Here’s The Thing…

So, funny story about the house below. We bought it and we’re moving in.

We know this news probably evokes a whole range of reactions. Excitement for new makeovers. Sadness for leaving our current house. Curiosity about all of the logistics. Confusion. Anger. The inexplicable urge to do The Carlton.

Starting this story requires rewinding seven years, back to our first house hunting experience in Richmond in the spring of 2006. We had just moved from New York City and Richmond real estate felt very spacious and very cheap by comparison. It made dreamers out of us. We checked out a bunch of neighborhoods, and fell for an awesome old area with nice big wooded lots, great schools, charming tree-lined streets, and kids on scooters.

But none of the sweet old character-filled houses in that neighborhood were in our price range, especially because the bank had no faith in us. The issue was not our savings, but the fact that I was less than 2 months into my new job and Sherry was just as deep into her career as a freelance copywriter. In the eyes of the bank, Sherry was unemployed since she was a newbie self employed person (even though she was earning more than me!) so I ended up being the only name on the loan – basically cutting our buying power in half. Goodbye dream neighborhood, hello this looker.

As deflating as that financial reality check was, it turned out to be one of the biggest blessings. Had we not been steered towards a fixer upper, we might not have ever started this blog or learned the advantage of buying a home that’s well within our means. By not stretching financially, we could stash away a lot more project money and build up our nest egg – because we hadn’t lost sight of that neighborhood we first fell for, we had just put that dream on hold.

Fast forward 4.5 years, past a new puppy, a wedding in the backyard, Clara’s birth, and me coming home to work full-time. Our beloved little 1,250 sq ft ranch (with only one full bathroom) was suddenly feeling cramped and we found ourselves house hunting again. Dream neighborhood here we come, right? Try again, compadre. This time I was the financial deadweight (having just left a salaried job six months earlier to come work at home – great timing, right?). So once again we found ourselves approved for something far below our actual mortgage-paying abilities thanks to the bank’s you-haven’t-done-this-self-employment-thing-long-enough-for-it-to-count doubt.

But it dropped another gem of a fixer upper in our laps. And this time we knew that an affordable needs-work home meant even more projects and more money squirreled away for our “maybe someday” neighborhood.

Now, I wouldn’t say we ever consciously thought of these homes as “stepping stones” or rungs on a property ladder that we were itching to climb. Even though we always loved that dream neighborhood from afar, Sherry was fully convinced our first house would be our “forever home” (we even have that statement on video). When we fall in love with a house, we fall hard. But the experience of outgrowing and leaving our first place made us realize that we enjoy the process of loving an old house back to life way too much to stop at just one.

So when we moved into this house, we went into things with a more open attitude. Knowing we’d soak up every second of living here (you know we’re nuts about the journey) but no longer making bold declarations like “we’ll stay here forever.” Admittedly, at halfway through year three of living here, the end came a bit sooner than we expected, but our time here since 2010 has been jam-packed. We’ve celebrated three Christmases in this house, created a book from start to finish here, and enjoyed countless Clara milestones (crawling, walking, talking, Gangnam Style-ing). So this place is by no means a blip on the timeline of our family history. It has been “home” through a heckova lot, which makes leaving it that much more bittersweet.

We just knew we didn’t want our current place to be our last fixer upper (it’s not only what we love to do, it’s our livelihood), so when we felt ourselves tackling the last few untouched rooms on our list we started casually keeping one eye open for a deal that could be a potential rental or even a future Casa Petersik. We’d occasionally flip through real estate listings and drop in on open houses. We always hoped that something would come up in our price range in that dream neighborhood so we could jump on it like a velociraptor, but after two house-hunting experiences that didn’t lead to us ending up there, we weren’t very confident.

And then it happened. Pretty much out of nowhere, we found the sweetest needs-lots-of-love home in that old charming neighborhood that we’ve driven through at least five times a year just to stare creepily since 2006. Yes, this is a seven-years-in-the-making house coup of ours. We would have loved to take you guys on the house hunting adventure with us like last time, but it all happened so fast and before we knew it we were closing on it.

And thanks to putting some of that saved-for-years cash down at closing, our new house’s mortgage amount is almost exactly the same as our current house’s – but our interest rate is even lower. We both spent closing day waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and scream “you got punked!” but all went well and the house is officially ours. We’ve even had it long enough to fix some first-priority issues like a leaking roof, a broken furnace, and even hooked up the alarm system.

