I took a long hiatus from this blog while we moved, partly because we were so busy with the move itself, and partly because it was all I was focused on at the time, so the blog would’ve been alternatingly me freaking out and me being redundant. Neither of those would’ve been particularly interesting. So I have chosen to cover the entire move in a multi-part retrospective.
We were on such a condensed timeline when Jim first interviewed for this job, because his contract at his prior school was due in just a few short days. So when he came down here to N.C. to interview, the girls and I came with him to look around and see if this seemed like a place we could be happy. The four of us also met with a realtor recommended to Jim by the head of the school at which he was interviewing. By the time we actually met with the realtor, Jim had received an offer of employment, but we hadn’t had the chance to discuss the possibilities, so we didn’t know if we were moving here or not yet. We decided to use the opportunity to look at neighborhoods, rather than focusing on individual houses, so we could get a sense of what was available for the money and how far from the school we’d have to live to get what we wanted in our price range.
When we returned to Virginia and decided we were going to move, our realtor set us up on an interactive online search service in which he had entered our search criteria. The service would automatically send us updates, so we could largely search online.
We approached the search rather casually at first (this was in March), as our house wasn’t even on the market yet and we couldn’t move until Jim’s and the girls’ schools were out for the summer anyway. Our initial search criteria were pretty straight forward: We wanted 4+ bedrooms (we were pretty insistent we wanted a guest room in the new house; we didn’t have one in the old house), 3+ baths, and initially a basement (until we realized this city doesn’t have many houses with basements and we had to drop that from our “must have” list). The other “must have” was a good school district. We were also hoping for some architectural detail.
The next step was to ask each family member to name his or her very top “wish list” item. We explained to the girls that we weren’t likely to be able to find everything everyone wanted in a house in one place, so we’d focus on the top thing each of us wanted. Even that may not be possible, but that’s where we’d start.
Jim’s top item was proximity to school. He had been commuting an hour each way for eleven years, so he insisted he did not want to be further than 10 minutes from school. Mine was an updated kitchen. We renovated our Virginia kitchen 5 years ago and while we loved the result and had a kitchen that was pretty much customized to our needs/wants/style, the process was difficult and I didn’t want to go through it again. Emerald wanted what all tween girls wish for: her own bathroom. She would settle for a Jack and Jill, if necessary. Sapphire’s biggest requirement was a backyard big enough to put a play set in. We were moving from a place in the country, with three acres, to a city. This one was more of a challenge than it sounds.
With these four items in mind, I scoured through the online listings. I made notes on some of them, which our realtor could see and respond to. He noted if the house was in a poor school district or a good one, if the house was on a busy road, etc. — all the things we couldn’t possibly know being unfamiliar with the area and looking online.
When I found a house that looked promising, I would MapQuest it to see how close it was to Jim’s school, before I looked at the listing in too much detail. There was no point wasting time on a house he wouldn’t even consider.
After wading through seventy or eighty listings, I began to get really worried. This was late March, early April, so we still had time. We weren’t ready to buy a house yet, but there was nothing that came close to meeting our criteria within 10 minutes of Jim’s school. There were amazing houses in our price range 20 minutes from school in very good school districts (I did eventually start peeking at those to see what was available). There were a few great houses in bad school districts (a definite no-go). There were smaller, but very cute, houses close in. There were also many, many houses with tiny yards. And still others with a pool in the back that took up the entire yard. Unless something else popped up in the next couple of months, it looked like we were either going to have to move further out or adjust our expectations.
At one point, I mentioned to Jim that while I completely understood his want to be close to school, it was looking like something was going to have to give, either in distance from school or in the house itself. I’d give it a while longer, but we may have to have a discussion on where we can compromise, so he should be thinking about that. That wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but he said he would think about it. At leat he wouldn’t be blind-sided when the time came.
Then in early April, I noticed a house that I hadn’t seen before. It wasn’t a new listing (it had been on the market for 3 months by then), but I don’t know whether it hadn’t been on our search before or if I’d just missed it. I did my usual MapQuest search of the address and found it was 12 minutes from Jim’s school. Twelve, not 10 or less, but close. I figured I might be able to talk Jim into 2 minutes more, so I cautiously looked at the pictures and the listing info. This house had 5 bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths (one of them being a Jack and Jill between two of the bedrooms and the other bedrooms each having its own bath), a recently renovated kitchen with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, and a fairly private 1/2 acre lot. We were cooking with gas.
I told Jim that I had found an interesting prospect and asked if he would give me two more minutes on his commute time. He said he thought he could do that. After showing him the listing, and getting a positive reaction, I wrote a note on the listing to our realtor asking about the schools and mentioning that this house had all of our top wish list items. He replied very quickly that the schools were very good and that he expected the price on this house to drop rapidly because the owners had a contract on a very expensive house, closing in a few weeks, so they would want sell this one soon.
I wrote back and asked him to let me know if I need to hurry down to N.C. to see it because I didn’t want it sold out from under us before we’d even seen it in person. He replied that he could get me into it as soon as I wanted. I took the hint and we scheduled a trip down to N.C. the next week (which luckily was the kids’ spring break). Meanwhile, we watched the listing for a price drop. It never occurred, probably because they had just dropped the price $19,000 and wanted to let that ride for a while. The new price was also comparable to other houses on their street.
The house across the street from theirs was also for sale, for exactly the same price, so we figured we’d look at both, although we were primarily interested in the one I’d seen online. We liked the main room better and our realtor had mentioned a ditch in the yard of the other house.
We toured the house we were interested in, and while it wasn’t perfect (it had a weird division of rooms upstairs and an odd angle on the backyard), it was still much closer to what we were looking for than anything else we’d seen. We walked around it several times, looking in every room, every closet, walking around the yard. The kids fell in love and although we were trying to be cautious, so did Jim and I. We decided not to look at the house across the street; instead we started talking about the offer we wanted to put in.
On the way home to Virginia that evening, we were excited, but also nervous. Our house wasn’t even on the market yet, although we did have a realtor up there as well and we were almost ready to list it. But given how few houses fit our wish list and how this house had Every. Single. One. of the main items, we decided to gamble.
It took a little back and forth, but within a few days, we were under contract. We had a closing date of May 31st. Soon after we signed the contract, our house in Virginia went on the market. We crossed our fingers, and we prayed. We still had so much that had to come together.
To be continued . . .