This House Enticed First-Time Buyers to Make a Same-Day Offer

First-time homebuyers Alexandra and Emmett share the details of snagging their 1,400-square-foot house. Learn how they’re giving it a fresh new style.

After looking at about 20 houses before finding the one, Alexandra Machover and Emmett Kai are renovating and decorating to reflect their personal styles—and doing as much as they can themselves. Both professionally creative, the pair plan to transform their four-bedroom, one-bathroom first house in Kingston, New York, into a place totally their own. But first, they had to find it.

Their original budget was $280,000 with a 10% down payment—an amount that felt comfortable for the first-time homebuyers. "I had been saving money for 10 years and my goal was to buy property," says Alexandra, who says she didn't want to deplete her entire savings on the down payment or on the closing costs.

exterior home view from YouTube series Owning It episode 1 filmed in the Hudson Valley, NY
Better Homes & Gardens

Their wish list: A home with character, a yard, space for both of them to work, and proximity to the community. "We wanted a house with good bones that wasn't going to completely fall apart on us," says Emmett. They hoped for a turnkey property, something that was basically move-in ready. But that's not what they found.

"They needed major work," says Alexandra of the houses viewed in their original budget range. Although photos looked promising, in-person showings revealed houses that were often not in great shape. So, they upped the budget a bit and kept looking.

Alex and Emmett Owning It, YouTube home ownership series episode 1 filmed in the Hudson Valley, NY
Better Homes & Gardens

"When we pulled up to it, we loved it right away," says Emmett, recalling the first tour of their new home. "Everything about it felt really cute; the whole neighborhood felt really quiet." What sold them was its good bones: the structure, natural light, and how open it felt. They made an offer that same day.

It was one of many strategic choices that made them competitive buyers. They also opted for a conventional loan (rather than a first-time homebuyer's loan), went above the asking price, and upped their down payment. Listed for $295,000, they offered $325,000 with a 15% ($48,750) down payment and won the purchase.

Final Cost breakdown Owning It Episode One Hudson Valley
Better Homes & Gardens

Walking in the front door, the living room sets the tone of the house. "This is just the best room for immediate sunlight right when you wake up," says Emmett, who credits their home's style to Alexandra. An art director with a keen eye, she achieved a bright, fresh look on a budget.

"Most of the furniture in our house is vintage because I love sourcing vintage furniture," says Alexandra, who co-founded a vintage resale shop. Facebook Marketplace is a favorite source for her fabulous finds, including the pink couch that anchors the room. A waterfall table and glass coffee table are also thrifted.

Their home blends multiple styles: uncluttered white space and warm woods popular in Scandinavian design, the Bauhaus-beloved Wassily chair, and 1980s elements including pastel colors, rounded profiles, and ceramic vases. Pops of pastels and shades of pink resonate in accents throughout the home. Mushroom lamps also appear in multiple rooms, providing color and character. These repeating style elements are the key to successfully combining multiple decorating styles. Overall, the mix gives the home a bright, airy feel and keeps the dominantly white spaces from feeling sterile.

interior photo of renovated bathroom from YouTube series Owning It episode 1 filmed in the Hudson Valley, NY
Better Homes & Gardens

The bathroom was the first planned project, and one that's taking a bit longer than anticipated. They tore down to the studs, installing new floors, walls, and fixtures themselves. Replacing a traditional tub/shower surround with tile that extends to the adjacent alcove walls feels fresh and contemporary against the softer shapes of the light fixtures and mirror.

They replaced the original bathroom door, which swung into the room, with a barn door upgraded with textured paneling and eye-catching hardware. Ditching the traditional closed-door linen closet for an open storage nook, they eliminated pesky design elements that made the bath look and feel crowded.

Although it meant they didn't have a working bathroom when they first moved, the benefits were enormous. "I'm really glad we did [DIY it], actually, because we learned so much," says Alexandra, "and it's just so much more our taste."

These design-forward, space-savvy solutions are just a preview of what's to come in the kitchen, which is mostly untouched. "We want to eventually gut renovate the entire thing," says Alexandra, highlighting the countertops covered with faux-marble adhesive paper and corner drawers that open into each other. They're waiting to save a bit more money before remodeling the kitchen, but for now, the space reflects the charm of the house with its wood floors, natural light, and pastel accents.

interior living room view from YouTube series Owning It episode 1 filmed in the Hudson Valley, NY
Better Homes & Gardens

The main floor also hosts two of the four bedrooms. In their bedroom, pink again anchors the room via the bedding, and sheer curtains soften the abundant light of the corner room. The dressers and side tables are Facebook Marketplace finds that provide storage and aesthetic charm. The second bedroom also benefits from corner windows and natural light. Emmett is a recording artist and the space is currently filled with instruments and equipment, but it will transition to a guest bedroom once his studio space upstairs is finished.

"The biggest unexpected thing about owning a home for me was running into safety hazards that your inspector didn't catch or didn't even bother to mention," says Emmett. One of those obstacles was asbestos tile, discovered under the carpet upstairs after they'd purchased the house. It not only required extra time and money to remediate, but they also had to call in outside parties to appropriately finish the job.

view of the music room from Owning It Episode 1 filmed in Hudson Valley, NY
Better Homes & Gardens

The upper-level flooring wasn't the only below-the-surface upgrade for the new homeowners. They replaced the sump pump and switched the home from oil- to electric-based heating. These costly changes add up—$20,000 for the sump pump and $22,000 for the electric upgrade—but by setting strong financial goals around mortgage rates and purchasing prices, the pair stayed within their budget. "We did have to pivot and come up with backup plans," says Alexandra, noting that a home equity loan was one of those maneuvers.

With asbestos hazards out of the way, Emmett installed new subflooring and topped it with new hardwood. While they continue to wait for more wood to finish the floor in the to-be studio space, the white oak flooring is complete in Alexandra's office, also on the upper level. Although the room only has one window, the light wood and white walls reflect the natural light. Alexandra says it's refreshing, and the light is one of her favorite things about the office. "I think it's really peaceful," she says.

According to Emmett, there are two main reasons they chose to go the DIY route. First, to save costs. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it's a source of pride and creates a stronger connection to their home. "I think there's something that really goes into working on your own house and getting to know it, and understanding what came out and what was put back in and all the sweat equity that comes with it," he says.

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