The house hasn’t been updated since it was built around 35 years ago, and knowing that its interior might scare off others trying to buy in a mostly turn-key community, the sellers priced it way under assessment. It was over $100,000 less than another house of the same size that was for sale down the street. A low-priced fixer upper in a neighborhood that we’ve dreamed about for almost a decade? Yes please. 70’s wallpaper, blue trim, lumpy carpet and all…

Beyond the price, neighborhood, and glaring need to be rescued – this place is perfect for us in so many other ways. It’s nearly the exact same size as our current place (huzzah, no more extra square feet to clean). The street is beautiful and quiet (perfect for someday teaching Clara to ride a bike). It’s still just as close to our family (maybe they can watch Clara while we strip wallpaper). And it presents us with so many new design challenges and opportunities that our minds are spinning with ideas. I mean, hello, we have stairs for the first time in seven years of home-ownership!

Perhaps the funniest thing is that at our age, my parents were moving into their third house, which was where they stayed for over three decades. So apparently it’s in the Petersik blood.

We know that you guys probably have dozens of questions – When are we moving in? (Don’t know yet) When can you see more pictures? (Soon) What does Clara think? (She already picked out her room… based on the closet size. Is she 16?) But this post would be ten thousand words if we tried to cover everything, so we’ll get to those things in time. We also have a few things to finish around here to get our current house sold (anyone interested?) so in an effort to keep our own minds focused on those to-dos, it won’t be all new house posts all the time. We’ll just be moving at our usual real-time pace and sharing a little bit of everything that’s happening (selling, packing, planning, moving, and diving into our new house adventure).

Did I mention these two are the most excited of all? Okay, three if you count Ariel.

We can’t wait to continue sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly with you guys. Seriously, who wants to come paint some mauve trim with us? And if there were a moral to this story, it’s patience. This is not “the house the book bought” (we still haven’t hit our royalty point), it’s the house that seven years of saving up and living within our means bought. Had we strained our wallets and gone for a larger or more turn-key house back in 2006, we probably would’ve had a very different financial path, and most certainly would have had a different career path. So even though we had to wait a while, it just makes this new chapter in our lives that much sweeter. Who knows, we might just stay there forever…


  1. Procrastamom says

    I just scrolled to the end to see if this was a joke…then I looked up at my calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1st. Good luck, Petersiks! I can’t wait to see what you do with this one.

    • Kim says

      I did the same thing! I just couldn’t believe it was true. But a big giant CONGRATULATIONS to John & Sherry on moving in to your dream neighborhood! I’m already in looove with the new place and can’t wait to see what you guys do with it :)

    • Sarah says

      I had this same reaction…was waiting for the “just kidding!!!!” Congratulations you guys. I’m hoping to pull the trigger on my first place in the next few years….

    • Joy says

      I thought the same thing! I’m shocked but excited at the same time. It’s another great learning experience for me. I also got my husband hooked.

    • Heather says

      Haha! I did the exact same thing! Congrats! So excited for you and can’t wait to follow you on this new journey!

    • Maja says

      Me too! But no “bazinga” in the whole post. Wow! I’m looking forward to vicariously ripping up some old carpet. Congratulations!

    • Lucylou says

      I did the same thing lol :D I cant belive it…I am a little bit sorry about it, i love current house :´(

    • Jessica C says

      I did the same thing!!! Wow! Congratulations! I’m very excited to see all the new updates with wallpaper and all :)

    • says

      me too! I thought it was a joke. This definitely surprised me.

      I’m excited to find out how much quicker and profitable the sale of your current home goes for now that it’s been YHL’ed. I’m also super excited to find out more about the exciting projects you have planned.

    • says

      This was my exact same thought – I was actually getting anxious as I read through waiting for the psych – but to see Clara and Burger so pumped for the change was oddly reassuring. Can’t wait to see what they do with the new space!

    • Cheryl says

      I did the same thing too!!! Kept thinking, wait a minute …. it’s not April Fool’s Day :) But congratulations, Petersiks!!! It’s an awesome house and I know you will have a blast making it your “own” …

    • says

      Yep, same here! Kept looking at the date on my computer to re-confirm that it’s not April 1st, and kept hoping it wasn’t a joke all the way until the end of the post :-)

      So excited!!!!! The house is beautiful and I can’t WAIT to see all the amazing transformations!

    • Gina says

      I did the same thing! Definitely thought it was a joke. It had me in tears (of happiness) by the end. So happy for you guys!

    • Lauren H. says

      I’m glad I’m not the only one. I’m completely shocked, but so excited to see what’s in store!

    • Christina B. says

      Same here! Congrats guys! My favorite memory of growing up in a two-story house is riding a mattress from the top of the stairs to bottom with my brothers and sister. Needless to say, my dad found it hilarious and my mom did not.

    • Marci says

      Ha, Ha. I thought the same thing. Wait, April 1st is past. It wasn’t until I got to the comments section and saw this string that I really believed it.

    • NicoleM says

      Same here! I can’t believe you guys are moving! Congrats on the new house…it looks amazing!

