So we have a bit of crazy major news we want to share with you. Rather than beating around the bush, let's just cut to the chase.

We bought a second house!

No, I'm totally serious, we actually bought a second home with actual doors, windows, and walls. And get this, unlike that house I was trying to convince Wendy we just had to buy...the creepy Victorian one on 50 acres in case you missed it...the one we actually bought has, get this, functional plumbing!

If you're a regular reader here, this is likely coming as a somewhat massive surprise since we haven't shared any of our search along the way for fear the purchase might not actually go through, that we might not buy a house, and we would be all build up and no bang. But now that the house is ours, we'll catch you all up to speed, sort of.

Flash back to 2003 when two kids had the brilliant idea to buy an historic fixer upper. As fresh faced newlyweds without a clue about what it takes to renovate a home yourself, we bought our first home almost 12 years ago. Since that fateful day, while many of our friends and co-workers have encountered changes in their lives that have required them to move on from their first homes to accommodate those changes, Wendy and I have been happily living in and working on our 15 foot wide Old Town Home in the city with no thoughts of selling. Sure, we have momentary inclinations of sale in the midst of arguments when we are simply overwhelmed with our home and the ongoing state of our projects, but those moments are fleeting at best, and we typically love our home and where we live beyond description.

So rather than selling, we've been working on our house for nearly 12 years, and there isn't a room or area we've not updated in some major manner. While we're nowhere near complete on the miles long list of projects we'd love to undertake and still have ahead of us, we're also winding down on the "must complete" items and have started to think about tackling the "dream list" items. And many of those "dream list" items could simultaneously be put on the "Wendy is going to kill me if I keep talking about these items" list.

At the same time we've been working on our own home, we've been touring other houses. Whether we were looking at local open houses (like those we've discussed in our Open Housing series of posts), going on historic home tours, wandering into houses (both museum and private) while on vacation, or just browsing on the internet, we're somewhat house obsessed and just can't help but look and dream. 

Well, wouldn't you know it, that browsing began to morph into something a bit more real, and several years ago Wendy and I started kicking around the vague idea of purchasing a second home as a sort of "weekend retreat." It all happened after spending a little time at a few B&Bs, some weekends at friends' homes, enjoying our time while on relaxing familiar location vacations (Napa Valley, Carmel-by-the-Sea), and having some sadistic masochistic desire to pour our hearts and souls into another home while continuing to work on our wonderful row house. However, our browsing was probably about 95% daydream and 5% reality, but we were browsing nonetheless.

As time went on, our perusal of listings started to mature, and Wendy and I both set up real estate searches matching criteria we were both interested in for a home. (Wendy's career as a Realtor no doubt also helped make this dream a reality.)

Predictably, all I cared about was age, the older the better. Give me a 250 year old house pretty much anywhere within five hours and I was happy. Oh, and I wanted enough land to allow me to build my own personal field of dreams, complete with corn field.

Wendy's tastes had far more to do with location, or more specifically, water. It didn't matter the age, quality, or architecture of a home, but give it a nice water view and you had yourself a winner in her eyes. The amount of space needed was small, and she especially didn't care for my Field of Dreams idea, I can tell you that for sure. Of course a Christmas staircase, a bathtub, and great space to entertain were high on her list.

We continued periodically (and by that, I mean constantly) looking at the various results being returned, and as we looked, our criteria continued to evolve and narrow. We were looking at colonial farmsteads of 10 acres or more as well as little waterfront bungalows on barely a postage stamp of land. The houses ranged from built in 1750 to 2014. And our distance from home went from a quick 20 minute drive to a three hour trek.

The more we looked the more we refined. We looked at what was important, what we were trying to achieve, how we wanted to use the house, how often we wanted to be at the house, how it could work with our schedules, how it might work with our friends' and family's schedules, how much work we wanted to do to the house, how much relaxation we wanted to have, and so many other variables it occasionally made our heads spin. The thing that kept us centered in the search, and the thing that constantly reaffirmed our desire to purchase a home were the idyllic scenarios we had concocted in our heads.

