I have 5 weaknesses: family, old houses (especially ones near water), color, fabric, and Chardonnay, not necessarily in that order, depending on day and time. I adore my immediate family, which consists of husband, Greg, and 2 Jack Russell terriers: Max (“The Enforcer”), and Pip, who is a general pain in the [insert body part].
We live in a wonderful 90-year old cottage in East Lake, which is ITP (inside the perimeter) of Atlanta, Georgia, and famous for the East Lake Country Club. Bobby Jones played golf there, and the televised Tour of Champions golf tournament for 4 days each fall puts us on the map, but also makes a trip to Publix for milk an excruciating challenge, due to shuttle bus traffic, tv vans, and detours.
We moved here in 2004 from Charlotte, NC, where we lived for a very long time, it seemed to me. My husband still worked in Charlotte, but that didn’t deter me from seeking a new place to call home. Don’t get me wrong. Charlotte is a great city. It has a great football team, and I proudly wear my Panthers jersey every September. It also has great restaurants, good weather, great shopping, and is centrally located on the East Coast. I just didn’t fit in there. Charlotte is very proper, and I am a tad bohemian. We were a bad match. So I decided to return to the city that welcomed me with open arms in 1978, when I was a mother of a 1-year old, blond, banana-curled, baby girl named Jennifer. Atlanta was, and always will be, “HOME”.
But did I mention that Greg still worked in NC? When we put our new craftsman-style house, located in a toney Charlotte neighborhood, up for sale in April of 2004, it sold for an “astonishing amount of money” in less than a week.
House hunting in Atlanta did not go well. I might venture to say that our marriage was in very deep jeopardy. Greg liked Charlotte; he didn’t want to move to Atlanta. Also, he and I had very different ideas about the kind of house we wanted to invest our money in. But, time was of the essence. Our house was sold; we needed a place to live! I fell in love with our current home; Greg disliked it. I offered top dollar for it. Greg hated me, but the sellers loved me. In retrospect, I was wrong; Greg was right. We now live in an absolutely beautiful, over-priced home that nobody wants to buy at the price we need to sell it for.
Then there was the problem of where Greg would stay in Charlotte. Yes, he would come to Atlanta on the weekends, but would need at least a 1-bedroom apartment to live in during the work week. He rented an apartment that did not allow dogs (HA!), and lived there for about 3 months. The rent was quite high, and the dogs barked at every CATS bus that went by our Dilworth address, when they came to visit. What to do? The logical choice seemed to be: purchase a second home! We found just the place in the campy Arts District of Charlotte, and the monthly mortgage payments were less than the apartment rent. We were going to be slum lords!
House number 2 was fun; we furnished it with the latest décor from Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity. We painted the interior funky, beach-y colors. It fed our wild side. The dogs loved it. Life was getting better.
We soon learned that having 2 houses is a huge financial drain. You must pay duplicates of everything: utilities, homeowner’s insurance, security systems (no longer an option in house #2 after thieves cleaned us out while we were in Atlanta celebrating Christmas), home repairs, tax bills…you get the point. We needed to get rid of a mortgage payment, and put the Atlanta house on the market, just as the market took its catastrophic nose-dive. It did not sell, after 12 months of excruciating showings, and ultimately, disappointment.
In 2008, Greg’s office in Charlotte disappeared; his company wanted him to work from home! We would return to Atlanta, to the house that wouldn’t sell. Suddenly, we had to eliminate the kitsch in house #2, and get it on the market. We decided to upgrade our little brick 4-square, to make it more appealing to a young, hip buyer. Greg, who is spatially gifted, came up with a plan that included the addition of a foyer, a coat closet, a half-bath, and a laundry room! We maxed out our credit cards, hired a handyman, and completed the work in about 8 months. The house sold quickly, and we made a nice little profit on it, even after the cost of remodeling. We were ecstatic. We were going to be the owners of a single house!
After the sale of house #2, Greg made me swear on a stack of paint chips that we would not buy a second home… ever! I agreed. We paid off cars; we re-sided the Atlanta home, and turned a rotting old morning porch into a charming screened-in oasis. We started turning the basement into usable space. And, we had money to spare! Life was good…
Next: Sweet Home Atlanta