Adventures in Real Estate

During the dozen or so years that Bob and I have been together, we’ve sold three homes. So, on average, if I’m doing the math right, that’s one house every four years. Is that a lot? I’m not sure. We moved a few times while I was growing up so it doesn’t seem too unusual to me but Bob thinks I have ants in my pants. I think it just took us awhile to find the perfect place.

The first home we sold, Bob’s bachelor pad, was a cinch to sell, from what I remember. (We were wedding planning and new-house hunting all around the same time so things get a bit fuzzy.) I distinctly recall my parents helping us get the house ready by removing wallpaper and painting and aiding with general clean-up. We listed the property during the real estate frenzy of 2004 so buyers were circling in no time.

The sale of our second home, in Alexandria, was a bit more anxious. The bubble had burst and though our neighborhood was still in high demand, the pressure to perfectly prepare, market and time our listing was intense. We sidelined our move for a year when we found out we were expecting Millie. It didn’t make sense to move away from doctors we knew and helpful friends that were good with newborns. However, at that point, we had already been in touch with our neighbor, a real estate agent, about listing our house. She knew we would be putting it on the market after Millie’s October arrival. So, when she had a client looking to buy in our neighborhood that summer and they could not find the right property amongst the available inventory, she called asking if her buyers could preview our house even though it wasn’t technically for sale. Without thinking twice, I exclaimed, “Of course!” I thought it would be a great chance to get some feedback from actual purchasers prior to officially listing the house. I think I remember casually mentioning it to Bob on the phone but he was traveling heavily for work that year and the overall impression I held was that the showing was not really a big deal. I mean, what were the chances that they would like our house enough to want to buy it, right? Pretty slim.

The two things I hadn’t considered when I jumped at the chance to open our front door to prospective purchasers were 1.) deep cleaning my entire house while six months pregnant would be harder than I thought and, 2.) they might want to actually buy our house.

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When our realtor called to say that the buyers wanted to tour our home a second time with their parents, I panicked. Everyone knows that getting your parent’s opinion is, like, Step 3 in the official About-to-Buy-Anything-of-Significance process. I had never really imagined even once that they would take more than a quick glance at our place and then rattle off the things they liked and didn’t like. To know there was actual consideration and number crunching going on kind of spelled trouble. It meant I had to tell Bob, who had been at work during most of the preparation, staging and showing, that it might be time to come up with A Plan.

Bob was… not amused that my prior promise of this exercise being “just for feedback” had become something so much bigger. It was bad. So bad. A sale meant we’d be moving before the baby was born and Bob was adamant that that was a bad idea (he was right). We spent a frantic weekend driving around looking at any rental homes we could find in a commutable neighborhood with half-way decent elementary schools while I chanted, “everything is going to be FINE,” over and over again as I rubbed my belly. And, everything did end up being just fine. Those prospective buyers chose the other house they showed their parents that weekend and my marriage was saved. Millie arrived and we sold our house a few months later, when everyone (Bob) was ready.

However, ever since that close call, Bob has been a little leery of my trigger-happy willingness to sell our residence to the first interested party that wants to take a peek inside. So, when the process of selling our home in Richmond appeared to be headed down a similar path, I knew better than to greet him after he arrived home from work with boxes and packing tape.

The funny thing is, for all of my grumbling about Facebook, Facebook is exactly how I sold our third home. Our Richmond neighborhood had a pretty active Facebook group that kept neighbors apprised of happenings, offered suggestions for contractors and babysitters and, as it turns out, ended up putting me in touch with someone looking for a home in the community.

We happened to be house-hunting in Northern Virginia when I saw a new post on our neighborhood’s Facebook page from a resident looking for a property for a family member. Their relative was trying to get into the development and if anyone was selling soon, they were to get in touch. I read it aloud to Bob in the parking lot of the restaurant where we had stopped for a break and asked, “Should we call? Are we ready for this? Are you going to be mad if I sell our house?” He agreed that it looked promising and even though we had not planned on listing for a few months, the idea of selling without having to formally market our home was enticing. I mean, what were the chances that they would like our house enough to want to buy it, right? Pretty slim.

The two things I hadn’t considered when I jumped at the chance to open our front door to prospective purchasers were 1.) deep cleaning my entire house with three kids underfoot would be harder than I thought and, 2.) they might want to actually buy our house.

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We knew things were moving fast when they came back with their parents the same day.

Just like that, we had a buyer for our home. A fair amount of panic ensued which involved about ten hours of me Googling, “how to sell your house without a realtor.” It’s interesting because after going through the selling process without representation, I totally get why realtors are a thing. While it was really great to not have to live through open houses, short-notice showings and pay high commissions, there were times throughout our escrow that I wished longingly for a person to serve as a buffer between us and our buyers. It’s a lot different negotiating a purchase price directly with the purchaser than it is through two agents playing a version of the telephone game. It’s a lot of (sometimes very awkward) hard work.

In the end, it all paid off. We staged our home, successfully sold it and I learned the valuable lesson that you definitely are supposed to hire your own real estate attorney to prepare your side of the sales transaction. Even if you just assumed you were going to use the same settlement attorney that your buyers are using, you have to actually tell them that. Also, you should tell them you want to hire them more than four days before the closing date. Otherwise, they will think you are working with a different attorney and will call and ask where all of your paperwork is. And, then you will cry and wish you had just hired a realtor. See how much I learned?

Every time someone asks us if we can see ourselves living in our new home for a long time to come, I say, “Definitely!” just as Bob exclaims, “Nooooooo!” He thinks I’m going to want to move again. But, the joke’s on him because if we never move again, I never have to deep clean my house again. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.

