallas or Fort Worth. After living in a 100-year-old home with close proximity to a downtown—albeit a one-street downtown—I was determined to replicate the lifestyle I love in the big city. But on our first house-hunting trip, I came back to Maryland discouraged: Every old home I looked at, no matter how tastefully done, was smack dab in the middle of a bad neighborhood. With a toddler in tow, that wasn’t going to work—so I did what I said I’d never do: shifted my search to the suburbs. 

I had a lengthy list of must-haves: a white kitchen, four bedrooms, a fenced yard, a short drive to amenities and Frank’s office, and a good-sized garage. (Basically, everything the unreasonable buyers on House Hunters demand!)  After weeks of scouring Zillow, I wasn’t feeling optimistic. Despite what everyone says about Texas real estate (“You can get so much house for your money!”), the homes were high-priced and short on style: a whole lot of brick behemoths, with hyper-vaulted ceilings (which I hate), tile living rooms, and textured walls. I couldn’t fathom spending so much money on so ugly a house.

I don't want to house-shame any of the actual properties we perused. So here's a nice visual summary of Texas living. (Photo: McMansion Hell)
With so little inventory I actually liked, I sent my poor realtor a list of 31 homes—all of which we needed to see in one weekend. I figured if I saw enough of ‘em, one was bound to stick. And one did…but unbeknownst to us, the owners were already in talks with another buyer. I woke up Sunday morning prepared to make an offer after walking through the house a second time—and as I stood in the home’s foyer, my realtor informed me the place was already under contract. It’s no wonder I developed shingles that weekend. The stress was awful!

I trudged through the remaining homes on my list, and every last one fell short. Doggy stench, outdated kitchens, vaulted foyers—they all seemed to be reminding me that I’d lost the only house I could love in the entire DFW metro-area. But then my realtor suggested meeting with builders, an idea I’d resisted, since I didn’t wanted a postage-stamp yard or a treeless neighborhood. 

The first builder was a flop: The houses were already framed, which meant it was too late to select my own finishings—and the salesman couldn't show me what, exactly, had been selected for the home. I wasn’t willing to buy a house without seeing what it would look like. Pass.

The second builder was a totally different story. I was told I could pick everything—from the countertops to the flooring to the faucets, and I knew this was a good fit. We walked around a few framed-out two-story homes, but they all had vaulted living rooms and corner fireplaces—total turn-offs to me. The salesperson mentioned they had one single-story home in the works with cathedral ceilings (A-shaped, instead of vaulted). We currently live in a three-story home, and I’ve fallen down nearly every set of stairs. So I liked the idea.

Exterior rendering of our new home

Long story short, we fell in love with the home (well, the floor plan—the foundation hadn’t even been poured) and rescheduled our flights so I could spend the next day in the design center choosing all of my finishes. Although I’d never suggest doing this in a few hours—talk about stress!—it was also a blast. And I got to choose all the little details I’ve dreamed about—hex tiles, white kitchen cabinets, herringbone wood flooring. But more on that next time!

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