    • Annette says

      Me too! I was all, “Wait for it…wait for it…” and “it” never came! I’m excited for you guys, but I’m a little sad, which I’d kind of weird seeing as how we have never met and I’ve never actually seen your house in person.

    • erin moria says

      OMG I did the same thing. My heart sank at first but then I realized it was a really exciting thing.

    • Jerri says

      I did it, too!!! Congratulations, Petersiks!!! I was wondering what you would be up to now that your current house was almost complete! Well played!

    • Kelly says

      Same here. I was like…wait, they just put that pergola over the carport and now they’re moving? Wait…

      Congratulations on your dream neighborhood (location is a big part of peace and happiness) and looking forward to a zillion more new projects.

      (Side note: finally just got your book, love it!)

    • JenB says

      I did the same thing! And then I saw the 1500 replies and figured it wasn’t a joke. You guys are good at surprises! I’m so excited to see what you do with this place. It looks like it has great potential.

    • michelle says

      SO DID I!!! I thought for sure this was a joke! But how exciting that house is beautiful! Can’t wait for the new adventures!

    • Leslie says

      I did as well! I read every word so carefully and came to the end shocked and excited and even a bit nostalgic…Is it possible to love a house one has never stepped into? Ha! I have lots each of these abodes and can’t wait to see you make this next one your own. Congratulations! :)

    • Heather says

      So glad I wasn’t the only one who kept reading through, a bit confused (huh?what?new house?! HUH!?!?), looking for the “Just Kidding!”. Maybe in tomorrow’s post? :)

      Really, really excited (and a bit jealous). I went to college in VA, and LOVE it there–that brick colonial you just bought is my dream home! Sadly, I live in central Florida now, where stucco over concrete block is a way of life. *sigh* Guess I’ll just live my dream vicariously though you guys!! Can’t wait to get the fixin’up underway! Best wishes on this newest Petersik endeavor.

    • Julie says

      I did the same thing!! Definitely didn’t see this one coming, but I’m excited to see where life (and this home) takes you guys!

    • RLR says

      SAME HERE! And I can see that many others did, too! Ha!

      Congrats Petersiks! Can’t wait for the next leg of the journey!

    • Michelle Kersey says

      yep. I totally had to double check the calendar to make sure we’re past april 1st. OMG!!!!! Congrats Sherry and John! Can’t wait for the new house tour! Make sure you take lots of before pics!!!

    • Allyson M says

      Apparently this would have been a GREAT April Fools joke!!! :) Glad to know I wasn’t the only one that thought, “This CAN’T BE REAL!” Congratulations! Looking forward to seeing more pictures of the new home!

    • Pinja says

      Yes, me tooooo :D! Quess I’m not the only one ;). Congratulations, can’t wait to see what you do with the new house!

    • says

      HA! Me too!! I was like, “They won’t trick me THIS time!! Haha! . . . Wait. I don’t get it. This is real!?”

  2. Megan I says

    Oh my goodness! Congratulations! Love that house. Can’t wait to read all about it. I’ll help paint the mauve trim!

  3. Katie says

    squee!!!! I’m so excited for you guys, and for me…this house is similar to my house and I look forward to seeing how you tackle the projects so I can do it myself in my home. It is very surprising. In my mind (for me, not for you), I can’t come to grips with putting so much blood, sweat, and tears into a home to leave so soon.
    As a side note, the family just drove from PA to Florida and back, right through Richmond, and I couldn’t help but think…”The Petersik’s live there” even though I’ve never met you.

    Congratulations on your new home!!

    • says

      You’re not alone, Katie! My husband was working at the NASCAR Race in Richmond and I was so jealous he was in the same town as them. Cue my fan girling at home. (He doesn’t get it, LOL)

  4. Greta says

    Droooooooling over how gorgeous the home is!! What a great time to buy with the low rates! Best wishes in your new home!!

    • Liz F. says

      What she said.

      I will forever lack closure because Clara never moved into her original big girl room, but then, I should probably get a life. :) Anyway I am SOOOO excited for your new adventure.

    • Gisela says

      After reading all the “I also thought this was an april´s fool joke” (I needed to add my “me too” at the end of it) i totally LOLed with this comment.

      I went from GASP, to “noooO!” and then thinking “get a life, Gise, who are you to feel upset about somebody else’s dream home coming to be?” Maybe im a bit harsh on myself.

      Anyway, yay, Petersik gang, congrats!

      PS: Liz F, Clara already picked a room, talk about big-girl attitude, eh?

    • Michelle says

      Haha! I had the same reaction as Liz- But they just did Clara’s big girl room?!

      Such exciting news though and as long as Clara’s ok with it then I guess I am too ;)

  5. says

    Oh wow!!!

    I’ve been following your blog quite some time from overseas, and recently came across someone who also reads you – we discussed whether or not there might be a move in the near future just two weeks ago!


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