Kristin Luna

The Long Road Home

Buyers’ market? Heh. That’s what we were told time and time again going into this spring’s ordeal. And then what followed was eight months of house-hunting in a fifty-mile radius with a pretty generous VA loan working in our favor (we thought)—the point is, we were flexible, I’d like to think—and then we had a house one day, and the next day we didn’t.

We loved the first place with every ounce of our being. It was a relatively new home that was in pristine condition on a five-acre plot with a koi pond and beautiful landscaping and lots of trees for Ella to play in and a chicken coop and a huge detached, bricked workshop space for SVV to work on all of his projects (and leave me in peace inside!). Oh and a camel for a neighbor. It was Fate. We thought.

New Home | Camels & ChocolateAnd then two weeks after the buyer backed out of the contract they called us again and wanted us to buy their house for the original contract. It was still our dream home, the only one we saw that just clicked right away. So we said yes.

Then they backed out again. And then as expected called us again two weeks later and decided they wanted to sell us their house once again. But this time for more than the agreed-upon price. We laughed and hung up on them. House-hunting is a tedious and emotional journey (not unlike being a Bachelor contestant as Chris Harrison would lead us to believe). I checked their MLS listing yesterday, and they’ve since reduced the price $75,000 from what it was in May—$40,000 less than we agreed upon in our contract. I have a mental image of them smacking their foreheads with their hands and commenting to each other how stupid they’ve been to give us the runaround (because they were).

But everything works out for a reason, right? (Geez, I really hate trite clichés. At least, in this case, it holds true.) Because had they not been so flighty, we would never have reached this point: in possession of a gorgeous old Victorian home that couldn’t suit us any better.

New Home | Camels & ChocolateYes, folks: We are officially homeowners! That’s something I never thought I’d be able to say, particularly after nearly a decade of living in some of the world’s most expensive cities (where, dare I share, I paid double for my share of the rent alone what our monthly house payment is going to be combined) and while operating under the title of “self-employed journalist” (which complicated things to no end). We also paid less than half of the price for New (Old) Dream Home—because yes, it was built in the 19th CENTURY—as we would have for Old (New) Dream Home, which was built in 2000. So sometimes patience and persistence reigns supreme, I suppose. We’re more of old souls anyway; this place just suits us to a tee.

Victorian house | Camels & ChocolateWell, except for the previous owner’s god-awful taste in paint colors. But that can be easily remedied.

Victorian house | Camels & ChocolateIt was no easy process, and had SVV not been so thorough and made a jiggity-jillion phone calls daily to the powers that be, I’m pretty certain we wouldn’t be in the possession of keys today. We thought that going through his bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, with whom he has been a customer for 14 years, was going to make the whole thing simple. (My naivete of being a first time homeowner is glaringly obvious like a third head, isn’t it?) Our loan officer was a hellion to work with, and in the end, we thought this was going to fall through, as well, as she clearly did not want to help us out and asked for a third extension on our closing date. But Tweeting and Facebooking worked in our favor, as Tony—our credit union supervisor in shining armor—came to the rescue and made it all happen just in the nick of time! And for that, we owe him. (Thanks, Tony! Bourbon’s on us next time you’re passing through Middle Tennessee.)

Victorian house | Camels & ChocolateAnd I must give a shout out to our fantastic realtor Ron, who deserves a medal for putting up with us these past several months. Being in real estate is no easy task, y’all.

We’re pretty excited and are in for one wild home-renovation ride. We have some grand plans that include: replacing the siding and roof (spring), knocking out the hallway wall and building a dream attic bathroom like this one (sometime down the line), building a detached garage with carriage doors in the same style as the house (next year), a major kitchen overhaul (soon, real soon) and more.

Victorian house | Camels & ChocolateBut first, we’ll be hiring someone to replace all the windows in the house, while we paint the entire interior and tear out the carpet in the upstairs two bedrooms and hallway (update: carpet-removal accomplished tonight! woohoo!) and replace it with restored barnwood to come as close as possible to the original floors in the rest of the house. So our moving date is still a ways away, which makes my mom happy, as I’m pretty sure she’s not ready for us to go just yet (even though we’re still close enough to have a weekly dinner).

