Sunday, June 15, 2014

The One Where We Bought a House

(This post was started a long time ago and I'm just trying to get it finished, regardless of how rough the finished product turns out. As per usual, I refuse to proofread.)

 Honestly, I've had a rough few weeks (or if I'm being completely honest, a rough 6 months). Our car broke down 2.5 times (First our rear brakes went out and then our battery died right after we ran out of gas, so those two are combined), I broke my phone (ahem, the second time in the last 2 months, but also the second ever), I've had a some minor medical issues, and the kids just keep having these legendarily bad days (still cleaning up the nail polish, Adam). Hey, in the grand scheme of things, my life is great, but I've just had a lot of random issues come up over the last few weeks that have made it harder. And expensive.

And then we got a letter from our landlord a few weeks ago. We never hear from our landlord. We pay the rent and keep quiet and that's that. I think we're pretty good tenants- we've been renting for 6 years and we've always been well-liked by our landlords. (To be fair, we've often rented apartments near some pretty bad tenants and so we always come off looking good. That's the master plan.) Anyways, we get a letter from our landlord and it says that they really like having us a tenants and that they want us to sign a longer lease (it's in our contract that we're supposed to go month to month when our lease ends in July). They also want to raise the rent and they also want us to give them another (significantly large) security deposit. We asked if we could just go to the month-to-month as planned and they said no- we have to sign another lease (and by informing us super-early they have invoked a loophole in our contract) or get out. And  we have two weeks to decide, which apparently is generous.


That was a little awkward. We like our place. We've been happy here, but we're not willing to commit to another lease, especially when our landlord is apparently bat-shiz. We would stay longer, but we would like a little more space to grow into. We're actually in a relatively small townhouse. It fits our needs really well right now, but we've never seen it as our long-term destination and since we have no plans to leave the area, we thought we might need to look for something that could fit our needs for many years. (ie- We might like to have another child someday and there's not much room for one here unless we want them to sleep in the ant-infested bathroom, which Avery totally did do in California, minus the ant part.) Our original plan was to go to a month to month contract and start putting feelers out there and deciding where we want to settle and decide if we want to (gulp) buy.

We've thought about buying, but buying is scary. I know owning some land is the American Dream, but I honestly have no problem with renting. I like being able to call someone if there's something wrong with the house and not have to pay for it. I get a pretty big knot in my stomach when I hear the word "mortgage." (And why is it spelled like that??) I still have only a vague idea what "equity" means, but I definitely know what "foreclosed" means. I have a large fear of making bad financial decisions and I really think that's because of the film they showed in USU's family finance class where this girl killed herself because of credit card debt. (We got our first credit card a few months ago and I still stare at it uneasily, like it's the Ring of Power or something.)

But yes, we've thought about buying, and we've thought about it a lot lately. We learned about financing. We scouted neighborhoods. We looked at listings. But we wanted some time. We wanted to do it right. It's one of the most important decisions of your life and we take that seriously. Jeff, in particular, doesn't take important decisions lightly. He agonizes over them and considers every angle over and over again v e r y  s  l  o  w  l  y. I adore that about him- I mean, I'm always fine if he'd get a move on- but he takes serious things very seriously and I think that's a wonderful trait to have.

So here we were, essentially being forced out (FYI- I think the landlord wants to sell our place. There has been a lot of erratic behavior and I really think that's her plan) and we either had to choose to find a bigger place to rent in Reston ( which usually is about several hundred more a month) or buy a place a little farther west (a few hundred less a month) and so we took the western- leap. We got pre-approved for a loan (though talking to our lender gives me hives- she really intimidates me) and got a realtor. And then we jumped into the northern Virginia real estate market, which is a little like jumping into an expensive river.

Firstly, when we say "buying a house," we mean buying a townhouse, because we're not gazillionaires. I can't speak for all of Northern Virginia, but in this area, there's somewhat of a bit of a dearth of affordable starter homes. There often isn't much available between a nice townhouse and $700,000 4 bedroom single-family house- this isn't always the case, but it sure is frequently this way.  (And honestly, townhouses and condos are often that much. A 3 bedroom townhouse down the street from us just sold for $800,000.)  I realize that to my friends out west, it seems like such a step down from a single family home, but townhouses are practically the norm here- they're everywhere and they're pretty spacious and they're usually very nice communities. I love townhouses. I can say completely honestly, that I have no desire to live in a single-family right now. I don't want to deal with the yard and I like the community-feel of townhouses- I love having people around. 90% of my non-familial social interactions right now are doing chalk drawings with the neighbor kids and telling this one kid that Adam can't play right now so get off our lawn chairs. (That last part is fictional, but desired.)

Secondly, buying any real estate here is quite frankly, completely bonkers. Imagine this- a listing pops up that you are interested in. It just came on the market yesterday! You call your realtor. Oh, it's under contract. Oh, this happens again and again and again and again. I feel like a bit of a veteran in buying townhouses in our price range and I can tell you this with absolute and utter confidence- if a place is on the market for over 2 weeks, there is something weird about it or plain old wrong with it. It might not be something big- maybe just a small bedroom or a strange loft, but there is something there. (The 2 weeks cut-off is a little generous, honestly, I think the judgement applies to places on the market longer than one week as well. Most things that we looked at over the last few months sold in 2 or 3 days.) So basically, if you see a listing that you like, you need to visit it immediately and you need to put an offer on it within the next hour or two. You have to make one of your biggest life decisions as soon as possible,  and you do so after having spent 15 minutes in the place. We put offers on two places- we waited a few hours with the first one and someone else offered first and offered more. With our second offer, we walked to our cars and sat down on the grass with our realtor and signed papers.

