The urge to feather one's nest is a basic human instinct. But while many people choose to go grandiose when renovating a home, it helps to remember that nests are cozy and small. Regina Stilp knows this well. A few years ago, nine months pregnant with her third child in three years, she and her husband, Sam, a commercial Realtor in Chicago, were living in tight quarters with their two toddlers. The couple knew they needed to buy a bigger place, where they and their growing brood could spread their wings, or at least the kids' toys.
But Regina resisted; moving just seemed like too much of a hassle at that point. Inexplicably perhaps, she perked up one morning at work when her e-mail inbox pinged with photos of a house her husband was looking at that very second in East Wilmette, the gracious North Shore neighborhood where the couple grew up. Sam had taken the snapshots with his mobile phone. Regina, who works for a real-estate development firm, scrolled through the pictures of a circa-1910 American Foursquare with a drab stucco exterior. She e-mailed her husband two words: "Buy it."