Recently, I was watching the Discovery Channel's Walking with Cavemen and discovered that earliest man perished, at least in part, because he was too small-brained to find a way to properly shelter himself.
So it's not just me, my own small brain happily thought. People have been having trouble finding housing for the past million years.
This should be good news to all of you out there who are going through what I just did this spring: buying a house for the first time.
If your experience is anything like mine was, new home-seeker, you're wondering at least weekly -- more likely, daily -- "Why am I doing this again?"
Now that I'm in my house, I can try to help you with that. The first-time home-buying experience was, for me, a little like childbirth. Well, I have no children, so I'll say instead that it was a lot like what I imagine pregnancy and child-bearing to be. It was exciting in the beginning, angst-filled and somewhat painful through the middle, and really awesome at the end.
This little rowhouse, cute as it can be, is my little baby. And I'm incredibly happy.
But the home-buying ordeal was a total bear -- a hassle and emotional roller coaster I found surprising, considering how many of my peers have had homes for years, and how simple city and state programs make the process seem in promotions and advertisements.
The search itself was the most emotionally exhausting. For about a year, I scanned home listings in the city, and when one or a few popped up that fit even somewhat with my criteria (3 bedrooms, at least 1.5 baths, central air and mostly updated systems and appliances), I'd call my Realtor, and we'd be out the following weekend on a half-day-long mission to view them.
Unfortunately, most times, waiting for the weekend was waiting too long. It may be a buyer's market, but for a decent house in a nonscary neighborhood in my $130,000-$160,000 price range, many sellers had no shortage of eager buyers. By the time my real estate agent and I showed up, many contracts would already have been submitted -- some offering more than the asking price.
As a result, I'd see a great house and get my hopes up high, only to have them dashed by a smug seller's agent with, "I'm sorry. We accepted another contract."
Time and time again, I felt like the ugly girl at the prom. What was wrong with my offers? What was wrong with me?
Homeowners, friends and my agent encouraged me each time I was jilted: Hang in there, they'd say. That just wasn't your house. Your house is coming.
It took a year, but my house did come. I found her in January (yes, it's a girl!), on a day when the listings my agent produced seemed dubious at best. But much like that blind-date-turned-into-the-love-of-my-life-story every one of us has heard of, I had prepared myself for disappointment and ended the day pleasantly surprised.
The house -- in the up-and-coming Belair-Edison neighborhood -- was cute, cute, cute, with most of the things I wanted (except a dishwasher) and some perks I hadn't dreamed of (a Jacuzzi tub)! I was lucky enough to find a fair and friendly seller. And I settled on the house and moved in in March.
I felt a little bit like Cro-Magnon man going through the excruciating financing part of my home-buying experience, as well. But I scratched my head and grunted through, somehow. At settlement, I scrawled out a check for more money than I've ever spent at one time, and that's when it really felt final. I was a homeowner -- and the proof was my empty bank account.
The good news is everyone tells me I'll get used to my new, much-diminished pot of disposable income. Two months and not a pair of new shoes later, I find that hard to believe.
But for now, like a new mom, all I do is talk about my house. And I spend pretty much all my time, energy and money decorating and sprucing, painting and prettying. I coo over my house and worry about small things. (What's that crack in the wall?)
I want the very best for her.
So I may be broke (for the time being) and I might not know a Roman shade from Ramen noodles (dinner of choice for new homeowners the world over), but I love my little house.
Which means I've done my part to save humanity!
After all, the Discovery Channel says that when later species of man developed feelings of love and responsibility, it helped make him more capable of surviving the brutality of nature.
From one home-owning Homo sapiens to another, I'll tell you: radiator heat, central air conditioning and stainless-steel appliances help a whole lot, too.