New Home | Camels & ChocolateThis is when it comes in real handy to be married to a guy who has worked as a contractor, foreman for a painting firm, carpenter, floor installer, electronics technician and much, much more. (Ladies, I highly suggest an application process and resume review before getting engaged.) We’ll be doing the majority of work ourselves, which means I’ll be trading in my sundresses for painter’s duds.

Victorian house | Camels & ChocolateThe house is a historic Queen Anne home that we only dreamed about owning out in San Francisco, but which would have set us back $10 million or so there; it’s in great shape for having been built 110+ years ago, and surprisingly doesn’t need a whole lot of work to make it liveable. All the improvement we’ll be making are more personal preferences. For example, this kitchen will soon have a gas stove, some pretty backsplash, a new floor and white cabinets. And we absolutely cannot wait to get our hands dirty with planting an herb garden out back and adding some beautiful landscaping flanking the sidewalk, as well as a white picket fence out front (could we be more of the American stereotype? no minivan, though…yet).

New Home | Camels & ChocolateThe house is just the perfect size for the two of us and Ella: 2,800 square feet, four bedrooms (one of which will be an office; the other two will be spares), two bathrooms, a dining room, a living room, a sunny kitchen nook, a basement, an attic, and complete with six functional fireplaces and a number of charming details.

Victorian house | Camels & ChocolateWhile I don’t plan on turning this site into a homes or DIY blog in the slightest, I will document finished projects here over time. Any objections to that? If so, I must insist you come over for mint juleps on our wraparound porch, during which I just know I can convince you to change your mind.

New Home | Camels & Chocolate


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Comments ( 120 )

  1. WOWOW! It’s gorgeous — congratulations!!!!!
    Abby recently posted..Vegas Off Roading ExperienceMy Profile

  2. That house is STUNNING! Congrats you two on getting your first home. VA Loans are notoriously a pain in the butt and NFCU can also be a pain!
    And PLEASE bring on the house posts, I love them, especially as I am stuck in military housing for at least 3 more years!
    Rebecca @ Sink Or Swim recently posted..Finally! A REAL Dog Park!My Profile

  3. Gorgeous house! Congrats! :)

  4. The home-owning process sounds ridiculously tedious!! But it’s great that you now have such a lovely home that’s all your own. I love the swing and the fireplace! Still, after hearing about all that, I think I’ll continue renting for quite awhile longer…

    • I don’t blame you! I don’t know which is worse: the lending process or having my life ruined by slumlords (living in SF and NYC for the last several years, I never had a decent or fair landlord!).

  5. Everything about this is brilliant. Well except for the part where your lender is a douche. That sucks.

    Congratulations! She is a beauty.
    Tami — Teacher Goes Back to School recently posted..Saturday SensesMy Profile

  6. Is it weird that I want to take a bath in that amazing tub? Congrats! I can’t wait to see the globe room!
    Amy recently posted..The “Do Care” list and the “Don’t Care” list…My Profile

    • I think that will more likely be globe rooms, as in plural–our collection is out of control lately! And we will definitely be keeping the tub and hopefully just adding a stall shower once we knock out the wall =)

  7. Looks like Dad approves. Can’t blame him as this place is Magnificent. You’re walking into a dream and making it your own. Love all the woodwork. What’s the property like. I want to see more.
    Sure hope SVV has a truck to haul all the materials and tools. Or are you looking at minivans:)

    • We actually inherited my sister’s old Chevy truck, which is a godsend for this project. And Scott’s looking at shipping his Jeep out from California, which is still parked at his parents’ place as we brought both of our compact cars out and left it behind. We already filled up the truck once tonight with all the discarded carpet we have to take to the dump!

  8. Eeek… It’s SO beautiful! I grew up in a house like this and I miss it every day. I’m guessing you ended up outside of Nashville instead of in the city? What area is this?

    • We did settle on being more for a rural area (ie the sticks) because of Scott’s job, but we’re about one minute to the Interstate, so it’s easy enough to get in and out of the city.

