No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home: Will a commitment-phobe ever discover the ideal Asheville house? Find out
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I am every realtor’s nightmare—always a house hunter, never a homeowner. While most people measure their home searches in terms of months. My husband and I count ours in years—six to be exact. A combination of factors, all related to the 800-square-foot floor plan of our current rental, sent us on our hunt—nay, quest. We’d outgrown the space and long ago tired of maneuvering through an obstacle course of dogs crammed into our charming and quirky circa-1940s duplex. Design challenges abound in the 11'x12' living room. For instance, unless you want to block the front entrance, kitchen door, or hallway, the couch has only one possible location. We also had the audacity to dream of a kitchen built to accommodate two. Before we learned to talk in terms of resale value, electric panel capacity, and roof condition our must-have list was humble: more space, a dishwasher, and a fenced yard for our pups. The hunt began and almost immediately consumed me. Every episode of HGTV’s House Hunters got my rapt attention, and I soon moved on to the more gritty My First Place and Property Virgins, which reveal the gory details of price negotiations, home inspections, and mortgage payment calculations. Each morning, I’d groggily stumble to the computer to view the prospects debuting on MLS promptly at 8 a.m. Sundays were reserved for drive-bys, in effect creating a strange new religion all my own. When a choice craftsman bungalow in our price range hit the market, I’d squeal with glee, call our agent, and start arranging the furniture in my head. But with each showing, I’d discover a fatal flaw. There was the expertly remodeled ranch with a view of downtown Asheville, which happened to be next door to a sewage removal service. Then there was the adorable nest in Montford at an unbelievable price. The infatuation died as we stepped out into the oasis-like backyard to hear the neighbor berating and cursing his dog like a lunatic. An IKEA-sleek two-story was crossed off the list when I saw neighbors burning trash in barrels on their front lawn. Let’s not even talk about the houses with fleas, offensive smells, and dungeon-like rooms. Some of these showings made me sick; others made me thankful we hadn’t gotten stuck in a money pit. By home viewing number 25, I began to recognize that typical property investment rules don’t apply in Asheville. The adage about never buying the nicest house on the street can rule out a lot of stellar homes built on in-fill lots. Purchasing the worst house in the best neighborhood is a smart investment strategy in most markets. But even the lowest cost of admission into our favored North Asheville neighborhood comes at too steep a price. Still, when I add up the rent we’ve paid over the years, a pit swallows my stomach. Recently, my husband mentioned that our friends had bought the first house they viewed. He followed the story with a directive: “When you find a place you like, just let me know where to show up with the U-Haul.” Even our friends and parents began rolling their eyes every time I mentioned a promising showing on the horizon. Good has come out of this process though, just not in the form of a commission for our very patient realtors (we’ve had a few). Our search has highlighted everything we love about our rental: mountain views that remind us we’re lucky to live in such a gorgeous landscape; the side garden tended by our landlord who gives us tomatoes, kale, and squash; and the living room’s shortcomings are forgiven considering it will always be remembered as the spot where my husband proposed. After all this time, part of me wonders if I’m meant to be a life-long renter. Yet, I continue to check the new listings every morning and loyally execute the Sunday drive-bys. You’ll probably see me cruising your street next weekend. Feel free to wave. I might be your neighbor someday. As this issue went to press, Managing Editor Rita Larkin and her long-suffering husband made an offer on a home.