For One Couple, The Perfect New Home Is A Condo In Hartford
December 21, 2006
By ROBIN STANSBURY, Courant Staff Writer
Julie Stapf and Kevin Stock could be considered accidental home buyers.
It's not that they didn't efficiently plan their move earlier this year from a Detroit suburb.
In fact, they were organized and precise, making long lists of places around the country they would consider, researching available jobs and companies and investigating the pros and cons of each area.
So they were somewhat surprised - and pleased - when their nationwide search pointed them to Hartford. A few months later, they ended up purchasing a home in the heart of the capital city.
"New England was at the top part of our list" because family members live nearby, Stapf said. "But we were a little surprised to end up in Hartford."
The couple decided to leave Detroit after Stock took a buyout offer from General Motors, where he had worked for years. They considered cities from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Chicago and New York City, and also looked at the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina and New England. They were looking for a city with an active cultural life, but which also offered easy access to the outdoors.
Their list dwindled until only two choices remained: Chicago and Hartford.
"It's not quite as cold here," Stapf said. "It's closer to the ocean and the mountains, which was really attractive to us. And we didn't have to live in a really big city."
She said she and Stock were "happy and excited" about the choice of Hartford.
Stock received a job offer from Travelers, where he now works as a market analyst. Stapf left her job at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and, after settling in here, started work in the communications department at The Hartford Stage Company.
Then came part two of their move: buying a house. The couple, both nearing 40 years old, lived temporarily in corporate housing but were eager to invest in a home.
"We were not afraid of doing renovations on our own, but we weren't looking for something that needed a massive overhaul because we were both starting new jobs," Stapf said.
They began searching in West Hartford for a single-family, three-bedroom home with character, such as arched doorways and crown molding.
"At the time we were looking," Stapf said of the hunt last spring, "the market was quite competitive and we weren't seeing exactly what we wanted."
Some houses needed too much renovation. Others were out of their price range, which was $250,000 to $300,000. After looking at more than 20 homes in West Hartford and being outbid on two of them, they expanded their search into Farmington, Avon, Simsbury and Glastonbury.
"We felt like we were running out of time," she said. But none of the homes seemed right. "They didn't feel like home to us. They didn't have the character we were looking for. We saw some very nice houses, but nothing that said, "This is home.'"
After looking at about 20 more homes and being outbid on another one, in Glastonbury, their real estate agent, Becky Koladis of Prudential Connecticut Realty, suggested another option: a condominium. And she had just the property, she said - in Hartford.
"When we thought of condos in the city, we had an image of a high-rise condo," Stapf said. "We enjoy rustic hobbies. We didn't think a high-rise with bikes and muddy boots coming in was going to work for us."
But the condo they looked at in Hartford's Charter Oak neighborhood was once a two-family home, converted in the 1980s into a five-unit condominium. The unit for sale measured about 2,000 square feet, had a large porch and a cupola providing 360-degree views of the city, including the Old State House, Travelers Tower and the Colt onion dome.
"This condo had the something special we were looking for," Stapf said.
Although the couple didn't set out to settle in the city, they are pleased they did. Their new home is about a 15-minute walk from work and they are already planning to sell one of their cars. They can also walk to the bus station and get a ride to New York City.
"In retrospect, we really got what we wanted," she said. "We have big, open spaces for entertaining. There's great views. It's the right size. We have herbs in pots on the back terrace and we don't miss cutting grass. We walk to places for dinner and to work. It helps relax our lifestyle, and not having to drive in traffic is wonderful."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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