You guys! I’m so excited because as of 3pm yesterday, my heartmate and I officially became the owners of a house. Whaaaaaaaat! I straight up can’t believe it has finally happened as it has been a dream of ours since we graduated from university almost a decade ago. I have so much that I want to tell you about the house, the buying process and, most importantly, our makeover plans for our new home. Let me back up and start from the very beginning (yes, I sang that aloud Julia Andrews style!).
I’ll me start by saying: we’re not leaving New York City! No, siree! We both love the city and our apartment far too much to say goodbye. We’re calling this the ‘weekend house’ but I’m sure we’ll be out here much more than just weekends because a) we love it, and b) there’s so much more space for both work and play! Doing design photo shoots in a small one-bedroom apartment in the city is, well, a challenge, so it’ll be nice to have more space to work and live in. Throughout the post I’ve included some of the inspiration images I’ve captured of beautiful home exteriors throughout the Hamptons and Nantucket over the past few years, to give a sense of how we hope to transform the exterior of the house. Click through after the jump to read the full story and get the lowdown on our new home!
We knew that we wanted to put roots down on the East Coast both financially and emotionally. After all, it’s stomach turning when we think how much money we spend in rent every month, and we wanted to start investing money into property for our future. It’s crazy that our mortgage payment is only a third (!) of our monthly rent payment for the Manhattan apartment. The reality is that buying in the city was off the cards for us because we couldn’t afford to buy anything suitable for our needs in terms of location, size etc. Plus, in all honesty, we kinda wanted to buy a place outside the city first so that we could enjoy both city and country life. I always say that leaving NYC feels great and coming back home to the city feels even better! I’m sure my fellow New Yorkers will be nodding their heads to that: the feeling of excitement about leaving ‘the Island’ for a trip is palpable, trumped only by the feeling of hope, optimism, excitement and comfort that fills up inside of me when I see the iconic NYC skyline every time I drive back across one of the city’s bridges. To have a regular tonic from the fast pace of NYC life is very exciting. I recognize how fortunate we are to be able to do so, but that’s not to say we haven’t worked our backsides off to be able to do so, either! The house is in a small coastal village on South Shore Long Island, NY and is called Bellport. It’s about twenty minutes or so from Southampton and an hour and twenty minutes from Manhattan. I fell in love with Bellport (read more about the village here) before we immigrated to America (two years ago this fall – it’s gone so fast!) after I discovered my now friend and realtor, Howie Guja, on Instagram. A longtime resident of Bellport, Howie was sharing such evocative imagery of the village and I instantly fell in love with the colonial, beachy-vibe of the town. Once we moved to America, I took my heartmate to see the village and he too fell in love the friendly, unpretentious and laid-back vibe. And so our decision was made: we wanted to buy in Bellport! This was about a year ago to the day. Then we hit a road block.
You might remember from my blog post about the process of trying to secure our first rental apartment in Manhattan when we originally moved to NYC? Well, essentially, when you emigrate you loose your credit history from your country of origin. So, despite at the time being almost thirty years old with great credit in the U.K., the U.S. banks, lenders, rental and cell phone companies and so on all treated us like we’d just graduated college and had no credit history. When we explored buying in Bellport around this time last year it was clear that unless we were cash buyers it would be incredibly complicated and highly unlikely we could buy without much more established U.S. credit history. We felt so frustrated because we had the funds to make it work (and, really, we had the credit history too!) but all the banks said that without at least two years of U.S. tax returns it wouldn’t be possible to get a mortgage. We were back to the drawing board!By the time we received our Green Cards in October last year I had built up a strong credit score here in America and we knew we were in a stronger position. The only thing standing in our way was the lack of U.S. tax returns for my business, so once I submitted my first U.S. tax return in April we were set. However, we thankfully managed to find a mortgage broker that specializes in overseas/expat buyers and they managed to get us pre-approved for our mortgage in February, which was when we put the offer in on our house!
