Last week, Rae Bullinger was featured in The New York Times about her experience buying a house near Lake Nokomis. We caught up with her to see what it was like to be trailed by a national newspaper.

How did The New York Times get in touch with you?

I actually got in touch with them first. I read The New York Times, I'm subscribed to a lot of their newsletters,  morning newsletters, things like that, and I read “The Hunt” section. I love real estate and it has always reminded me of “House Hunters,” the TV show.  And at the end of each article, they're like, if you recently bought a house, email “The Hunt.” So after I bought my house and moved in, in January, I emailed them and was like, ‘if you happen to want to do a story in Minneapolis, I just bought my first house, let me know.’ And then I got a random email about a month and a half later from a reporter in Chicago who was like, ‘Actually yeah, we're trying to expand this section. We'd love to do a story from a Minneapolis perspective.’ And it went from there.

What was it like turning over all your house hunting details to The New York Times?

It was really interesting mainly because I feel like house buying is a very personal thing and what you're looking for and kind of the details and your decisions. And you're kind of handing over the surface details of it all, just the general overview of each house. Which is fine and people can make their own decisions from there. But it's also interesting to be like, ‘here's all the things that I considered,’ but without the context necessarily. And I know they tried to bring that out in the article.

It was really interesting to share that and then the reporter, he went out to the other houses that I looked at, like, drove around the area. I was like, ‘oh, that's such a reporter thing to do.’ I just didn't expect him to do that much integrated research with it all.

The cover of Rae Bullinger's New York Times "The Hunt" story. Image courtesy of The New York Times

The Kenny neighborhood, where you looked at the finished basement house, is in Southwest. Where you live now, is not. Do you have something against Southwest?

I promise I don’t. Yeah, nothing against Southwest. This house got me the closest to a lake. I wasn't as particular about which lake it was. This lake, Nokomis, just happens to be on the east side of 35. But no, nothing against the Kenny neighborhood. I love you guys.

I don’t think I am the only one that would be surprised to learn that a 26-year-old bought a house with a $350,000 budget. I am 40, living in a $900/month one-bedroom apartment. What led you to buying a house at such a young age?

I don't want to make it a secret that my parents helped with a down payment. Really very grateful for the opportunity to have that. I'm also at a point in my life where I feel like I decided at a pretty young age that I wanted to be in Minneapolis, I wanted to buy a house. I'm not getting married, I don't have kids. This was something that was very much like, I've been saving my money for a while, I lived at home for a bit, I didn't have a lot of debt coming out of college, mainly due to swimming scholarships. I got a scholarship in grad school.

I'm okay with a lot of my income, a lot of my savings at this point in my life going to a house because I know this is what I want.

Willa, Rae's cat, poses for a picture. The New York Times article talked about Rae's desire to get a cat once she bought a house. Photo courtesy of Rae Bullinger.

You're a little bit younger than me, but in my generation it seems like either you have parents who help you with your down payment or you just live really frugal. Or it's just not a priority. For me, it's not a priority.

Yeah, exactly. I totally understand that everyone has their own priorities. This was mine, with my money. This is where I want most of my money going. I am living pretty frugally at the moment because I know I am going to grow into this house and my salary will eventually grow into this house as well. For now, I'm very okay with a good portion of [my income] going to this house. This is where I want my money going.

Is there anything else about the experience of either buying a house in South Minneapolis or working with The New York Times that you wanted to share?

I would say just overall it was a cool experience because it's something that I mean, I read The New York Times every day. It was kind of a bucket list thing to be featured in any sort of capacity in The New York Times.

My friends and family were all really supportive of it and they know the details of my life and know that this is something that I've been wanting for a while. They were all happy for me. l definitely should not have read the Facebook comments because people can be mean because they don't know any details about your life or the process or anything like that. I think there were just a lot of assumptions that were made from people who didn't necessarily know me or my story or anything like that. I’m a pretty chill person so I am able to brush it off. I don’t really care. But it’s interesting what people will assume based on a very high overview of your life in this process.

I know my story isn't typical, and I never expected people to think so. I totally understand where the pushback comes from, and there's some really necessary work that needs to happen around housing access. However, my individual story and those conversations can happen simultaneously.

Rae and Willa in their new home. Photo courtesy of Rae Bullinger.

I'm sorry to hear that you had to read negative comments.  

It’s ok. I figured it would probably happen but it's just nice that I had a supportive friend group who knew and was super great about it. But then the people who comment on Facebook articles are a very niche set of people.

I know it's not the majority that is thinking these things. And some of it was kind of funny. There were some people from other suburbs of Minnesota and it was like, ‘well, you could have gotten a cheaper house out here’ and it's like, well, I wanted to be in this area. I know that Minneapolis is more expensive. I know that people live elsewhere. I want to be here.