House For Six

What To Tackle First In A New Home

Deme CrinionComment

I was so excited to share the full story of how we came to find our new home yesterday!  There are so many little details that I didn't include for the sake of length, but I'm so happy to have that record of sorts for us to look back on.  Your shared excitement for us is truly icing on the cake!

My original plan was to give you a full "before" tour of the house and then get into some of the projects we've tackled so far.  However.  A certain 1 1/2 year old broke her mothers phone which held precious aforementioned pictures.  I do have another set of "before's" that the previous owners allowed me to snap during one of our visits, but it includes some people in the photos, as well as all their furniture.  I don't feel comfortable sharing those pictures without permission, and don't wish to violate their privacy.  

So!  You'll be getting some post-move-in pictures of the house and some in-progress pics. Mostly of the iphone variety.  

In the last post, I mentioned that one of the greatest surprises of this older home was how updated the house is for it's age and based on other homes we had toured in the area. The previous owners were not ones to cut corners.  They used quality products and skilled labor for all their projects and boy are we thankful!  

Their updates were mostly neutral as well, which means it's been easy to move in and not feel the need to immediately slap paint on the walls.  In fact, the first things on our house to-do list (aside from painting and setting up the kids' rooms) had more to do with function than aesthetics.  

We figured it was better to suck up a couple more weeks of living in the chaos of a construction zone up front, than to get somewhat settled just to jostle things up again.  Especially since the projects we had in mind would involve clearing out rooms of furniture.  We spent the first couple weeks after move-in knocking out the projects that would displace us the most and make the biggest impact in the function of our home.

The house is very traditional in it's layout: the rooms are spacious, but distinctly sectioned off.  My biggest concern was being able to actually observe the children as they undo all my cleaning efforts and to use the rooms in a way that best served our family.  That left us with three goals up front...

#1 Open It Up (Goodbye walls)

We knew that we wanted to open up at least one wall, maybe two.  I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, because my brood eats around the clock.  I'm seriously considering a lock for the pantry door.  Anyway.  We knew partially opening up the a kitchen wall would be a major help in being able to see the kids, but also to bring in more natural light to the darker side of the house.  Taking down a wall is so permanent, but we have zero regrets and love the flow we have now. 

Wall separating the kitchen and family room...

#2 Easy Maintenance (The great flooring swap)

The carpet upstairs was in great condition, but the downstairs carpet had seen a bit more wear and tear.  Our youngest son Jack has asthma, so hard flooring is the best option for him (especially if there were any prior pets in the home).  There was also carpet in all the eating areas and right when you enter the house from the backyard.  I was certain the kids would have that carpet destroyed with dirt and food within a week. So, it all came up!

#3 Make It Work Hard For Us (Hello, laundry/mudroom and homework room)

I've never been one to stick with something that doesn't work just because it was made that way.  For this season of life, we have a lot of school projects and toys and not so many formal dinners.  We also have a lot of gear that comes in/out of the house (especially in winter).  So our formal dining room is going rogue as a play/homework room and the den is being transformed into a laundry/mud room.  Quite possibly the most fun rooms currently in the house.

Next week I'll give each one of these areas its own post and show you what we've been doing to make those goals a reality.  Some have a completed check in the box and others we're still working on.  I was going through pictures today and can't believe how different it all looks.  It's only been a couple months and it's already hard to remember what it was like before - stay tuned!

The Story Of A Forever Home

Deme Crinion8 Comments
Warning!  Long post ahead.  Over the past few months I've shared bits and pieces of how we came to our new home.  In working on the full story, I wanted to be sure we respected the previous owners while telling the details of God's steady and unpredictable hand.  Hopefully we've done that....

It was around February of this year that I began to feel it.  That quiet, barely discernible nagging in the back of the mind.  The feeling that something wasn't quite right.  An unsettling.  

We had finally wrapped up most of our big house projects and over the past couple months had happily reached the point we could enjoy our home.  Just as we should have been settling into the home that would serve us for years to come, I was suddenly facing an inkling that this wasn't a long term situation for us.  God seemed to be sending the "don't get too comfy" memo.

