It's been one month since we made the big announcement that we bought a second home. Now that we've shared our four top contenders from our home search, we're finally ready to spill the beans on the results of our more than two year search.

Though I fear we've led you all on for too long, it wouldn't be a true House Hunters inspired reveal without a little recap of the four homes we presented for consideration before telling which one we chose.

House 1

First we showed you all the Victorian farmhouse with a whole lot of land, a quirky floor plan, crazy kitchen, and several outbuilding.

This home had a lot going for it, including a great setting, guest cottage potential, a possible wood shop, classic farmhouse styling, and a ton of other possibilities. Oh, and it had a memorable kitchen...

However, it seemed everything needed to be updated, a lot of remuddling had to be undone in the house, and the floor plan just didn't seem to make sense once inside. It stood to be an absolutely huge project with an even bigger upside if we could see it through to the end, but was this something we wanted to take on?

House 2

Next we shared the 1980's ranch with gorgeous view and the best possibility as a truly blank canvas.

While nothing inside the house would end up staying long term (and we'd need to promise the UFO light fixtures to wanting blog readers), the vision was clear. Open it up, make it bright and clean, take advantage of the views, and spend a lot of time on the deck. Sadly, the orange and green shag carpet would need to go.

But it's a big project would need to be done all at once, or at least a huge portion as phase one. There's no one room at a time approach that would really work here, it would need to be a whole home renovation and that might be too big of a first bite for us for a second home, and once we're done, we're done, no more projects. 

House 3

The third home we presented was the early 20th century American foursquare with large yard, great waterfront view with pier, and a lot of space.

This house really has the look and setting. It's charming, private, and has that large wrap around porch where you can picture lounging, sipping beverages, and spending time with friends and family. And, the floor plan seemed to work in its current state.

But the home has no central AC, has a lot of upkeep necessary, and is truly "a lot of house" to manage as a second home. 

House 4

And finally we shared an 18th century waterfront farmstead house with views for days, prize winning show poodle ribbons, and acres upon acres of land.

This house has so much going for it. Its age, charm, views, outbuilding, guest cottage, and a lot of original details that have survived the years.

However, there is a significant risk for flooding, an aged boiler, and property maintenance that feels more intimidating than any of the other houses.

What'd We Choose?

As you can see from our various options, we had a very difficult decision to make with lots of pros and cons to weigh when selecting the home that we felt would be right for us.

After much debate and deliberation...

Queue the dramatic facial shots of each of us while we skeptically gaze at one another.

Follow it up with a little more delay with some music that reflects pensive thought for good effect...

We chose...House number 3, the classic American foursquare with stunning water views and great wraparound porch.

Then we simultaneously sigh a gleeful exhale and glance knowingly at each other. How lovely cliche.

From your comments and emails I know many of you just knew this was the one, while others might be shocked by the decision. Some were hoping it would be one of the other houses, while many will be quite happy with our decision. To be completely honest, we loved hearing everyone's opinions on the houses as we've shared them, as many thoughts and opinions offered we shared between the two of us.

Wendy unlocking the door for the first time.

So the big question, "What ultimately led us to this decision?"

Here's the long and short of it all (along with a few more photos of our new home).

Ultimately this is the house that met our various criteria for a second home most completely. It's also where we felt most comfortable with that very delicate "projects vs potential" balance. And, at over 100 years old, we think it's truly a piece of history worth preserving. Besides, look at this sunrise from the porch!

Some of the major elements that swayed us toward this house were:

  • the view and unique orientation of the house with the "front" in the back of the property looking out over the water,
  • the very large porch and other outdoor entertaining and relaxing space, 
  • an interior floor plan that made complete sense, 
  • an amazing "Christmas" staircase (just picture all of the garland), 
  • the various original historic elements (flooring, moulding, hardware, etc),
  • an elevation that placed the house above the high risk floodplain,
  • the natural shoreline project to protect against erosion,
  • and what seemed like a very nicely maintained and well cared for home.

But let's take a step back. As we mentioned some time ago, our search for a home started over two years ago when we began casually kicking around the idea. Though it seemed like a complete pipe dream for a long time, once the seed was planted it began to slowly grow, and we began focusing on and narrowing all of the items that were particularly important to us when it came to buying another house. After lengthy debate, gnashing of teeth, and more than one conversation that likely ended with "Fine! If you're going to be unreasonable, we're not even going to look for a house," we determined that being near the water was at the top of our list, and all other items would fall in around that.

