It's official! Finally. We are moving into our own house on Saturday. Yes, I know, we moved less than a year ago. And less than a year before that. And the year before that. And the year before that. And the year before that. It's not that we love to move--most of those were completely necessary moves that are a normal part of graduate school and new-professorhood. The move we made last summer to our current apartment was completely voluntary but we were very excited about it. We'd spent a year prowling the neighborhood and trolling Craigslist for a rental that could be made accessible for Joseph. We wanted, if possible, a home all on one floor and, most definitely, an outside door low enough and with enough surrounding space to add a ramp. You would not believe how much space a ramp takes up. It's incredible. So last May when we found this apartment that was all one floor with only a few steps from the back door to a spacious patio and was even less rent we were thrilled. The landlord's agent who showed the apartment to us assured us that a ramp would be no problem. We moved in after our big road trip last summer and finally got around to building the ramp in September.
The ramp was actually a pretty fun DIY project for Eric and me. We studied lots of ramp and deck plans, Eric did all the math to come up with the design and we had at it. Just the two of us built it over two weekends and the end result was a nice, solid ramp that even looked nice. But far more wonderful than the satisfaction of building something together was seeing Joseph use the ramp. He was, then, almost six years old and for the the first time in his life could get in and out of his own house independently. We cried watching him finally able to follow his 18-month old brother in and out. It was incredible for him and for our whole family. I'm crying now remembering it, if you want to know the truth.
Just a couple of days after finishing the ramp, and on Margaret's birthday, our landlord ordered us to remove it immediately. It would take pages and pages to relate the entire story of our fall from that point but it was ugly. The ramp, as it was, had to be torn down though we do, of course, have a legal right to accessible housing. We explored lots and lots of options for recourse and solutions but over the course of the fall it became clear that for accessibility reasons, and other reasons that I won't enumerate here, we had to move on from this apartment. We were subjected to unreasonable demands on all sorts of unrelated issues, harassing encounters that frightened our children, and--I don't think coincidentally--stolen property. We briefly considered moving quickly into some sort of emergency housing but then decided that the situation wasn't that dire. What we did do, instead, was figure out how we could buy a house.
The nice thing about having our own house (other than not having a completely unhinged landlord) is that we can modify it any way we like for accessibility. But you'd be surprised how many houses cannot be made accessible no matter how much you own it. If we lived in the suburbs the housing stock would be a bit more amenable to ramping but one of our many reasons for living in the city is because the outdoor space is all accessible. Yards and wheelchairs are not a great combination. Our current neighborhood is also one of the most affordable places to live in North Jersey. Eric's commute is definitely shorter than average among his colleagues. But the need for "rampability" and a bathroom with at least the potential for accessibility really limited our options. We also had a strong preference for having all--or at least most--of our living space on one level. We didn't want to create a situation where everyone except Joseph had a bedroom upstairs. In the city where houses are built "up" more than "out", this pretty much ruled out all single-family homes. Two-family homes tend to have bigger floors.
A two-family home also, of course, greatly increases buying power because of rental income and in our neighborhood they tend to be the norm and don't cost any more than the available single family homes.
So once we established our price range and found a realtor we looked at the two dozen or so two- and three-family homes on the market. We ruled out several of them as "unrampable" right off the bat. Several more were fake short sales a common--and very frustrating--situation these days where a home owner in trouble is "listing their home for sale" to buy time with the bank but mysteriously becomes unreachable by phone if you want to actually view the property. In the end we got inside about a dozen homes and seriously considered three of them. Our first choice turned out, on a second look, to be more of a fixer-upper than we wanted, our second choice sold while we were thinking about the first one. So we ended up with our third choice home. In retrospect, as often happens, this one now seems like it should have been the obvious first choice all along and we are quite excited about it. We decided that trying to move quickly would not allow us to search for the "perfect house" but we are confident this house will serve us really well for long enough to make buying it a sensible move.
Getting a mortgage these days is a nightmare. The banks are skittish and picky but everything was finally settled last week and we are closing this Friday, moving in on Saturday. We are all very, very excited to be moving into our own place and into a place that is permanent. I'm looking forward to indulging my furniture making hobby once again (first up--adjusting the floor to ceiling bookshelves for the new dining room). Margaret is looking forward to having an entire finished basement to herself for nap time. Joseph is looking forward to the ramp. Eric is excited about having a home office in the attic--two whole floors away from the chaos that always interferes with his work on days he'd rather not go into campus. There's a lot of excitement all around.
I'll post a photo tour as soon as I can. Until then, I better get packing!