We had moved to Ohio 2 ½ years prior – a sudden job transfer that unexpectedly landed us in a place with so many things we had been wanting for our family.   We had one 24 hr house hunting trip for that move in which we looked at 10 houses and toured 1 school.  That’s all time would allow us to do, and the right house was a clear choice.  It had space, a great fenced-in yard, natural parks and hiking trails ACROSS THE STREET, and it was a blank canvas for me to do what I simply can’t help but do – house tinker. 

We loved our home.  We loved Ohio.  We didn’t plan to leave.  So, what was this feeling?  A closer look at our life and the answer wasn't so mysterious after all...

Within our first two years in Ohio we started the kids at one school, moved them to homeschool, and then finally landed back at another traditional school.   That last school was our Cinderella slipper, just the right fit for our family. 

The only problem was the 20-25 min one-way commute.....a commute I could make up to 4 times in a given day depending on what we had going on with Jack in half-day preschool, the older two there all day, and all the various after school events. 

Our gas bill was bloated and I was begrudgingly living out of the car.  I know I'm not the only parent that leads the life of a child chauffeur, but the more we became involved with our school and church, the more we felt pulled to invest into the community.  And doing it from where we were was putting a serious strain on our family. 

Knowing that spring is prime for real estate, we took the leap and put our perfectly wonderful house on the market.  We spent weeks finishing up random little projects staging her to sell and then we dropped the “For Sale” sign in the yard as we left for a spring break week in TX.  Within 24 hours of hitting the road we were under contract (insert super wide eyed “oh crap” emoji). 

Part of me was dancing with praise hands to the sky and the other half was freaking out over the fact that we had not even started looking at new homes yet.  But God doesn’t see things through half way, so we knew if He had brought us a buyer this quickly, then surely He would have the perfect house waiting for us when we returned.

I’ll allow for an ironic pause here.

......

Funny, how we think we know how God is working. 

As you can guess, the perfect house was not waiting. And that’s what we would spend the next few months doing...waiting. 

What helped our home sell so fast (and simultaneously slammed the brakes on finding a new one) was super low home inventory.  There simply weren’t that many houses on the market, so good ones priced to sell were snatched up immediately.

On top of that, we were targeting a very narrow search radius.  We had this dream of being able to walk to the church/school.  James and I both fell in love with the neighborhood tucked away off the main road to the school and church, and naturally stalked it like crazy people.  Yet the only home that came up for sale had a nice little "sale pending" love note already on the sign when it went up in the yard. #thenerve

After several weeks with no movement in that neighborhood, we decided to expand the house search by 5 miles.  We looked at some lovely homes and lovely neighborhoods, but none felt right.  After each and every one we felt the same prompting - WAIT.  Which sucks when when your house has sold and your family of six is living in limbo via a cramped dilapidated apartment.  

We had been warned that the turnover rate in this neighborhood was really low and that most homes sold by word of mouth or were simply passed down within the family.  We had a feeling that getting into the neighborhood would require some unconventional methods.  

Fortunately, we have a lot of friends that already live there and we began working whatever connections we had.  Our realtor was busy doing the same on her end. We had so many eyes and ears open on our behalf and almost daily people would ask if we'd found anything or told us they were trying to find leads from their contacts.

I'll do a separate post on finding a home in a difficult market, but the short of it is we wrote a personal letter to deliver and started knocking on doors.  Well, James did most of the knocking. I did most of the crouching in the passenger seat.  

Over the next few weeks we actually met two homeowners that did in fact want to sell (what?!?).  Unfortunately, one home lacked the space and the other ended up falling through because the owner's daughter (who owned half the property) was not ready to sell.  

We were feeling discouraged, but soon heard of two more homes (almost identical builds) that were rumored to have owners looking to sell.  One day I left early to pick up Jack from school, so I would have extra time to pay one of these homes a visit.  

Now, can I just say that knocking on a door and asking a person if they are interested in selling their home is like cold calling on steroids.  Which is also equivalent to torture.  

