We Bought a House!
The title of this post says it all…we finally bought a house! Cue the champagne, all the champagne!
I shared this big news last week on Insta stories but wanted to dedicate an entire blog post to the journey of how we got here. As you guys know from this post, we closed on our condo on May 3rd. 10 days later, we closed on our new house. Yep, it’s been a crazy busy couple of weeks around here (with a work trip and vacation thrown in there!) but all in a very good and happy way.
Before I get to the scoop on our new place, I want to back up and tell you the story of how we actually found it.
Finding “The One”
The journey to find our house wasn’t an easy one. I think Finn and I visited at least 50 properties here in Chicago, and we even put an offer on another house (and lost when competing with 2 other buyers). Finding a single family home in the city that isn’t already rehabbed and isn’t completely falling down was a tall order. We really wanted that sweet spot of something cosmetically outdated, yet with very solid bones.
Here’s the funny thing…we actually saw the house we got on the very first day we went out looking. Isn’t that wild? I remember it popped onto MLS and I looked at it thinking, “hmm this could have some potential if you take a few walls out and make it a tad less ugly.” I sent it over to Finn who replied, “Yeah, I don’t think this one is for us.” Somehow I convinced him to at least go look at the property.
So on a Saturday in early March, we checked out a bunch of homes with our realtor, with this house being one of them. From the outside, it wasn’t the cutest, but it was situated on this quiet street in our ideal neighborhood. Plus, it was on a really wide lot.
When we went inside, Finn wasn’t entirely convinced. The main room was really segmented, with lots of small rooms. I told him my vision to knock down a few walls, but he was still a bit skeptical at the closed off floor plan. But after visiting the 2nd level, I was swooning and picturing all of the projects we could do to this space. The tall ceilings, the large master bedroom, the grand staircase…I had big heart eyes.
After visiting the basement, we were happy to find that we could both stand down there (we saw so many homes with short ceilings) but the ceilings weren’t exactly grand. And in one spot, Finn had to duck down a bit. That took the wind out of our sails a bit.
I need to mention this was our FIRST DAY of house hunting and one of the first properties we were actually seeing. So we honestly didn’t have much to compare it to. We left the house that day thinking it was okay, but we didn’t really think much more of it. And we certainly weren’t ready to put in an offer! There were still so many other houses to see.
Bringing in a Contractor
As I saw more and more homes and really honed in on what we wanted, I kept coming back to that first house. I stared at the pictures online, trying to make a plan for how we could make it work well for us and our lifestyle. I kinda think you sometimes have to see a lot of duds to realize when you come across a great property (seems kinda similar to dating??). So after a disheartening week of seeing houses that were all wrong for us, I asked my realtor if I could visit that house again…this time with my favorite contractor.
I had big ideas to take down quite a few walls in the house to make a large family room and kitchen area on the 1st floor. But I wasn’t exactly sure if that was even a possibility. And if it wasn’t, then I didn’t want to pursue this house any further. I spent a good 1.5 hours with my contractor walking through every square inch of the property. He reassured me that the walls I wanted to be removed could go (hell, yes!) and we also brainstormed other ideas for what we could do immediately to make the house more our own.
But the best part was that he thought the house was in good shape, structurally. He checked out every area and said that it was a solid build, but just needed some love on the inside. Music to my ears!
Getting it at The Right Price
I should also mention that this house had been on the market for a long time…almost a year! Lucky for us, the price had gone down quite a bit over that time period in order to generate more buzz and interest in the listing. And when a property has been on the market for a while, you usually have more negotiating power. We liked the idea of trying to get it for a lower price and then putting more of our budget into immediate renovations.
Because my contractor had already seen the property, he was able to send over a general estimate for the big tasks I wanted to do to the house right away. This was sooooo helpful and it allowed us to come up with a gameplan to purchase the house AND still have enough money to spend a lot on those immediate renovations.
After a few rounds of negotiations, we finally settled on a price with the sellers and were overjoyed! A couple of days later, we had our home inspection (we were worried because it’s such a big old house!), but luckily everything came back a-okay.
We closed last Monday and this week we start a 2-month renovation on the property. I can hardly believe it!!! We bought a house!!!
Our New House – The Details
Tomorrow, I’m planning to share all of the before pictures of the entire home along with some details on our renovation and design plans. But I don’t want to leave you hanging, so here are some details about our new home.
The Neighborhood: It’s located in the Old Irving Park neighborhood of Chicago. It’s only about 4-5 miles northwest of where we live now, but it does feel like a whole new world. This area is a bit homier and family-friendly (which we love), but it isn’t quite as bustling as what we’re used to (In our condo, we were able to walk out the door and hit up 20 restaurants within 4 blocks.) We were drawn to this area because it’s close to the highway and the blue line train (which Finn takes to work every day). Plus, it’s a growing area and we’re confident we’ll be able to get a good return on our investment since this neighborhood is up and coming.
The House: Our house was built in 1921 and was originally a one-story red brick bungalow. At some point, there was an addition put on the back and a 2nd floor was added. It has 4 bedrooms (holy smokes, it feels like a mansion to us!!!) and 3.5 bathrooms. We have a garage, a deck, and a pretty big yard (for the city!). We also have a finished basement and so much storage. Going from our small condo to this house is going to be wild, but we’re eager to have the extra space. I keep joking to Finn that we’re like “real people” with a “real yard” and we actually need a lawnmower! For city folks, like us, who are used to having a tiny balcony, it’s going to be crazy to actually have to cut the grass.
My Favorite Parts: I saw potential in this house immediately because it has really tall ceilings and amazing natural light. Those are things you just can’t change, so it made my heart happy to find such a gem. The kitchen is already a big open concept, and while we aren’t planning to renovate it until next year (part 2 of our renovation) I know it’s going to be insanely gorgeous when we’re done with it. It’s just so grand and open.
The 2nd floor is what really made me love the home. You walk up this amazing open staircase (cannot wait to transform it and add a killer chandelier), and up there you’ll find all 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. The ceilings are grand and vaulted in 2 of the rooms and the master is a great size with an en suite. Oh, and there is even a laundry room on the 2nd level right near the master. Honestly, what are we going to do with all of this space?!
But I don’t want to sugarcoat it, this house needs A LOT of work. Every bathroom is incredibly outdated and the kitchen has seen better days. And those are rooms we’re not even touching for at least a few months. Plus, we’re taking down quite a few walls on the first level. I just love the prospect of making every room our own and putting our touch on it. So while I’m a little nervous/intimidated, I’m also overjoyed and excited to dive right into this house.
It was quite the rollercoaster to get here, but I think we are in an amazing spot and I cannot wait to call it home (and Finn is already making himself right at home laying on the counter Burt Reynolds style). Be sure to come back tomorrow for “before” picture overload. And check out insta stories because I’ll be sharing real-time renovation updates over there and sharing photos on our feed using the hashtag #FinnFixerUpper (that way you can follow along from the start!).
Thanks for your excitement and encouragement, friends. We are overjoyed about this next chapter in our story…
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.