34, 35, 36, 37 …

Kates and I returned to house hunting this week. There are signs that the housing gods might finally be working for us … Then again, maybe not.

We saw two homes on Sunday …

The first, House No. 34 on the list of homes we’ve toured, was a pleasant surprise. Within moments of walking through the front door, Kates and I were charmed by its spacious foyer, the open floor plan and its original hardwood floors. Each of the first floor rooms were connected to the foyer, which nearly made for another room in the home's center -- a long living room to the left and a formal dining room and kitchen to the right. The dining room featured built-in corner cabinets, while the kitchen was large with plenty of storage space in its vintage cabinetry. The end of the foyer connected to two first floor bedrooms and a small office room with built-in cabinets and a large window looking over the backyard.

An enclosed wrap-around staircase took us to the unfinished second floor. It was nothing more than two rooms of drywall and rough flooring; word had it the previous owners built the home in the 1960s and never finished the second floor. We could finish it off and turn it into an ideal master suite, we thought.

Admittedly, the home needed a lot of TLC. But visions of some new paint, a few new light fixtures and changing out some hardware had Kates and I believing it could be a gem of a house. We loved the home’s layout and said later that, of the 33 houses we’d seen previously, it was the first one that truly gave us the good feelings we felt the first time we stepped inside our house in K-Town. The home was listed well within our price range and we began contemplating an offer.

Yet, we couldn’t deny the house had its drawbacks. The backyard, although fenced, was slightly smaller than our backyard in K-Town. The garages -- yes, there were two: an attached one-car and a detached two-car -- were in disrepair. And the most questionable of all, the home sat across the street from a fraternity house.

We moved on to the next house, and our minds began whirling with visions again. Interestingly, I realized after walking through a couple rooms that I toured the home -- somewhere among House Nos. 25 through 28, I can't remember -- last spring and didn’t think highly of it. Back then, however, someone was still living in the home, perhaps making it hard for me to look past his furniture. Seeing it again, empty, gave me a different perspective; both Kates and I liked it.

It had a finished basement with hardwood flooring, a fireplace and built-in shelves. Upstairs there was a good-sized living room, dining area and kitchen with three bedrooms connected to a hallway. A large deck, with a screened porch, connected to the back of the home and looked over a large yard that would have given Phoebe plenty of room to run. The home also was part of a quiet, picturesque neighborhood with winding residential streets.

Once again, Kates and I were talking offer scenarios, but drawbacks loomed again. The house was located on the edge of town and backed up, with no fence, to a country road with cars whizzing by. The home also had a split-level layout, which we want no part of, reminding us too much of the duplex we’re living in now.

After a break on Monday, we were back at it Tuesday night. We found plenty more to like.

House No. 35, sits on another quiet residential street, within blocks of the campus. It’s a two-story home that was built in the 1970s with characteristics strikingly similar to the two homes we did place offers on last spring. Again, Kates and I were charmed soon after stepping inside. The open floor plan featured a large kitchen with loads of storage and counter space, and a living room with a fireplace and built-in shelves. The second-floor included three bedrooms that were large enough to hold all of our bedroom furniture -- another key component in our search because the bedrooms in our K-Town house didn’t do that.

From there, the house only got better. It featured a large, finished basement that even had Kates smiling at the possibilities of becoming the new home for my baseball museum. The dining room connected to a large two-level deck. There was a large fenced-in yard ripe for some excellent landscaping and Phoebe's exploration. A two-car attached garage. New carpet and updates throughout the home. A large playroom for Phoebe off the kitchen. … It had everything we’ve been looking for, and it was making Kates and I giddy.

Our good run continued at House No. 36, a 110-year-old farmhouse that had been restored from top to bottom. The woodwork still smelled of fresh varnish. The hardwood floors gleamed. It had new windows, too. Upstairs, the bedrooms -- which were huge -- had new carpeting. And the bathroom was spacious and luxurious, with a whirlpool tub as its centerpiece. In a word, the house was gorgeous. And perfectly within our price range.

But there were drawbacks. The kitchen was small. There were only two bedrooms. The basement wasn’t good for more than some storage. And there was no garage, though the lot was plenty big enough for us to build one. In the end, we decided -- as much as we loved the house -- it wasn’t practical for our needs and raising our family. If Kates and I were seven years younger and starting out, we would have jumped at it.

We saw one more property, House No. 37, Tuesday night. I pass it every day on my way home from work and the outside has little appeal. But the photos we’ve seen of the inside intrigued us, and its backyard is one of the biggest parks in The ‘Ville … But I’ll spare you the details and say, simply, that House No. 37 didn’t come close to the level of the previous four. I was ready to leave after walking through one room and paid more attention to my Blackberry for the rest of the tour.

Thus, four of the last five houses we’d seen were better than almost all of the previous 33. Kates and I were hopeful Tuesday night that we might finally be getting somewhere … We couldn’t deny our love for House No. 35 and completed paperwork that night to submit an offer.

Wednesday morning our hopes were dashed, though. The sellers issued a counter-offer and we didn’t answer it. We’d grown nervous about our loan’s requirements and the accompanying closing costs. We decided to go the responsible route rather than wipe out our bank account and then some to make the down payment.

Furthermore, we learned the sellers weren’t willing to budge from their counter-offer, which we believed was unfairly high. As far as we can tell, the sellers, who haven’t lived in the home for more than a couple years, are simply trying to break even on their purchase -- not giving into the fact the market is a mess and housing prices have plummeted.

We know how that feels. We’ve been there. We’re working to pay off the debts we incurred trying to make the last move. We’ve been bitten by the housing crisis, and we’re in no mood to rush into anything.

It sucks. But we've been through so much -- 37 freaking houses in eight months, and three failed offers -- that we've fallen numb to our sour luck. We’re holding tight to the mantra that the right house will present itself when it’s meant to be.

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