“Why didn’t you buy a better house ?”

That’s a good question.

I wanted a house that had the potential to be visually appealing to me, with enough space for the things I need. I also needed enough psychological space from neighbours.

I did look at a few places that had been renovated, but what I saw usually just made me angry. Many of the improvements were lazy – like painting over wood panelling. Or tearing out a wall to make a 200 square foot kitchen in a house that was perhaps 900 square feet, creating a senseless layout. The flipper houses were the worst, in that many sins were covered up vs actually being resolved. I just couldn’t deal with that. The trendy tile was to distract you from the roof that would need replacing within 2 years or less.

I wanted the most amount of house for the least amount of money, but preferred a place where the major stuff like plumbing and electrical were at least up to code.

I looked at many listings above my price point, for comparison, but didn’t bother to view the houses. A more expensive house usually meant more of the things I really didn’t want – like an entirely new bathroom with ugly tiles – or potlights – or giant stainless steel appliances. It wasn’t like there were a bunch of houses with exactly everything I wanted, if I just paid a little more. Or even just one perfect house.

I had plenty of experience painting and repairing plaster, and I was pretty persistant in sourcing house parts. I figured that I could handle most of what needed to be done, and hire professionals for the rest.

Hiring the professionals turned out to be the most challenging of all.

If everyone who actually worked on the house had been available when I needed them, the work would have been completed in about 1/6 the time. Tradespeople who are good at what they do are usually busy, and booked up.

I suppose it also depends on what your idea of a good house is. My minimum was “habitable”. My mother has no comprehension of why anyone would choose to live in or buy an old house. When she visited my former house, the one I bought with my not-ex-yet, I could tell she was deeply appalled. She did compliment the front doorknob – a crappy builder’s grade shiny brass one. She couldn’t see the original stained glass or plaster moldings or high ceilings as anything desirable at all. A house like this was a symptom of economic and moral poverty, in her frame of reference. I’m sure she was deeply, secretly saddened that my not-yet-ex and I couldn’t afford to buy a nice new town home in a sub-division.

My mother now has dementia, and lives across the country, so she hasn’t visited this house. I made her a photo album of it, with very brief captions. I tried to focus on the nicer things she could appreciate – like the flowers on the Catalpa tree. When we speak on the phone, as soon as I bring up my house she does this trick she has done her entire life: she pretends someone is at her door so she has to go, rather than talk about anything  unsettling to her. How she had a daughter who would choose to live in a “place like that” is probably one of her deepest shames.

Fixing the house WAS exhausting, and everything cost money. This was what I signed up for. There is only so much good fortune to go around.





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