Street Signs in St. Michaels

As we continued to mull the idea of "near water" and looked at several very quaint and wonderful homes in water neighborhoods, like St. Michaels, we realized we didn't just want to be near water, we wanted to be on the water. We knew what it would mean for our budget and that it would drastically limit our search criteria, but that worked for us primarily because we realized we already had the bustling close in living of a waterfront town in Alexandria, and this would ultimately be an opportunity to live somewhere completely different.

Once we finally started to look seriously at houses, our primary criteria had been defined. We wanted a waterfront home, something that was livable as is, something that needed some work to make it our own, something that could be renovated in phases, and something that "spoke to us" in some way shape or form.

Back staircase and the only room with carpet in our new home.

And beyond our concrete criteria, we were hoping for a good karma "gut decision" to help lead our path.

After our lengthly search we found house #4 from our list. (Funny, the last house we shared was the first house we really looked at.) I fell in love because of the age and the land, Wendy liked the view and the guest cottage, so we scheduled a showing with a feeling of "are we really about to do this" in the pit of our stomachs. It turned out to be a great place that met a lot of our criteria, but it was the furthest drive of the homes we saw, and we couldn't get over the floodplain location of the home and the thought that some weekend all of the hard work we put into the house could literally be washed away. I also saw just how much work we'd need to do to make it what we wanted, and more than anything, the floor plan of the house just didn't feel right.

Looking at this house was a huge learning moment. I was so hopeful for this one that I was SURE I'd love it and want to buy it on the spot, but it wasn't exactly what I thought it was from the listing. I was quite dejected as we left the property. I felt defeated, I wanted this one to be the one, but I knew in my heart of hearts it just wasn't. We had just stepped aboard the house hunt roller coaster of emotions and I was once again convinced we wouldn't end up buying a second home. Wendy kept a more even perspective about her, likely a skill she's honed in her career as a realtor.

The positive of looking at this first house was how it allowed us to begin to further understand what we wanted and didn't want, what we should focus on and what we should ignore. It helped us to further define what was truly important about our second house hunt.

We started to do more flood zone research to better understand what it entailed (we'll fill you in a bit more on that as time goes on). We changed our search criteria and area, expanding where we were looking, and we set up showings for other homes that struck our fancy.

After looking at a few more places we discovered house #1 from our house hunt list. This is another house that was "perfect on paper," and when we pulled into the driveway Wendy and I were both struck with an overwhelming "WOW, LOOK AT THIS HOUSE!" But that first look and feeling of awe faded when we toured the home. Cement shingle siding, a large modern addition, an odd floor plan, and major projects at every turn. This is another situation where we wanted this house to be the one, but were truly saddened when it wasn't. It will be an absolutely amazing house for someone, but that someone just isn't us. For us it would have just been too many projects without enough original character in the house.

The same day, almost on a lark, we took a look at house #2 form our list, the 1980's ranch. I was already dejected from the results of the prior house so my view was clouded, but Wendy's eyes lit up with the ranch. She could see the potential of making this home exactly what she wanted it to be. There would not need to be any concern for maintaining historic elements, no need to use multiple phases of renovations, we could make this house anything we wanted it to be. If we wanted, this house could become a shingle style waterfront home with shake shingles on the roof like a classic New England oceanfront getaway.

But the more we thought about it, the more it lost its appeal. The project would really need to be done at once, there was still a floodplain risk and associated increased insurance costs, and there were inherent limitations with the footprint of the house that would make some of the updates we'd want to make prohibitively expensive. It was also a bit further of a drive than we really wanted it to be.

At this point we had reached the height of the summer and the slowdown in the real estate market. No new inventory was showing up, and we had pretty much eliminated most of the homes we had considered. Then, one fateful day while looking around at listings, I saw the lovely white clapboard home and sent the link to Wendy.

Her exact words were, "Well, I really like the look of it..." And with that we were off to the races.

