Pat Siemer lived in an apartment 22 years before buying a house.
"When I retired (last September), I thought, 'If I am not going to do this now, I will never do it,'" said Pat. "I'm 60 years old."
So she did.
"I started driving around. There was a house I wanted to see that looked nice. It had two phone numbers. I called both. (Realtor) Judy Doyle called me back. The rest is wonderful. What a blessing. She's such a sweet lady, not pushy. She just helped me through it."
A neighbor called out "hello" as Pat sipped morning coffee on her shady front porch.
She is now the proud owner of a 43-year-old split-level in a quiet, friendly Swansea neighborhood. The three bedroom, two-bath house may not have everything on her wish list, but it has enough.
"From the minute we pulled in the driveway, it was very homey and warm," said Pat, a retired pipefitter who previously lived in east Belleville. "As I walked through the house, it felt the same way. The reason it took me four showings, it didn't have everything I wanted."
Pat had wanted a ranch with a basement.
And the small kitchen was almost a deal breaker. To fit her new stainless steel refrigerator in, she had to remove cabinets.
"I thought, I should get what I want. You know what?" said Pat, moving among boxes. "You don't always get every single thing you want. It's doable. People took such good care of it.
"My sister came over. I said, 'I guess I will clean a little.' She said, 'Clean what?' Everything is clean and freshly painted.
"It only has some steps here and there. It works for me. I look at the whole picture and see I can make this work. It's doable ... I worked construction 30 years. My knees are not the best."
She likes the wood-burning family room fireplace, the shady front yard, the good-sized backyard and the location.
"My dad lives up the street." she said. "He's 92 and lives in his own home. He fiddles in his garden, and gets on a riding mower."
Her son Brent, 28, was her sounding board.
"I talked about different houses, what I liked, what I didn't like. He looked at me and said, 'Mom, if you don't buy that house, you are going to be sorry.' Even after I signed the paper to make an offer, I was still scared, thinking about whether I made the right choice."
A folder of home-buyer information helped her through the process.
"I closed my eyes and picked a mortgage company," Pat said. "Fortunately, I made some friends doing this. I really did. These people aren't just good at their business. You can tell when people care, when they have some heart. That's so important, going through this myself. Every single person I dealt with, electricians, inspectors, have just been so fair."
Pat had a plumber repair a cracked toilet and a couple faucets. She's still moving in, trying to find a place for everything.
The only one disappointed is her older son Ryan who lives in Colorado.
"He thought Mom was coming out to live with him."
How many houses did you look at? "I looked at dozens. If I would see something, I would call (Realtor Judy Doyle). She kept me updated on things for sale that she knew I was interested in. I would go to open houses."
Why do you think it took so long? "It's scary and I was doing it by myself. I was married 30 some year ago. We bought a home. but it's so completely different. This was all me. "
Biggest project so far? "Removing wallpaper from the wall in the dining room. Thank God, it was only one wall. It had to go."
Any mistakes? "Moving most of the boxes myself. It saved me money, but my body keeps saying, 'Lady, you are not the same as you were 22 years ago.'"
Any surprises? "Just how well everything has gone. It's like I am supposed to be here. I have just always felt at home. We like sitting out here on the front porch. Neighbors are wonderful. That makes a big difference, too. It's hard to leave my old neighbors, but I have got some good ones here."
Advice: "You have to be patient. It took me close to six months off and on. You feel like giving up. And you want to find every single thing that you want. People's tastes are different. You have to be able to look at something and say, 'I don't like that, but I can do this.' Also, you have to stay with your price. (Pat didn't want to go above $150,000.) There were times I could get a lot more for a lot more money."