Monday, July 9, 2012

House Hunting: I Might Hate It Almost As Much As Regular Hunting.

And I REALLY hate hunting. (sorry, hunters.)

I realize, obviously, that this may be of no interest to you. I am doing this mostly for us, so we can look back and remember all the details. And if you happen to be a real estate junkie or are thinking of doing this thing for the first time, there's that too. Oh, and for all the people who love my stories. This is for you to read, too. Everyone else? Sorry. 

In case you missed it, we are buying a house (SQUEE!)

We started house hunting a LONG time ago. In fact, we started way back before Jeremy had his new job. We had gotten fed up with how unhappy we were in Lansing, but had decided that we couldn't fix the other most hated things on our list (living so far from family, having no support system, and only having a handful of friends in the city), so we decided to fix the other big problem -- STOP RENTING and find somewhere to live that we loved. We moved into our rental home thinking we would be here for a few months, tops. It's been three and a half years and counting.

Every time I wanted to do something, from getting a library card to planting anything in our yard to signing up Josephine for swim lessons, I always had that thought in the back of my head -- Well, we could leave ANY TIME. Why bother with that until we have our REAL home? When you keep doing that for three and a half years, it starts to get ridiculous really quickly.

Then there is this house. Now, we got a good deal on the rent in this house, and we like the person we rent from, but MY GOD. From the lack of living space to the scary basement to doors that don't fully close to the only bathroom being on the second floor to the oven that hasn't worked since February? That all gets old real quickly too. And don't even get me started on the paint colors. I really get what that prison in Arizona was going for when they painted everything pink to punish the prisoners. Having to stare at walls that make you want to puke, day after day, year after year? NOT PLEASANT.

Wow, I didn't mean to complain about this house that much, since that's not very nice of me, but I'm sorry, it's been a hard few years.

Anyway, we decided if we could find a house in the area that we loved and were happy in, that would make life easier. So we started looking at houses in the Lansing area. We spent MONTHS looking online, making lists of houses that looked like possibilities, packing up the whole family and driving past all of them, crossing the ones off the list that were automatically nixed by sight, then sending the rest of the list to our realtor. Then we went to see houses TWICE A WEEK, EVERY WEEK, for MONTHS. It was terrible. I don't know how other people handle it -- the disappointment, the time, the energy, and having to pack up our one-and-a-half-year-old every time. DEAR GOD.

Josephine had also just reached that lovely point in her life where she would rather be laying face-down on a bed of hot coals than be strapped in her car seat and driven somewhere. No amount of toys or snacks or songs could keep her happy in the car. THEN, we would go into at LEAST three brand new exciting and novel places and tell her not to touch things and stay away from dangerous (fun) things and not play with all the toys in the kids' rooms. She was not a happy camper. Twice a week. For months.

I became an expert on real estate in our area. I could tell you if something was priced high for the area, priced to move, or just right. I knew the taxes in every little neighborhood and town in a thirty-mile radius. I had school districts permanently ranked in my mind, and we were only willing to look at houses in the top three. I knew of every house for sale in the greater-Lansing area. And we went to see a LOT of them.

And then ... we actually found a house. We went to see it three times. We were discussing putting in an offer. And that night, Jeremy got the job offer an hour away from Lansing.

I cannot even begin to explain how guilty we felt. If we had the money, we would have bought a house from our AMAZING real estate agent anyway, just to compensate her for her time. Unfortunately for her, we are poor, and also, that sounds like a terrible idea. But that's seriously how much we liked her.

We stopped house hunting for a while and were struggling with our options. Stay? Move? Where to move? Once we made the decision (a few months later) that we wanted to start over in the Bluewater area, I was over house hunting AND much more pregnant than before. Plus there was the whole issue with living two hours away from the houses we wanted to look at. Meaning every trip was a LONG trip for Josephine and at least a $75 hit at the gas station, and it had to be on a Saturday, meaning our whole weekend was basically shot because Sunday was just recovering from the chaos. 

Thankfully, it didn't take quite as many trips this time, because I was done dilly-dallying and spent a LOT of time using my new online real estate research skills before we bothered to set up an all-day house-viewing marathon. We had a few VERY depressing Saturdays, even though my policy was to keep my expectations super-low and assume we wouldn't find anything good, but we were determined to find something.

Finally, my "go in assuming the worst" strategy paid off. We had decided on a particular city in the Bluewater area, for a variety of reasons, but one week our new realtor sent us a listing for a house in a city nearby, which was also the city where Jeremy grew up and 98% of his extended family still lives. I had nothing against living in that city, but every house we had seen there in our price range had been a massive disappointment, and the taxes were higher. 

The house he sent us was a tiny green bungalow. "What the HELL?" I asked Jeremy. "Why would he send us this listing?" The first pictures we saw online were also a little off-putting, because as much as I hate to admit that those idiots on TV house hunting shows are right, it can be REALLY hard to see past horrible paint colors. After looking at all the pictures a few times, I realized the house was growing on me. I decided it was worth seeing in real life.

We pulled up in front of this little house on a street lined with MASSIVE old trees, and we sat there in silence for a little while. How could I have such warm and fuzzy feelings for this tiny little house? But I did. Then we walked in, and the house was far from perfect, but it felt like we were walking in the door to OUR HOUSE.

It was the first house we were scheduled to see that day, so we went to see a few more, including one I really liked and wanted to see a second time. We sat in that house I thought I liked so much, and I found myself asking "Do you think the owners will let us walk through that first house again?" Our realtor made it happen, and we walked through again. What happened every time I see a house a second time happened -- I noticed all the little "not-so-great" things much more clearly. But, BUT, this time I didn't think, Okay, never mind, this house isn't all that great after all. This time I thought, Let's make an offer!

We stood in the backyard and talked about the pros and cons. We talked about the only two options we had in our price range -- buying a house that had much more space but needed work (and money out of pocket) to make it livable, or a smaller place that was practically move-in ready. Our realtor wanted to be sure we knew the pros and cons of each and we were on the same page. We were. We are not in the point in our lives where we can buy a bigger space and hope for the best when all the remodeling starts. We are also not in a place where months and months of (possibly very costly) remodeling is something we can handle. We loved this place, and we wanted it.

Jeremy had to sleep on it that night, but when we woke up the next morning, he said "Let's put in an offer."


  1. House hunting is so nerve wracking. I didn't notice all the not so nice things until AFTER we moved in. It hasn't changed my views on the house, but now I don't know if we should have offered as much as we did. If only, if only.

    1. I know! I'm sure I'll find lots of OTHER not-so-wonderful things once we actually live there! Ha!

  2. I agree - house hunting is absolutely horrible! We've done it twice, and I keep saying I never want to move again. After a while you remember the fun parts, but during the actual search, it's exhausting and frustrating, and seems like it will never end. Congrats to you!

    1. Ugh, it seems like I will never think it is fun. Well, maybe it would be if our budget was say, quadrupled! :)

  3. You shop just like I do, AKA AMAZINGLY, even when the experience is kind of sucky.

    I loathe apartment hunting... can't imagine the stakes with a house!

    I'm doing the same thing here in Kelowna with the "I don't need a library card, we're moving and getting our REAL home soon, right?"...... sigh. SOON.

    1. What can I say? We're a couple of Type A gals who get it DONE and get it done RIGHT.

      And I would suggest not doing that whole "we're not in our real home yet" thing. You never know how long you will end up there, and then you have been missing out. I wish I could go back and tell myself that!


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