That time I wanted to buy a house.

This month we enter our third year of living in this little one bedroom apartment on Capitol Hill, a place where I don’t think we really intended to stay for three years.tumblr_lyrl9bzbuS1qkmsleo1_500

And I love this little place, really I do. I am fiercely proud of the little home we have built, eager to invite people in and [usually] happy with our space [when it is clean].

But sometimes I fantasize about better days.

Days when we have a smoke detector that doesn’t go off every time you open the oven. Days when we have a toilet that can be flushed twice within a 30 minute period. Days when you can shut the bathroom door without it locking you in. Days when we have an electrical system where you don’t have to have turn off all the lights to use the toaster without flipping a breaker. Days where we have a bathroom sink with an actual counter because I have broken almost all of my beauty products by knocking them off of that stupid pedestal sink, leaving me applying powder and eye shadow from ziplock baggies where I have gathered the pressed powder fragments. Getting ready in a bathroom where the only surface is a pedestal sink is probably a lot like landing an airplane on one of those floating airstrip things: no room for error. While we are on the bathroom note, sometimes I fantasize about a bathroom big enough to where I could actually have a breakdown and lay down crying on the bathroom floor. As it stands now, half of my body would have to be losing it in the hallway. And someday, someday I will have plumbing that doesn’t just stop working at amazing moments – like when 12 people are seated in my living room for Thanksgiving dinner. I dream of guest rooms, storm sealed windows, and shiny new floors. I dream of homes where the outside and inside are clearly defined, unlike our doors which let winter winds and summer heat blow right on in. The other day there was a squirrel in our living room. Sometimes I dream of, well, not that. (Although it was totally adorable and it maybe fled because it could sense my intense desire to domesticate it.)tumblr_lj66og1m4F1qc7vazo1_500

Which is why, I recently decided that we were going to buy a house. In DC. On the combined fortunes of a politico and a grad student. Because I am an idiot.

But James, bless his soul, has learned that he should just let my stupid ideas run their course, let me crash and burn into a million flames on my own first, and then calmly put me back together. So, he let me go house hunting.

The first house I found was perfect, by my standards, which are as follows:

  •  Does it have enough light so that I, if transformed into a plant, could photosynthesize?
  • Is it in a cute neighborhood, meaning, what is the brunch proximity?
  • Does it appear to have all major walls and doors?
  • How many people that I love can I get inside?
  • Are there fun quirky things like exposed beams and brick walls?

Things that house-hunting Hannah doesn’t really think to check:

  • If you flush the toilet, will you immediately re-see what was just flushed?
  • Do those bulges in the ceiling mean water damage?
  • Does this structure meet all current building codes and practical concerns for a structure that will house humans?

And the first house I found met all my criteria, but apparently none of the second, as James took one look – merely peering through the windows – and declared that my beloved row house needed at least 100k of work to be livable. I declared him a dream killer and pouted.

But when that little two bedroom house finally sold for over half a million dollars (go vomit and come back), it was immediately gutted, leaving nothing but the front brick façade standing.

Y’all, someone paid half a million dollars for an address and one brick wall. VOMIT.

But still, I persisted in my stupidity. The problem with the houses in DC is that they usually go for around a million dollars (VOMIT), which means that it has given me a warped sense of “cheap,” that is totally independent of our finances. 500K? PENNIES. The second house I found was a little smaller than the first, but totally livable from the get-go, no need for any massive demolitions. And it was cheap… for DC standards. Having basically already picked out curtains and a move in date, I blithely entered in some info on the online mortgage calculator, only to find out that, given what we could put down and factoring in a 40 YEAR MORTGAGE, we would pay a monthly sum that was about 3 times our current, already ungodly high, rent.20c0fbe0ba220baf1afdcbc64961a648

And then I laid half in the bathroom half out and cried as I told James that we would officially be renters FOREVER and that WE WOULD NEVER OWN NICE THINGS.

Because sometimes I forget that we can’t all live the same life. I see so many of my friends who live elsewhere buying homes, planting gardens, letting their pets out to run free in their large fenced yards, as if I even remember what a yard is. They are painting guest rooms and re-doing kitchens and buying real furniture (real meaning, not from Ikea with the added middleman of Craigslist). And I wonder, why can’t we do that now, why can’t we have that now?

