I believe in love at first sight. This goes for people, dogs, clothing and houses, too. So when I decided to search for my first home, I knew there would be no question when I found the one.
A year-and-a-half ago, I was renting a shoe-box-sized Buckhead apartment and found myself lusting after extra square footage. Once my landlord raised the rent, I was ready to end our relationship. I began browsing MLS.com (a free online real estate database) with only three months left on my lease. Then a friend of mine set me up with a Realtor and the match-making began.
The process was thrilling at first; any new address could have been the one. Many of the condos we visited were empty or unnaturally staged with fake refreshments and shiny plastic fruit. But every now and then my agent and I stumbled upon a more careless homeowner.
On our umpteenth condo visit, my Realtor poked her head inside and called out to see if anyone was home. When no one responded, we walked through the front door and immediately saw an unsmoked cigarette teetering on the edge of a worn, gray couch. Straight ahead, we could see into the kitchen where four half-empty liquor bottles lined a tile countertop. We made our way past a closet stacked with Playboy mags and continued looking, appalled and curious about what we might find. In the bathroom, we examined the sink's black mystery contents before walking into a shade-drawn bedroom. When we flipped on the lights, the bed sheets rustled and let out a deep, smoky cough.
"Hello?" we said awkwardly to the mystery man.
Obviously, this house was not the one.
After two months of searching, I started to wonder if I was being too picky. I didn't want to settle but time was running out. My landlord was pressuring me to resign my lease or move, so I called my agent. She had found a first-floor condo in a two-story building backing up to Piedmont Park with a Georgian red-and-white brick exterior. I knew it before I even opened the front door.
"This is the one I want," I said. It was that obvious.
It was clear that I'd have more space here, but my agent wouldn't divulge the exact square footage. In fact, she told me to get a measuring tape and figure it out myself (the honeymoon stage was officially over). With no measuring tape on hand, I began by placing one foot in front of the other. The distance from the bedroom to the back wall measured 35 one-foot-in-front-of-the-others and from the doorway to the window it was 21 one-foot-in-front-of-the-others: roughly 800 square feet, a significant improvement from my apartment.
I tap danced across the hardwood floors and barraged my agent with questions that my father had told me to ask; questions about roofing and homeowner's association fees irrelevant to most apartment dwellers. Here, if the fridge broke down or the AC unit expired, I had to fix it. I also discovered the condo's imperfections, but my passion for the space prevailed over the technicalities.
Now I had to qualify for a loan – a step most people looking for love in a home are encouraged to take first – then come up with a down payment and factor in taxes. I also had to consider insurance, closing costs and attorney fees, but I wasn't going to let a real estate agent or mortgage man steal the romance. Whatever the numbers, my new condo had original hardwood floors, a galley kitchen, and a patio blossoming with Southern flora. I was in love.
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