Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Our House is a Very, Very, Very Fine House

Well, today’s post continues the thread of a theme. 

Yesterday, I blogged the lyrics to the song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes; If you didn’t listen to the You Tube link, shame on you, but do it now.  It is a fantastic song so you need to get it on your playlist.

But I love this song because it represents how I have always felt about my husband Jason since I met him – and now our son Shane.  I am “home” as long as I am with both of them.  However, I can honestly say that I jumped for fricken joy last Friday -- July 29, 2011 -- when we closed escrow on our first house.

When Jason and I got engaged, we decided to move in together.  For Jason, this was not an easy decision.  As I’ve posted before, my in-laws were very liberal yet traditional about certain things.  Living together before marriage was one of those controversial topics and Jason agreed.  Personally, I am of the, “Lets test drive this relationship before we tie the knot” mindset; but, since Jason and I were pretty much paying for our own wedding, living together was the most cost-effective way to save money, so he begrudgingly agreed.

So, a year before our wedding, we moved into Barbie’s playhouse.

Barbie’s playhouse was a converted two-car garage – illegal – rental unit on First Street in Hermosa Beach.  Our living room and barely there kitchen were located in one garage and our windowless bedroom was the second garage. 

From the outside, the 1930s era garage doors were still there with old padlocks on them.  One night, while lying in our cave and having a mild panic attack, I asked Jason what we would do if there was a fire in the “living” area and we couldn’t get out.  Jason replied that the sheet rock was so thin and flimsy that we could probably just push our way out of the wall by the garage doors.  Ah, why didn’t I think of that escape route? Scary! 

The aspect of that apartment which we both fell in love with was that it was only a block and a half from the beach and it had an amazing patio with a huge bougainvillea tree.  Obviously, we spent a lot of time outside.  Even though that place was ultimately a dump, I loved that Jason and I were living together.

But only a few months later, we realized that we just couldn’t live there for another second, so we found our first “real” apartment together also on First Street in Hermosa.  This time, we were up above PCH on top of the hill and our spacious one bedroom had plenty of storage space, a garage with an ocean view. 

This is where we lived when we got married and I have so many fond memories.  It wasn’t huge, but we always had friends crashing over on our futon.  After four years though – we were married and more grown up – we wanted more space.  It just wasn’t cool to let friends sleep on futons in your living room.

While running one day, I noticed a For Rent sign about four buildings down on our block...uh, that would be First Street as well.  I went to check it out and, since the landlord was out of town, the tenant Lucy showed me around.  I thought the place was awesome.

It had a town home feel, so it had an upstairs and a downstairs.  The two bedrooms were down and a great room and kitchen were up.  It had a long deck and, if you stood up on tippy toes thirty degrees to the left, you could see a sliver of the ocean – a very peak-a-boo ocean view.

Jason was very unenthused about that apartment at first because it was, once again, on First Street.  He really wasn’t on board, but I kept pointing out all the positives, and he finally relented.  We would live there for more than eight years.

Once the newness of the apartment wore off, I started to see some of the negatives of the place.  First, our door opened right into the garages and trash room of the neighboring building.  There was a parking spot exactly five feet from our front door.  We both disliked having to see that every time we walked out our door.  The bedrooms were on the driveway which was extremely loud, especially in the summer.  Lastly, Jason was very sad that we didn't have more of an ocean view.  But, the positives certainly outweighed the negatives.  We came to know and love our landlord Mame and her partner.  They are like family to us now.  When Shane was born, they were so supportive and looked after things for us.  The upstairs was very light and sunny, and I liked having the deck to sit outside and drink coffee in the morning.  Lastly, it was a steal and allowed us to save money.

When Shane was little, we started looking to buy property to build a home. We had many grand ideas – some were absolutely ludicrous (sorry Jason) and some were extremely ingenious:  converting a water tower into a home (a little off the cuff); converting a warehouse or commercial property into a livable space; pre-fab home; and container house. 

Both Jason and I had a lot of stipulations and, with the inflated price of property and building, we had a hard time realizing this dream.  So we switched gears and began looking for a home to buy and make our own. 

After three years, several close calls, and actually falling out of escrow, we were discouraged.

We both agreed that, although renting a house may not be cost-effective, we needed the space and the change. 

We signed up for a few rental agencies and, after one day, Jason called me at work.  He said he had found the perfect house and it wasn't on First Street.  He was so excited and began to describe it: four bedrooms, two and a half baths, a huge walk-in closet, laundry hook-ups, a two car garage and, the most desirable thing to Jason, an amazing ocean view.  I was so disheartened about falling out of escrow, I said just rent it. 

He let me know the rental company wouldn’t "just" rent it to us unless I saw it and then went in and signed a form. So we checked it out together.  The house, which was built in 1959, was very outdated; but I could see all of the positives and the price was right, so we moved in Labor Day weekend two years ago.

A neighbor had shared that the woman who owned the house was elderly and had health issues.  She was living in a nursing home and, her children who lived up in Northern California, were using the property management company to take care of things.  We wrote a letter about a year ago pledging our love for their home and asked them to sell to us. 

Our response came from the management company, who said, "The owners are not interested and don’t contact them again."  The wind completely went out of our sales.  But we continued our search for our dream home, but with no luck.

Then a few months ago, the moment we had been dreading happened.  The management company phoned to let us know that the woman who owned the house has passed away, and her children would be putting the house on the market.  They let us know that a Realtor would be contacting us to get in the house.

Both Jason and I were panic stricken. Jason met with the Realtor who basically let us know that the heirs weren’t interested in an offer from us, but wanted to “feel out the market.”

We knew we didn’t have a chance but, for the heck of it, we offered a fair market price for the home and – with a small counter agreement included – they accepted our offer. 

From that point on, we went through the unusually painless process of going into escrow, having the house inspected, getting a loan, the assessment, and closing on the house.To all the professionals involved, this transaction had been remarkably smooth. I believe that we have some angels up there who were looking out for us.

I am 42 years old and, other than living at my grandmother's off and on throughout my life, I’ve never lived in a house that was mine.  (My mom bought her first house when she was in her 40s as well.) This home means so much to me and my family. 

I know we are late in life for buying our first home, but it is only because Jason stayed true to himself.  If it were up to me – a much more impulsive buyer – I probably would have settled for something less.  Jason believed that –even within our budget – we would be able to find a home that offered us everything we wanted in our dream house: Hermosa Beach, ocean view, lots of space, and close to schools. 

Don’t get me wrong, this house needs a LOT of love.  But, since we are home now, we have nothing but the time to make it our own.

Tracy & Shane at HOME!


  1. CONGRATS Tracy! That is such exciting news!!!
    David & I are thrilled for you guys!

  2. Congratulations! I am so happy for you and your family. XOXO Judy