Because we can’t. Because our life is not anyone else’s. And we chose this life, this little apartment big-city life, and I have to remind myself how much I love it. Because the rest might come, someday, even if it feels like it never will. But it probably won’t come here, in this city, not unless we change careers or become involved in shady dealings that make big profits. And when it comes, we won’t get this back, this life where we have so few responsibilities and such freedom.

Plus, with James home this week, I’m reminded that where he is, there is home, and that’s enough to make me happy.

But I still wouldn’t mind a toilet with more flush frequency and some squirrel free living.

Any house hunting horror stories out there? Or apartment living horror- I’ll take both!3789273a4ed3535578bbe7a610c85be7

PS: These images are obviously NOT from our home, but rather from the ephemeral someday home that exists only in my Pinterest board, in which I also become a way better interior designer than I am now. Plus, James would totally veto a lot of these looks, especially that last one, as he doesn’t share my love for ridiculous pattern juxtaposition and obnoxious colors. Oh, and weird animal pillows- I LOVE IT ALL. Images via /1/ 2 / 3 /4/

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40 Responses to That time I wanted to buy a house.

  1. While there are a lot of perks to home ownership, there are also the inevitable vomit-worthy things. Like the $3000+ estimate that I received earlier this week for flooring replacement post-refrigerator leakage incident. Or the $1000+ that we’ll be shelling out next week for tree doctors to do injections on our poor, suffering trees. Or the $500+ that I’ll pay today for a new garage door opener motor (third one this year).
    Just livin’ the life we chose, I suppose.

    • Hannah says:

      Bless you for making my day better. I mean, that was terrible, I should take it back. But it maybe makes me feel just a tiny bit better.


      VOMIT. Why is life so expensive???

  2. sharon says:

    Okay I thought all of these pics were from your current apartment and was thinking “ummmm Hannah is spoiled.” Haha. I just have that much faith in your decorating prowess!

    Money sucks, take it from someone who just finished a NYC apartment search that almost put me in my grave. But it’s a different kind of fun to make a too-small apartment beautiful and YOU-ish on a very small bear’s budget, right?

    • Hannah says:

      Um yeah – SO NOT MY HOME. Your faith is ill placed. Yes, it is its own sort of fun…. but sometimes I just think that the money fun could be nice to experience too! ; )

  3. Brittany Gerig Campbell says:

    I live in DC and accidentally stumbled across your blog and *snort laugh* YES to this. Especially the VOMIT and “warped sense of cheap.” All of my friends in the Midwest have houses with mortgages unbelievably low to us, and we can’t justify spending the extra money to upgrade from a one bedroom apartment to a two bedroom at this point. It is a season. Enjoy the city and the adventures and the accessibility of it for know! But I totally get it haha.

    • Hannah says:

      I think that was what started it actually, when I found out that some friends back home paid mortgages on big houses that were half the cost of my monthly rent and I was like WE CAN DO THIS TOO. But still — I love this city and I would be so sad to leave!

  4. sharon says:

    Oh, and for horror stories: Our old apartment’s plumbing quit working a week before we moved out (thank god we ended up moving mid-month – otherwise it would’ve been a MONTH of no bathroom at home).
    And the apartments we looked at included one $200 above our monthly budget that was in a basement with no windows.
    And then when we moved our old landlord stood on the balcony screaming at me about where to put the trash and criticized my friends for being too skinny because he thought it was a moving crew I had hired.
    And our couch wouldn’t fit into the door of our new apartment even after we sawed off the legs (though we should’ve seen this coming when we had to take it out over the balcony of the old apartment and slide it to the ground over the top of the moving van).

    • Hannah says:


      But seriously — I don’t even understand how you lived without a bathroom???? I mean showering is awesome, but a toilet is kind of essential… right???

  5. Ris says:

    “leaving me applying powder and eye shadow from ziplock baggies where I have gathered the pressed powder fragment” erm YEP. We rent, and I would like to eventually live in a place where pieces of the ancient plaster ceiling don’t give up and come crashing down to the floor. Oh it’s a thing, and it’s happening in my living room. I guess the upside is that I don’t have to worry about paying for the repairs!

