From perfect fits to fixer-uppers, Boston.com readers share the stories of their first homes — in Massachusetts and beyond.
A first home is a place to make unforgettable memories, from first steps to new jobs to happiness to heartbreak.
We asked readers to tell us the stories of their first homes — including when they bought them, where they lived, and what they paid — and they responded with wholesome memories and horror stories. Here are 11 reader responses we loved.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
‘The hard work of transforming a house into a home began’
“The first home we bought was a small ranch house with potential on a level triple lot in Quincy. It needed a ton of work but was all we could afford with interest rates hovering at 14%. It had been lived in by only one family since being built in 1949. They evidently had a liking for green wallpaper which covered every room and was stained with tobacco smoke. Updating was non-existent as was any landscaping. After looking for a year we knew to act quickly because prices were going up and we didn’t want to be priced out of the market. So, with an abundance of enthusiasm due to our youth and a can-do-it attitude, we made a full-price offer that day. Our family thought we were crazy.
“They accepted and the hard work of transforming a house into a home began. When we closed and moved in, every light bulb had been removed so it was pitch black, which was a blessing because we couldn’t see how filthy they left the house. We cleaned for a week before we could move in and then the real work started and hasn’t stopped for the past 38 years. Replacing windows, doors, roof, and boiler. Electrical upgrades, extensive landscaping, and several additions. We learned a lot and we saw the potential realized.” — John, Quincy
Year bought: 1984
‘Two days after the close, New England experienced a strong wind storm’
“My husband (fiancé at the time) and I closed on our very first home in Walpole on February 28, 2017. The home was built in 1928 and previously owned by an elderly man, who lived in the home for many years prior to his passing… Two days after the close, New England experienced a strong wind storm, and we received a call from one of our new neighbors that a ‘sizable branch’ had fallen on our roof. The sizable branch was actually a massive pine tree that inflicted approximately $40,000 worth of damage to the property. Fortunately, our homeowners’ insurance covered all but the deductible…
“Over the course of the next few months, my husband and I encountered many unfortunate surprises. The subfloor in our kitchen was almost completely rotted and required replacement. The majority of our first-floor walls were in terrible shape and needed plaster prior to painting. Our sewer alarm went off unexpectedly one morning despite any obvious issues. We later discovered that the previous owners had purchased the house as a foreclosure after the prior owner’s death. They intended to quickly flip the house and sell it. At some point during the process of converting the septic to city sewer, they stiffed one of their contractors, who in retaliation closed the curb stop valve from our house to the street.
“After a bumpy first few months in our home, we decided to upend our lives even further by adopting a dog named Donald. Upon introducing Donald to our neighbor, she gave us an odd look. It was then that we discovered that Donald was the name of the previous owner of the home.”
“Curious about his history, I did some digging and discovered that Donald the human was born on February 28th, the same day that we closed on the house. He passed away in May 2013, four years to the week we brought Donald the puppy home. It’s been almost six years in our home, and I can officially say that we survived both the windstorm that first crushed our roof and the hurricane of Donald’s puppyhood. I like to think that these initial challenges were a test from the previous owner to ensure we were worthy of living in the place he called home.” — Heather
Year bought: 2017
‘Nothing fancy, but it was a good foot in the door’
“It was a typical three-bedroom ranch from the 1950s on about an acre of land, most of it wooded behind the house. It wasn’t a fixer-upper but did need some updating which I handled myself. Nothing fancy, but it was a good foot in the door to home ownership.” — Sim, Easton
Year bought: 1974
‘It had classic wood floors’
“Cool two-bedroom top-floor condo in an old Victorian three-decker. It had classic wood floors and built-ins with a fun layout and a little backyard perfect for the dog.” — Greg, Quincy
Year bought: 2008
‘The rent paid the loan’
“A few doors down from the very first ‘this old house,’ this Philadelphia two-family was unique. The rent paid the loan. It was high on Meeting House Hill. We saw when the lights went on for the first time on the giant skylight of what was then the new Copley Place on the front North Facade. We could see the mural on the gas tank and the water from the East Side. We could smell the smoke from the great fire in Lynn. Coming from the South End, it seemed foreign but very exciting. Black crepe hung on doors when people died, and [Margaret] Thatcher signs were seen. Three-generation homes were not uncommon. We were the first gay couple on the street and painted the house a tasteful quiet red, with San Francisco ‘painted lady’ details in muted blue and tan. We were warmly welcomed. It appeared in a design article in The Boston Globe circa 1980.” — Tim, Dorchester
Year bought: 1979
‘It needed updating and we did some ourselves’
“My first home was a two-family situated across the street from Collins Cove in Salem, Mass. We used the rent from the second apartment to help with the mortgage. It needed updating and we did some ourselves. It was huge, had a complete third floor that was never finished and we moved before we could finish it. Back then, we would walk across the Common to downtown Salem where they had festivals almost every weekend in the summer and fall. Also walked to the train to commute into Boston for my job. We didn’t have a driveway so we had to rent a parking spot from the next-door neighbor for $25 a month. There was a little beach on the cove and when it was high tide we could swim.” — Jody, Salem
Year bought: 1979
‘We hadn’t saved any money for a down payment’
“My dear late dad told us to look at a house. I told him we hadn’t saved any money for a down payment. He said to just go look at it. He gave us the $6,000 down payment and the house was ours. We did pay him back. Without his generosity, we would never be where we are today. Something we will never forget.” — Mary Anne, Everett
Year bought: 1982
‘A small two-bedroom bungalow-type house’
“The first house we owned was bought while I was still married and had two children. We were living in a two-bedroom duplex and decided to buy a house to build equity. The starter house we bought with an FHA loan and a little down was a small two-bedroom bungalow-type house with a one-and-a-half detached garage in a quiet area. It had no basement (yay! I didn’t want a basement), and it was built on a crawl space. We spent a great deal of time fixing it up ourselves, rehabbing the kitchen and bath with the help of a handyman who let us help him and didn’t charge as much. We ended up buying another house within a few years after having another child and needing more room. We made money from the upgrades and were able to buy a little nicer brick three-bedroom ranch for the next purchase.” — Anonymous
Year bought: 1988
‘It was a good starter home’
“It was a colonial-style home in Easton. It was 50 or 60 years old on a busy street. We paid $45,900 for it in 1980. We got a 12.5% three-year adjustable mortgage. Fortunately, the interest rates went down three years later. It was a good starter home but not a good place to raise kids. There were a couple of fatalities on the street while we lived there.” — Anonymous, Easton
Year bought: 1980
‘So grateful we found a home’
“This was our twelfth home offer in a year. We were beginning to lose hope, but so grateful we found a home before the interest rate hikes. Fortunately, we were able to have an inspection and the house has been great this past year.” — Anonymous, Canton
Year bought: 2022
‘We relocated from our hometown of Boston to Anchorage, Alaska’
“The day after my wife and I were married in 1973, we relocated from our hometown of Boston to Anchorage, Alaska after each of us received new job offers at triple the amount of our Boston wages. Life in Alaska at that time was joyous with the birth of children. My wife and I both became recreational private pilots exploring the beautiful and expansive Alaska, and ultimately expanding our professional careers nationally. Somewhere in between many owned houses, my wife and I returned to Massachusetts, where we purchased a North Andover house for a lot more than $42,000.
“We now are both recently retired and live in an Independent Retirement Facility in New Hampshire after initially owning and moving into 10 different houses in 10 different states throughout our extensive life of relocating. The Independent Retirement Facility is, BY FAR, the most expensive housing experience we have ever encountered, but, at this life stage, necessary.” — George and Lee
Year bought: 1974
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