I mentioned on Twitter the other day that Chris and I have been doing some house hunting. We realized that we’re ready to get out of our current place and we’ve been falling in love with houses all over the city.
For Chris and I, the location of the house is more important than the house itself. I mean, don’t get me wrong. We don’t want to be living in some ramshackle shanty that happens to be in a really cool district. But we definitely don’t want to live in a dream house that’s nowhere near anything we do or like.
We know we want to stay in Norman. It’s where I work, and it’s close enough to where Chris works that it would be silly to go anywhere else. And we really love Norman. Sure, it’s boring sometimes, but it’s our city. And you really can’t beat a college town in the middle of summer. Then the city really feels like it’s ours.
(Yeah. I know. I work at the university and students are my livelihood. But you know what else students are? More traffic, 45-minute waits at restaurants, and impossibly long lines at Target. I appreciate all the tuition dollars that make their way into my paycheck. But I really savor those summer months.)
But here’s the thing: We’re struggling to figure out what kind of house it is we want. And the more we look, the more two very distinct paths emerge.
Our original intent was to purchase a home in a historical district. But all the historical districts are around the university. This would be great since I could easily walk to work. But it also sucks, because if a house is in a historical district, people get away with asking $200k for a cardboard box that’s duct taped to a milk crate. The listing will call it a “cozy fixer upper.”
I CALL IT GARBAGE.The listing will call it a cozy fixer upper. I CALL IT GARBAGE. Click To Tweet
If you’re not familiar with the Oklahoma City metro area housing market, the majority of good, decent houses in a good, decent school districts are typically between $120k to $250k — depending on the size and the particular area. And historical houses are basically a bajillion dollars for 1,000 square feet, one bathroom, and zero closets.
Chris and I tend more toward the minimal side of things. (Though we’d gladly take this place on Main Street in a heart beat.) We don’t have a ton of tchotchkes or collections of things. Basically, everything we have means something to us. And we are well-known for taking a load of stuff to Goodwill once a week. So, we don’t need a whole lot of space. Besides, we currently reside in a house that’s just over 1,000 square feet, and it feels like a good amount of space for us.
So, our house hunting started with looking at what the historical districts had to offer. And we quickly became disenchanted with that because apparently you can ask for over a million dollars for a house that hasn’t been renovated since 1963 and is missing 30% of it’s siding. And people will pay for it.
(I have a theory that these people are rich alumni who want a place to hang during football season. They can eat my dirty socks.)
We expanded our search, and that’s when I could see two distinctive futures in front of us.
The further from the university we looked, the bigger the houses became. The more we searched the online listings, the more we kept coming back to “the dream house.” Nestled at the end of a cul-de-sac, this house was 2,200 square feet, two floors, four bedrooms and two living areas. I spent a lot of time imagining how awesome it would be to turn one of those living rooms into my library/office.
We did fall out of love with it pretty easily though. The online pictures were obviously taken by someone who knew how to manipulate the depth of field. When we saw the house in person, it was the choppiest, space-wasting floor plan I could imagine.
But there it was. On the one hand, we wanted a small historical house near the university. On the other, we wanted a huge, suburban place to keep up with the Joneses.
Chris and I had a come to Jesus sort of talk via Google Hangouts, because we’re terrible people who can really only communicate with some sort of digital interface between us. (That’s not entirely true. We are just more likely to be brazenly honest when we chat via computer rather than in person, where we will couch what we say in non-specific and overly nice terms.)
In this conversation, we really specified what it is we want in a house. Here’s our house hunting wish list:
- 1,600 square feet maximum: This may seem small to some, but it really is a lot of space for just the two of us. We know we want a bedroom for us, one for a guest room, and then we’ll both need some space to work when we’re at home. If that means we put some office space in the corner of a living room, or another bedroom, then that’s good. Plus, I grew up in a house about that size, and there was plenty of room for four people to avoid each other in there.
- Library space: Right now, my office in our current home serves as the library. I have no trouble putting my massive, messy collection of books in another bedroom in our new home. But if there’s a nook/small area in the living room for them, that would be awesome too.
- Two bathrooms: I feel I don’t need to justify this. When I used to live in a one-bathroom house with roommates, there was many a morning when one of us would drive to a nearby gas station to use the bathroom while the other was in the shower. I don’t want to live that life ever again.
- A location we love: There are a lot of fun areas in Norman, and they all tend to be around the university. We’re okay with paying a little more to be near campus and downtown, since those are the two main places we go. We have this beautiful vision of someday only owning one car, and even then, we mostly walk wherever we need to go. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but if it does, it’s going to be because we live around campus. But we’re definitely open to other neighborhoods that can offer us quiet, less traffic, and easy access to the highway for Chris.
- A non-galley kitchen: This is perhaps the most important thing on the list. The problem with the galley kitchen is that I’m really good at getting in Chris’s way when he’s doing something in our galley kitchen. Like, if I open the dishwasher while he’s stirring something on the stove, there is a good chance that we’ll bump into each other, or Chris will trip on dishwasher door. (Yes, just like what happened to Zach Braff’s mom in Garden State.) For the sake of our relationship, we need more space in the kitchen.
- Absolutely no wife-swapping: You may think that this item is a joke. It’s not. I would wager a guess that if you live in a more (but not necessarily) suburban area, you have people in your neighborhood that you suspect of wife-swapping. I’m not here to swinger-shame your groovy lifestyles, but I am saying that sort of thing isn’t for Chris and I. I think there are a lot of neighborhoods in the Oklahoma City Metro suburbs where wife-swapping, cheating on your spouse, and living a generally empty life is the norm. And that sort of things tends to stem from people earning a decent living, then coming home from work and not knowing what to do with their time. (I’m sure a level of marital dissatisfaction or a manic need for new and exciting things comes into play too.) Chris and I have side hustles, so we don’t want to get sucked into weird neighbor drama when our time off work is spent working on other things.
So there you have it. House hunting in a nutshell. What do you look for in a house? What’s your house hunting wish list? How wife-swappy is your neighborhood? Are you selling a house near the University of Oklahoma? Wanna forgo realtors and sell it directly to me? Please?!