Thursday, July 17, 2014
Tales of a Tract Home: House Hunting
I naively thought that when we sold our home and we started to look for our next place, that it would be all kinds of fun. Honestly, I can't say that is has been a barrel of laughs or anything. Rather it's been a stressful, exhausting process. Way to start this post with whining, right? But I think it kind of caught me off guard just how difficult house hunting could be.
Do you watch the HGTV series "House Hunters?" I've been a big fan for years, and I've been one of those judgmental TV viewers who calls out to the tv, "Seriously? You can't buy it because it has a red accent wall in the living room? Paint it already!" I just couldn't ever really understand why these buyers would talk themselves out of buying a perfectly great house that just needed some paint to refresh the entire place.
You would think I've never bought a house before. Would you believe this is my fourth time doing it? I guess you can't really call me a "newb" any more, but I certainly felt like a newbie during our house search.
I think I forgot the most important rule of house hunting: Remain as unemotional as possible.
How in the world do you remain unemotional and unattached when it comes to buying a home? This is the place we will watch our daughter graduate high school, serve a mission for our church, go to college, get married, and eventually and hopefully make me a grandmother. This is the home where James hopes to make long-lasting friends and will make many of his most important decisions and memories, and where Brett and I hope to settle until our wanderlust returns and we're off on a new and grand adventure.
Every single home we've bought before has been based almost solely on emotion.
Of course price, location, and needs have been key players in our decision, but it wasn't until we found the homes we've bought, walked in, and had that "this is the place" feeling overcome us that we've finally signed the contracts to buy our homes.
So why did I think this time would be any different? We started with a very logical list of needs: two separate offices since we both work from home, a bedroom for each child, a formal living room for the piano, a location near our daughter's high school, and a reasonable budget.
From there we started looking at listings in the areas we wanted to live. And we looked. And we looked. And we looked. What we found was a mysterious hole in the housing market in our target area. We found plenty of homes just a bit bigger than the house we had recently built. But when we jumped up in the market to look for homes with more living space, there was a gaping hole in the inventory. I've been watching the real estate market down here for over six months, and I could not figure out why homes with our specific needs weren't available. We stalked Zillow and used their "Zestimate" tool HERE as well to look for areas in which homes might become available. Nada.
So then we started thinking we could build a home. We've built one home before. It was as tract home development as it could get, and the only choices we got to make on the house were carpet color and countertop color. It was a great introduction to home ownership, but this time around we thought we could go semi-custom and get what we wanted. Enter housing gap #2. This gap was a major jump from existing home prices to new build pricing. While it is still fairly inexpensive to build in our area, prices either reflected a tiny lot or general overpricing for the area and very few areas to choose from in which to build.
We were getting seriously discouraged. I was turning into one of those "House Hunters" housing hunting divas, and I didn't like how that felt.
We dismissed houses for lot size, neighborhood upkeep, wrong school, tiny bedrooms, proximity to trains, and more. Did I really care about all those things?
I realized that my approach to house hunting this time was heavily affected by the housing market crash that destroyed any equity we might have had in the previous home we owned. I didn't want to buy a house that I could never resell. It was making the decision even more difficult as we began over-thinking every little detail.
Finally we decided we'd just pick five existing homes and go see them even though they weren't exactly what we thought we would want. Our very patient realtor made arrangements for us to walk through all five in one evening--yeah, he deserves an award for dealing with us.
The very first home we walked through had a faux finish paint job in the two-story family room. Something that had completely turned me off to the home in the MLS listing, I didn't even notice when I walked through the front door. That old-familiar "this is home" feeling started to creep over me. Walking through the bedrooms, the finished basement, and observing the view from the backyard deck, I felt it even more.
But I tried very hard to dismiss it. After all we had four additional homes to go see and a small deposit on a lot for a home we hoped possibly to build. After viewing the other four homes, our realtor, realizing we had loved the first home, asked if we wanted to go back to see it again. As it was empty, we readily agreed and walked through a second time. I couldn't deny it. I knew I loved the home.
As it was July 3rd when we walked through the home, I knew that we needed to use the long holiday weekend to make a decision. Brett and I spent long hours talking about it. We considered a second home we had seen, but realized that we both felt good about the first house. We called our realtor and decided to put an offer on the home. By Monday evening and after some negotiations, we had an accepted contract on the home.
We are looking forward to closing on the home at the end of this month and moving into the house in August. We hope that everything moves forward smoothly, but we trust the Lord to do what's best for our family if something causes it not to work out.
Perhaps house hunting should be a little less emotional. But how do you turn off that voice inside your head that tells you when something is right or wrong? I don't think I can live any other way than to keep that voice close and to listen to the promptings in my heart.
So while a great deal of my logical list went right out the window when we found this home, I know in my heart it's the place for me! I can't wait to make this house our home.