We moved!

We purchased a loft in Saco! It’s in an old shoe factory in essentially the same neighborhood where we’ve lived since moving to Maine in 2007. The girls can still walk to Thornton Academy and the grocery store or access the Eastern Trail on their bicycles. We’re on the fourth floor and the building is on a quiet street, so there’s no more road noise. The loft is spacious, as you can see in the photos below, and has incredible views. We’re excited to have a place of our own, to make what we want.

Why buy now?

First, I’ve been increasingly frustrated each month as I pay rent to finance my landlord’s retirement and wondering what I’m going to do when I get old. I want to build equity.

Second, I want the freedom to make our home, well, our home. I want to add automation, decorate, modify, improve, etc. I had some freedom to do that as a renter, but any improvement only adds value to someone else’s property. Also, when things are wrong, like windows that don’t close, it’s the prerogative of the property owner to fix, or not. This, of course, goes both ways. One of the reasons I swore I’d never buy another house was because I was tired of the constant projects in terms of both time and money. I didn’t want another “fixer-upper.”

Third, it’s been a difficult few years. That’s a huge understatement. I never loved our apartment and neither did Kirsten. Moving was something we wanted to do pretty much the whole time we’d lived there, but overcoming the inertia was difficult, especially when it consists of insecure employment, disease, and emotional turmoil. Kirsten died in May. When I asked the girls how they felt about getting our own place, the sentiment was unanimously and enthusiastically affirmative. They wanted a change of scenery and so did I.

A little history.

Kirsten and I got married when I was living in Mississippi and going to technical school in the Air Force. We’d been engaged for more than three years, but had not lived together. That would have been a Mormon mega-no-no. Anyways, we lived in a small apartment off base until we got orders to Kansas. When we got to Kansas we found another small apartment near the base, where we lived for a year.

After that first year in Kansas, we purchased a small house with a fenced back yard. We felt so grown up. We refinished the kitchen cabinets, painted everything, decorated the nursery, completely change the landscaping including building a retaining wall, putting in a raised beds garden, and replacing the chain link fence. I also added a porch outside the back door and completely remodeled the bathroom without telling Kirsten!

A couple years after moving in to our home Skye was born. Jenna followed a couple years later, and a couple years more Hayley was born.

We planned to leave Kansas as soon as my enlistment was up, but then I started my degree and Kirsten got a brain tumor. When I’d graduated and Kirsten was healthy, I quit my job at Learjet, we packed all our belongings into a truck, put our house on the market, and drove to Maine. When we got here we unpacked our things into a storage unit, turned in the truck, and started looking for a place to rent until we could get our bearings.

At first we liked our new place. Mostly, we were thrilled to be living in Maine. After nine years and three owners, it was time to move.

Our loft

The loft is spacious. It has a few interior walls surrounding the bathroom and most of the kitchen, but the rest is completely open. Since the building is positioned northwest to southeast, and our unit is the whole southeast end, we get incredible sunrises and light (and passive heating) throughout the entire day. Both sides (as opposed to the end) have four 79″ windows, which gives the 40+’ of wall space more than 26′ of windows! The fourth-floor views are incredible over the trees. I can see church steeples, Saco’s wind turbine, and distant tree-covered hills from pretty much anywhere in our unit. I love it!

We also have a bathtub! This is bittersweet, as it’s probably the one feature Kirsten missed most at the apartment and always wanted. And since our hot water heater is tankless, Skye can take her hour-long showers without worry of running out of steamy hot water.

My team

When I was contemplating buying a place, Tonya overheard a woman at Elements discussing home loan borrowing with a real estate agent. The woman was Kate Virgie, and Tonya got her card because she was so impressed with her apparent dedication to her clients and problem-solving attitude. Tonya’s impressions were right on. Throughout the buying process, Kate was attentive, patient, professional, communicative, knowledgable, competent, and kind. She met with me when I required clarification and hand holding, and endured my many questions with grace and dignity. If you’re considering purchasing a home in Southern Maine, contact Kate first.

But you can’t buy a home with a mortgage broker alone (well, you could, but why?). I contacted my friend Scott Townsend, with whom I play tennis each week and have tremendous respect and admiration. He introduced me to one of his buyer agents, Michelle Bennett. Michelle walked me through the process and was a lot of fun. In those first few days, and there were only a few, she coalesced a bunch of properties for me to review. In my price range, the available single-family homes left much to be desired. When the Park Street Loft Condominiums popped onto the list I got wicked excited. I really loved the unit my friends Kurt and Jill owned, and not-so-secretly wanted one for myself. I figured someday, likely when the girls were gone, I’d get a loft in an old mill. This was an opportunity to have my dream NOW! Michelle took us on a cursory viewing of a few homes, but my sights were fixed on the loft. When we went to an open house on my birthday, I directed Michelle to make a full-price offer. Then I sweeted the deal further and wrote a heartfelt plea to the seller to accept. After a bit of back-and-forth and an excruciating few hours of waiting, she accepted the terms and we all went under contract. In 30 days, we closed and I got the key. Michelle and the Scott and Sunny Townsend team, especially Meghan, were wonderful.