  9. Beautiful home! I can’t wait to see more. I love home renovation posts so you won’t catch me objecting, though I wouldn’t mind drinks on the porch either. Haha


  10. Wow! It’s absolutely beautiful! Congrats!

  11. How many days of notice do you give if someone wants to sleep in the spare room? :)
    Lovely, lovely house! I love the details and the warmth of wood. Congratulations again!
    Grace @ Sandier Pastures recently posted..Masaman Chicken CurryMy Profile

  12. Congratz Kristin ! such a beautiful house :)
    DebbZ recently posted..Alaska: The Salmon City of The WorldMy Profile

  13. Beautiful! Love the house – I can totally see you guys in that space.
    Akila recently to make baklava at karakoy gulluogluMy Profile

    • Thank you! The next road trip you guys should take with the dogs is a Southern one–and then come crash with us for a few days. Unlike most Southern hotels and B&Bs, our place will be open to canines of all size and breed 😉

  14. It’s absolutely beautiful! Congrats :) I like the extra bedrooms bit….you never know what kind of guests might drop in.
    Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy recently posted..July Favorites: Tuscany, Reese’s Brownie Cake, FarinataMy Profile

  15. Many congratulations to you guys! That is quite a journey! As fellow DIY-ers, we are about 95% complete with our final project, so we know how to live in a construction zone. We are about to list it and start the process all over again, but we will be moving closer to family so that makes it all worth it. It is truly a labor of love. Can’t wait to see pictures as you go!

  16. Congratulations to you both! It’s such a pretty home. I will be first in place for mint juleps chez-vous.

  17. Seriously …. I might be screaming just a little! What an insanely gorgeous house!

    Sorry the process was so tough, but glad to see it was worth it. And I’m willing to head south and offer my child up for manual labor. I’m sure you’d love how she paints 😉

    And finally, I’ve NEVER had a mint julep, and it looks like your house would be the perfect place to remedy that :) Congrats to you both!
    Angie recently posted..Reaching and climbing on Monday …My Profile

  18. She’s beautiful!! Treat that grand old lady with the dignity and respect that she deserves!!!

  19. GORGEOUS!! Congratulations : ))

  20. Omg it’s amazing! What a find! Can’t wait to see what you do with it.
    Danielle recently posted..Bits of my weekMy Profile

  21. I’ve loved seeing the house teasers on instagram. Congrats! It all looks amazing. Though I laughed when you said, “The house is just the perfect size for the two of us and Ella: 2,800 square feet, four bedrooms….” Since you and SVV (and Ella) have lived in a SF sized apartment, a mobile home and on board a ship for extended periods of time it seems that you are somehow also able to get by with much less space!

    I’m also looking forward to the updates on projects! Especially on that DREAM bathroom.

    • You are so right! Our San Francisco apartment was just under 1,000 square feet, and it really started to shrink on us toward the end. The problem is that I work from home, and Scott’s moving in that direction, so when you truly are in your house all day, every day, I think you need even more space! We lived in a house in San Mateo for a year that was about 2,400 square feet, and it was the perfect size for us, but the layout was all wrong–we couldn’t actually utilize that space.

      The entire downstairs living room/parlor will be converted to our office, and the upstairs guest room will be an “adults’ room” while the downstairs one will be a “kids’ guest room” for my cousin’s kids, my nieces and nephews, and any visiting friends who have children. I can’t wait to decorate! The challenge is going to be not doing it all at once (given that, uh, decorating takes a lot of funds, ha!).
      Kristin recently posted..The Long Road HomeMy Profile

  22. How did that camel end up in Tennessee? So funny, I love his smile. But your house is absolutely beautiful and I’m sure the camel probably makes loud weird noises or smells bad anyways.

  23. It’s BEAUTIFUL!! Congratulations.

  24. You weren’t kidding when you sent that house warming tweet. Congrats!

    2800 square feet? You ain’t in San Francisco any more!
    Kent @ NVR recently posted..5 Things Learned from Losing the iPhone and Using FacebookMy Profile

    • The crazy part is that we looked at houses that were 4,500 square feet or more and in the same price range, and they felt way too massive and excessive. Just because you can afford something doesn’t mean it’s right for you, you know?

