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That time I went to an estate sale…and left with the house…

It’s been a whirlwind. The last few months have been nuts. & I sound like a broken record nearly every time I write here, but I am convinced that nothing in life happens by accident. I view our current unsettled living situation quite the same way–and the last month has brought me the strangest mix of coincidence/fate/opportunities.

When we first moved back to San Antonio we were pretty adamant about living on post for a while. There are really beautiful homes on Ft. Sam Houston and the proximity to what matters to us here in the city could not be beat. Living in St. Louis city taught me that I prefer to be as close to the museums/restaraunts/activities as possible. Right now, suburbia is not where I want to be. As I mentioned before, we sat & sat on the waitlist and were told it would be a 6-12 month wait. So when we arrived, we found a rental property in a neighborhood that came highly recommended to us, not too far away. & as we [sort of] settled into this neighborhood, we started to really define what we valued. Atop this list was (1) a non-freeway commute to school/work (2) a nice larger, private lot + mature trees & (3) an open floorplan. An on post house only met one of those criteria. & ultimately, not to be ignored, was the significant change in my family dynamic while I cooked (which I do a LOT!) and my children played elsewhere. I had no clue what the value of being in sight while they played was–and how often they would come help me cook when they saw me working in the kitchen. This also translated into eating more of what I made, because they had a hand in preparing it. Very valuable lesson: floorpans matter. Big time.

We are not thrilled with our rental. & we want to settle. So now what. What do we do?!

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We opt to send our kids to private school here, which means that our budget for a home is much less than it could be. This choice substantially limits our options, particularly with the rising home prices in this area. Since we left two years ago, housing has gone up 20-30% and San Antonio is growing by the day. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was even a smart idea to buy at this time. I knew that we would have to get creative, be open minded and just explore any options that came on our radar.

So we started looking at properties close to our budget and walked away nearly every time, really disappointed. The neighborhood we are drawn to is an older neighborhood, and the property values are much higher than those “outside the loops” we we say down here. Basically, if you are willing to drive far, in any direction, you can have (or sometimes build) a brand new home for as much as you can rent an apartment. BUT, if you want to live “in the loop,” then you get an old, ugly house that needs WORK. & not just a little work. When you live in Texas it is really easy to forget that old is beautiful. & this neighborhood is most definitely an acquired taste. With a side of maintenance.

One Thursday morning I saw a sign for an estate sale down the street. It was at a property that my realtor had suggested I look at, but I told her no. It was so so ugly from the street that I wouldn’t even consider it. But an estate sale? Sure! I went treasure hunting. But as I walked around the house, I started getting distracted from the tables of crystal and milk glass. Aside from the different flooring in every room–from rust carpet to laminate to…the list goes on–this property had really good bones. Based on the white grout lines in the mauve second bathroom, and the pristine mint tiles in the master, I could tell it was a very well cared for home. The layout was good, the kitchen could easily be opened up. The backyard was a wall of green. & that is not something you see very much here in San Antonio.

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I left empty handed, and really, really excited.

I dragged my family through the next day while the sale was still going on. & then I went back again the last day. & then, the same day my realtor set sail out of the country, we decided to put in an offer. I could not stop thinking about what I could make the house become. It was not big, but it didn’t feel too small. The budget would work. It was private and the yard was shaded, but the house was still bright. There was room for a garden. & after negotiating, at noon on Friday we signed the papers. We were under contract. & then, at 4:47 pm that same day, the phone rang.

It was the housing office on post. & they offered me a home on Ft. Sam.

I mean. (!!!!!!!!!!)

My stomach turned. I asked if we could think about it and get back to her. My husband was in the OR and I couldn’t reach him. I mulled over it. I took some deep breaths. & really thought hard. When I finally heard from him, his response to my “omg, you are not going to believe this…” was “Yeah, so. Call her back and decline it.” No brainer for him. & it should have been for me. Our reasons for this project were clear in so many ways. Maybe we didn’t get a house on post right away for just this reason–because of this property. Maybe we had to live in this neighborhood to know what we would be missing if we moved on post. Maybe I needed to live here so I could take off my “only new and really old is beautiful” goggles and see these mid century homes as something that could work for our family. They are not unlike many that I’ve seen on Fixer Upper. & those can become amazing. But could we do it? Is this a good time in our life, and marriage, to do this?

Many of those questions I will not know the answer to for many years. But the ball is rolling. I am diving in. Contractor bids. Floorplan restructuring. Cabinet and flooring and tiles and…and…and…!!

Aside from the major stress that this will put on us, it is a really fun process. Nothing is as important to me than nurturing my family, in my home. MY home. & as I always say–I feel the feels, dream the dreams and he, my partner, does the math. & that is what it comes down to. Our project will have phases.  But if the deal goes through, and all wheels are on track, my white kitchen is several months away.

& I really, really hope to take you with me on this renovation adventure. I am learning so much already. Want to come along for the ride? :)

If you wish, you can always follow along on my reno pinterest board–which I am relying on daily for direction & inspiration! Pinch me!!!

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& for those of you who have been through this process before, I would love, love love to learn from you. If you have any advice for me, or words of wisdom or even just a story about your new old home–I’d love to hear it. :)

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  • Sara - Oh my gosh have fun!! our first home was 1952 with the original sea foam green bathtub and sink (which I kept!). We had a lot of fun updating and then we moved and moved (we’re onto house number 6 in 6 years). Our last house was from 1924! Now we’re going more ‘modern’ with 1992. Each house has something special to offer and a it takes on a life and spirit of its own when you fill it with family and love.ReplyCancel

  • Tameeka A McIntosh - Shawna, I am so excited to go on this journey with you. My dream is to buy a mid century home and do it up! We currently rent a weather board home with 90’s extensions, whilst I don’t hate it , its not my favourite either.
    I can wait to see what you do and how you do it. :)ReplyCancel

  • Joy - I commented this on Instagram, too, but this reminds me so much of the second house we bought! It was definitely not a looker, but we got it for a steal and fixed it up. It actually looked much, MUCH worse than these pictures. I’m talking the whole chartreuse and mustard yellow kitchen with orange — yes, orange!!!! — cabinets and counters.
    But everyone was jealous of us when we sold because we moved again, and my kids who remember that house miss it so much. Good luck with this new adventure! It will be fun!ReplyCancel

  • Wendy - We have a mid century modern house in Boise that we are planning to remodel – I can’t wait to see how your house shapes up! And I totally share your view on being close-in instead of in the suburbs.ReplyCancel

  • Renovation: Week Two | Kids Bathroom » styleberry BLOG - […] house, because I would have NEVER EVER looked at our new house. Ever. Thank goodness for that estate sale! I am grateful every single day. […]ReplyCancel

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