21 May 2013
Friends! Apparently owning a home takes up a lot of your time! I know I left you hanging after my last post (thank you for all of your kind comments!!), and I wanted to make sure I completed our house search story before too much time has passed. You now know where we ended up — here’s how we got there.
When last we left off, we had just canceled our contract on the historic downtown home. As I pressed publish on that post, we were actually in the middle of negotiations on another downtown home. This second one kind of came out of nowhere for us, even though it had been on the market — and our radar — for a few months. It was outside of our budget but not outside the realm of possibility (dangerous territory). And it was perfect. Like, move-in-and-not-change-a-thing perfect. Finishes, wall colors, layout — I loved it all. Best of all, since it was new construction (well, within the last ten years), it had all the charm of a historic home without the headache. Witness:
Doesn’t it look exactly like this house??
Like the other downtown home, we thought this one was overpriced, too. And, since we had just been bitten by our last house not appraising, we were very hesitant to offer a price that we (and our realtor) felt would not appraise. So, we submitted an offer that was substantially below the asking price. Wouldn’t you know, a day later the seller’s realtor tells us they have a competing offer and invites us to submit our “highest and best” offer. We did, and our realtor called a few hours later to tell us we had been outbid.
Friends, I’ll be honest: this is the first point in our saga where I cried. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but we had just come off a roller coaster ride with the historic home, and were so eager for this house (on the opposite end of the spectrum) to fix everything and finally end our house search. This also felt like the first offer situation where it was our fault for not coming out on top: we could have bid more, even if we didn’t want to. We started to wonder whether we’d ever come out on the winning side of a contract, or if we’d be outbid for the rest of our lives. Dramatic? Yes.
As the weeks went by, we started to wonder about a few other things, though, until three thoughts began to crystallize for us.
No. 1: Were we looking for a house that simply did not exist? Were we at least subconsciously looking for a house that matched the type of houses we grew up in — big, private lots and old neighborhoods with mature trees — in an area where houses like that simply do not exist? The answer, I think, was yes. As you can imagine, if you’re looking for something that doesn’t exist, you’ll never find it.
No. 2: This didn’t have to be our forever home. Again, we never discussed this, but I think subconsciously we were both measuring houses against an unrealistic standard for a first home. This is likely based on our own experiences growing up: I’ve only ever lived in one house, and John, two. However, we didn’t need to have the pressure of finding the PERFECT house, or finding a house that would meet our needs for the rest of our life, in this particular search.
No. 3: We began to see being outbid as a blessing. At the time all of this was happening, we were completing the “Disciples Path” study with our small group. As part of it, we took a spiritual gifts assessment (you can take it here if you’d like!). John and I both came up with Giving as our dominant gift. Here’s the description:
“The God-given ability to give material wealth freely and joyfully, knowing that spiritual wealth will abound as God’s work is advanced. People with the gift of giving are not always affluent, but they are always generous with what they DO have. People with this gift usually manage their finances well, may have a special ability to make money, and tend to be frugal in their lifestyle. They use these skills to increase their support for God’s work and trust that God will provide for their needs.”
Yes. That is what we are, or what we aspire to be. We want our home to be a blessing to us and others, not something that impedes the work God is calling us to do.
So! Armed with these realizations, we returned to the search with a more generous frame of mind. We quickly found three houses we were interested in in two adjoining neighborhoods, and visited them with our realtor one Saturday morning. The second one we visited was our favorite. It was in a neighborhood that we always thought was cute, but had dismissed in the past because of the tiny size of the lots. However, when we looked with our “new” eyes, instead of just tiny lots, we saw houses purposefully close together to contribute to a sense of community, and happy young families everywhere we looked. The house itself had everything we were looking for — an open floor plan, a big kitchen, storage, charm from the outside, a space that could be used as an office, and a laundry room not in the basement :)
So, we placed an offer. And wouldn’t you know — a few hours later, the seller’s realtor told us there was another offer on the table. This time, though, instead of asking for our “highest and best” offer, the sellers sent both parties a letter rejecting our offers and stating terms they would find acceptable, and saying that they would favorably consider an offer with similar terms. Since we found their terms acceptable, we immediately submitted a new offer, and it was accepted!
