My blog has become a casualty of the back-to-back renovations of the white cottage and red house we have been working on over the past two plus years. This May, when the temperatures were still so cold and the ground remained frozen several feet below the surface, I stopped posting. I became a prisoner, held captive in a state of wordlessness. It overtook me without a hint of notice. Why?
The harsh weather had slowed down the renovation process of the red house to a snail’s pace, now barely inching towards the finish line. We had hoped to be moved in by April 1st. Mid May, still cold and six weeks later, being granted a Certificate of Occupancy seemed nowhere near in sight. The frozen terrain prohibited the installation of the gas line and water line so our plumber joined the ranks of MIA. The excavators were a “no show” for weeks at a time, leaving huge trenches and mountains of soil in their wake. Our yard looked like a ravaged war zone. Our contractor’s team, still working without any heat source, was exhausted.
As for Will and I …well….
We had been living in the tiny space of the cottage for the past seven months and that intimacy was wearing thin. Peace and privacy? All but thrown out the window. Each morning at 7:00 AM a disharmonious symphony of rumbling heavy machinery, high pitched whining saws, and pounding hammers greeted us. Even the sound of Will’s dog Maxine soundly snoring was enough to make me ricochet off the walls.
Frustration levels were rising all around us.
SO…my blog posts became the first victim of this new wordlessness state of mine. I started to dread scrolling through the daily reels of the photographs I took, documenting the daily progress of the renovation. I was running out of steam. Instead of spending luxurious amounts of time tapping away on my mac top, romancing this renovation on social media and posting new photographs, I withdrew. I bottomed out.
But- thanks to a visit to Newport this month to see my Uncle Jack who said “Gee whiz what ever has become of that marvelous blog of yours?” I am getting some words back.
Stay tuned for a little back tracking, and a little more about being wordless in our social media crazed world.
An old friend e mailed me yesterday and asked what was going on with the house and the blog. I haven’t posted in months. Why? Well I have been busy, that’s all!
We got the CO in June, two years after we bought the house- and spent our first night on the evening of our third anniversary in the red house. We rented the cottage to a member of the BSO this summer. All is good- but lots to do
The negotiation process involved in most real estate transactions is a progression of offers and counter offers between two cautious parties, each holding their respective cards close to their vests. In a negotiation every thing is contingent upon some thing.
Will and I had had no upper hand in the initial negotiations. Within the first four days on the market the seller had received several competitive offers on the property. We believed our first offer was attractive, but so were the others.
The seller, confident and buoyed by the number of immediate offers she had received in a relatively down market, held fast to her asking price. Our poker game began. We increased our offer. She remained firm. We inched up again but she remained solid. One more tweak up in our price and the seller began to counter, coming down a smidge and revealing her contingencies, her bargaining chips. The closing date must be as soon as possible. The current tenants must remain for another next year, at their modest rent.
Closing date? No problem we said- we’re nimble. Our purchase was not contingent upon a sale. We required no mortgage qualifications.
Tenants to remain? No problem we said. It would be a year or so before we could get started with the renovations we had in mind. It was a win-win for all.
This was our trump card that clinched the deal for us. All the other offers fell by the wayside.
But now we were faced with readjusting it all, based on the inspection results and the amount of work we had in front of us. Tim and I put in a call to our lawyer. My heart began to pound as Tim presented our request. I wondered just how attractive we were as potential buyers. Where would the give and take come in? How eager was the seller? Nothing short of nail biting.
Tim artfully and calmly conveyed our request for a drastic reduction to the lawyers. He stressed how qualified and amenable we were as prospective buyers. He also made it clear that few others would be interested in this property given the current condition. I held my breath wondering if this would blow the whole deal.
The next day the phone rang…announced with another “Be careful what you wish for!” from Tim. The seller accepted the reduction as long as the tenants could remain.
We both loved living in the sunny open space of Will’s loft and enjoyed the panoramic view of Flag Rock out our windows , but it had limitations: one bedroom, little elbow room or closet space to speak of, and no spare room for my children to come visit.
After our June wedding, and the summer sailing season drew to a close, things began to settle down in mid September.
We resumed our quest for a beach house on Martha’s Vineyard; eternally optimistic that something with all the right ingredients would pop on the market. However, with Will’s employment based in Pittsfield, we also kept a practical and pragmatic approach in mind and concurrently searched for a different, more spacious living option in the Berkshires. How perfect to have a beach house and a country house. I figured anything was possible in this next new chapter for me so why not search for both?