  6. Jessica says:

    Apparently no one had snaked the drain in our apartment in about thirty years (I’m totally serious), and as a result of the freezing, melting, and refreezing of the two Polar Vortex occurrences, a large clump of hair was gradually gathering in the dark drain below. After leaving the sink and tub faucet on drip while at work like good little renters on a sub-zero day, we returned to a bathtub overflowing with nasty water. We spent that evening bailing said nasty water and watching a plumber pull THE WORLD’S LARGEST HAIRBALL (roughly the size of a football) out of our drain. He kindly left it in the tub for us to deal with (or submit to a museum, perhaps?). And then, two days later, we were given a bill for the work and the water damage to two other apartments, claiming that we had intentionally clogged the drain. That ball was three full heads of my hair and we had lived in the apartment for 5 months. Thankfully, our insurance company, after laughing hysterically at the story, fought for us and got the bill dropped.

    • Hannah says:

      NO. Just no. This is so traumatizing on so many levels. Still, being a super goober, my first thought was DO YOU HAVE A PICTURE? Because I am strangely fascinated. But still- no. Not ok.

  7. Marilyne says:

    Hahahaha 🙂 I feel you… at least when we come visit you we can sleep in the OTHER room… not like you who had to sleep in our room 🙂 muahaha I LOVE both our appartments but I am sooooo ready to move out too 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Hannah says:

      Haaaaaaahhhhaaaa. Hey, I loved our slumber party with me up in my little cave! I will just come back when you are living in your palace next year!

  8. Karissa says:

    So much YES to this. I’ve been lurking your blog for the past few months at my soul-sucking receptionist job. I have no idea how I found it, but I love it because food, because art & colors, because Paris, because people my age who LOVE marriage = some of my favorite things. Although I have to say I took a hiatus from your real-time Paris updates, because it has been one of my greatest longings to live there at some point in my life for the past 13 years and I have never been able to get myself there (my own personal WHY CAN’T WE AFFORD NICE THINGS). So I get sad & have to catch up later. But I caught up and it was beautiful and I need to get my sketchbook out now. 🙂

    • Hannah says:

      Totally understandable about skipping those — I am so all about refusing to let the internet play with your emotions! But hooray for digging out sketchbooks!

  9. Jess says:

    I have recently been bitten by the house buying bug too which is a pipe dream on my current “Resident Director” salary. I’ve been looking at quaint little cottages recently, and while they are far more affordable than DC realty, it’s just not going to happen for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I love my little RD apartment, but I’m looking forward to the day when I know that where I’m at is where I’ll be for a long time.

  10. Raewyn says:

    If you don’t have dreams then nothing is ever accomplished. Keep dreaming but also remember to live for now and enjoy what you have – but keep aiming for the stars 🙂

  11. K Anderson says:

    It must be our age, because I just went through a house buying dream phase too. I just really really want a garden, and to be able to paint dated trim, and a real kitchen counter that doesn’t give me splinters… I could go on. But even though houses in Tennessee are way cheaper than in DC, we still aren’t ready for it financially. So we dream on.
    Also, as I read I could totally see you in a house hunters episode with the realtor explaining to the viewers how much renovations would cost if you choose the first house versus the second house, which was outside your budget. 🙂

  12. Ah, yes. I hear this loud and clear and go through all this approximately 2.87 times a month. I remember, though, that my lack of commitment/responsibilities/mortgage permits me to spend money and time on things I value more right now like brunch and travel. There is a time and a place for everything, and right now is just not the time for home ownership for some of us.

    • Hannah says:

      It’s true — It does mean freedom!!!! My mother reminds of that every time something breaks on their farm by calling me and telling me not to buy a home. Very effective.

  13. Bekah says:

    That time I could relate to almost everything in this post.
    I commiserate! Los Angeles living is so much of the same. Jer and I were lucky (and are thankful) to find a somewhat “larger” apartment in our budget when we moved closer to work in March, but honestly that’s all just along the lines of a “warped sense of cheap”/what “large” is defined as 3 miles from the coast. Since our move, though, I have had a bit of fun trying to turn our new-to-us space into something that feels more like home. I just wish I could justify spending money to paint walls that would need to be repainted white once we move out someday.
    And it’s so … … to see friends with their own homes, not in large cities, paying mortgages that are less than half of what we pay for rent ever month. It’s something.
    But it is a season. And it’s nice to find the good in each season, for sure. (And if you’re ever in LA during this season of our lives, you can stay on our Ikea couch that turns into a double bed in our living room, and we can accidentally wake you up in the morning while we’re getting ready for work and making breakfast 3 feet away from the Ikea couch/bed.)
    The wealthy here buy the tiny $1.5 million 2 bedroom houses and then knock them down and turn the tiny plot of land into multimillion dollar mansions with no grass and a neighbor viewable through each side window. Oh and we could rent one of those tiny houses for about 3 times what we’re paying now for our one-bedroom apartment. Sometimes we take walks around the nice neighborhoods and pick out which houses we will live in someday 🙂
    Oh and one more thing, I could only WISH for a squirrel to scamper into my living room. And I would absolutely ask Jeremy if we could keep it.

