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Nest House Hunt: An Older House With Character for the Newlyweds

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Nicholas Adams and Jessica Hendry Nelson - COURTESY OF JESSICA HENDRY NELSON
  • courtesy of Jessica Hendry Nelson
  • Nicholas Adams and Jessica Hendry Nelson
Nest House Hunt follows first-time home buyers on the search for their dream homes.

In August, Jessica Hendry Nelson and Nicholas Adams got married. With the wedding came the desire to settle down in a home of their own. The 31-year-old couple — Jessica a writer and the author of If Only People Could Follow Directions: A Memoir; Nick a data analyst at Building Bright Futures — is renting a one-bedroom duplex in a turn-of-the-20th-century Winooski house. They love its lived-in charm, says Jessica, “But it’s too small for us. It’s time! We’re ready to buy a house.”

Here’s what they have in mind.
  • Rooms: three bedrooms; preferably two bathrooms
  • Style: “We are hoping to get something old, with character, that might need a little work, but not too much work,” says Jessica, who notes that Nick is “very handy” and a good woodworker. “Anything built before 1950 is really what we’re looking for.”
  • Location: within a half-hour driving distance of Burlington
  • Land: roughly an acre
  • Price: $250,000 to $300,000
  • Extras: garage, preferably detached; space for gardens; porch; hardwood floors (no carpets)
Working with Julie Gaboriault at Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty, their search was over as soon as it began — until everything fell apart.

“We started looking at the end of August,” recaps Jessica, and they immediately found a great house on two acres in Georgia, conveniently located near the highway.

“It was beautiful inside,” she continues. “Architecture is our thing. It’s really important to us. Old homes with character, nice architecture, details, beautiful floors and moldings, tin ceilings…” This place fit the bill with its exposed beams, hardwood floors, crown moldings, beautiful fireplace and nice, big shed to accommodate Nick’s woodworking projects.

An added bonus: “We liked the privacy,” she says. “We weren’t on top of neighbors there.”

They put in an offer. It was accepted.

However, during inspection, they found out that the house needed a lot of work — about $25,000 worth. “The sellers weren’t willing to negotiate, so we had to back out,” explains Jessica. “It was overwhelming … Julie walked us through all the steps. She helped us find a good inspector. She talked us through all of the options. She did her best to try to negotiate with them, but they were really, really stubborn.”

Since that heartbreaking letdown, “We’ve been looking all the time,” Jessica says — even searching beyond their desired 30-minute radius of Burlington. They’ve looked in Charlotte, Starksboro and North Ferrisburgh. “Everything so far seems to be either too high [a price] or too much work,” she observes. And now, “Winter’s coming, so I don’t know how that’s going to affect the search.”

As much as she enjoys looking at home listings — “I love real estate,” Jessica confesses — she admits that she and Nick are starting to get anxious. “We’re just ready,” she says. “Our apartment is great; we’re fine. We don’t have to rush … [But] when the right house comes up, we’re ready to move.”

She’s training herself to put the urgency she feels aside and slow down the search. “There was a period where I wanted to look at every house that could conceivably work for us, even if I knew in my heart of hearts it wouldn’t work,” she explains. “It ends up wasting a lot of time. I had to learn to be more discerning up front.”

Lesson No. 1: Do a drive-by before scheduling an appointment to look at a house. “Often a house looks good online,” Jessica says. But as soon as you pull up, you may realize that it’s not a good fit — the road may be too busy, or the house too close to neighbors.

And Lesson No. 2? “Patience,” she says, echoing Nest’s previous House Hunters. “I’ve had to learn to be patient.”

Jessica’s been keeping a log of their journey, filled with relatable emotions and lessons learned along the way. We’ve excerpted a few of her entries:

"As the weather gets colder, I feel more anxious to get into a new home before winter bears down. At this point, it’s not looking promising. We keep thinking about the house we lost in Georgia. Nothing else seems to compare, but then we remember the huge repairs it requires and come back to reality. Have to let it go!"
COURTESY OF ZILLOW.COM
  • Courtesy of zillow.com
"This house in Starksboro is lovely, and well within our budget, but so big and a bit farther from Burlington than we’d prefer. The owner was home when we went to visit. She was baking cookies and having a glass of wine. She was really lovely and told us that their reason for moving was downsizing. “We don’t even go upstairs,” she said. With a massive first-floor master bedroom, it’s likely Nick and I wouldn’t either! We’ve decided 1,700 to 1,800 square feet is plenty for us. It seems strange to think that we might have to “settle” for more square footage than we’d like, considering how few homes are under 2,000 square feet."
COURTESY OF ZILLOW.COM
  • Courtesy of zillow.com
"After having my eye on this house in Colchester for a long time, I finally convinced Nick to take a look, even though it’s a bit above our budget. We love the location, right next to Niquette Bay State Park, and the proximity to Burlington and I-89. The age and style are also right up our alley. House hunting is getting more difficult with the time change. We have to visit after work most of the time, and by 5 p.m., it’s already dark. We’d driven by the house, though, and had a good feeling for the location. The yard is huge, flat and adjacent to the park and woods, which is ideal for us. The first thing we noticed after getting out of our car was the noise from nearby Route 2, which I hadn’t realized was so busy. We’re really hoping for a peaceful, quiet location, so that was a bit of a bummer. To justify the price, the house needed to be perfect for us. It isn’t. Back to drawing board we go!"
When Jessica and Nick have found their home, we’ll be giving them a housewarming present: a four-hour home-design consultation and $100 gift certificate from Stowe Kitchen Bath & Linens.

Follow along!

We’ll keep you posted on our House Hunters’ progress on our website at sevendaysvt.com and in our biweekly e-newsletter, Nest Notes. (And if you haven’t signed up for Nest Notes yet, you can do so at sevendaysvt.com/enews. It will arrive in your inbox every other Friday with tips on home, design and real estate.)

Would you like to be the next Nest House Hunter?
If you’re a prospective home buyer, let us share your progress, learn from your experience and, ultimately, help you celebrate with a gift to “warm” that new house. All you’ll have to do is keep a few notes, check in with us once a week and send photos!

Who’s in?
Contact us at nest@sevendaysvt.com.

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