Both Wendy and I wanted a place where we could spend time with friends and family, away from the constant buzz of the city, enjoying the things in life that too easily pass you by when you're going 24x7, and we wanted that to be a place we could absolutely make our own. We pictured cool nights in front of the water around a crackling fire pit. We envisioned relaxing with a book with the sound of crickets and water in the background. And we kept focusing on the possibility of using our DIY skills and knowledge to help make the right home the perfect place to meet our needs. But what exactly was the right home?

Through our spousal negotiations, ongoing market analysis (listing stalking), discussions with those friends and family who we hope will spend lots of time with us, and lots of scenario daydreams, we finally narrowed our search to something more specific. We agreed we wanted a waterfront house that required anywhere from a moderate to significant amount of work, somewhere within a maximum two hour drive from our home. The age, amount of land, and just about any other feature was negotiable, other than the fact that it also had to have functional plumbing (that was Wendy's addition).

After our very lengthy search and many trips to see many different houses, we finally landed on the home we'd eventually purchase. However, coming to this decision wasn't an easy choice by any means. We ultimately had several different real contenders for homes that we visited multiple times.

I'm very sorry to be such a tease with this, but before we share our new home, we're going to show you our three top choices in a House Hunters style roundup of blog posts. Our plan is to share them over the next several weeks. During that time we'll give you a rundown on each house, our opinions on their pros and cons, and a rough overview of our "vision" that helped us to consider the houses.

Don't worry, we'll still be doing plenty of projects on and blogging about our Old Town Home, because it's still our first love. But we'll also have lots of fun topics to cover in this new house. It may not be a 15 foot wide historic row house, but we hope you'll like it and enjoy this next adventure we're embarking on.

So what do you think? Are we simply house crazy people, or does this sound like something you can get behind? Perhaps a little of both? Likely a little of both? Yeah, probably. 

Comments 42


Rachel Roellke-Smith
10/14/2014 at 1:15 PM
Congratulations!!! Also, the suspense is going to kill me!
Christopher Melena
10/14/2014 at 1:34 PM
Dammit alex I want more details you're killing me!
10/14/2014 at 1:47 PM

Not fair! You have to tell us now!!


HAHAHA, love it! In due time. We've been actively working on getting to this point for many months, can't just blurt it all out at once. Let's just say, one of the possible houses, I think you'll hate...

10/14/2014 at 2:06 PM

Share over the next several weeks?!! Nope, not acceptable. Make it the next several days--non-negotiable. But still congratulations;)

10/14/2014 at 5:08 PM

i agree!


We'll see what we can do. Alt smile

10/14/2014 at 2:27 PM

That's awesome! Can't wait to follow along with these posts.
Living in DC I think can do this to you. We've also been looking to buy something as a weekend retreat / 2nd home only out west, in West Virginia about 2 hours from here. The idea was to go there every few weekends and then rent it out when we weren't using it (the amount of research that went into figuring out the legalities of that is insane)but the search is temporarily on hold as the house I fell for turned out to be an utter disaster that should be condemned. We'll resume the search next year after the baby is born.
Anyway, excited to see what you guys ended up with!


We definitely looked around out west, and there are a ton of awesome houses out that way. Whether you're looking for a cabin, farm house, or just a great old Victorian, the whole valley has to much to offer.

Shelley Hanson
10/14/2014 at 3:40 PM
I am so excited for you guys!!!! Pictures, please!

Very soon, we've got to compile all of them.

Rather Square
10/14/2014 at 3:45 PM
Can't wait to see what house you ended up with!
10/14/2014 at 3:47 PM

You're killing me with suspense! Get on it man, the world wants to know!!
If I mail you some wine will it speed things up?


I'm givin' it all I got, Kristen! Soon, hopefully. (And by world, you mean the tiny corner of home nuts that we all congregate with, right?) But mailed wine is always a possible inspirational measure.

10/14/2014 at 5:08 PM

tease... Alt smile


Totally! Alt smile

10/14/2014 at 7:58 PM

M and I thought briefly about a cottage after we discovered how cheaply one could be obtained in this area. But our house is such a retreat as it is, and time so precious (to be spent driving back and forth), we decided against it.
We come from an area very big on cottaging (cottage country, if you will), so many stable couples we know buy a second property near or on waterfront.
It just has to be the right choice for the couple and their lifestyleAlt smile


We wrestled with this debate about time quite a bit, and you're absolutely right. I think the main thing that convinced us was the difference between city life and true small town/rural living, and that it can be a different way to enjoy and appreciate our time at a slightly slower pace. I think you probably know how much we love our house, and a second place does honestly feel like we're sort of cheating on it a bit, but we're excited by the chance to have another major project. But only time will tell if we've made the right choice.