We scheduled a showing to see the house and showed up on a warm summer day to enjoy the views and figure out if this house would actually be a possibility. After being disappointed several times I made every attempt to temper any excitement and expectations and just take in the house and what it is.

The first thing we noticed was what good shape the house appeared to be in from the exterior. No visible rot, no major sags or leans, and what seemed like a relatively new roof and some new clapboards. This told us that current or previous owners had cared for the house. 

It was very easy to get distracted by the views from the porch, but we had to focus on the house and how the house would work for us and our purposes. We probably spent an hour walking around the house and looking at all of the elements. From the amazing antique pine floors to the first-to-go floral wallpaper bathroom, we took everything in, positives and negatives. We even paid attention to the single missing spindle on the third floor staircase and how we might be able to reproduce it.

We took it all in and then had lots, and I mean LOTS of conversations about this house. We talked in the car, we talked on the couch, we talked over the phone, we talked over text, we talked over instant message, we talked obsessively about this house. The main difference here is that the tour of the house didn't eliminate the house from contention the way many of the other houses did. Instead we had to make a simple (extremely difficult) determination. Was this the right house for us? 

After reaching our own gut wrenching conclusion that this was, in actuality, the house for us, we began the purchase process. Offer, negotiations, home inspection, etc. During this process we learned many things about the house and property, not the least of which is that the home inspector felt the house was in absolutely excellent condition. Many of the items you often see neglected in an old home, like insulation, vapor barriers, roofs, and utilities, have all been well maintained and somewhat to very recently updated or installed. Best of all, both the crawl space and attic have been spray foam insulated, making them dry conditioned spaces, a rarity in a century home that maintains much of its original character.

But most of all, this house had a spectacular view and wraparound porch that we just kept talking about, dreaming about, obsessing about, and wishing to be on. Every visit to the house we would stand on the porch and look out over the water, simply enjoying what it was. Birds, fisherman, waves, and the sparkling reflection of the sun off of the water helped us see past the potential minor negatives in the home, such as a lack of central air conditioning and a lot of walls and ceilings in need of some minor to major work.

Today we're the proud owners of this amazing property and we're smitten. At this point, thanks to our parents' hand-me-downs, we only have a dining room table, an old pine cabinet, a few dishes, silverware, glasses, and kitchenware, and a couple inflatable mattresses. Other than that, this is a blank slate. We're approaching it much like we approached our Old Town house when we bought it. We'll kick of the process with a few projects but we'll take this house one step at a time and one room at a time. We're incredibly excited to share this journey with you as there are sure to be quite a few ups and downs along the way. 

So far we've been out to the house a fair amount. Lulu absolutely LOVES running around and even took an impromptu dip in the water last week, which resulted in an impromptu bath that she hated. We've had several friends and family out to the house, which is a little hard since we really only have folding chairs around the dining table, but it's part of the charm...right?

But things are starting to progress as we've made our first actual purchase for the house. Last week was my birthday and Wendy gave me a large metal fire pit that we were able to break in with a few friends.

This was the first of what is sure to be many enjoyable evenings with friends and family around this fire pit. We can't wait to share our journey with you.

So what do you think about our decision? Does it make sense? Can you see what we see? I know there may be a few people who would have loved to have seen one of the other houses selected, but I'm sure this one will be the most fun to watch as it transforms. Once we save up, we'll likely get a few kayaks and will definitely invest in a few crab traps, and of course can't wait to share our design and restoration plans with you every step of the way.

Comments 61

Comments

Justin
11/14/2014 at 11:35 AM

I called it!

Alex
11/17/2014

What can we say? You know us well. Alt smile

Julia Marie
11/14/2014 at 12:25 PM
definitely going to have to come visit!!
Alex
11/17/2014

Absolutely

Sara Salupo
11/14/2014 at 12:30 PM
Beautiful!! Congrats!!
Alex
11/17/2014

Thanks!

Holly Laway
11/14/2014 at 12:30 PM
I'm so happy you went with the waterfront foursquare! That was my favorite :)
Alex
11/17/2014

Excellent!

Emma Petrie Barcelona
11/14/2014 at 12:39 PM
Wonderful!
11/14/2014 at 12:40 PM

Awesome you guys. Congratulations. And it was definitely the one I thought you would end up with. Can't wait to see how this one unfolds? Roughly where is this one?