    • Hannah says:

      I am SO SAD that we live as far as possible from each other in the continental states. (Ok, I guess that Maine to SoCal would be slightly farther…but whatever.). But I would still totally stay on your magical Ikea couch. Where would we be without those diabolical Swedish geniuses???

      He was pretty cute. : )

  14. Kate says:

    Hannah, Tony and I heard this poem when we were still dating and looking forward to a “poor” future together. 🙂 We think of it often and remind ourselves that we already have everything…

    “Shopping” by Faith Shearin
    “My husband and I stood together in the new mall 
which was clean and white and full of possibility. 
We were poor so we liked to walk through the stores 
since this was like walking through our dreams. 
In one we admired coffee makers, blue pottery bowls, toaster ovens as big as televisions. In another,

we eased into a leather couch and imagined 
cocktails in a room overlooking the sea. When we
 sniffed scented candles we saw our future faces,
 softly lit, over a dinner of pasta and wine. When 
we touched thick bathrobes we saw midnight

 swims and bathtubs so vast they might be 
mistaken for lakes. My husband’s glasses hurt 
his face and his shoes were full of holes. 
There was a space in our living room where 
a couch should have been. We longed for 

fancy shower curtains, flannel sheets, 
shiny silverware, expensive winter coats. 
Sometimes, at night, we sat up and made lists.
 We pressed our heads together and wrote
 our wants all over torn notebook pages.
 Nearly everyone we loved was alive and we

 were in love but we liked wanting. Nothing 
was ever as nice when we brought it home.
 The objects in stores looked best in stores.
The stores were possible futures and, young 
and poor, we went shopping. It was nice 
then: we didn’t know we already had everything.”

  15. I love this! Bits and pieces of this remind me of my husband and I’s life. And if it makes you feel better, I dream of a kitchen that has more than one counter and a proper stove! Hehe

  16. Gretchen says:

    Ah, the longing for a house! I can relate to this post on so many levels. I’ve wanted my own house for about as long as I can remember. It’s been a great (and fun) lesson to learn contentment and look for the good things in the 6 or so places that I’ve lived over the past 4 years. My current place is not what or where I ever thought I would live, but it has yellow walls and a huge front porch and those two things cover a multitude of sins. Yellow walls and a porch have jumped to the top of my list for any future residences… 🙂

  17. Melanie says:

    We live in Mississippi. I know it is a COMPLETE different atmosphere in the rental world. However, we lived in a barn that was “refurbished” the first few months we were married for cheap cheap rent. We couldn’t flush toilet paper down our toliet. The floors were at different angles through out and if you moved to much while sitting on furniture you would start to roll down the slopes. The fridge was broken for 2 of the 4 months we lived there. We used our minifridges from college and the only place to put them was outside. It was bad. Thankfully we could save money living there, but it makes us super thankful for where we are living now! All of that to say I completely understand where you are coming from though! I would love to buy real furniture, but its so expensive! I could have a new wardrobe for that kind of money!

    • Hannah says:

      A REFURBISHED BARN??? That is the most fascinating thing EVER. At least, for me not living there… I imagine that reality was slightly less fun (as it tends to be). Still, minifridges outside– God bless the South. : )

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  19. Becky says:

    Reading this a while after you posted it because I am trying to scroll back through enough of your posts to find out why James is gone! 😛 I obviously don’t read your posts often enough. haha. But when I do make the time to read your posts, I love all of them! Anyway…if you ever are bored and staying up too late while he’s gone (which I do all the time when Robbie’s gone), message me on Facebook and I’ll tell you some horrible apartment stories from our first apartment in Birmingham right after we got back from our honeymoon. I called the health department. Robbie had never seen me so mad before. (how’s that for a teaser?)

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