Jan 24, 201409:52 AM
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Itching To Move
When is it time for a new house in New Orleans?
This week marks six years since I moved back to New Orleans. It seems like just yesterday, but it also seems like absolutely forever ago.
When we first moved down here, it was me, my now-ex-husband, and barely walking 13-month-old Ruby, along with a 100-pound Rottweiler mix. My dad was living in Mississippi at the time, and he graciously let us stay in his Mid-City home rent-free while we tried to sell our house in Missouri.
I bought my first house when I was 23, in the summer of 2004. It was ridiculously easy to get a mortgage (I was working as a TA in the journalism department and they still gave me a mortgage), but it was ridiculously hard to get a house. We were involved in numerous bidding wars in which other buyers ended up buying the house we wanted for sometimes as much as $10,000 over the asking price. Ahhh, 2004.
We finally managed to buy a place in a not-so-great neighborhood (only because our Realtor, after seeing all we’d been through, took pity on us and showed us this house before it was even listed). Even though I was always concerned about crime (mid-Missouri crime < New Orleans crime, obviously, but I still didn’t like fistfights on my lawn or drive-by shootings two blocks away) and its corresponding effect on my property value, a phrase that simultaneously thrilled and panicked me, I adored my house. It had three bedrooms, an enormous backyard, a basement, a den, a tiny but perfectly efficient kitchen, a dining room, and a living room with an incredible fireplace. We were completely invested in the home ownership thing – we did weekend landscaping projects, we painted the outside, we put up a fence, we redid the bathroom. This was the house I was living in when I got pregnant and the first place Ruby ever lived. I still miss it sometimes.
If we bought at the wrong time, we sold at the absolute last second of the right time, signing the papers in late summer 2008. I don’t recall the exact date, but I do know that within 48 hours of getting the Fed-Ex’d check from the sale, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were all over the headlines.
After we sold our house in Missouri, we were more or less content to just stay at my dad’s and save money, which we did until the following summer, when Dad started urging us – gently at first and then a bit more insistently – to get our butts in gear.
We considered renting because the housing market was now making it much harder to get a mortgage, but ultimately we realized it was far easier for two employed adults with good credit to get a mortgage than it was to find a rental that would take a toddler and a 100-pound Rottweiler mix.
So we bought our second house, a slightly run-down three-bedroom in Broadmoor. I loved that place, too. It had a huge open kitchen, big windows, an attic – and it is the only home I have ever lived in, in my entire life, that has had two bathtubs. But even the joy of two bathtubs couldn’t cancel out the misery of my dying marriage, and I moved out of that house about eight months after we bought it.
Now my husband and I are renting, and there are lots of good things about that. That feeling of “la-la-la, not my problem!” when the dishwasher breaks is hard to beat. Not having to pay New Orleans’ exorbitant homeowners’ insurance is nice, too. Our rent is completely fair, and our landlord is fantastic. I love our apartment, our neighborhood and our neighbors.
But I’m starting to get antsy. I’m starting to sneak glances at Realtor.com and Craiglist. I’m not necessarily eager to own a home again, but I am eager for a second bathroom. For an extra bedroom. For just a little breathing room.
Georgia’s crib is wedged into our bedroom, butted up against my nightstand, which means I can no longer use it as a nightstand at all because she has destroyed the books, Chapstick and alarm clock that used to sit on it, and if I ever forget and leave a glass of water there, she dumps that all over herself, too, just for fun. Her changing table and dresser are sort of squeezed into our dining room, leaving us cramped if we try to eat at the table. Her books and toys have overtaken our living room – but that happens in every house with a baby, so I am not too concerned about that.
I don’t know if my house-lust is coming out of the fact that I have moved practically every year or every other year for most of my adult life (I have moved 11 times in the past 15 years) or just from feeling pinched for space, but I am pulling up full-page pictures of houses on my computer, admiring dormer windows and rooflines, fantasizing about a master bathroom or a den, getting a bit giddy over the prospect of an actual bedroom – a whole, real room with four walls and a door – for Georgia.
But then I realize I don’t need that right now, not right this very second. I don’t need to be greedy. What I have – my whole family, safe and healthy, in a nice house with running water and heat and AC and laundry facilities, in my favorite neighborhood in my favorite city – is enough. It’s more than enough. I am lucky. I am blessed. Six years in, I am so thankful, every day, to live in New Orleans.
I still want a second bathtub, though.