Moving

I contacted Local Muscle and Integrity Movers, both recommended. Neither could do it when I needed and both quoted more than a thousand dollars. So I called Liberty Bell Moving. Not only could they do it precisely when I needed them to, but at less than half the cost. The guys who showed up were professional, friendly, careful, and fast! If you need movers, definitely give them a call.

I only had the Liberty Bell guys move those things I could not with the girls: beds, dressers, table, couch, etc. The rest the girls, Tonya, and I moved ourselves. I bought a bunch of plastic bins and cardboard boxes and rented a U-Haul van. The girls were heroic in their efforts and worked harder than I’ve ever seen from them. I was as impressed as I was thankful. It was a lot of work, but we got everything moved into the new loft and its storage area in the basement, including moving out of our storage unit. I could not have done it without Tonya’s tireless help, big muscles, and strategic advice.

Now we have to find places for everything, buy new furniture, paint a chalkboard wall, install home automation, and …

Come visit us!!

The thing I disliked most about our apartment was that it was ill-suited for visitors. The loft is different, and it’s greatest attraction for me. I love my friends, and will entertain often. Party, anyone?

The common area, facing southwest.
The common area, facing southwest.
The common area, facing north.
The common area, facing north.
The kitchen with entry to bathroom
The kitchen with entry to bathroom
The kitchen and front door
The kitchen and front door
Hayley and Skye will share the main sleeping area.
Hayley and Skye will share the main sleeping area.
18 Park Street
18 Park Street
18 Park Street Lofts - Bing Bird's Eye View
18 Park Street Lofts – Bing Bird’s Eye View
I know Kirsten would have been excited for our new space, and I wanted to feel like she was part of this big day.
I know Kirsten would have been excited for our new space, and I wanted to feel like she was part of this big day.
Michelle, my buyer agent, me, and Kate, my mortgage broker. They were fantastic!
Michelle, my buyer agent, me, and Kate, my mortgage broker. They were fantastic!
I am a homeowner once again. Yay!
I am a homeowner once again. Yay!
The guys from Liberty Moving were prompt, quick, friendly, professional, and careful. They did an excellent job!
The guys from Liberty Moving were prompt, quick, friendly, professional, and careful. They did an excellent job!
It was fun to make keys for the girls and present them to them when they arrived home from school.
It was fun to make keys for the girls and present them to them when they arrived home from school.
When it was all said and done, the common room had far more than this in it. The girls and I are working hard to organize, minimize, and put away.
When it was all said and done, the common room had far more than this in it. The girls and I are working hard to organize, minimize, and put away.
Kate gave our family an ice cream party basket. Thanks, Kate!!
Kate gave our family an ice cream party basket. Thanks, Kate!!
I installed heavy duty shelving in the storage area.
I installed heavy duty shelving in the storage area.

History of the building

The Park Street Lofts Condominiums was constructed in the early twentieth century. For most of its existence it was a shoe factory for various companies.

The Trail Moc Shoe Company, complete with Soc-o-Moc indian.
The Trail Moc Shoe Company, complete with Soc-o-Moc indian.
The interior of the old shoe factory at 18 Park Street in Saco
The interior of the old shoe factory at 18 Park Street in Saco

The Sears-Roebuck Company Shoeshop, now under construction in the city, is a notable addition which is bound to be of great importance and consequence to our city’s future. It assures us of an increase in our population which will necessitate the building of more dwellings. And then, too, the expansion of our trade interests may eventually follow.

Sears-Roebuck Shoe Factories No. 8
Sears-Roebuck Shoe Factories No. 8

Jim Leary of Saco submits this old postcard of the “new” Sears & Roebuck Shoe Factory, build in the early 1900s on Park Street in Saco. The plant, which made shoes for the government during World War I, is now slated to become condominiums.

Sears & Roebuck made shoes for the government during WWI in this building
Sears & Roebuck made shoes for the government during WWI in this building
Sears-Roebuck Shoe Factories No. 8
Sears-Roebuck Shoe Factories No. 8

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