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My First Home: Buying a place on your own before GPS

My First Home Newton
Lily Padula for The Boston Globe

When I was 31, I decided to buy my own home, leaving behind a decade of apartment rentals. I scoured the “for sale’’ listings in the newspaper for months. I’d turn the page of the real estate section, pen in hand, to circle the ones that best met my criteria (one or two bedrooms, parking, near the MBTA). The newspaper ink would smudge on my hands, leaving a trail on the clean white pages of the red spiral-bound notebook in which I wrote down each condominium that seemed promising.

After looking at the listings, I’d spend my weekends at open houses. Since this was the time before GPS smartphone apps, I consulted a book of Greater Boston maps to figure out the best route from open house to open house. I got lost a lot, weaving through one-way streets and across hilly neighborhoods, looking for the perfect place.

Condo 63 was that place.

Located on the top floor of a two-story brick building in Newton, the condo featured an inset telephone shelf in the small hallway and a blue-tiled bathroom. Sunlight filled the living room each afternoon, making shades criminal. When the maple tree that curved around my corner unit was full with leaves, I felt as if I were floating, living among its branches in a treehouse.

The condo was smaller than my last rental — only 542 square feet — and part of a complex that was increasingly welcoming young professionals like me. The old-timers and new owners met in the shared laundry room and at the recycling bin. We shoveled one another out in the winter and enjoyed the large green lawn together in the spring. In the summer, we’d gather at the lake the complex sat upon, placing our beach chairs next to one another on the shore.

The condo I bought had been the home of an elderly woman who had gone into a nursing home. Her children, representing her at the closing, fought over who would get the money; they yelled at one another across the conference room table, spitting insults back and forth. For a moment, I worried that the place wouldn’t be mine. Later, after signing reams of paperwork while they argued, I walked through the empty rooms, key in hand, grateful it had all worked out.

Then I got to work.

I pulled up the dingy carpet to uncover hardwood floors that gleamed after sanding. I had the walls painted vibrant blue, spicy orange, and bright white. I had the rotted windowsills and drafty metal windows replaced. I found the right spot for my couch in the center of the living room.

While my condo got the love it sorely needed, I, too, fell in love. I had met my husband around condo 32. As we became a couple, my condo took shape. We took apart the laminate kitchen cabinets to make way for new Shaker-style wood ones. We hung gauzy curtains to let in the sunlight and changed light fixtures. We swam in the lake on warm summer evenings, lying on our backs to float in the cool water, looking up at the stars. In the winter, we walked unsteadily across the lake when it froze, laughing and holding hands to stop from falling.

And, as we fell in love, number 63 became a home.

Kimberly Hensle Lowrance lives in Lexington and blogs at www.redshuttersblog.com. Send comments or a 550-word essay on your first home to Address@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.