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The "Perfect" House

(Please read the previous post to get caught up on our house hunting adventures in Birmingham, Alabama!)

After we left The Pit Bull House, we saw only one more house that could rival it in utter disgust. I was sure I would never see anything as horrific as The Pit Bull House . . . until we arrived at the far more expensive (tippy-tippy-top of our price range) Ashtray House.

But before I tell y’all about The Ashtray House, let me throw in a short disclaimer. I’m not here to shame smokers or to say what anyone should or should not do in their own home. But I will state that it is a HUGE deterrent for non-smokers (or at least this non-smoker) to walk into a home and smell nothing but nicotine. That smell simply won’t leave without major fumigation and renovation. And pregnant Katy is not up for such a challenge.

But back to The Ashtray House. This house had EVERYTHING we wanted . . . and then some. There was an amazing outdoor, stone fireplace. There was a screened-in porch. There was a hot tub. The kitchen was amazing. There was a full basement with lots of potential. It was in a cul-de-sac. Sure it was at the tippy-tippy-top of our price range, but it was perfect.


Y’all, if anything ever happens to Brian, I am convinced that this whole house hunting experience has already turned me off of online dating.

[Great. Now she’s offended pit bull owners, smokers AND people who do online dating. Who’s next?]

Cat people.

As we approached this beautiful, all-brick home, the owner was pulling out of the driveway. He rolled down his window and said, “Y’all, please ignore the mess in the basement. Our neighbor had a bad accident, and I’m storing his stuff until his son can sell his house.”

We assured this nice man that we could easily overlook some clutter in the basement. Remember, we had just seen The Pit Bull House. So, as long as there wasn’t a rabid dog hiding in his neighbor’s clutter, we were in good shape. As he drove away, though, I told Brian that I suspected he was a smoker.

“How do you know?”

“I’m pregnant; that’s how.”

Despite my suspicions I was hopeful as our realtor unlocked the door. I was certain this was “the one” and that our search was over at last. But as I made my way past the threshold, I couldn’t help but notice that the foyer rug was covered in cat hair. I thought for a moment it was 100% pure, woven cat hair, but then I remembered no person in their right mind would want such a thing. And I know I’m probably dramatic and maybe hormonal and definitely pregnant and all, but Y’ALL, it was bad.

[Is it just me or has she already exceeded her “y’all” threshold for the month?]

Welcome to Alabama, y’all. 

Once I looked up from the rug full of matted cat hair, I was practically knocked down by the stench of stale cigarette smoke. I desperately hoped it was just my imagination, but Brian and our realtor confirmed what my pregnant nose already knew.

This house was a perfectly beautiful, very expensive ashtray. 

I don’t mean that this guy smoked outside and that his dirty clothes had a stale, smoke smell to them. And I don’t mean that he smoked in part of the house and that the stench was confined to one area. I mean that this guy had cigarette butts and ashes on the screened-in porch, in the basement, and in his jacuzzi tub. I mean that this guy had a 2-inch-long cigarette ash sitting on his bathroom counter . . . NEXT TO HIS TOOTHBRUSH. Like he was saving it for show and tell.

I was so disheartened that such a gorgeous home had been so badly mistreated. And because the owner seemed to be such a nice man, I wanted to tell him why his home will never sell at the current price in its current condition. I will say, however, that I was able to overlook the clutter in the basement. So I guess he had that going for him.

As we did our best to finish up the tour without inhaling, I couldn’t help but think of the wisdom my mom shared with me that morning:

There is no such thing as the perfect house.

With that in mind, we managed to find several more homes that had potential. But there was one in particular that seemed to have almost everything we wanted:  a basement, enough space for a homeschool classroom (outside the dining room or living room), enough bedrooms to accommodate our growing family, and a nice master suite. What this home lacked, in my opinion, was a great yard and an updated kitchen.

Though I knew this was THE House, I spent that entire night tossing and turning. Using the realtor.com app (which I love, by the way), I searched in the middle of the night for more homes that matched our criteria. Sadly, no fairy god-realtor had updated the app with our “perfect” home, and I knew it was time for us to just make a decision.

So, I did what any mature, 33-year-old woman would do in this situation.