Friends, I can’t even tell you how much more of a humane process this was than the “highest and best” situations with all their worrying and second-guessing and uncertainty. We were not surprised, then, to learn that the seller husband is a local pastor (in our denomination!). To add to the “coincidences,” we later found that we share the same sporting allegiances, and we even honeymooned in the same place!! Uncanny.
The due diligence period proceeded uneventfully, and on May 13, we became homeowners. It might not be our “forever” home, but we love it and are so excited to make it our own, and for the life that will happen between our four walls. Our hope is that it will be a blessing to us, and a place of radical hospitality and welcome. We are glad to have finished our home search, but especially to have finished it in such a satisfying way.
More to come soon!
14 May 2013
Seven months to the day after our first trip to look at houses, and two lenders, three contracts, four offers, and many inspections later, we are officially homeowners. (Or, co-homeowners with the bank, as John likes to say – ha!) I’m working on a post with all of the details, but for now I just wanted to give you a peek at the newest member of our family. We’re pretty excited about all that’s to come!
12 May 2013
Seven things I love about my Mom (in no particular order):
1. When I was younger, she not only indulged my (admittedly strange but) preferred activities, she enjoyed them alongside me. Some of my favorite memories from elementary school and younger include sneaking into our church’s balcony on Saturdays to spy on wedding ceremonies, and Friday picnics that included D’Angelos tuna pockets eaten in the back of our van with the liftgate open and then a trip next door to browse the Ethan Allen showroom floor. She knew at a young age that these things were important to me, and is probably the least surprised of anyone to see how they’ve blossomed into my career.
2. She is generous with her time. As just one example, from about sixth grade to twelfth grade, I had 4-5 dance classes a week half an hour away, and I had to be driven to every single one. Now that I’m older, that kind of time commitment boggles the mind. I never felt like she didn’t have enough space in her day to talk with me or read to me, and I still don’t.
3. She cries at the drop of a hat. My sisters and I used to make fun of her for this, and we still kind of do, but now I understand that she cries at commercials, movies, and people’s stories because she is a deeply compassionate person.
4. She is the warmest person you’ll ever meet. She has never met a stranger, and will make you feel welcome and included from the minute you come in contact with her.
5. Unsurprisingly, my friends love her, and she loves my friends. She is an “extra mom” to almost every one of them, and they often do things with her even when I’m not around. (True story.) She is always going out of her way to show them she cares about them, like the time she drove to my best friend’s art show a state away to show her support even though I couldn’t attend.
6. She is content. For most of my life, my Mom drove a white minivan that was known around our town as the Jellybean. My sisters and I were okay with it when we were younger, but by the time we were in high school and the van had aged considerably, we would not be caught dead driving it. My Mom, however, drove it happily, even saying that she preferred it to some of our family’s newer options. That may or may not have been true, but her example of not deriving her value from the type of car she drove, and of valuing other things (college payments!) over a new car, has made a huge impact on my life.
7. When my sisters and I were growing up, my Mom was never interested in being our friend. She was our mom, full stop. But now that I’m older, she has grown into one of my very best friends, and I am so grateful for that.
I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!
All photos by Tanja Lippert, from the morning of my wedding.
18 April 2013
It is a well known fact that John and I are more than a little enamored with our cats. (John is actually known as the “cat whisperer” amongst our family and friends.)
Cat whisperer from a young age
Our infatuation has led to a variety of nicknames for our kitties, some more embarrassing and some less. For example, Jacquelyn goes by Jack, Jackapoo, Jackie Baby, Little Baby (she’s very small), Jack Jack, Pants, Little Pants, and Pantsicles. Yes, these are all things we call her on a regular basis.
