The search.

It was May 3, a beautiful spring day – picture perfect for house hunting. And if we actually were going to be taking our time with the search, we might have enjoyed the weather. But this was a house hunt to end all house hunts. We had 5 hours and we needed to see 10 houses. Oh yes, this was no marathon, this was a sprint!

The good news is that we had a vision of exactly what we wanted. The better news is that we were willing to be somewhat flexible, but weren’t willing to give away everything on our wish list. The list included:

  • 3-4 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms minimum
  • Family room or sunroom
  • A turned 2-car garage (I’m not a big fan of looking at garage doors on the front of a house)
  • One step out to the yard from the back door (rather than the 8 we had now)
  • A big yard
  • Buried in the neighborhood
  • A quiet neighborhood
  • And if we could find it, a Cape Cod.

We set out at 10 a.m. with our wish list in mind and saw two houses in a nearby neighborhood, still in the city limits of Wilmington, in the Brandywine Hills neighborhood. The first was much too small. The second was too much work, had a strange layout and we would have been dumping too much money into it to make it worthwhile.

The remaining houses were all outside the city limits and had a myriad of issues – too much work, strange layout, priced too high and therefore you wouldn’t get out of it what you put into it, too close to the highway and noisy, etc., etc. After a long day and a break for lunch (that thankfully saved me from getting cranky), we settled on three options.

When I describe these three options, I’m going to sound a bit like Goldilocks…forgive the analogy, but it can’t be helped. Sometimes you really know when something is “juuuust right.”

The first was in a good neighborhood, with the right public school feeder pattern, but was pretty much a total gut job and had a view of a water tower. It had potential, big potential. But with that potential came big dollar signs and no ability to live through the renovations.

The second, was also in a good neighborhood, not as good as the first neighborhood and not as great a feeder pattern for the public school system, but doable. It was also a total gut job – worse than the first. No way to live through the renovations and big dollars signs that would have been pricing us outside of the value of the neighborhood.

The last house, was in the perfect neighborhood – quiet and with very little street traffic as there’s only one way in and one way out of the neighborhood. It was a four bedroom, two bath Cape Cod. It was partially renovated (gorgeous kitchen, ok first floor bathroom, partially finished basement), but there was still plenty of room to put our stamp on things. It had the turned garage, it was buried in the neighborhood, it was 3/4 of an acre and it was one step out the back door to the yard, which would make it very accessible for family BBQs and for our son to enjoy.

Was it love at first sight? Not nearly. Why? Well, let’s just say that the guy living there was….picture Pig Pen times 10 and you’ll be close. There were leaves and trash in the sunroom, there was laundry laying all over the house, the floors hadn’t been vacuumed in forever, the upstairs bathroom was…..NASTY. There’s no other way to describe it! And the house had NO curb appeal whatsoever. The landscaping had all been ripped out, and there was no personality. Needless to say we were deflated.

Of all the houses we’d looked at online and in person, this was the one we wished the most for. We wanted it to be “the one.” And we walked around it seeing the ugliness of the tenant rather than the bones of the house and the quality of the few renovations that had been done.

More importantly, we were bummed because this house was in a neighborhood that we had actually been “stalking” for years. We’d drive through every now and then, wishing that something right would come on the market. We’d actually noticed when this house sold in 2010 and said then that it had a lot of potential.

So we ended the day confused. We got home and Patrick went out and mowed the lawn and I sat at the dining room table and made a pro/con list. An hour later Patrick came in and we both said “Pembrey” at the same time. It was one of those moments where we both just new that this one was “juuuuust right.”

Based on the list of cons above, you might wonder why. When I share with you our to do list, you’ll understand.

In the meantime, here’s a taste of why we’ve called this one “the Ugly Duckling.”



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