I called my mommy.

The next morning my wonderful mother hopped in the car and drove three hours from Atlanta to Birmingham (while my wonderful dad watched the kiddos) so she could lend us her expert opinion. My mom is a professional decorator and has worked extensively with builders and contractors. So when I say “expert opinion,” I mean that very literally.

By the time she arrived, we had narrowed it down to half a dozen houses that could work. As we walked through each one, my mom pointed out all the positive features of the homes. She confirmed many of the issues I saw, but she also reminded me that 99% of them were fixable. But when we arrived at THE House, I noticed her face light up the same way mine did when we first saw it. Still, I needed to hear her opinion on the kitchen and the yard.

I braced myself for her honest opinion. Because my mom doesn’t know how to give any other kind.

And that’s why we love her. 

“Katy, this yard is completely fine! Sure, it’s on a hill, but there is still plenty of room for the kids to play. Now, I would probably plant some Leyland cypress over here and terrace this part here . . . ”

I was instantly reassured, but we still had to discuss the kitchen.

As mom wandered through the kitchen and the wonderful butler’s pantry area, she turned to me and said, “What in the world is wrong with this kitchen?”

“Well, I just don’t like these cheap countertops.”

And that’s when my mom gave me the look that my high school Home Ec teacher gave me when I couldn’t sew a simple skirt in the allotted 12-week time period. Like a person who probably shouldn’t call herself a professional homemaker.

“Katy. Those are NOT cheap countertops. They’re Corian. They’re comparable to granite!”

That was all I needed to hear. I turned to our realtor and said, “We’ll take it.”

So, assuming that the army of people involved get our paperwork done in time, we will move into THE House in early December. Lord willing, I will inundate you guys — I mean, y’all — this Christmas with photos from our perfect-for-us home!

Any words of wisdom as we head into the home inspection next week? What do you wish your inspector had shared with you? What questions would you ask if you could do it all over again? I’m going to annoy the crap out of our home inspector, aren’t I? Don’t answer that. 


Comments to "The “Perfect” House"

  1. Debbie

    November 6, 2014

    I suggest you have a radon test done in the basement if the results of a recent test are not provided to you or the house doesn’t currently have a radon mitigation system. And, congratulations! I know your parents are thrilled to have you closer.

    • Katy in a Corner

      November 6, 2014

      You know, we’ve been debating about whether or not to pay for the radon test. I’m going to look into that further. Thanks for the comment, Debbie!

  2. Debbie

    November 6, 2014

    Congratulations Katy!! That’s so exciting!! Here’s my advice on what I wish the inspector had told us when we bought our first home… termites. Yep, the house was infested and the inspector somehow missed it. We had the house treated… again, and again. Unfortunately, when we went to sell it, the new inspector found structural damage and it cost us several thousand to have it fixed, and also lost us a sale in the process (a pregnant lady who couldn’t deal with it!!).

    So, make sure you get a good inspector, but I’m sure you won’t have any issues like that… You’ll sleep well tonight, won’t ya’? 😉

    • Katy in a Corner

      November 6, 2014

      Oh, Debbie, that’s horrible! My poor parents have termite horror stories of their own. Those little rascals can do a TON of damage! We have an inspector scheduled, but we will probably need to hire a separate termite tester person. It’s quite an expensive purchase to take a chance on something like that. Thanks for the comment and the advice!

  3. Tara

    November 6, 2014

    I’m so excited for your house! My husband got out of the Army in April and we recently bought our first house – I had no idea what an emotional roller coaster it would be! We had a similar situation, found what seemed to be the perfect house but it reeked of cigarette smoke 🙁 So sad to have to pass on such nice houses because of that.

    • Katy in a Corner

      November 6, 2014

      Congrats on your recent move to civilianhood and on your first house! I’m with you on the emotional roller coaster part. I had NO idea how exhausting it would be to walk through other people’s houses. It was a good/fun kind of exhaustion but draining nonetheless. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  4. G-Man

    November 6, 2014

    Don’t get me started on what to look for when buying a home because you know our horror story start to finish! Space and time won’t allow for it.

