Personal News 🙂
If you have been following closely, you probably have guessed my “big news…” I bought a house! I have typed this sentence out so many times now (and signed so many papers) but it still doesn’t feel real. This has been a goal (probably my biggest goal) for so long.
This is a long, rambly post so buckle up? I have a lot to talk about. I won’t be posting much more about this for a few months as I don’t move in until the end of October. But more on that below!
I don’t even know where to start so I think I will start with a thank you. This probably sounds dramatic or maybe even disingenuous (I hope not, I mean this with all of my heart) but I really mean it when I say that this blog has completely changed my life. This community, plus a combination of luck, privilege, and hard work. Before running my site and social media full time, I spent 12 years working in more traditional jobs. I always worked hard and earned a good living. But when I started my blog back in 2010, it was just a fun hobby, a creative escape. I never thought I would make money doing this, I never thought I’d quit my day job. I’m a “plan for the worst” sort of person and never thought any of this would be possible for me.
Back then, it was just me and my laptop, sharing the things I loved with a few readers, which eventually grew into a lot of readers. It has mostly been pretty wonderful but there have been a lot of ups and downs. It’s made me the subject of ridicule and the butt of jokes by people who were once close friends. I have been taken advantage of at times, treated like an idiot at others, and needless to say I am a lot less trusting than I was ten years ago. You just become weary of who you get close to. Time has taught me that anyone who would mock anyone else’s creative endeavor isn’t a great friend to begin with, but the hurtful stuff still stings. In hindsight, it’s a good lesson: I’d much rather have a smaller circle of friends who relentlessly support each other’s pursuits and ambitions.
I am telling you this context because looking back, I truly don’t know why I kept doing this!
I didn’t make a penny from it for the first two years. And it was pretty time-consuming, especially after a long day in the office. I kept doing it because I loved it and it felt fun to me, but there was definitely that darker side!
Twelve years later this hobby that oftentimes felt foolish, this hobby that was mocked so frequently… is not only a viable business, but a lucrative one. I wake up every day (okay most days, we are all human!) feeling extraordinarily lucky and grateful. My life has changed so much because of you! I have said this before but now there is this physical thing: I literally would not own this house if it were not for you and your support. A blog (or an influencer, you know I don’t love that word) is nothing without its community. Every time you come here to read, every time you click a link or support one of my sponsors… you are in turn, supporting me. I am so grateful for that.
With all of that being said, I wanted to share a little bit about the house-hunting process, the house, buying the house, and more.
Quiet and privacy are both a big thing for me. I knew that I wanted to be downtown (I’m going to learn to drive but I truly love walking!). Still, I didn’t want to be on a main street or anywhere loud. Another thing that made my search hard was size! Everything was too big or too small. I knew that I wanted something around 2,000 square feet (but not much smaller than that). My apartment right now is just over 1,200 square feet – around 2,000 felt perfect. I knew that I did not want several guest rooms or a giant space to take care of (and keep cool during the summer), but after 19 years of apartment living, I wanted a proper house or townhouse. Space to entertain was another big thing, and a real outdoor space… either a small yard, courtyard, patio, deck…
I was flexible on the “what” but it needed to be sizable. (Note: my definition of sizable is probably different than most people’s… right now, I have a 6×10 foot patio… I just wanted to have something that would fit more than two people at a time!). The outdoor space of my new home is really beautiful. I cannot wait to build a garden with my mom, to sit and read out on the covered porch, to host dinner parties, to relax by the fire with my boyfriend after a long day. It took me a while, but I found it. With the help of LeGrand (the best realtor!). My quiet, cozy little house with room to party and a great outdoor space.
I started looking back in January and learned a lot – both about the real estate market and myself in general.
The process makes you get really get clear on what is an absolute must, what would be nice to have, and what you can live without. A really big thing for me was that outdoor space. Closets were also a must. My current apartment has great closets and I’ve gotten pretty spoiled there. I saw quite a few places (especially in the historic district) that either didn’t have closets or had these tiny, cupboard style closets. Cute for a doll, impractical for a person! (This part of the process was actually pretty fun, I really loved getting to peek into so many houses!).
I am a homebody and introvert, but I love having people over. I can’t wait to host dinner parties. (The kitchen and formal dining room are especially beautiful, I cannot wait to show you them!). I could tell that the previous owners spent a lot of care and work on the home. No detail was overlooked and they had great taste. We have since gotten together for drinks and I am hopeful that we will become friends. I even ended up buying some furniture and rugs from them. I plan on making a few changes to make it my own, but nothing dramatic.
The real estate market is crazy right now. You probably know this! House hunting right now moves very slowly… until it doesn’t. As I mentioned before, I started the process at the end of January. But when I found the home I wanted to buy, I was under contract within two days. It was a little bit wild.
On a Saturday morning, LeGrand texted me a listing that had just gone live that morning. I went to see it at 4. I just… fell in love with it. So I called my friend to see if he could meet me and he agreed that it was perfect. I was shaking a little bit but said to him, “let’s make an offer!!!!”
One thing that wound up helping us is that this house had short term leases in place through early October. This was actually appealing to me: my current lease goes through the end of October. It sort of just felt meant to be: I could enjoy the rest of my time in my apartment building, not stress about finding someone to sublet, and plan for my move (purging, looking for new furniture, etc.). A nice, leisurely move-in period.