Haha, and look at that: trusty 'haint' blue on the porch ceiling. Because of course.

Alex
11/17/2014

That blue keeps all of the bugs away...right? I'm sure it works, every time we've been to New Orleans (in January) there's never any bugs on their porches.

This one is about an house from Alexandria.

Carol
11/14/2014 at 12:48 PM

I knew it! Love this house, and can't wait to see what fun you have with it.

Alex
11/17/2014

It's gonna be a project, that's for sure, but it will surely be fun.

Christine
11/14/2014 at 1:02 PM

I cannot wait to see what you do with this home! The porch looks amazing - congratulations on this next chapter!!

Alex
11/17/2014

If ever we get too frustrated on a project, we need only do some porch settin' to reset our perspectives.

Erin Lang
11/14/2014 at 1:14 PM
Beautiful house! It was my personal favorite. Love the porch and views! Wishing you both a lot of luck!!!!
Alex
11/17/2014

Thanks, Erin!

Melissa @ HOUSEography
11/14/2014 at 1:16 PM

I KNEW IT! Such an amazing house. Is that the chesapeake? How far from Alexandria? We've considered a second home on and off. Also, I have a small sofa for sale - cheap! http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/nva/fuo/4761319860.html

Alex
11/17/2014

This one is about an hour from Alexandria. We're actually set on a sofa. Have one ordered and on its way. It was the first purchase we made for the house. Wendy will surely be doing more decorating posts that revolve around the agony of decisions on buying new furniture.

Diana
11/14/2014 at 1:27 PM

Congratulations! I've always dreamed of a back of the house stairecase, and ever since I've visited the Hemingway house I dream about a wrap around porch. So, yes, the best choice!

Alex
11/17/2014

Us too on the staircase. Every time we go into a house with a 2nd small back stair we both sort of go crazy for it.

Kathleen
11/14/2014 at 1:37 PM

Love it! Looking forward to watching its transformation!

Alex
11/17/2014

Us too. Alt smile Well, I guess watching in a more hands on manner.

11/14/2014 at 1:51 PM

CONGRATULATIONS you two. I'm so excited for you. And I have to say, from your original post I hadn't quite wrapped my head around the size of that front porch. It's definitely a beauty. Here's to many happy days in your new home.

(PS: The dilapidated house with no plumbing on all the acreage finally sold. My BFF is heartbroken. She kept holding out hope that the seller would drop the price.)

Alex
11/17/2014

Thank you very much! I also saw that the no plumbing house went under contract and I did get a little sad. I don't know what it was, but that place felt awesome.

KarinK
11/14/2014 at 1:55 PM

I am so excited! I can't wait to see your projects. Congrats! You guys work hard - you totally deserve it.

Alex
11/17/2014

Thank you very much. We just hope we can do this house justice.

11/14/2014 at 2:27 PM

Congratulations! We had a feeling it would be this one.

Hope you all enjoy many happy years in your new getaway home!

We can point you to some good places to find architectural salvage in the Baltimore area when the time is right - just let us know!

Alex
11/17/2014

Definitely on the salvage! I know of 2nd Chance Inc but that's about it.

Tammara
11/14/2014 at 3:51 PM

Congrats!! This was the best choice and my favorite.

Alex
11/17/2014

Thanks!

11/14/2014 at 4:45 PM

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! Fantastic choice guys. So incredibly happy for you, and cant wait to see you put your touch on it. Cheers to many nights spent on the porch with a good glass of wine or whiskey & good company.

Alex
11/17/2014

Here's to more nights playing than working, it just may not happen right away.

Josh Shaffer
11/14/2014 at 5:05 PM
You guys made a great decision. I can just imagine how relaxing it will be sitting on that wrap around porch.
Alex
11/17/2014

We're going to have to remind ourselves to take it easy from time to time.

11/14/2014 at 5:06 PM

Congratulations! I had a feeling that this one was "the one." I am very happy for you. It is lovely, and you will make a lot of great memories there, I am sure.

Alex
11/17/2014

Thanks, Stacy. We think you're right.

Lesley
11/14/2014 at 5:19 PM

Maybe the ghost was referring to being there for Alex's birthday...? Wonder if you'll get more visits, or maybe you have.

