This post was inspired by a company called Compass. Compass is a technology-driven real estate platform that helps you find the perfect neighborhood based on your needs and interests. I love browsing their site when I’m daydreaming about owning a home in NYC.
The first time I saw the apartment that was about to be our first home, I remember feeling tentative. My husband and I were about to get married, and we were looking for places we could settle into after the wedding. I recall looking through a variety of homes — townhomes, apartments, condos, and nothing seemed quite right.
The winner was a small apartment in the neighborhood my husband had grown up in. It was a row of apartments, all owned by one landlady, and we had the third apartment. This is what I recall of the apartment:
It had a green gate that opened to a shaded one-car garage, which was a pretty tight squeeze for our car. The front screen door opened to the living room. The floors were maroon, reminiscent of my grandparents’ home, and the indoor walls were a mellow lime green. The living room area was spacious enough, and it flowed openly to the dining area.
The open kitchen was tiny. The counters were all set against one wall, and the cupboards (also mellow lime green in color) had a musty, woody smell.
Down the kitchen was a small bathroom. The tiles were small white squares that reminded me of public baths, and there was no heater in the shower.
To the left of the kitchen was a small open area where you could do the laundry. Or plant a garden. Or barbecue. We didn’t stay long enough to find out what you could do with the space.
Kermit’s pic above? That’s how I felt going up and down the stairs of our first home. It was a tight, steep climb. The wooden stair case that led to the second floor had a yellow banister. At the top of the stairs, there was one door to your left, and another to your right. The room on the right was our masters’ bedroom. It stayed consisted with the green color. The room on our left became our storage room, housing wedding gifts that were yet to find their place in our new home.
Did I mention there were roaches in the home? No matter how clean it was or how much pest control was present, the roaches always found their way into the home.
That apartment was the first big decision my husband and I made as newlyweds. Where would we live? We chose the area because he was familiar with the area. We chose it because it was a quiet street. But there was just something about the neighborhood that made me feel uneasy. After a year at the place, we decided to look for another place.
When I look back at our first home, I get a feeling of tentative fondness. Fondness because of the heartwarming, funny, silly memories it brought. That tiny kitchen was the place where I cooked my first meal as a wife. The apartment was the first place we could call “ours” (even if we were just renting). The bedroom was beautifully sunlit on Sunday mornings. Tentative because as soon as those few happy joys are remembered, the pull of the unpleasant memories come my way — not feeling safe, the roaches, the steep stairs, the tiny kitchen, the tiny bathroom…
The truth is, looking back, I think it was a pretty decent apartment. It just wasn’t the right fit for us.
Two lessons from our Starter Home Experience
1. Neighborhood is as important as the home you live in.
Our landlady was a darling and we lived next door to her. But the whole neighborhood I wasn’t really comfortable with in the beginning, and I thought I could grow to be comfortable in it. But nope. Perhaps that’s why I never got to fully enjoy our little home.
2. Trust your gut.
When looking around places to live in, there will be homes that will make absolute sense for you to live in. The rent is cheap, the location is good, the space is just right — factors that I checked off my list when we rented that first home. But take into account if you love the place, if you feel like it’s home — after all, it’s going to be your home for at least a year.
We’ve lived in several apartments over the years, moving from home to home. Today, we live with my folks and sisters — my husband, my son and I adding more love (and noise) to the family home. We’re still on a journey towards finding that wonderful home for our little family. For now, I’ll enjoy the search until we find one that’s just right for us three. We’ll know when we find it. It will feel like coming home.