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!