I practiced my spiel, which was rough at best, and mustered the courage to ring the doorbell.  To my secret relief no one was home.  I still had extra time and although I didn't plan to visit the second house (working up the courage for one was emotionally draining enough for the day), I decided not to waste the opportunity.  

The second house was on one of our favorite streets, a quiet cul de sac with a small lake tucked behind one side of homes.  The house appeared quiet with curtains drawn.  I knocked on the door and planned to grab one of our letters to stick in the mailbox.  But to my surprise (and horror), someone answered.  Oh my gosh I actually have to speak words now!!! 

I fumbled all over myself trying to tell our story in a minute or less.  The owner gracious listened and shared that they were indeed planning to move.  In fact, a neighbor had passed our letter on to them and they had planned to contact us when they were ready.  But she thought we were a little ahead of them on the timing.  Since we were already set up in a temporary housing situation, I assured her that we were very flexible with our timeline, and miracle of miracles, she invited us back to see the house. 

 A few days later we came by with the WHOLE family.  They welcomed us with fresh baked cookies, a bin of toys for the kids, and invited us to take our time looking through the house.  James and I had talked about having a code word or some sort of signal if we both thought this was the right house, but no code was needed.  

With our home search targeting an older neighborhood, we assumed that whatever we found would need quite a bit of work.  But you guys...as soon as we walked in the door, you could tell that this home had been so well loved.  It was impeccably cleaned and updated.  As we walked up the stairs, James and I exchanged a very hopeful glance.  The upstairs held two beautifully updated bathrooms, spacious bedrooms with built-in desks or alcoves under the (new!) windows, glorious natural light, and so much storage.  

We looked at each other in disbelief and with goofy grins hanging off our faces.  The kids were already staking claim to the bedrooms as we filed downstairs to see the living spaces.  Two large living rooms, a formal dining room, two more bathrooms, a den, more closets, more built-in storage, and the kitchen....a gorgeous updated kitchen with a sink window overlooking the picturesque backyard completed the first floor.   

And I was done. I could not believe this hidden gem that God had just revealed.  We visited with the homeowners and learned they had raised their 5 children here and built the home when their kids were the same age as ours.  We talked about the neighborhood and the church/school community that we had come to love so much.  

We had a few follow on meetings to talk through details and eventually brought our realtor into the mix.  It ended up being a "for sale by owner" transaction with our realtor helping the sale go smoothly and to ensure we still took care of the necessary items like inspections, appraisals, etc.  

I'm so emotional as I type this because I can't even believe how good God was to both of our families.  The owners were so gracious to us throughout the whole process. I know that having a relationship with the seller can sometimes complicate the business aspect of home buying, but it ended up being a huge blessing for us (and hopefully for them).  

I think they appreciated knowing the home was going to a family who would love and care for it as they did and we were thrilled to have found such an incredible home with a wonderful family legacy after a very long search.  It was absolutely worth the wait.  

Shortly after our first visit to the house, our son Sully was really struggling with the move.  We all felt unsettled in the temporary apartment and the lack of familiarity and uncertainty was wearing on him, even though were pretty sure we had found our new home.   

 We drove down our soon-to-be new street one day after church and for the first time noticed some kids playing just two doors down (all other times the street had been very quiet, and we knew many original owners still lived there).  As we got closer we realized they weren't just any kids, it was Sully's best bud from school last year and his sister playing in the driveway.  

From that day forward, Sully was all in, and I can not begin to tell you what a gift it has been to have such amazing neighbors.  Not only do our kids spend the days hopping back and forth between houses, but Mia gained a sweet new friend in Sully's buddy's sister.  Those first couple weeks we shared dinners out on the patio with them and had a constant stream of cookies, breads, and homegrown veggies from neighbors welcoming us into the neighborhood.  

Every time we walk to school, scooter to church, let the kids out to run free in the shaded backyard, steal a quiet moment by the big bay window, or make dinner while I watch the kids play, I can't seem to take in all the goodness of such an overwhelming gift.  This is not the first time God has given us so much more than we could have even thought to ask for, but we're humbled just the same.