I would sit on that porch on a rocker for the rest of my days.....

[Could you still check with the ranch sellers about the spaceship lights though?]

Alex
11/17/2014

Hah! I think you're spot on with the ghost. Alt smile

The ranch is still on the market. We don't know who the owners are, otherwise we totally would. Those lights are pretty awesome.

Kendi
11/14/2014 at 7:36 PM

Awww no UFO lights to share then?Alt frowning haha. Congrats though; I did love this house and think it is perfect for you guys!

marc
11/14/2014 at 8:05 PM

Ah! The four square was the one I was hoping you would go for. It seems clear that the previous owners had an eye for the historic character of the home and at the same time did pragmatic updates like insulation. They also seemed to do them right (spray foam isn't cheap). I know you were disappointed that the windows and doors being replaced but again, so far as I can tell, it seemed like a pragmatic choice and at least they kept an appropriate 2 over 2 window design. Are they wood/aluminum clad windows? If so then who knows, you might appreciate the lower maintenance of them on second home.

Alex
11/17/2014

I think you're very right. The windows are wood inside and vinyl out, so yes, very low maintenance. We were washing the windows our first weekend in the house and almost didn't know what to do with ourselves when they tilted in. It was like a miracle.

Jen Nelson Lundy
11/14/2014 at 10:39 PM
Great choice! You picked my favorite :-)
Alex
11/17/2014

Excellent

Anonymous
11/14/2014 at 10:51 PM

Congrats... It is a beautiful home! I did not follow your entire search because work got in the way, but I just reviewed the options and have to say I a, so glad you stuck with a historic home, since your passion for that has always been so evident.

I am sad, though, that you won't be in Old Town any longer! Hopefully you'll keep the blog up. Congrats again!

Alex
11/17/2014

This is our thought too. We're drawn to old homes, so why change that now?

And not to worry! We're not leaving Old Town at all. This is a second home for weekends and project fun. I don't think we'll ever be able to leave our Old Town house. Too much of our life was spent making it exactly what we want it to be.

Katie
11/14/2014 at 11:45 PM

I just fist pumped when I read you chose house #3! My husband looked at me funny. :D Can't wait to see what y'all do with the place!

Alex
11/17/2014

Hah! We love your enthusiam!

Margaret Schleicher Bjorklund
11/15/2014 at 10:55 AM
Wonderful choice. You have lots of time for this one to shine with your touches and skills!
Alex
11/17/2014

Thank you so much. We need to keep reminding ourselves to take our time. We want it done right away but we need to make sure we do it right.

Margaret Schleicher Bjorklund
11/15/2014 at 10:55 AM
Enjoyed taking this adventure with you.
Meghan Henning
11/15/2014 at 6:04 PM
Beautiful! Congratulations!
Alex
11/17/2014

Thank you!

Laura C
11/17/2014 at 9:15 AM

Congrats - looks spectacular! Having recently purchased a second home, myself, I recommend Casper mattresses - they're really comfortable and the best thing is that they come in a box that fits in a car, so you can have it shipped to your primary residence and then drive it to your vacation home when you're ready. That was a big factor for me because my weekend home is on an island with no mail delivery!

Franki Parde
11/17/2014 at 10:50 AM

Sigh....let the adventure begin...it is "just right" as Goldie Locks said!!! franki

Phoebe
11/17/2014 at 12:34 PM

Congratulations! I love this home-- can't wait to read about all the projects soon!

threadbndr
11/17/2014 at 1:16 PM

Congrats, guys.

I think this is the best 'fit' for you, but I would have loved to see what you did with that ranch (or the no-plumbing house LOL).

Steve
11/18/2014 at 10:04 AM

I think you made the right choice. It has such a classic look. Did you ever consider that perhaps the back part is actually an older structure? It kind of has that look about it, but maybe not. Anyway, a really nice house.

Tee
11/18/2014 at 8:32 PM

I can't wait to see what you two do with this beautiful place. Great choice.

Rondina
11/18/2014 at 10:23 PM

With the information you gave us, I think you made an excellent decision. And it looks like you are already reaping the benefits of your purchase. Congrats.

Ofelia from México City
11/21/2014 at 2:06 AM

This house is amazing! Good choise!

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