We bought this house ten years ago when Tom and I weren't even married. We were engaged and neither of us had a home or apartment of our own. He had lived in D.C. for two years and then moved back in with his parents when he came home. I was staying with my brother and sister-in-law after living in the city and decided it just wasn't for me.
We were anxious to start our life together and needed a place for all of our wedding shower gifts! It seemed at that time, that most of the people our age who were buying homes were heading further and further out in the suburbs because you could get so much home for your money. We followed their lead and realized that if we wanted something we could afford, we would either have to live in a shoebox, buy a fixer-upper or move to the sticks. We chose the sticks.
As luck would have it, my other brother and his wife and family were looking to sell their house to move to Arizona. We had some friends in Lake In The Hills, where my brother lived and they sold us on all the benefits of living here. We were able to work out the details with my brother and sister-in-law and before we knew it, we were homeowners.
The housing market at that time was on fire. It was the time where people actually made a living flipping houses. We took out a 5-1 Arm Loan and figured we wouldn't have to worry about refinancing because we would only live in the house 4-5 years. Then, the market went to hell-in-a-hand basket. By the time we were ready to sell, all the reality shows about house flipping were cancelled and it was just about the time all the baby toys, contraptions and stuffed animals from our first-born were starting to close in on us.
Our biggest problem was a lack of a basement. The more toys that appeared, the more our living room looked like Romper Room. We started to put our exit strategy together, but the outlook was bleak. Houses were just not moving and despite the fact we were both working at the time, any offer we got just didn't give us enough equity to purchase another home.
In the meantime, I quit my job and got knocked up again. We knew once we had two kids that it would make more sense for me to stay home instead of paying an arm-and-a-leg for childcare. Tom had just got a promotion and while that conceivably meant he would make more, it still left a great deal of uncertainty where income was concerned.
We finally decided to take the house off the market, turn third bedroom from an office into a baby's room and stick it out for awhile longer. After all, we loved our house despite the lack of space, and most importantly, we loved our neighbors.
You really could not ask for a better living situation, well except for the asshole teenagers across the street. We all hung out together on weekends, the kids played together and we helped each other out way beyond a cup of sugar here and there. We had somewhat of a commune living situation where we all knew each other's garage codes, let each other's dogs out, babysat each other's kids and celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and Baptisms together. We were more than neighbors. We were more than friends. We were family.
We also knew that we were in a great school district and in the end, our house was manageable, affordable and kept us safe. So for the next five years we hung in there, but knew that at some point we would revisit our desire to move.
In the meantime, Tom's parents who had moved out to this area around the same time we did and bought a larger house as "an investment" were ready to downsize. They had retired, bought an RV and spent half the year traveling. They wanted to sell their house and move to a low maintenance retirement community nearby. Since we are in the business of buying our family members' homes, they asked us if we were interested in their house. Their house had already lost some value and rather than give it away at a lower price to a stranger, they figured they would rather sell it to us.
My stipulation was that we get this transaction completed before Madelyn started first grade. As it stood, we would have to change her even after she got situated in a school for Kindergarten, and I didn't want to wait any longer to switch schools if we could help it. We sat down and hashed out the details, put our house on the market and away we went.
Now, if you have ever sold your house, you know the stress of keeping your home "staged" for showings. If you have ever done this with children, you know it is like brushing your teeth like eating Oreos. (I stole that from something I saw on Facebook) Before we could do anything else, we had to move half of the stuff out of the house. Prior to putting the house up we had to move out all of the train sets, car tracks, large trucks, three bags of stuffed animals and copious amounts of Legos. I purged the closets, packed up Winter clothes and repainted some of the walls that had been nicked, scratched and colored on.
I power washed the outside of the house, painted trim and railings on the front porch and put new house numbers up over the garage. We had all of our landscaping freshened up, trees trimmed and new mulch put down. Despite a minor meltdown while the landscapers turned my "privacy bushes" into Bonzai trees, the house was finally ready to stick a sign in the front and start showing.
Our traffic was relatively slow. The first weekend we put the house on the market was Father's Day weekend, so we only had a couple showings. One of which, they called a half-hour before they wanted to come see the house and ended up coming ten minutes later. Let's put it this way, we fled the house and headed to Yumz for frozen yogurt with Colin in his jammies and me without a bra.
In our haste to leave the house, I also realized later that day that someone had forgotten to flush the toilet. And by that, I mean, Madelyn took a man-sized poo and left it to simmer. I asked her specifically when she had done this and she informed me it was before the showing. I almost lost it and all Madelyn could do is stare at me in wonder and amazement. They had already seen me go ape-shit on the landscapers pulling a Mr. Miagi on my shrubs and now this? Our normally "lived in" home was no longer. I am not a neat freak and there are plenty of times I don't bother cleaning up Legos because I know they will just get dragged out again. There is usually a syrup stain somewhere on my kitchen table and try as I may, there are always dishes in the sink and laundry to be folded or put away. So, imagine my kids' dismay when their mommy turned into some sort of OCD freak running a vacuum at their heals each time they dropped a crumb.
Alas, after only a week on the market we got a call that we had an offer. The odd thing was the people who placed the offer hadn't even seen the house yet! They made an appointment to see the house the following day, but were so impressed with the photos online, they wanted to put an offer in to make sure they didn't lose it. Even more shocking was that they offered us our asking price. Now all we had to do was wait for the inspection, appraisal and for their financing to hold up. No big deal, right?
WRONG! The inspection revealed we had mold in our attic that needed to be remediated along with the half a dozen windows that we already had marked for completion. That meant pouring another $2,000 into the house. Then the appraisal came back way lower than our asking price and the buyers refused to come up any higher than the appraisal price. Long story short, while the market is picking up it isn't picking up fast enough. We knew going into this whole process that our neighborhood, littered with foreclosures and short-sales, meant our value had a lot of ground to make up. Unfortunately, we were led to believe we would still get more than what the home ended up getting appraised for.
In the end, either we accepted the offer or we ran the risk that they buyer could walk away. Of course, that would put us right back where we started--showing the house and waiting for another offer. With the knowledge that the house could still appraise for the same amount with the next round, we really had to come to the realization that the market is just not on our side no matter what someone offers for our home. My other concern was getting Madelyn registered for school which starts in a just over a month.
The process has been nothing short of stressful and Tom and I have "challenged each other" through several of the steps. Most of the time, outside circumstances cause these bumps in the road. We finally determined that we were taking things out on each other that were out of our control. We needed to just ride the storm out together. It reminded me of why I married Tom in the first place. Good or bad, there is no one I'd rather get through things with than him.
At this stage in the game we are just over a week from closing. We have already moved a good portion of our belongings to Tom's parents house/our new home. I have no idea where anything is. I am having a hard time finding things for the kids to wear between what has been packed and what is in the laundry. Once we close, there will be a two week window where we will living with Tom's parents until they close on their new home a few miles away. In the meantime, the new house looks a bit like an episode of "Hoarders" and I pray that neither of the two cats involved in this move perish along the way.
Soon, we will be pulling away from our home for the last time. I get kind of nauseous at the thought, but I know it is time to start a new chapter in our life. Soon we will all be settled in our respective homes. We will make each our own with some new paint, furniture and décor. It will be hard when we come over to our current neighbors' houses for parties or play dates and won't be able to just run in the house for whatever we need or meander home after an evening of cocktails. I am sure at some point I will go to drive "home" and find myself in the wrong place unable to recognize the car on the driveway.
So many wonderful memories were made in this house. So many "firsts" happened here. All the milestones met, all the tender moments shared. Home is where the heart is and we will surely leave part of ours' here.