Michael and Nicole Flaherty didn’t expect to end up on the Northside, but they’re glad they did.
The young couple, who in June 2010 bought an Energy Star-certified house on Meadville Street in Fineview, spent six months looking for the perfect place.
Much of that time was spent looking for houses in Friendship, where they rented an apartment. But they didn’t have much luck in the East End.
Mike described situations where they would visit a house and someone else would put an offer on the house later that day.
“Really what we were finding out was that if you weren’t the first five to see the house…”
“…It’s gone,” Nicole finished.
They couldn’t seem to find a house that was worth the money they’d have to pay for it, and looked at more than sixty houses. Sometimes they’d visit eight in one day. After they lost a frustrating bidding war on a house in the East End, they turned their attention to the Northside housing market and finally found the “one.”
“We didn’t have to redo anything,” Nicole said. “It was all just a palate for us to work with.”
The house features plenty of windows and few walls, giving it an open, airy feel. It includes a garage, a deck with a view of the Downtown skyline and a small backyard, where Nicole has been experimenting with gardening.
She’s decorated the walls and stairwells with art and paintings by her artist friends, and they’ve painted a few of the rooms and hope to do more soon.
Although the house itself was a major factor in their decision, the neighborhood drew them in as well. They joined the Fineview Citizens Council upon moving in and love the quiet, family-friendly vibe of the area since they plan on having children sometime in the near future.
And unlike so many young families moving outside of the city to avoid Pittsburgh Public Schools, Nicole and Mike see potential there and would happily send their kids to PPS when the time comes.
They also enjoy taking walks in nearby Allegheny Commons Park and Riverview Park, and utilize the Fineview city steps on a regular basis.
“The Overlook is great. We watched fireworks all summer long,” Nicole said.
And, “We have the Fineview bus, which is awesome,” said Mike, who either walks or buses to his job as an accountant downtown.
Nicole commutes to Robinson where she works as a graphic designer, and likes that she can either take the highway or back roads easily from Fineview.
“I really like the fact that you can be almost anywhere so quickly,” she said.
Mike was skeptical that the house would live up to the cost-saving promises of its Energy Star rating, but to his pleasant surprise, it has. This past winter, their heating bill was consistently half what it was in their apartment, which was smaller than their house.
The only downside to the house so far, Nicole said, is that she hasn’t quite figured out how to clean all the windows, especially the ones above the kitchen.
The Flahertys are not in a rush to buy another home, of course, but they did learn a few lessons the first time around.
One thing Mike would have changed is using a local real estate agent. They used someone from outside the city, and he suspects those six months spent looking could have been reduced if they had an agent more familiar with the area.
Nicole agreed, although she feels they were lucky and never faced any major challenges. But, she said, “I wish someone would have told me to be patient. You almost have to never give up.”
Another thing they weren’t expecting was how expensive it is to close a deal on a house. Mike advised prospective homebuyers to save as much cash as possible. Had he known how expensive the buying process is, he may have chosen to forgo a few vacations.
“There’s so many ways money goes out the door before you even put down a payment,” Nicole said.
But, she added, buying a house from the Fineview Citizens Council was easy, and both are excited to see more houses go in on Lanark Street in the next few years, where WPXI has donated the site of its former television studio to FCC.
Although they never planned to become Northsiders, Mike and Nicole are happy to call Meadville Street home. They encourage anyone looking for a great place to live to check out their neighborhood.
“We want more neighbors!”