We found the property online but as I knew Howie and wanted him to be our realtor we reached out to him to arrange a viewing of this house, along with some others that he knew of in our price bracket. I honestly can’t recommend Howie enough if you are thinking of buying in the area, his service was second to none and he helped us with the buying process every step of the way. One of our main buying points was that we wanted a two-story home and not a ranch-style property. A lot of the two-story colonial style houses in Bellport are on the larger size and were out of our budget. However, this adorable four bed, two bath extended Cape Cod cottage was literally perfect in terms of size and budget. We loved the look of it online, but when we pulled into the driveway for the first time in Howie’s car I remember looking at Toby and we both knew it was right from that moment. Thankfully, when we looked inside we only loved it more.We put in an offer and after a short negotiation we agreed with the seller on a price. That was back in February so the whole process of buying the house took around three months. In New York the house only comes off the market once you have exchanged contracts, so even after we had put in our offer and it had been accepted, another buyer could have come along and offered a higher price or been a cash buyer. It was such a nerve-wracking three weeks or so because we had fallen head over heels in love with the house and knew that finding another property that checked almost all the boxes, was located within the village (village residents only have access to a private beach on Fire Island called Ho Hum, which is reached by boat across Bellport Bay – this was a huge draw for us!), and for it to have been within our budget was extremely unlikely. Thankfully, it all worked out and we felt so lucky! In fact, the property was owned by a hoarder until 2014 when it was bought by a flipper who renovated it into what the house is today. However, the flipper has over a hundred properties on Long Island and listed the house in the wrong town for the first two weeks it was on the market, so people looking to buy in the sought-after area of Bellport weren’t seeing it in listings. We think this – coupled with the fact the weather was awful with lots of snow storms etc. for the month long period of time between when we our offer was accepted and before we exchanged – is one of the reasons we managed to secure the property. It’s been fun to see the property in the depth of winter with snow on the ground, through to now at the start of summer where the trees are alive with verdant color.The house is an extended Cape Cod cottage and was built in 1952. It’s currently a four bedroom, two-bathroom home and we plan to open some of the spaces up and turn it into a more spacious, luxury three-bed weekend home. I’ll be sharing renders and floor plans for every space in the house in the coming weeks as we’re renovating the whole property from top to bottom starting now! I didn’t want to share everything today because this post is already super long and I thought it would be fun to take it space-by-space with you guys.What I can tell you is that I’m partnering with my friends at One Kings Lane to decorate the living room, dining room and master bedroom suite! I couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with their team as I’ve admired the work and product assortment of OKL for many years. I’m designing the space alongside Sally, who is one of the designers from The Studio at One Kings Lane. This is the brand’s interior design service which helps customers with the design of their space, whether you have no design ideas at all through to spaces where you have a vision but would like a second opinion/need help executing your ideas. The first consolation with a designer in The Studio is complementary and I highly recommend it if you are considering a design project. Excitingly, the brand are opening their first brick and mortar location in a 19th-century former library space at 11 Jobs Lane, Southampton, NY this weekend. As our new house is close by to the store, it’s going to be great to get up close and personal with the OKL product, as well as meet with Sally at the store as we continue to design the space throughout the summer. I can’t wait to share the process with you all! Here’s to the ups and downs of a renovation. Let the transformation commence!As I’m not sharing the interior plans today, I thought it would be fun to at least tease the plans to the exterior and front yard. There’s also a very sizeable backyard area but I’ll share our plans for that in the coming weeks. The rendering a little further up shows a mock-up of our plans for the exterior and front yard, and I’ve annotated a picture of the property here to demonstrate our vision: we plan to cedar shingle the entire exterior of the property; landscape the front yard and plant hydrangeas along the front side; change the front door (the current one is awful!); paint the windows black; and pea gravel the driveway. I’m so excited, you guys! This is going to be such a transformation and after years of decorating with the restrictions of a rental I’m excited to be able to dive in head first and pick everything down to hardware and faucets etc. Oh, and if you read this far, thanks for sticking with me!