Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dilemma Continues

I was going to begin this by saying that my husband and I are still on the fence about a house we saw in February in Quincy. If you know me, you won't be surprised at such indecisiveness. But we're not on "the fence" at all — we're on one of those giant swings, veering wildly back and forth. We're both usually in the same mood of "for" or "against" or, if not, each of us can change the other's point of view in just a few minutes. It's exhausting being up in the air like this; we're getting dizzy. We'd like to be on solid ground again.

Officially, the house is about 3,400 square feet, with five bedrooms and one and a half baths. But there's much more usable space in the basement, attic, and enclosed porch, so it's really about 6,500 square feet. I just figured this out from the property assessment records, and I'm staggered. We live in 786 feet. Buying a house this big for two people and some cats has to be insane.

But just look at how unusual it is. It's loaded with authentic, preserved late-Victorian detail, which we love more than anything:

Front hall, with fireplace

Parlor with large bow window

Dining room with beamed ceiling

Library with fireplace and Gothic bookcase

Our financial advisor (free advice is a perq from my husband's employer) emphatically told me that buying this house would be "a financial no-brainer." But there's more to it than money, of course. There are many other questions to consider. And it seems they are all multiple-choice questions, and we keep picking different answers each time. Because we're only guessing; we have no facts:

Do we want to leave Boston?
Do we want to live in a giant house?
Do we want to live in such a gorgeous house if it means living in Quincy?
Can we handle the commute: taking 93 or the Red Line to Boston and Cambridge?
Can we live without thrice-weekly Anna's burritos?
Would I miss my gym?
Would I pine for everything in Back Bay and Boston?
Would we ever see Wendy in a house that big?
Do we want to acquire roomfuls of furniture at this point in our lives?
Would we be able to make friends in Quincy?
Would I find nice walking routes since I walk 5 or 6 miles every day?
Would I feel isolated or bored out there (no bookstore, even)?
Is taking care of a giant old house more of a pain than we realize? (Yes)
Would friends ever come to visit us?
Could I learn to drive out there — and learn to like it, too?

If we could find a handsome Victorian condo or small house with some private outdoor space in our price range in Back Bay or nearby (including Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville), this dilemma might vanish in a moment. Or not. The house has a grip on us. 

We've gone to Quincy to walk and drive around and we're never persuaded that it would work for us. Our lives would be radically different and there's be some hard adjustments for sure. But the house itself is a dream come true. I guess we need to visit Quincy some more. Between you and me, it's kind of depressing once you get beyond the nicer part of Wollaston.

If we decide to buy it, it's risky, but it's also risky if we don't — we might be kicking ourselves for months or years if someone else decides to buy it first. It's a lot to think about. So we keep talking to people and getting advice. Sooner or later, someone will give us an insight, or some new wisdom will finally percolate in one of our brains, or the answer will somehow arrive out of the blue. And we'll know what to do. We're more than ready.


  1. How about paying for a home inspection on the house. That way you would have a good idea of how much money, time and tension taking care of it will bring over the next few years.

    It will be a small expense that could really help make the decision.

    Also, take the MBTA back and forth to your usual places a few times. I've been shocked at just how long it can take to get to some of the outlying stops.

  2. Penny is wise!

    Here's one more consideration which I haven't seen you consider: what about the idea of operating a B&B? Or a subscription salon for discussing whatever topics you each enjoy hosting?

    Or alternatively, purchasing with the notion of staying for a set period of time, say 1-2 years, to test drive the area, then selling if not a good match?

  3. Forgot - I've never had a problem getting to/from Quincy on the Red Line. The Greenbush commuter rail, though, I believe is scheduled for loss of weekend service with the coming cuts and changes in service.

    You would be within a bus ride of Hingham, World's End, Weir River Farm and Nantasket Beach - all wonderful walking spots.

  4. Thanks for the helpful comments! The home inspection is a great idea and we may do that to scare some sense into us.

    We've been taking the Red line there and back, and it's long and tedious, but really not all that bad. But I have always disliked taking the T, although I hate buses even more; it's just the way I am. I'd rather walk a few miles that wait for a bus, and I do. But I've never been to any of those intriguing South Shore destinations and will have to check them out.

    One can't run a B&B in a house with only one full bath. I would have really trouble adding another bath for "resale value" because the house is as beautifully preserved upstairs as it is in the public rooms. I'd rather build an outhouse.... The house has been on the market for a year with no offers, so flipping it is probably far-fetched even with improvements to the kitchen and bath.

    I will talk your head off until you put me in a situation where I'm expected to talk. Then I will clam up, sulk in a corner and read. Salons would be disastrous! Possum would have to take over for me.

  5. You seem to love your present location, so moving to Quincy would involve many losses. The house is great, but your present Boston location is valuable. Your Victorian condo idea or a small house are really the best of both worlds.

  6. Would you enjoy being home alone in a big house? Empty rooms far away in a big house can be disconcerting and you can only be in one room at a time anyway.

    Years ago we thought about moving further out and into a bigger house and I started thinking about feeling trapped. What if my husband was traveling? What if I never had kids. All that space! How would I fill it? It made me nervous.

    So we stayed put. Walking distance to shops, friends, school, beach.

    I now think in-town living trumps the boonies.

  7. I have a house that is too big. When the only time you go into certain rooms is to clean them...what's the point? This house is beautiful and I can see why you think about it, but you seem to have an enjoyable life with all the things you do -- why tie yourself to a huge housekeeping burden? Just my thought.

  8. Frank Schlater is really Nancy Schlater. He doesn't have a husband, I do. I don't know how to eliminate his name from my posts.
    I'm still trying to figure out how to correctly respond to blogs.

  9. Thanks for that eloquent advice, Nancy! I am just the type to find a big empty house creepy. Although there's a giant apartment building right next door, with 12 decks overlooking one side of the house. I guess I could look out the window in good weather at least, and find a lot of company.

    And, Anonymous, I hate housecleaning! We'd have to budget for cleaning help, something I've always been a little nervous about, since I may be a slob but I also have standards! It's a real dilemma, but the facts remain that the house is too big for two and a huge commitment in terms of upkeep.


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