There’s a desk in our new house that belonged to the previous owners.  They were surprised I wanted to keep it.  The top was faded by the sun and scratched from working as a sewing desk.  Under the wear and tear, it’s a lovely piece with clean lines and beautiful details, making it the perfect writing desk for our bedroom.  Beyond that, it reminds me that this house we’ve inherited has seen over 45 years of life....little ones grown college bound, and rooms eventually filled with children’s children.   Now we have the opportunity to raise our children here, continuing the work of loving a family and a home as our dark hair turns grey.  We couldn't be more grateful.

This picture was taken by the owner's children a couple of days before we closed on the house.  They have an almost identical picture of their family in this same spot. I will always treasure it and I can't wait to share more of what's beyond those doors with you!  

Thank you for your patience as we took time off to move and get settled over the summer.  We're so glad to be back!

The Moving Transition: In Which We All Try Not To Kill Each Other

Deme Crinion2 Comments

Thank you all for your kind words over our big moving news!  

This spring we took the leap and put our perfectly wonderful home on the market.  To our surprise (and "oh crap!") our home sold in 24 hrs.  We wanted to be ahead of the game when we found the next place - most buyers aren't comfortable accepting an offer from someone who still needs to sell their house - but 24 hrs. was faster than fast.  As in we hadn't looked at a single potential new home, and had just hit the road for a spring break vacation in TX. 

We tried not to freak out and simply be grateful that all those showings happened while we were far, far away.  As soon as we got back to Ohio we jumped on the house hunt.  

We were targeting a very small pocket neighborhood.  The driving force behind this move was the desire to be closer to our school/church community.  James' work has moved us quite a bit..from city to city, but also from house to house as we've settled into new cities.  We want to give our family some much needed stability and we had a deep desire to invest in our community here for the long haul.  The dream was to be walking distance to our church and school, but the available homes in that neighbor are few and far between.  Most sell within a couple days of hitting the market and some never hit the market at all - they're simply passed down within the original owner's family.  

So, we did a lot of praying, MLS stalking, and waiting.  And the right house remained elusive.  The only home that came up for sale already had a "sale pending" stinger when the sign went up in the yard.  So, we expanded our search by a 5 mile radius.  We saw some wonderful homes, but everything we looked at either didn't have the right space, had a wonky layout, screamed "money pit", or simply didn't feel like the right one.  

With every home we saw outside of our desired neighborhood, James and I both felt God asking us to wait.  And friends, patience is not my best virtue......which is probably why He asks me to wait so much. 

We eventually hit the point where it would be impossible to close on a new house before the sale was final on our old place.  Which meant a door-to-door move wasn't happening.  

I hoped beyond hope that we would not have to find a temporary living solution between homes, but that's exactly what happened.  And since I tried to wish reality into something else (fully in a state of denial), I pretty much shot myself in the foot when it came time to make housing arrangements.  It's not easy to find a 3 bedroom place for a short term lease with zero notice.  You're welcome, family.

I'm working on another post full of resources and tips for this type of scenario (obviously from a "do as I say, not as I do" standpoint), but for now I'm humbled to say that God provided a solution at just the right time...despite my inability to think/act as a responsible adult.  

A 3 bedroom apartment became available through a corporate housing company and it's just 10 min from our new neighborhood. It's not perfect but it meets all our needs during the time we're waiting.  There's lots of "togetherness" which sort of takes the typical summer bickering between siblings to another level, but escaping to the pool for swim team and afternoon dips has been our saving grace.  

And what about a new home? Did we ever find anything?  

We DID!  And I can't wait to share the story with you!!  We had to do some very uncomfortable work on our part, but man did God bless us beyond measure.  

We're scheduled to close on the new place in a couple weeks.  Hopefully everything goes smoothly and I can share all those details (and pics!) with you here soon.  But for now, here's a peak...

In the meantime, we're trying to remember that we love each other as we survive our "cozy" temp quarters and are keeping busy dreaming up plans for the new place.  It's such a different kind of gratitude when it comes to the gift of a forever home.  I feel so overwhelmed by it. 

