Journalist, Author & Detroit-Home Renovator

Thoughts on First-Time Home Ownership

Karl Chimes In…

I am in the strangest position: For the first time in my life, I am a homeowner. And yet, despite the fact that we own this house that I love so much, and despite the fact that, after living for 22 years in cities (New York, Boston) where it is infamously hard to buy real estate, and despite yearning for so long to live in my own place, I am cooped up here in Ann Arbor, away from all the amazing people we keep meeting in Detroit.

I realize I really can’t complain; some people are homeless, after all. So what does that say about me that I am whining about renting one place and owning another? Still, there is a bitter irony to all of it, which I know will be washed away once we finally live in Detroit (and even more so once the grueling renovation is finished).

The other strange thing, for me, about buying a house, is that it wasn’t so long ago that I actually relished living in apartment buildings, with neighbors living cozily on the other side of the walls, floors and ceilings.  It had a sense of community that I liked. What changed?  Having dogs and playing piano.

Relatively recently, a house became an attractive thing for the first time, and apartment buildings became, well, less than ideal…  (Although we still look wistfully at life in downtown Detroit; who knew that downtown Detroit was so … beautiful?  Especially if you actually get *out* of your car and walk, or bike, around a bit.)

Oh, by the way, another thing is especially strange about this whole thing, to me, after living in New York and Boston so long: The idea of having space.  And, no, I am most definitely *not* complaining about that, even though I lived copacetically for so long in small spaces.  All of a sudden, that coffee table book, “The Not-So-Big House,” isn’t something we need anymore.

Alright already: I’m changing my tone from complaint to relief.

I am *relieved* not just to finally own a home, but to have bought a house in one of those places where artists and creative types come together and help rebuild distressed real estate. Where, if you’re willing to put in a little, or a lot, of extra work, you can get a beautiful old house with character to look good (and the neighborhood will thank you for giving the house it’s life back).  A place that is excited to have newcomers moving in, and excited about building community.

(Red Hook: Are you hearing this?  Get your butts out here already!)

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