  25. Holy dream house! I am in love!
    Thanks for sharing your new home with us- can’t wait to hear about the process!
    Kerry at HouseTalkN

  26. Congratulations! LOVE IT!

    Definitely will have to make a plan to come visit (and maybe even volunteer some DIY skills)
    Raven recently posted..unexpected pangs of the heartstringsMy Profile

  27. Wow. What a dream come true! I absolutely love those hardwood floors and the swing on the wrap around porch. You’re definitely making me want to come to Tennessee!
    Natalie T. recently posted..Where to Stay in Toronto – TBEX EditionMy Profile

  28. So happy it all worked out for you in the end! Those first people were ridiculous to let the offer fall through, but I love old homes and this one is so charming. Oh and be careful extending invites- I’m a sucker for porches and will totally come visit 😉
    Laura recently posted..A Taste of South Africa- The Old Biscuit Mill, Cape TownMy Profile

  29. It looks lovely! I definitely want to see what you do with it! After living out of boxes and moving every 3 months, I so appreciate the idea of having a home that is all your own!

    • As do I–I have lived in tiny city apartments for the past eight years, plus a ship cabin! I feel like I definitely deserve a little space to call my own finally =)

  30. Big grown-up congrats, K&SVV! I can’t wait to julep with you. X

  31. I’m so happy that everything went through and that you were rewarded for the long and tedious process with such a wonderful home! I felt so bad for you when you were stressing on Twitter because it’s just the worst – but yay!!! So happy for you both!!

  32. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    that’s all! :)

  33. Congratulations! It looks gorgeous. Can’t wait to watch it all unfold. So glad you guys are getting settled and so close to your family and all of it! The house is dreamy! :)
    Holly recently posted..Whole 30 – Days 6-12My Profile

  34. It is gorgeous! I can’t wait to see what you do with it, especially the kitchen.

  35. Congrats on the home it is SO CHARMING! And I certainly would LOVE to keep reading about all your home improvements and renovations – I am OBSESSED with HGTV and home reno shows even though I don’t own a home, don’t plan on owning a home, and travel as part of work! So its ok – travel and home renos, Thats a wonderful life!
    Chrystal McKay recently posted..Lunches on the Albanian CoastMy Profile

  36. Lovely. Congratulations. :-)

  37. Congrats- looks like a beautiful place.

    And as long as Ella approves …. :-)
    Erik recently posted..Photo of the Day- Waterfall, Pipestone National Monument, MinnesotaMy Profile

  38. Congrats to you both! That house is GORGEOUS as is, just wait until you add your touch to it. Can’t wait to follow along!

  39. Congratulations! I love old houses, and this one looks gorgeous. I’m not a homeowner myself, but I’m addicted to HGTV, so I look forward to you documenting your renovation projects here.

    • I need to start watching HGTV–I confess, while I follow their Pinterest boards religiously, I’ve never seen any of the shows! And they’re based in Tennessee, too…

  40. YAY FINALLY, geez Navy Fed.! Anyway, congrats! This house just fits your two to a T. Can’t wait to see all the projects get completed.

  41. Beautiful house – congratulations ! Looks like something I would have to pay a millionnaire’s fortune for here near Paris too.
    Totally unrelated, I’m intrigued you’re off to the UK later this year. We’ve just come back f rom a mini road-trip, north to south. It’s a funny thing to roud-trip your home country and discover new things along the way, and just as much fun as exploring a new country as it turned out. Where are you going?

  42. I absolutely love it! Seriously it looks like it could be a hotel, and I can only imagine how amazing it’s going to look with some new colors. Congrats on making it through the buying process!
    Emily in Chile recently posted..Saturday in Santiago: Despensa GourmetMy Profile

    • Which brings me to the end (maybe-one day) goal: a B&B! When we first saw it, that was the first thing that jumped to mind. The only problem is that there are four bedrooms (with a possible fifth were we to convert the attic) and only two bathrooms, which admittedly we might be able to do something about over time (and with more funds).

  43. Congratulations – Your home looks beautiful! Like you said, you are very fortunate that Scott is so “handy”. Good luck!

    Where did you end up? I was in touch awhile ago letting you know that we moved out to Nashville from SF. We also bought a house back in March – We ended up in the “country” in a town called Kingston Springs (30 minute west of Nash).

