‘The unicorns of first-time home buyers’

Anne Bentley for The Boston Globe

They told us buying in Boston was a numbers game: Expect to bid on at least three places. Plan to pay up to 10 percent over asking. Save room in your finances for a best-and-final round. It could take weeks — maybe months — to find something in your budget.

So my husband and I started searching early — before the snow had thawed and we had our down payment in order.

This would be our first home, but it technically wasn’t my first home. A few years earlier my sister and I had inherited a vacation house in the Berkshires.


Sound glamorous? It wasn’t. For four years my sister and I feared frozen pipes and hounded flaky renters while the house sat on the market. All I knew of homeownership, I hated.

But my husband and I were eager to move on. While renting in the part of Southie that we named “West Bro-way” for its fastest-growing population, we had fallen in love with Jamaica Plain’s familiar vibe, creative energy, and quirky Scottish watering hole.

Heading into our first Sunday of open houses, we swore we were just browsing. We looked at a two-bedroom that seemed perfect on paper but proved lackluster in person. We toured a two-bedroom just off Centre Street — a fantastic location but with a floor plan that confuses us to this day. (Who builds a master bedroom without a closet?)

We decided to bid on a three-bedroom condo that we liked but that was at the top of our budget and likely to increase. Playing the numbers game, we figured, we’ll lose in our first few tries and finally get an offer accepted next month . . . or someday.

Fewer than 48 hours later, after some negotiating, and yes — a best-and-final round — our agent called.


“Congratulations,” he said.

We were stunned. Did we really just buy a home after one day of house hunting? The first place we made an offer on? Was this what we really wanted? Wasn’t this supposed to be painful and exhausting?

Perhaps we were the unicorns of first-time home buyers in Boston. But over the weeks that followed, I agonized over the minutiae: Would our modern furniture work with the 120-year-old three-decker’s classic aesthetic? Do we really need three bedrooms? Would we miss having a covered parking spot?

Even worse: Had I made a mistake by rushing into homeownership again?

Selling the Berkshires house allowed us to make an acceptable down payment. We signed the paperwork, and eventually we got the keys.

As we walked up the stairs into our new home, I exhaled in relief. The condo was even better than we remembered it.

With the previous owners’ furniture gone, the place had become our blank canvas. I loved the wooden archway to the dining room (a dining room!), the leafy back deck, the shades of tile in the shower. Our kitchen sink has the most beautiful faucet I’ve ever seen.

I thought: This must be why people get so excited about the whole homeownership thing.

Is house-buying a numbers game? Absolutely. But I’ve lost enough to know when I’ve hit the jackpot.

Shira T. Center is a Globe political editor. Send comments to shira.center@globe.com and a 550-word essay on your first home to Address@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.