The Times They Are A-Changin'

September 26 2006, 6:58 PM

Yep, there goes the neighborhood. Bye-bye, Wash Park. And every other semblance of normalcy in my life. Hubby and I have recently announced some happy news: we're expecting our first baby next spring, which is both truly exciting and a bit terrifying. So, in order to accommodate our little newcomer, we've turned our entire lives upside down, already. First, we put our house on the market. (All our hard work paid off, because we got an offer in less than 30 days -- quite a nice surprise considering today's flat real estate market -- and we'll sign on the dotted line... and sign here, and there, and initial here, and there... to make it all official by mid-October.) Working at home while showing your home is seriously distracting, to say the least, particularly with daily showings and weekly open houses. But I'll admit that my house has never been neater, cleaner, shinier, or sparkly-er than the past several weeks. And I must say, constantly wiping up every crumb, footprint, or stray speck of dust really does help you mentally disconnect from the concept of "home." This place hasn't felt like home since the last time, pre-listing of course, that I spent a Sunday with the newspaper spread all over the dining table while the dog shed freely and hubby left dirty dishes in the sink, all without causing a crazed-hormonal-wifey blowout. Ah, the good old days. Next, we started the hellish process of house hunting. Sure, it sounds fun at first. You think of all the cool places you'll see, the neat little bungalows, the darling Victorians, the retro brick ranches. What's not to like? Then you take a long, hard look at your budget, wince, and decide that the bank is on crack. Why on earth do they think we can afford SO much more house than is practical? No wonder the market is full of foreclosures. We set a realistic limit, and went off hunting, only to find problems with practically every single house we saw. We can basically afford to add the equivalent of about one large closet to our teensy, two-bedroom house in Wash Park and stay within our budget. See ya, Wash Park. Same problem with all the cool neighborhoods. Affordable in a hip area? That equaled small, ugly, dated, or clearly bordering the neighborhood loonies. And suddenly I'm considering new, kid-centric aspects of each neighborhood. Are the schools good? Are the streets quiet? Is the yard big enough? Where's the closest park, pool, and playground? Not finding anything we loved, we expanded our search. (Now, this is off topic, but something that any house-hunter will surely agree on. During my travels -- condensed into the past three weekends -- we've seen some houses that have real potential. But several of them were utterly ruined by the homeowner's lack of effort. If your house is on the market and you have a showing, isn't this obvious? Clean your house, people! I know it's a pain in the butt -- believe me, I do -- but it's necessary. If your house smells funky, I'm outta there. Period.) Now we've discovered what many former urbanites already know. You can find a helluva deal if you look at the 'burbs. We can get a huge house, with lots of bedrooms, extra bathrooms, great updates, a massive lot, mature landscaping, good schools, and cute, cozy neighborhoods, as long as we are willing to leave downtown. So. We are now heading to the south suburbs. Hello, Centennial. Of course, we still have to survive the move. Then the holidays. Then the baby, and all the crazy-cool life changes he or she will bring. It will all happen before we know it, so it looks like my life will remain topsy-turvy for at least the next year. Guess I'd better sit back and enjoy the ride.