The other thing that helped: two days after I saw the property (also the day it went on the market), a tenant moved in… making it much harder for them to have new showings. It also helped that the seller had just found HIS dream property and wanted to close as quickly as possible. My realtor and lender were fine with that so we just got to work. We’d initially planned to close in 45 days but ended up doing it in 23.
Back to the timeline:
I made an offer at 9pm on Saturday after seeing it a 4 that day. Sunday morning was agony. I was with my family for brunch and was on pins and needles and was jittery all morning looking at my phone, making sure I didn’t miss a text or a phone call. I knew that the home was being shown that morning and was fully prepared for someone to come in with a cash offer. And I did not want to get into a bidding war and was prepared to walk away if I needed to. (Again: this market is wild!) But then around 3pm (literally in under 24 hours of having first seen the house) I found out that my offer had been accepted.
The next day (Monday), we spent the day going back and forth on the contract. By Monday night I was under contract. The inspection was the following Friday and the appraisal was on Monday. After the inspection and appraisals, it was just a lot of paperwork.
It was a big learning process!
Making sure that I got my lender everything they needed became my second job.
This is the big part. You need to be able to reply quickly, answer questions in real time, and get them everything they need. There were so many questions and addendums to sign. I am really organized so there weren’t any crises, but it was still stressful. Just things you wouldn’t expect, one thing for me was that I had just written a few big checks for taxes so they were like “wtf are these big purchases.” I was like “lolz no, those aren’t purchases,” got them screen shots of the checks, and we were fine. But every day it was something! It was all manageable, and it makes sense: the bank needs to be incredibly thorough, they are doing their job, they want to see everything. And every document seems to require something special, letterhead, the URL at the top, etc.
It was a lot of deep breaths, focusing, and just getting them what they needed.
On top of that, there was my own personal anxiety. Every day until closing, I worried that something would bad happen. I definitely have imposter syndrome around money and kept just thinking, “how would they give me this mortgage, how am I buying this house, I don’t deserve it, this is going to fall apart.” It’s weird, I am 40 years old, have saved up a lot of money, but in my heart I still feel like a broke twenty-something.
I told myself that everything would be okay as long as I stayed calm and got the lender everything he needed (while googling or asking friends if I didn’t understand something). My lender told me that if blogging doesn’t work out, he’ll hire me… that made me laugh, I guess I came across as organized despite feeling like a mess on the inside!
It was a lot of learning.
Also, homeowners insurance and flood insurance. As someone who has rented for the past twenty years, this was a new thing to learn and understand. My boyfriend was really helpful here. He is an architect and had a client and a friend lose their homes during the Woolsey fires in Malibu. A nightmare but then a second nightmare… with inflation, their policies weren’t big enough to cover the expenses to rebuild. I thought that was such a good point and took out additional insurance.
All in all, the process was definitely a lot of work (and a lot of googling + calls to loved ones and my realtor being like “WTF does this mean”), but it really was not bad. I tell friends (especially friends who are women, thinking of buying on their own) who feel intimidated about buying a house, “If I could do this, so can you.” And I wound up enjoying the learning process and was very hands on. I went to the inspection (I definitely recommend doing this!). The biggest thing that helped me stay sane is that while I did this alone, I never felt alone.
My boyfriend, friends, and parents were all really eager to help me and my realtor was incredibly detail-oriented but also patient with all of my questions. My friends and my dad (only one at a time, I didn’t want to bring an entourage) would come along to look at houses with me, my boyfriend asked the tough logistical questions that I’d never think of, my brother-in-law gave me a giant list of questions to ask the inspector… I could go on. So while yes, I technically did this alone, I didn’t feel alone… I felt really supported by my people. Also: google. Thank goodness for google!!
Closing day was wild. I felt sick wiring the down payment. After saving for this for so long, it was weird to have such a big portion of my savings account just… gone! I think I checked and rechecked the routing instructions at least ten times. I was so nervous that I’d accidentally type one number wrong and all that money would go into some sort of black hole. (If this is you, my lawyer later told me that they have checks in place to ensure this doesn’t happen!). At the actual closing, I signed so many documents that my hand was sore afterward. I met my parents and one of my best friends for a martini afterward to celebrate. It just didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t feel real!
I won’t have much more to share about this for a while (like I mentioned above, there is a tenant in there right now and I want to respect their privacy – I posted (or if it’s early – will post) a little teaser on Instagram from when it was staged but that’s probably all I will share til October. A long time to wait but I wanted to share this news with you. The tenants leave in early October. I will be making a few updates (painting some trim, building a bigger closet, adding some built-ins to the room that will become my “library”), and then I move at the end of October. Lots more to come, but we ALL have to wait a little while for that. 🙂
Thank you for sharing in my joy.
And as I said earlier, thank you for your support – I wouldn’t be here without my readership. Some of you have been here since the Stripes & Sequins days and I am especially grateful for you. This has been a huge dream of mine for years and years, I cannot believe it’s really real. I am so, so, happy, excited, grateful… there are not enough words.
ALSO: I loved my realtor and my lender so much. And I cannot say enough good things about either person, if you are in the market to buy in Charleston. I worked with LeGrand Elebash as my realtor (he was the most patient but also the most thorough; he was my sister and her husband’s realtor too!) and Sterling Chambless on my mortgage. I can’t recommend either of them enough!