And so, we bought a house.

(Of course there is so much more to it than that- there was a lot nervousness, joy, uncertainty, sadness, kindness and generosity going on as well. Buying a house sort of was like going through the whole spectrum of human emotions for me.)

Our house. I'm surprised at how well that blurring app worked. I actually know what those numbers are and I really can't see any of them when I look at this picture. Also, it has another Kwanzan cherry tree! I love the one in front of our house- I think it's the most gorgeous thing ever and it seriously took me months to find out what type of tree it was, which is not relevant, but true.

This is the view from our deck. 

Adam and Avery on the deck. The prior owners have kids, obviously

There are 2 dining areas, which is completely beyond our needs, so we need to figure out what to do with the space.

It's got a really nice kitchen. 

The kids and Grandma Carr in the living room. 

Adam demanded we take selfies while we signing paperwork.

That bath! 

The master bedroom is really lovely.

This is the room that Adam called dibs on. Jokes on you, kid. You guys will still share. 

I really don't have very many pictures of the house, but I do have a video. I wasn't going to post my video of it in case it fell through and to be respectful of the previous owners, but we close on Thursday and there are (blurry) pictures online of the house with all of their furniture and things (and I'm pretty sure they've moved some of it out already when these videos were taken), so I think it's ok.

There are so many things that we like about our new house. It's beautiful- I never thought I'd live in a house that nice. It's in great shape and in a lovely little neighborhood. There is a massive, sheltered community yard that I really like. We also have the space to possibly build a fenced yard, but it'd be tiny, so I don't really see the point at this juncture. There is a playground and basketball court in the townhouse community, but we're also within easy walking distance of a huuuge park and Adam's future elementary school. We also are in easy walking distance of the grocery store and a shopping plaza. (This might not be well-known, but I really really like walking places. Walking is really the only exercise I do and when I had PPD, walking really helped with that. I mean, Zoloft helped more, but being outside has always lessened any depression I've ever had. I've been able to walk to the grocery store at the last few places that we've lived and I was afraid I'd have to give that up when we moved, but honestly, our new place is really just an all-around increase in walk-ability, so that's cool.) Anyway, it's a great little house (an end-unit!) with great features and a really great location. But...

People keep asking me if I'm excited and I definitely am, but really this move is so bittersweet. I like Reston and I like our neighborhood and I like our ward and I'm pretty sure we just moved. There are so many people I'd like to keep in touch with, but we all know that's pretty hard to do sometimes. I have hated telling people that we're moving because it's hard to tell someone about this new and exciting thing when it basically means you won't see them all too much anymore. It just feels like such a betrayal and I know that's a ridiculous thing to say and that I sound like I put too much stock in how much people like me, but it's more just that people were really nice and welcoming and I feel so guilty to be leaving after only spending a year here because we have been happy here.

The second thing that makes it bittersweet is that Jeff will have a longer commute. That's not the biggest thing in the world- almost everyone in this area has a long commute and at least Jeff doesn't work in the District. People do some crazy commutes around here and it just seems so sad. We live about 10 miles from where Jeff works and it takes him about 45 mins. His new commute will be about an hour, maybe a little more. It's not my favorite thing in the world. I mean, I'll be fine with it, but I want him to be happy and commuting that long really seems awful. We have a couple of things that work in our favor though- Jeff finds his current commute pretty pleasant (it's time to himself and time to listen to audio-books and NPR... zzzzzzz... sorry, I just fell asleep thinking about how boring NPR is) and Jeff is able to go in at anytime, so he can get to (and leave) work pretty early, thus avoiding much of the major traffic. Hypothetically.

Anyway, this post is terribly long and I really just want to finish it so that I feel a little more caught-up on the blog. We close on the house on Thursday (cleared for closing!) and move on Saturday.

And I guess this means we're grown-ups now?


Marta said...

Your house looks beautiful! I've always wanted to live in a beautiful house, like the one in Father of the Bride (I know, so realistic). As it is, we just closed in our first house Thursday, and it is such a wreck I can't even bring myself to post pictures. And we have so much work to do that we won't be moving for awhile yet. And house buying is scart and crazy and I'm glad to not have to do it again for a very long time! And the planner in me loves that you talked about walkability in this post.

Val said...

And another one bites the dust!

It is a really nice house. I think you did a great job - especially considering how quick you had to decide.

Brandon and I decided on one of our Logan apartments in less than 15 minutes. We walked in, looked around, went out the other door, grinned at each other, decided we wanted to live there, and then went back inside and casually asked to see the upstairs.

Of course we weren't doing the whole mortgage thing.

Anyway, if we ever end up in your neck of the woods we'll have to stop by and see it for real.

Audrey said...

Your place looks very nice. I may be coveting the master bath . . . Good luck with the move!

Shantel said...

I totally agree with how crazy it is to buy a house after seeing it for an hour. It's insane! But the house looks beautiful and I'm so excited for you guys.