    Yes, I am a true believe that “everything happens for a reason”! Very happy for you guys :)

  44. Oh my gosh! This is SUCH exciting news! I redecorated my bedroom in my childhood home recently and I said to my friend “Maybe when this travel blogging thing is up I’ll become a home improvement blogger…” Ha! So no objections here. You read Young House Love already, right? If not, start now!

  45. Hooray! I’ve been following the loan drama on Instagram & FB and I’m so glad you finally sorted everything out! We had a similar drama when we bought our flat and it’s so frustrating waiting for banks to come through with the goods!
    House is gorgeous and I can’t wait to see what you guys do to it! Congrats to you both and Miss Ella of course!

  46. Congratulations! Purchasing your first home together is indeed exciting, as well as a roller coaster just to get through the buying process.

    Don’t forget to add to the list about installing some gutter guards to prevent having to clean out all the leaves every year.

    Living next to that camel would have been cool though, and then maybe you wouldn’t need a mini-van some day. :)

  47. Woohoo, new (old) dream home – looks great and can’t wait to see what you guys do with it!

    We also did a VA loan through NFCU last year, and we had ZERO problems/delays/annoyances, so hopefully my experience was the usual instead of yours. 😉
    Charise recently posted..In Season: Grilled Strawberry “Crumble”My Profile

  48. minivan? implications of future bab(ies)? hehe! congratulations. stunning home- the south looks good

  49. Gorgeous! I also like to believe that things do work out in unexpected ways. Let me know when your spare bedroom is ready for house guests :-)
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..12 Favorite Landscape Photos from Tupiza to UyuniMy Profile

  50. How exciting! Congratulations! I love all the small details in it that only old homes have. Please do share the renovations progress. I love seeing before and after pictures of home reconstructions. :)
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  51. Congratulations! I am completely jealous! Is it weird that when I look at houses I always picture them decorated for Christmas and this is how I evaluate them? Anyway, this one looks like it’s got fantastic Christmas decorating potential. Good luck with the projects!

  52. Congratulations! So exciting! I swoon over the old mansions in my neighborhood–many of which are completely dilapidated or have been chopped up into apartments (my own apartment mansion included) and I dream of buying one and renovating it. Can’t wait to see how things come together!

    heidikins recently posted..My Experience as an Olympic Volunteer: Salt Lake 2002My Profile

  53. Congratulations – you must both be so excited to be the proud homeowners of such a beautiful house! All my life I have longed for a wraparound porch like that – I may have to move to the Southern U.S. to get one!
    Lisa recently posted..Crown Fountain In Millennium ParkMy Profile

  54. WHAT A HOUSE! I love it. Love the classic nature of it, and the lines and the little detail. Keep posting about it. :)
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  55. WRAP AROUND PORCH?!?!?! i’m in love. :) and so happy this finally worked out- and so true- it was all for the best!
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  56. It’s so perfect there are no words. Can you believe that I am less anxious to have a child than to buy a house. I’m still not even close to thinking about buying one. I will live vicariously through you. CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Thailand: Day 3 (Part 1)My Profile

  57. Oh! It’s beautiful and I love it! Congratulations on being homeowners!

    I’ve always been partial to older homes (mine is around 90 years old) because of the character and the quirks. I love old wood floors and the beautiful details that new homes just don’t come with.

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  58. I am FINALLY getting around to cracking in to my google reader-I am amazed at how good of condition it is in! Seriously, so impressive! As you know I am totallly head over heels in love with your house!

  59. I’m just getting caught up on my blog reader, so sorry for the delay, but congratulations!!! That is one beautiful house. Being an (old) homeowner is so much fun. Old houses have so much charm and character and unique challenges.

    Did y’all end up buying in Tullahoma or somewhere closer to Nashville?
    The Modern Gal recently posted..Bona fideMy Profile

  60. AWESOME!!!! Can we come and stay for a week or five?

  61. This looks freaking amazing is all I can think to say at all. What a great looking house and the simple color changes make it simple stunning. Those door hinges are something else they give a seriously great feel to the overall presents of the house. I think you got your hands on a true gem. Thanks for your article and pics, looks great!
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