Goodbye House

We have lived in our Richmond home for just shy of two years. This morning, we signed the paperwork to sell it.

We are way too tired to be emotional or reflective or to feel anything other than brute exhaustion right now. The movers will be here tomorrow so we’ve been packing non-stop for days and eating far too much Chipotle and plopping our children in front of way too many electronic devices that are probably ruining their vision and destroying the best parts of their brains.

So, in honor of the end (the sweet, sweet end to all of this), a picture post of some of my favorite rooms of this home. Because, if you’re anything like me, you will never turn down the opportunity for a house tour.

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The bright kitchen was one of the things that really sold me on this house when we purchased it. Lots of counter space. Lots of storage space. I was pumped, in theory, for the double ovens but it turns out, I have absolutely no real need for double ovens. So, they were kind of kitchen overkill.

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We ate just about every one of our meals at the table in the kitchen. I could have vacuumed underneath this table three times a day and it would never have been enough. There were always crumbs. Always. (Related: we need a dog. I think this is how everyone else solves their Crumb Problems.)

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One of the coziest spots in the house was right off the kitchen. We converted the dining room into my office and turned the formal living room into a formal dining room. The big yellow chair is where the kids would curl up with books they grabbed from the bookshelves close by.

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I will certainly miss all of the built-in bookshelves and cabinets this home has. We tucked a lot behind these doors in our family room. Our new home has none and I am bracing for a basement filled with boxes of books until we can have some shelving built. (And, when I say, “built,” I mean, “taken out of the flat-pack box from Ikea and assembled.”)

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My favorite of the bedrooms was the room that belonged to the boys. It was the only room that really felt finished while we lived here. I am quite positive the new owners will be finding tiny Legos in the corners of this space for years to come.

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Since the new house won’t have a dedicated guest bedroom, all of the furniture in the current guest bedroom at this house is getting turned over to Millie for her new room. (But, don’t let that stop you from visiting! We promise you’ll have a bed! Even if that bed is a sleeping bag on a cot! I can tell you’re already planning your trip!)

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We had big plans for this house – new kitchen, new baths, exterior makeover. And, as a house enthusiast, it’s hard to leave a project unfinished. However, sometimes, big plans are best abandoned in favor of something entirely different.

Our new adventure awaits…

About That Laundry Room

Approximately five minutes after I wrote this post about our lofty laundry room ambitions, Bob told me he wanted to move back to Northern Virginia. Instead of painting that Labor Day weekend, we spent the entirety of it on our front porch discussing Big Changes.

Our move away from Alexandria in the spring of 2012 was the culmination of years of plotting, planning and hand-wringing over how to move away from the hustle and bustle of the city while maintaining Bob’s career with the Federal Government in Washington, D.C. We wanted his job but we also wanted different schools, a different house, a different experience for our kids than our little bricked-over urban backyard could provide. And, I wanted out of the metro area completely. It was a tough place for my Indiana heart to live and once I had children, my desire to find a neighborhood just like the one I grew up in reached fever pitch.

We found everything we were looking for – the schools, the neighborhood, the lack of migraine-inducing traffic – in the far west end of Richmond. For the first year we lived in this area, I would marvel every single time I left my house at how EASY it was to get around, how beautiful the southern pines were, how large the grocery store was. Honest to goodness, it felt like we were on vacation all the time.

We have used our prime location as a jumping off point to explore much of Central Virginia. From battlefields to beaches to campsites, everything is so close and so accessible. Richmond is a wonderful place to live.

The only thing it is missing is my husband.

For the almost two years we have lived here, Bob has worked a few days each week in Washington while I hold down the home front in Richmond. We rented a cozy apartment for him up in Northern Virginia so he wouldn’t have to commute daily. Some weeks he is home more days than he is at work but, as he explained to me last September, he feels he is not home nearly enough. He misses his family.

And, we miss having him at home. While taking care of our three kids on my own during the week has proven incredibly challenging at times, the four of us have muddled through. Everyone is fed and clothed and schooled on time with a minimal amount of Bad Words.

My biggest issue during Bob’s absence is not how tired I am or how solo-managing the homework is killing me slowly, it is actually how life always feels on pause during those few days each week when Bob is working in the city. Since not everyone in the family is present, it feels like the rest of us are in a type of holding pattern, waiting for him to arrive home so we can all spend time together as a complete unit. This means weekends are crammed full of errands, activities, intense quality time and playing catch-up from the days he is gone in addition to me trying desperately to find some quiet time before his next departure. It is an interesting cycle.

So, when Bob said, “This isn’t working,” I said, “Let’s go.” It was one of the easiest big decisions we’ve ever made. We have a buyer for our home here and have found a home up there and while everything isn’t finalized until it’s finalized, we are working hard towards a smooth transition in the next several weeks.

I surprisingly don’t feel regret about our stint in Richmond. As Bob pointed out, “people try new things.” And, that’s what this was, an experiment. We’ve met many, many families that have figured out how to make a Richmond to Washington living arrangement work. We just weren’t one of them. However, Henry was able to spend two years at an award-winning school, Charlie found his comfort zone at a fantastic preschool, Millie grew into her own little person and our family explored and enjoyed the ease of living in the area. We made friends, true life-long friends, during our time here. So, I couldn’t possibly regret such an integral part of our family’s story.

More importantly, we think we are headed for something amazing in our new town. An experience we would have never considered two short years ago. Somewhere that only a detour through Richmond could have landed us.

And, just to close the loop on the laundry room, it did eventually get painted.

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The lack of staging in this photograph is why I will never be a DIY blogger.

In November. Around Thanksgiving. Three months later. When my father drove here from Louisville to complete the task. We are good at many things but home improvement is not one of those things.