Oliver answers to Ollie, Ollers, Oller Man, Mister Man, Business Man, Dobo, and Fuzzy Trousers.
We can’t be the only ones with cuckoo names for our pets, so spill it: what’s the most embarrassing name you use for your furry friends? I would LOVE to hear :)
21 March 2013
It’s been just about two months since my last house search update. We’re still searching, so I figured it was time for another!
About one week after my previous post, we went under contract on a house! Wheeee! This one couldn’t have been more different from the first house we put an offer on — it was in a downtown area, it was historic, and it needed some love. I actually mentioned it in this post — it’s the one that was right across from a school. It had been on our radar for a few months, but we didn’t pursue it because it was on the upper end of our budget. But after doing some extensive research on the neighborhood, we felt like it was overvalued, and that the seller might be willing to drop the price.
We scheduled a visit, loved it in person, and figured we’d write an offer in the next few days. That afternoon our realtor forwarded us an email that the seller’s agent had sent to all of the buyers’ agents that had ever taken clients to see the property, saying that the seller was willing to drop the price by $20,000, but wanted to be under contract by the end of the week or was going to take begin renting it.
Yikes! That certainly lit a fire under us, so we met with our realtor the next morning to write an offer. Within a few hours, the seller had countered our offer, which we accepted.
We immediately launched into inspections, as we wanted to know as soon as possible if there was something major that we needed to know about, budget-wise. We knew the seller had purchased the home two years ago, and that he had done some extensive updates: additional stabilizing under the roof and floor, new water pipes, new electrical, a new HVAC system, etc. Our inspection was very thorough (four hours!), but thankfully didn’t turn up anything major — no mold, no termites, no engineering issues. That being said, we knew there were still immediate updates that would need to be made: many of the windows were stuck closed (fire hazard!), there were no smoke detectors, there was some knob and tube wiring in the attic (outdated and dangerous), there were a few random plumbing and electrical issues, and the chimneys would need to be stabilized within 1-2 years.
We also knew we were dealing with lead paint and asbestos. We brought in two companies to give us remediation estimates, and the numbers were rather frightening. To make this house work for us (and our budget!) we planned to do as much of the updating as possible, learning as we went. Unfortunately, with lead and asbestos, amateurs are highly discouraged from doing the work, so with this huge project we would have missed out on the cost savings from tackling the demo ourselves. A frustrating way to start!
For better or worse, we never actually got to the point where we needed to make a decision on whether or not we could afford the initial outlay to make the house (at least to our eyes) safe and inhabitable. The appraisal came back about $35,000 under our purchase price, and since the seller was not willing to budge a dollar, we were forced to walk away. As some of you probably know, a bank will not lend for more than the appraised price. Even if we could have made up the $35,000 difference in cash, we wouldn’t have wanted to start that far in the hole, equity-wise; we also would have needed that $35,000 ON TOP of whatever cash we needed to set aside for initial remodeling.
We sadly canceled the contract last week. In the end, if we had to part ways, I’m glad that our decision was made for us, because I think I would have had a hard time walking away from such potential on my own two feet. And let me tell you, this house oozed potential out of every pore. From its massive wrap-around front porch, to its huge and flat yard (one of our key criteria!), to the adorable dormer, corner lot, massive windows, high ceilings, FIVE fireplaces, gorgeous wood floors, built-in hutch, and – possibly my personal favorite — pocket door, believe me when I say I had dreams of this being our forever home, fixed up to perfection over the next ten years. But, it was not meant to be.
And we’re okay with that. Honestly, at this point I think we’re just a little more tired of the whole search process than distraught over this particular house. We’ve considered taking a break, but we really don’t want to miss out on current interest rates. We’re pressing on for the moment, truly grateful to even be in the position of looking, and thankful that we live in an apartment we love while we wait. Here’s hoping luck is around the corner!