10/14/2014 at 8:14 PM

The first 2 sentences of this post scared me! After YHL's recent announcement, I can only take so much Alt smile But this is fun news, congrats! I can't wait to see what you chose!


Thanks, Jen. Can't wait to get your thoughts on the options. Alt smile

Jen Nelson Lundy
10/14/2014 at 8:20 PM
I was afraid you two were pulling a YHL...thank goodness you're not! Congrats :-)

Personally I'm relieved you didn't buy the non-plumbing house, because then I would have died of envy.

Can't wait to see what you considered and chose!!


You know, this means it's still available for you and Paul. I know Paul loves a good project. Alt smile

10/15/2014 at 9:06 AM

Whoa. Ditto the 'please, please don't do a YHL on us.'

I'm excited to see what you chose. And I hope it's got a lot of cool projects for you to tackle.


Definitely a ton of cool projects. We're like Santa Claus and making our list!

10/15/2014 at 11:48 AM

This is so exciting! I love the House Hunters reveal! As I was reading, I was hoping you guys were going to come out here to Napa! I'll just have to continue following from afar!


Oh man, what Wendy would do to make a move to Napa a reality. If only! We'll have to dream about that for our retirement, but until then, hopefully this will be a peaceful place on the east coast where we can channel some of that Napa mentality.

10/15/2014 at 11:48 AM

Now you've got me sucked in after reading your post.... Can't wait to see what the place looks like!


Excellent! Stay tuned for option #1. Alt smile

10/15/2014 at 3:32 PM

CONGRATS!! I follow your blog and can't wait until the reveal is posted. Having returned from the Eastern Shore this past weekend,I understand the need for a get-away. Excited to learn and see what you choose.


Thank you so much! The Eastern Shore is truly great. It's like you're so much further away from DC than you really are.

10/15/2014 at 4:22 PM

I can't wait to see how this plays out. You guys have the best taste, so I know this will be endless hours of eye candy and hilarious Alex posts. And I'll probably take Wendy's side in every poll.


Alt smile Now I feel the pressure of having to live up to this "hilarious post" thing. I do agree that Wendy's side is typically more easily taken, she tends to be more realistic/logical/sane of the two of us.

10/15/2014 at 7:57 PM

Congratulations, and can't wait for your "show", and our guessing, to begin. You know that the way you're doing this (letting us see multiple options) is essentially asking your readers and friends to second guess your choice, don't you? (Ha ha, can't wait!)

And no, you're not crazy. We really miss having old houses to work on other than our own. But, because I want to retire while I still have some life in me, I am much more risk averse, given that it took us 2 years, on top of fixup time, to sell the last house we renovated. (There were 5-6 contracts during that period; this happened during the height of the housing crash/extreme tightening of home loans.)


The second guessing both makes me nervous and excited. I want to see everyone's take on our choices. If that means we end up beating ourselves up over the decision, regretting our choice for years to come...hey, at least it was fun! Alt smile

Anna Fitzgerald
10/15/2014 at 8:35 PM
Congratulations can't wait for more details
10/15/2014 at 9:04 PM

I wish I'd known you were looking, because I'd have been happy to sell you my 70s brick rancher in southside Virginia! Looking forward to reading about the second home.


Hah! I'll love to hear some of your thoughts if you want to share on our choices. Alt smile

10/15/2014 at 11:20 PM

Old House-itis is an incurable disease, & one of the most prominent symptoms is being overly optimistic. It's also terminal--but if it's any consolation, you're not alone! Alt wink

10/17/2014 at 10:40 AM

Yay! Congrats! Can't wait to see OTH: The Sequel!!!

Little Red
10/17/2014 at 11:57 PM

Wow! I do think you two are nuts but it's quite obvious that this is your passion so congratulations and good luck and I hope it's everything you hope for.

10/21/2014 at 9:08 AM

I am now convinced that you two will only sleep when you are dead. I laughed when I read the part about you two "getting away to relax"...yeah, maybe the first weekend, then all of those ideas of renovation will pop into your head! Congratulations you two!

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