    Great post though, especially the “my wonderful Dad” part. 🙂

    • Katy in a Corner

      November 6, 2014

      Daddy, your story is THE reason why we only looked for newer homes. I LOVE your house and all its character. Not so much the problems that can come with all that character.

      And I could go on all day about how much we appreciate you “letting” mom come out here while you entertained the rascals. But I won’t do that here. Instead, I’ll just let you babysit your grandchildren more often. Because I’m a giver like that.

  5. holley

    November 6, 2014

    You are so fun and funny. I loved reading this! So happy you guys found a great house!

  6. Trisha Yanowski

    November 6, 2014

    Katy, I seriously heart you and I am so sad we met RIGHT before you moved! I need your humor in my life – luckily you have this blog! Congrats on finding THE HOUSE! Can’t wait to see pictures of it decorated for Christmas! Lots of Love from Leavenworth!

    • Katy in a Corner

      November 6, 2014

      Guuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrl, the saddest part about meeting you and your friends was meeting y’all so late. Hard to believe you lived just one street away from us. Serves me right for not getting out of the house more often. I blame the BASEBALL-sized hail in Leavenworth. For realz. Didn’t y’all have a window busted out or something? Thought I saw that while I was Facebook stalking you. Have a great winter in Kansas. I hope you have a white (but not too cold) Thanksgiving and Christmas!

  7. Kim Jordan

    November 6, 2014

    Congratulations on finding the near-perfect house for you! I’m glad you are in B’ham. My brother and his family live there, actually in Alabaster, and they have loved it for 20 years now. I live in MS, but have 3 grand daughters in Marietta, GA, so I am passing through B’ham quite often on my way to and from. Maybe our paths will cross on 459 sometime…I’ll be the lady in the gray Prius with a Nanakim tag and a big black dog in the back! Love reading your stuff!

    • Katy in a Corner

      November 6, 2014

      No joke, I just passed a Prius on 459 this afternoon! The guy honked at me because I apparently wasn’t driving quickly enough to keep him off my bumper. Seriously, what’s with the crazy Birmingham drivers? I was going exactly the speed limit. If you’re on 459, look for the woman in a white mini van who is traveling EXACTLY the speed limit because her son is screaming from the back seat, “Mommy, I think you’re driving VERY fast! Will you have to pay a police man?” Thanks for reading, Kim!

  8. Laura

    November 6, 2014

    Get a roofer to check the roof. Most inspectors don’t get on the roof, and can’t fully inspect it from the ground. We didn’t do this when we bought our house in TX, and ended up having to replace the roof 3 months after we moved in due to hurricane damage that wasn’t fixed or caught by our inspector.

    • Katy in a Corner

      November 6, 2014

      Gooooood thinking, Laura! I do know that the current owner had the roof worked on recently, so we’re going to ask the inspector to do a thorough check on that. Sorry to hear about your roof troubles. This must be the hardest part of home ownership. All that discretionary income goes toward super exciting things like roofs and furnaces. Thanks for reading and for your advice!

  9. Stephanie

    November 6, 2014

    Test the radon in the basement. If it is high, negotiate the cost of a mitigation system, or make them do it. It isn’t cheap, but you don’t want to be in the basement with high radon readings.

  10. MS

    November 9, 2014

    Inspectors will not catch everything. FOLLOW him around & ask questions. If you feel he didn’t check it right, ask him to do it again. He’s working for you and he will miss things, they ALWAYS do. Our inspector missed a faulty pool pump, a dead microwave & a dying dishwasher. Check all appliances you can, yourself.
    Also, make sure you get a separate AC and roof inspectors. Yes, it’s expensive, but the more you find ahead of time, the more money you can ask the sellers for in credit. Most sellers have that “one” thing that is broken that they hope you don’t find. It’s normal, just find it. Ours was a broken AC unit. We got $9k in credit. It helped.
    It’s stressful, but exciting. Breathe & have fun.

    • Katy in a Corner

      November 10, 2014

      GREAT ideas! I hadn’t thought to do separate A/C and roof inspectors! We had the inspection today, and he was fantastic. He spent 3 hours there and walked us through every part of the process. We’re very pleased with his findings. Thanks again for reading and for your comments.

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