I've been taking some time away from the computer this summer.  Life's clearly been full of all things moving, but also tending to little people who are feeling a bit unsettled.  Thankfully, as we get closer to move-in day, the excitement continues to build and the paperwork/appointments have slowed.  I'm looking forward to putting more to internet paper as I can and you can catch updates over on Instagram and Facebook.  Hope you're all having a great summer!

Is This Thing On

Deme Crinion14 Comments

Well, how's that for an impeccably timed blog silence?  

"Hey!  Check out our new site!!"  

And..

*crickets*

A lot has happened during the past couple months and man.....lets just catch up shall we?  Great!

Two weeks ago we loaded our crew into the swagger wagon and hit the road for a family TX reunion over spring break.  But not before we dropped a "For Sale" sign in the front yard on our way out of town.

12 hours into our drive we got a call from our realtor saying we had an offer on the house.  Then a few hours later, another offer.  Within 24 hours of listing the house we were under contract. What the what?!?! 

Wait.  You're moving?  Why?  Where?? Didn't you just get there??  

I. KNOW. 

Here's the thing about moving to a new, unfamiliar city.  You do your best to figure out what part of town to live given your work/school/interests.  But until you actually live in a place, you really don't know.  

James talked with co-workers in the area, we peppered our realtor with questions, and we did all sorts of Googling before our move to Ohio. We saw as much as we could in the 24 hours we had to house hunt and chose the place we thought would serve us best. 

And truth be told, the place we chose is amazing.  The location is amazing.  Our neighbors are amazing. God was so faithful and generous in providing us this home.

Not to mention, we brought the sweetest babe home here. 

So, why leave? Well, because we spend the majority of our time about 20 minutes from our hood.

We ended up pulling the kids from the first school we chose, spent a short stint homeschooling, and have finally landed in a school and church community that we love.  One that we really want to invest in.  And we're having a hard time doing that without some serious strain on our time and budget.  

It takes me about 20 min (one way) to get to the kids' school...sometimes less if you hit the magic phenom of all green lights and more if you hit the wall of morning traffic.  If it's a day where Jack has half day preschool and we have an after-school event, then we can make that drive 4 times a day between all the drop-offs and pick-ups. 

The time in the car (and the gas fill ups) took their toll and as spring approached in a market primed for sellers, we decided to put our home up for sale.  The dream is to be walking distance to our school and church, but homes in that area rarely stay on the market more than a week.  Some don't ever hit the market, but go by word of mouth.  You have to be able to act fast and we wanted to be in a position to do that.  

Well, it turns out our neighborhood is moving pretty fast these days too!  So, now we find ourselves in the position to find a new home and quick, otherwise we'll be bunking up in a friend's basement or a Motel 6 for awhile.  

Inventory is still really low in the area we're looking, but we're hoping more things will come on the market as the weather warms up.  It's tempting to rush and jump on the first thing that pops up, but we really don't want to move again for a very long time.  It's hard to be picky and keep the big picture in mind when you're facing "homeless" status.  

But hey.  While a few months in transition wouldn't be a party, it's also not so bad in the big scheme of things.  All the homes in the surrounding area are in older established neighborhoods and there's a good chance whatever we find is going to need a little TLC.  It would certainly be easier to knock out some projects before all our boxes and minions hit the deck.  That's what I'm telling myself anyway as I try not to freak out.

And that's what we've been up to for the past few months.  Painting, purging, scrubbing, and staging. We knocked out a crazy project list in order to get the house on the market before we left for our trip (hallelujah to being far, far away for house showings!), so I have a lot to show you around the abode.  

The close of our house sale, the hunt for a new one, and all the packing in between are happening during the last weeks of school - "busy" doesn't even begin to touch it.  I was starting to feel things spinning a little out of control when I remembered that I've already helped myself out on this one.  A couple years back I did a 31 days of moving series born out of our crazy cross country move #handy. Tomorrow I'm going to print myself a fresh moving binder and make some lists over a cup of coffee.  I'm excited to crack open the archives on this one and add some new topics and tips as we go through our in-town move.

Thanks for all of your sweet notes checking in on us to make sure everything was OK.  We've just had our noses to the grindstone and are finally coming up for a bit of air while we wait for the right home to pop up.