Home is Apartment 308….For Now
Over the course of the last year or so, my husband and I had been discussing whether or not we should sell our house. It’s not that we didn’t like our house, we loved our house….we just fell out of love with its location and the yard.
When we purchased our home nearly eight years ago, we were drawn to our community because of its quaint, small town feel, despite its proximity to the city of Boston. We liked being only a short train ride away from some of Boston’s most iconic and beautiful landmarks, but without the overcrowding of row houses, strip malls, laundromats, fast food restaurants and check cashing services that seem to consume so many of the suburbs that outline the city.
Over the years though, things began to change. As the latest generation to reach adulthood began to build families of their own, they abandoned the itty-bitty, trendy condo’s they inhabited….in equally trendy Boston neighborhoods….and migrated into the outlying, but still commuter accessible suburbs. As the economy improved, they had money to spend and it’s in communities like mine….with its own brand of trendy charm….where they want to spend it.
I don’t blame them and I’m not entirely complaining. Thanks to the addition of their tax dollars, schools are being raised and rebuilt into world class institutions with state of the art educational and athletic facilities. Small revitalization projects in our city center have repaired old buildings that were beginning to show the uglier side of age and which are now home to new, locally owned boutiques, restaurants, pubs and small galleries. Those of us who moved in when the town was still considered a sleepy little suburb on the North Shore, have seen our home values skyrocket as a result.
However, the supply doesn’t quite meet the demand and real estate is at a premium. Large lots are being subdivided into parcels for three and four homes. Every inch of undeveloped space is being maximized to make way for new developments of single family homes with postage stamp sized yards, condo’s and small boutique apartment complexes….the closer to the city center the better.
More housing means more people….and more people means more traffic. What was once an easy drive down Main Street to the local ice cream parlor, is now the equivalent of trying to drive through a packed Volvo dealership full of new year inventory.
School drop-off and pick-up creates so enormous a traffic jam, that residents regularly take to the community Facebook page to call one another out….by name and/or license plate number….for not following the unwritten, but apparently globally understood, protocol of the process.
I only know about the new businesses that opened up on Main Street, because I heard about them on Facebook. I’ve never set foot in any of them. It isn’t because I didn’t want to. It’s because I didn’t want to spend 30 minutes in the car to go five miles and then another 20 trying to find parking….and I’m too embarrassed by my Graco brand stroller to walk….in this town, everyone who is anyone, pushes a Bugaboo.
In many ways, the community became a miniature version of the coolest neighborhoods in Boston….and we just weren’t cool enough to live there anymore.
In addition to the overall changes to the vibe of our town, was the fact that we were eight miles from my step-children. It might not sound like much, what’s eight miles? But this isn’t Indiana. Those eight measly miles could take 20 minutes or 45, depending on a wide variety of contingencies.
As the kids got older, it’s become clear that the rigidity of the custody schedule was becoming harder for them to keep up with. There were some days they spent well over an hour just being shuffled from one door step to another and it was becoming more difficult for us to be as involved in their activities as we used to be. What’s more, they are teenagers and they want to spend time with friends that doesn’t require a pre-arranged play date.
Then there was our yard. When we bought our house, we knew the yard would be a challenge, but we thought it was one we could conquer. Our house was built by a local developer who purchased a small, one story ranch with a lot of wooded acreage and rocky ledge. He demolished the original home, cleared out the trees, blasted out the ledge and built two new houses in its place. He started his project when the economy was still hanging in and completed it once it had tanked. So, we scored a great deal on a brand new house with a ton of high-end features.
Our yard was almost an acre, but it wasn’t a flat acre. Our house sat atop a small hill, high up from the road and lined by a stone wall that wound around our driveway. The flattest part of the yard was also the smallest part, extending only a few feet between the walkway to our front door and the stone wall.
The backyard was a steady slope from top to bottom with outcroppings of ledge that were left when the home was originally built, as a means of adding charm to the landscape.
Two enormous flower beds stretched across the center of the lawn and when we first purchased the home, they were full of exotic and expensive flowers and shrubs, which I either mistakenly took for weeds and uprooted and/or inadvertently killed in less than a year. After that, we had the beds filled with hearty green stuff that required the least amount of maintenance possible and otherwise ignored them.
It could have been a pretty lawn, had we ever been able to get anything other than a wide variety of weeds to grow where grass should have been. Because it was all built on top of hard rock, there was no soil. Loom would have had to have been laid and then constantly watered in order to combat the radiating heat and dryness of the rocks.
Installing a sprinkler system would have required an expensive and complicated solution that would have also required expensive and complicated blasting. For a yard that would never so much as host a lawn chair, let alone a swing set, we didn’t see the point in the investment. Instead, we just hoped for a regular rain schedule, so that at least the weeds were green and the fire risk low.
How we were going to win the war against our yard and repurpose it into the kind of place where our son could safely play, became a regular topic of conversation. He’s an outdoorsy kind of kid and he loves to be outside with nothing but a stick and his imagination. But our yard was never going to be the kind of place where he could run without abandon.
So, it was with all this in mind that we finally made the decision to consult with a Realtor.
“This house will sell in a week!” Our realtor, a very tall and thin middle-aged man with a penchant for skinny jeans and Kenneth Cole loafers told us during his first tour of our house. He was right.
The For Sale sign went into our yard on a Tuesday and one week later we were under agreement with a buyer. Roughly 30 days after that, we had moved out and closed.
In the midst of preparing our house for sale, weeding through our belongings and packing for a move to an unknown new locale, we spent a lot of time viewing prospective homes in our desired towns and neighborhoods. Eventually, we fell in love with a 1730’s historic, salt-box colonial farm house. Well, to be fair, I fell in love with it and my husband is a good sport….but he’s coming around. Also, it’s in the same town as his ex-wife….so I like to think I’m a pretty good sport too.
We are currently scheduled to close in the early fall and we have some renovation plans in place. In the meantime we are splitting our time between our lake house in Maine and a nice apartment we rented in our new hometown. Picture, Melrose place, but without all the stucco and good looking people.
Nevertheless, it’s a cozy pit-stop on our way to a new adventure. I’m looking forward to a fun new project and what we might find during some of our renovations….personally, I’m kind of hoping we’ll find a colonial body.