It’s not ideal.

The kitchen can be most kindly described as a throwback.  You walk in and are greeted by a shade of green tile not seen since the ’50’s.  And then you go, where’s the refrigerator?  And the dishwasher?  And what about a microwave?

There’s no laundry room, which I guess is okay since there’s no washer or dryer, either.  There is, however, a washer/dryer hook-up.  Outside.  On the patio.  Yeah, I’m going to want to do my laundry outside in the summer in Phoenix.  In the heat.  In the dust. When it rains sideways.

The master bathroom has that same ugly green tile and, up until a few hours ago, a toilet that didn’t work and a window that didn’t open.

The guest bathroom is the show piece of the entire house.  At least it must have been to the previous owner.  To us, it’s a bit seizure-inducing.  Blue, Mexican tile from top to bottom. Intricate designs.  A chandelier. Beautiful.  But strange.  Very strange.

There’s more Southwestern flair.  We have tile mosaics at the front and back door and in the kitchen as well. Quaint scenes from small Mexican villages, presumably.  I think they tell a story.  And that story is a tragedy of financial priorities.  Why, when the kitchen needs so much updating, did you spend money on intricate tile mosaics?

Anyhow, we didn’t know most of this when we first walked by the house a year ago.  We only saw the fountain and the “for sale” sign on the outside. The house is in the neighborhood just north of our apartment complex.  It’s a place we walk a lot and a place we have talked about living if the right house at the right price came along. But when I called the number on the “for sale” sign for more information, it was clear this wasn’t the right house. The price made our jaws drop.  That much money… for THAT. It was clear the owners were delusional. So we walked away and moved on.

We looked at a lot of houses.  Check out what I learned over the course of that search here.

What I can tell you is that we bounced around to different neighborhoods, different price ranges, different levels of “move-in ready.”  We put down a few offers and even had one under contract briefly.  But none of them was right.  None felt like the right home at the right time for the right price.

A few months ago, we were out for another walk in the neighborhood and made a right onto Cambridge Avenue to see the “for sale” sign still firmly planted in the yard with the fountain fit for the cliff divers of Casa Bonita. Then, a few days later, the listing showed up in my email… and the price had been reduced 20-25%!

For the first time, we scrolled through pictures that showed the inside of the home.  And that’s when we saw the outdated kitchen and the…let’s call them “unique” decorative touches.

But our initial recoil of “What were they thinking?” turned into curiosity which turned into intrigue which turned into something beyond intrigue and just shy of active interest.  

There was that backyard after all.  A patio with ceiling fans.  A courtyard.  A gazebo.  A pretty immaculate-looking pool with ANOTHER fountain.  The bedrooms seemed nice enough.  Plenty of space. Wood floors.  Our tough talk about the deficiencies and quirks got softer.

We were interested.  But the price still needed to be lower.

I set up a showing.  It happened to be on an uncharacteristically gloomy and rainy day in the Valley of the Sun.  We strode up to the door, a heavy dark wooded beauty, and our realtor turned the key.

The first thing you notice inside is the chandelier over the entryway.  The second thing you notice is the mosaic underneath your feet, and then the back window revealing the pool.

The pictures don’t do justice to the details the previous owners got right. Quality ceiling fans and window covers.  A lighting system with dimmers.  Small things (a light switch cover, a fixture) that make one room different from the next.

It’s not a cookie-cutter house by any means.  We felt the character of this one.  We started picturing our family here.  On a rainy day in Phoenix, our initial repulsion and then vocal skepticism turned, surprisingly, into affection.  We liked this house.  We could see it becoming home.

So we decided to make an offer.  A low-ball offer.  One we figured they probably wouldn’t accept, but one that we also felt was legitimate because of how long it’d been on the market and how substantially the price had changed.

Within a few days, we hit a number that was closer to our offer than to her asking price.  Yesterday, we got the keys.  By the middle of the month, we’ll be living there.

When we bought our first house in Colorado, you might have called it ideal.  It was in a nice, quiet neighborhood halfway between work for the two of us.  Nothing missing. Nothing offensive.  A good, solid house.  With a refrigerator and a dishwasher even!  It was the definition of move-in ready.

Without thinking too much about it, that’s what I was looking for here in Phoenix.  Something ideal.  As our house search progressed, the definition of “ideal” changed a bit.  But the ideal standard was always on my mind.

The house we bought is not ideal.  We are having a laundry room built before we move in. We are buying new appliances.  We are already mentally and emotionally preparing for the varied reactions we will receive as visitors use the guest bathroom for the first time.

But there’s a case to be made for the “grower.”  Something you judge one way initially, and then, upon further review, begin to see in a new light. The second or third time we saw our house (I think it was with the inspector), we went outside and opened a door to what we thought was a storage closet.  It wasn’t.  Inside there was open space. Probably more than in the master bedroom! There was tile.  A ceiling fan.  Good lighting. The “storage closet” was actually a fully-finished room (minus the A/C). Where did that come from?  How did we miss that the first time?  What did they even use this for?  A few weeks later, we found the answer to that last question.  It was a gun room.  An armory.  Anyone who knows my feelings about guns will understand how amusing that little factoid is.

Ideal is great and all.  But if that’s where you start, there’s no journey. There’s no discovery.  

It feels like we’ve already been on a journey with our new (very old) house and we haven’t even moved in yet. Our house is not ideal.  But I think that’s part of what will really make it ours. We can’t wait to have you over.

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