Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Annals of Real Estate: Back at It, with Pancakes

We are still happy and relieved that we sold that condo we bought in the fall. We continue to explore the factors that led us to make such a big mistake, to learn from the experience and so we can forgive ourselves. For weeks last fall, I'd been in a miserable state of shock and confusion, wondering, "Why in the world did we DO this? How did this ever happen?" as if we'd sleepwalked through all the weeks it took to complete the transaction. Now I think I understand. A complicated stew of reasons led us to buy that place — a "perfect storm" that included pressure from our agent and banker, discomfort in our current place, exhaustion from the search itself, willful blindness to some of the condo's major problems, ignorance about renovating, and excitement that we were finally in a position to negotiate for a property in our neighborhood instead of being simply outbid as we'd been so many times before.

But we have only ourselves to blame, and we hope we are wiser now. We know we need to be in love with our next place despite examining every nook and cranny with our eyes wide open this time. We know, now, that any renovations will have to be carefully considered and priced before we sign anything. We know we don't want to pay a price beyond our comfort zone unless the place is so perfect that it needs absolutely nothing besides paint, and maybe not even then.

Since our tastes and needs are quite different from the vast majority of homebuyers, and since most properties are renovated to their tastes rather than ours, we are in a tough position. But we've gotten used to it.

We have begun house-hunting again, just dipping our toes in, casually visiting open houses that look interesting. When we see a listing with more original charm than "updating," that doesn't have the obligatory "open floorplan" with kitchen, living room, and dining room all mooshed together, and if it doesn't have more bathrooms than bedrooms, we are interested.

That led us to an open house for a not-too-big Queen Anne with original woodwork on Robinwood Avenue in Jamaica Plain.

Photos: Colleen Scanlan, McCormack & Scanlan LLC

We once lived in JP; we do not love JP. We have had too many "experiences" on the 39 bus, for one thing. But the few photos in the listing were enticing, and we can't afford a whole house in very many city neighborhoods. When we got there, we quickly realized why there weren't many photos; the place is a neglected mess. After all these years of house-hunting, it came as no surprise. But occasionally we've been pleasantly surprised by what realtors chose to hide — we like old-fashioned, remember. So we always look. (One can't call the realtor and ask, "So, is the rest of the place, which you didn't photograph, a wreck?" Or maybe one could, but I can't...)

It was fun to revisit JP briefly, especially since it was after lunchtime and we were starved. At the corner of Robinwood and Centre is the Robinwood Cafe, a friendly place that serves breakfast all day. (They don't have a working website.) I recommend their customizable "Centre Street" breakfast, which is about $8.95. Ours came with two scrambled eggs, three delicious sausages, a mountain of tasty home fries, and two blueberry pancakes as big as our heads.

It was good enough to make us reconsider the house as we waddled to the bus stop in a freezing wind.

We always survey all the other houses on the way to an open house and it's customary for me to say to my husband, "Look! Buy me that one! No, wait! Buy me this one!" as we pass lovely Victorians on our way to the dingiest, most pathetic dump on the street. That happened this time, too. So imagine my surprise when the house I liked the most went on the market the following week. I recognized it instantly because we'd called it "The Chicken House."

Stay tuned for photos in my next post. We haven't visited yet. But it's quite something.


  1. can't wait to see you, I wish I had waited before buying my current place, but that was over 10 years ago and I know much more now than I did then.


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