Will and I devoured the local Berkshire real estate magazines during that fall and winter. Over the course of the next six months we found three properties that passed our drive-by assessments, all of which happened to be in the same town, and the same street Will grew up on. Despite their curb appeal, none of the houses were a good fit for a variety of reasons. Discouraged, we tabled the local real estate search for a while and reset our gears with a trip to the Bitter End Yacht Club https://www.beyc.com/ for a delayed honeymoon the end of March.
Refreshed after two weeks of sailing in the British Virgin Islands, a hint of promise arrived in mid April when Will decided to take a detour on the way home from work and drove down his old street on a whim. He noticed a For Sale sign in front of an antique red cottage that he had admired for years, which just so happened to border the property he had lived on as a child.
As soon as Will got home, we frantically dragged out the real estate books thinking to ourselves- how could we have missed that? Next we looked it up online to find out more. The property was a brand new listing posted by an out of town agency, part of a National chain, which was unusual for this area where things are often kept on a very familiar and local level. From the listing we could determine the price was right, we knew the location was what we were looking for, so we immediately reached out to our good friend Tim Lovett, co founder of Berkshire Property Agentshttp://www.berkshirepropertyagents.com/info/agency/ to schedule a showing.
Tim also shares my passion, ok-call it obsession, for Martha’s Vineyard and was completely sympathetic to our two-pronged approach to beach house and country house- after all he has one of each! We knew he understood the split personality, part dream, part practical, of our real estate search. Tim also shared similar aesthetics coupled with a love for the Vineyard, and for the Berkshires as well.
Tim called us back and said he could show us the house, but warned us that it already had several offers on it, even though it had only been on the market 3 days. However, luck was on our side since nothing could be presented to the owner until Saturday when she returned to the country. Talk about creating a sense of urgency! We did a walk through with Tim Thursday afternoon and we were all overtaken with the property: it had all the right ingredients; location, the river, the view, the gardens and the charm of a house from the 1800s with reputed historical significance. The listing stated that Daniel Chester French, best known for his monumental work, the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, had been responsible for designing a wing that had been added onto the house in the in the early 1900s. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/fren/hd_fren.htm
Verging on being giddy with our new find Tim, Will and I retreated down the street to the Red Lion Innhttp://www.redlioninn.com to deliberate. Tim understood exactly what we were looking for, and offered solid counsel on a potential investment. With all the right ingredients combined with the frenzy created by other offers, Will and I decided to throw our towel into the ring too and gave Tim an offer to submit along with a security deposit. And then we waited for the owner to weigh in.
The negotiation process sustained itself for a couple of stressful weeks. Some of the offers dropped out of play but ours remained in the running with at least one other. The owner countered our offer with the condition that the tenants who had been living in the house for the past six or so years could remain for another 12 months, at their current rent rate. After much back and forth with Tim, Will and I decided that while it wasn’t ideal, it was not such a bad deal and agreed to her terms.
Tim phoned us with the good news that our offer had been accepted and with his devilish tone said, “be careful what you wish for.” There was a lot of work to be done which was clearly visible to the eye, but what we were about to encounter after inspections was something far more than we bargained for.
Not everyone gets to start a whole new chapter in life, but I did! Getting married to Will meant blending our lives. It meant leaving my home of the past 20 plus years on the Connecticut coastline and moving to the Berkshires. It meant sliding our quest for a summer beach house on Martha’s Vineyard to the back burner while we figured our daily living arrangements. It meant mingling, or should I say shoe horning, the contents of our dramatically different households into a small apartment.
As chance would have it, I was well prepared for the move to Will’s loft. I had already sold my house in Connecticut before Will proposed and was renting my friend Jerry’s cozy, charming cottage in the Silvermine area of Norwalk, CT. One bedroom, pastoral view, and a fireplace- Jerry even included the services of his housekeeper. It could not have been a more tranquil transition from my former home of 20 plus years. In the process of packing up the house some of my belongings had either been parceled out to my three children or recycled at the town’s upscale refuse and disposal recycling center, better known as “the dump” . The rest of my furniture and belongings had been packed up in boxes and stored away in a ritzy self-storage unit close by.
In anticipation of my move into his apartment , Will threw himself into a rapid-fire renovation of his one bedroom loft to make it “bride friendly”. I moved in the beginning of May, once the loft was freshly painted and floors were refinished and embarked on helping Will redesign the kitchen space.
The decorating challenge that evolved of blending our lives into a small apartment caught the eye of Annie Selke and became a feature story in Woman’s Day Magazine. Go figure!