“MY DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH”
Welcome to 1501 Buena Vista Street, Pittsburgh, PA! What I like to call our “diamond in the rough”. Located in a great little Historic District called The Mexican War Streets, it has truly become my favorite area of Pittsburgh to live… The North Shore always has been since I lived here my first year before transplant. It’s wonderful to have a sense of community and neighborhood as I wait to move into my very own “home”.
The building consists of two units we rent out (a ground floor studio with a raised loft and a spacious 2 bed/1 bath), the apt. we are renovating as our own, and a corner commercial coffee shop just below. Right across the street is a community garden that it all looks out at which simply opens the entire building up to me, and in the summer permeates colors of rich beauty from the flowers that spreads happiness and smiles.
One of the big selling points for me wasn’t what WAS there, but was the potential of what WASN’T that COULD BE! Although it was a cramped 3 bed/1 1/2 bath apt., that we were opening up and transforming into our own needs, what excited me more than anything was looking up towards the sky and seeing the long expanse of that flat rooftop that has nothing on it :)… I may not be able to get out much, and this building doesn’t exactly have the privacy of a backyard, but I’ll never lose the outdoor girl that lives inside my heart. So you can imagine the dream that went through my head and has never left! ROOFTOP GARDEN AND DECK! I’ve been in love with the idea ever since Reese Witherspoon’s movie “Just Like Heaven”, when her love interest builds her that garden on her rooftop. I remember thinking “that was the one way I could love a city Apt… if it was the top floor with an outdoor space like that one and an awesome view”. It’s almost like another entire floor of living space would be created, which would be huge for us when our life is centered around the home. The second potential gift is the basement, and although last on the list by far, it’s exciting to know there is yet another area that can add living space to the home. The half of the basement that we’ve kept to go with my unit has ceilings high enough to stretch your arms and not be able to touch! Although small, it has the ability to become a media room/game room/guest bedroom etc… a place for movie marathons, games, to have friends hang out or just to get away after a really hard day, without worrying about keeping anyone up because of crazy hours or work schedules.
It’s an awesome apartment in my opinion, but not big by any means, which makes it unique… to have the ability to live in an open loft like space while still finding a way to have a private outdoor area as well as room to expand downstairs as if it was a normal row house. For me, whose life takes place entirely in my home almost, what I’m able to fantasize goes beyond a dream! 🙂 Since we’re a year and a half behind on the reno, the apt. itself is what matters, access to the roof my next priority, but it’s wonderful to get to at least share the thoughts, ideas and dreams in my head with everyone here that I would otherwise not get to have the fun of sharing.
Rewind 2 1/2 years… It’s summer 2010 and I’ve just spent a year and a half discovering a passion for design and architecture I never knew I had… HGTV literally opening the door to a world that saved my life! One of my first “big” ideas to help my family financially was to look at purchasing an Income Property, where we could live in one unit while renting out the other, getting help to pay the mortgage instead of continuing to pay rent on someone else’s. It was also one time I had the opportunity to do something I wanted to do as a healthy person, not as I had pictured it, but none of my life was and this was as close as I’d come :)… and it would make all that was coming so much easier, for us all… It was my chance to have a home of my own, to turn a place into something that felt like me, where mum and I could finally unpack (after what will be 7 apt’s in 7+ yrs once we get in!).
I was on Craigslist every day already, looking for a new rental, so I kept eyes open for fun for single family homes and duplexes. One day, this corner building popped up, for the same price as a single family home, a block away, that we were already going to look at. When I was young I had always said, “If I ever have to live in a city, I want to live in a Manhattan style loft or maybe above a corner coffee shop or Italian Bakery :)”. This couldn’t have been more adorable, but the price couldn’t be right… could it? So I told dad “who cares, lets just look… if it’s awful we can laugh and walk right back out!… but what if it’s actually nice?… what if there’s at least one you can rent and one we could live in and we could work on the others together for fun?…”, basically it couldn’t do any harm! AND THANK GOD WE DID! 🙂
Not only were they in decent shape, but all the apt’s were rented out and the coffee shop was leased, up and running. I’m sure people thought we were crazy… But ask me if I cared! LOL It wasn’t what others thought, it was my own imagination that made me COMPLETELY nervous, when I couldn’t stop picturing TOM HANKS and THE MONEY PIT! hehe I didn’t want to be responsible for getting my dad into an investment that would take everything, but both our guts said yes and my adventures in Real Estate Investment began!
If I thought making the decision was the hard part, boy was I wrong! Nothing about this has been easy, except for being excited of course, but if I’ve learned one thing it’s not to give up just because one person says “no”. There’s something to be said about perseverance, perhaps that’s because my life has given me no choice but to believe otherwise, but it has permeated over into other areas of my life besides my survival.