House hunting can be brutal. You look at your budget(s), forge a number, decide what type of amenities you would like this hypothetical home to have, and start looking. If you’re like us, you quickly turn back around and forge another (slightly higher) number, cross amenities off your list, and hope to find something that isn’t about to be condemned and is located more than an hour from the office (on a good day, hello rush hour traffic).
You stumble across something that you sort of really like, set up a few showings with your realtor, and realize immediately that those online realtor sites? They do a masterful job of photographing houses to make them look (a LOT) larger and nicer than they are in person.
You punch some more numbers, have a serious talk about “wants” vs “needs”, joke about living in a van down by the river, and keep looking…hoping for that one to jump out at you and feel like home.
We did this, and more. Sometimes with kids, more often (and preferred) without. He even surprised me by showing up on his lunch break one day while our realtor and I tackled a stack of strong ‘maybe’s’. He wanted something we could put our own stamp on, not afraid of a kitchen remodel or adding a bedroom. I, having lived through a kitchen remodel, was hoping to find something with good bones and character that perhaps needed a facelift, not exactly a remodel.
We narrowed it down to two after a few weeks. Both above our price range, both very different properties with great potential and incredible locations. One needed extensive work, the other just a facelift (most of which we figured we could do ourselves). We dragged some friends along that had recently DIY’d their homes for opinions and a better idea of what we would be getting ourselves in to with each.
We laid awake at night and compared the two houses. They had the same (exemplary) schools, were located in the same area of town, were priced relatively close to one another. Each had very different pro’s and con’s, but managed to balance each other out at the same time. It wasn’t an easy decision.
Then I realized that I was expending so much effort in being unemotional and ‘wise’ about this house, I was missing the ever-important aspect of simply falling in love. Of coming home.
I’ve had my heart broken by a house before, and recently sold the house I thought I would welcome my children home from college in. We’ve been in limbo for the past 9 months, living in our cute little rental but daydreaming about having a home again. The Man has been living in a small apartment in not the greatest area of town with VERY HEAVY, LOUD (and sexually active) upstairs neighbors. He’s there so that his kids could finish out the year at their public school, and I admire him for it. It’s also an understatement to say that we are SO. READY. to get him out of his apartment and stop living a long 20 minutes from one another. But we also knew that we needed to make sure our search wasn’t based on a rush to cohabitate (which won’t happen until after the wedding), and would finally give us a home that we would be happy living in until the kids went off to college (and beyond).
Without stars in our eyes we crunched numbers, I educated myself more than I ever have before, and we researched and talked to others and spent a lot of time online.
And for a few nights in a row I stayed awake all night long, my mind rolling with ideas and hoping for clarity in deciding which house was the right choice for us. Never mind the simple fact that neither may work out.
And then I just knew. I could see us living in the one we called The Little Yellow House. I could envision us DIY’ing the cabinets and trim. I could see our children splashing in the pool, growing vegetables in the garden and exploring in the park next door. I could just SEE it. I woke up The Man and whispered “the yellow one”, and he whispered back “yes“.
The next morning we walked through the house one more time, and as we stood in the yard talking with our realtor about the details of our offer, these guys came waddling by. And it was even more perfect.
It’s adjacent to a park with a pond for fishing, ducks (obviously), hiking and biking trails, a bird sanctuary, multiple playgrounds, a rose garden, and a historical park that hosts Easter egg hunts, 4th of July fireworks, stargazing nights and family campouts. The house has the kid-required stairs and pool, my wished-for character and personality, and The Man’s dream of a remodeled kitchen…all while still allowing for some DIYing that will let us make it our own over time. Our oldest and youngest can each have their own rooms, with the middle four sharing rooms (boys in one, girls in another). It just works. Except for the price tag, which was above our max. But remember, they don’t call me Pollyanna for nothing 😉
We submitted our long-shot, low-ball offer on the Little Yellow House of our dreams, and settled in to wait for the 48 hours included in our offer. I included a letter to the seller, introducing our family and explaining that our offer was for them a low-ball, but for us? Our maximum. We hoped they would understand that rather than bid below our max and hope to negotiate to this point, or agree to a higher sale price but use the inspection to negotiate back down…that this was our offer. Non-negotiable, but guaranteed.
The next day we had incredible news, and the sale price was accepted, with one caveat…that the seller be able to negotiate the purchase of the home he wanted to buy before he would agree to our contract.
We agreed, and extended the 48 hour deadline to instead give him 7 full days to confirm the other contract. April 1 was the deadline, and we settled in to wait. We also decided to share the great news with the kids, and as the Little Yellow House was the unanimous favorite, they were thrilled! This resulted in a week of wondering if we had jumped the shark by telling the kids, or were being positive and optimistic by sharing our good news.
During that week of waiting, The Man’s parents texted regularly, boosting my flagging confidence with encouraging words that it WILL work out. It HAS to. I wanted to believe them, but I had a nagging fear, fueled by the previous loss of a dream home at the 11th hour.
March 31 rolled by without word, and during our nightly face-time that evening I confided that I was feeling really anxious. And for the first time, The Man agreed. Cue rolling butterflies.
April 1 we loaded the kids up and headed to the Easter egg hunt held in the park next to the house. The kids were raucous, excited by the thought of a candy free-for-all and looking forward to seeing our house again.
Except then our phones dinged with a text from our realtor at the same time, and it took a minute for the words to register: “Seller terminated the contract”.
I kept driving. In silence I stared straight ahead and tried to wrap my brain around the loss of our dream. The kids, oblivious, cheered in the back seat and sang along with the radio at the top of their lungs. The Man texted his family in silence, sharing the news so I didn’t have to. I wiped tears away.
We were heartsick, and couldn’t bring ourselves to tell the kids just yet. The Seller commented that he would keep trying to find a place to purchase, and once he had he would contact us first in case we were still available. I felt it was cruel to keep dragging us along, and tried to accept that it obviously wasn’t meant to happen. We tried to look at other homes online, but everything we looked at was not the Little Yellow House. Our hearts weren’t in it anymore. We didn’t even want to bid for our second choice.
We gave ourselves a week off from looking, and because I’m the epitome of patience, the next day I opened my trusty realtor.com app and started a fresh search. Again, nothing jumped out at me. I wrinkled my nose and sighed, wishing once more that the house had worked out.
And then our realtor called. After hanging up with her I called The Man, and, laughing through tears, gave the good news that the seller changed his mind, and this darling, two story, bright, exactly-right house was ours. We have a home.
The kids, thankfully, had no idea that the house was never NOT ours. It’s taken a full two weeks to negotiate the contract, but because of the selling price we were so blessed to get, there was little we could do but let the seller decide what worked best for him.
As of today, AS OF RIGHT NOW, the details are finalized and we have an executed contract. We close a few days before our wedding, and when we return from our honeymoon it will be to 3 houses…his, mine, and, finally, OURS. We’ll be able to finish both our leases and slowly move in, and by August 1, a year from the day that I cried, I will be celebrating in a certain Little Yellow House with my love and our family.
In our home.