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Home, Sweet Home

I always assumed I would be like my parents: buy a house, fill it with antiques, throw holiday parties every year, raise my family, and never move.  I also always assumed I would buy this house in Seattle, where I would have been living since I was twenty years old and in culinary school.  I’d be running a restaurant, married to another chef or a musician (because), and living well enough to own a house in Madison Valley.  So what happened?  Heartbreak.  Then new love and new plans, new decisions I never imagined having to make, and, eventually, buying a house.  I have a couple antiques and some really unique pieces (a painted coffee box from India that’s the size of a dining room table), but I haven’t thrown a single party.  And now we’re moving.  While we may live here again, it’s doubtful we’ll be raising a family in this house.  And did I mention this house is definitely not in Seattle?

We were shocked when we found out we’re being relocated.  We had expected to stay here for at least the next four or five years and were planning accordingly.  Then word came and again with the new plans!  Now we’re ready (chomping at the bit, actually) to move on, but it’s hurry-up-and-wait for another few weeks.  In the run up to purchase another house, we had to decide what to do with the current one.  Do we sell?  Do we rent?  Do we think we’ll live here again?  There’s a chance…  So we decided to rent.  Then my parents were visiting and the more we discussed it the more it seemed like we should sell.  So, let’s sell!  I took pictures, I wrote up a description, I contacted the low-cost realtors, we got it listed, and BAM!  Half-a-dozen showings in three days!  Two offers by the end of the week!  Sudden apprehension!

We thought we should sell because we don’t really want to come back here, so we’ll hedge our bets on not being sent back.  We were also anxious about the thought that our property manager might ring us at the end of a tenant’s lease to tell us they smoked in the house, burned a hole in the new carpet, scraped the hardwood, put their shoe through a wall, and cracked the glass shower door!  Or who knows what else!  I’ve never done any damage to a house I rented, but it only takes one friend telling you their tenants trashed the place and ditched in the dark of night to make you gun shy.  Our house is beautiful and comfortable and we’ve put a lot into it in the short time we’ve owned it.  We put up decorative ceiling paper, repaired damaged walls, refinished hardwood floors, painted every bedroom, replaced fans and light fixtures, installed carpet ourselves (!), fixed drainage problems in the yard, landscaped the chaotic jungle that is our half acre lot, and got to know all our neighbors in the process.  We love our house!  We love our neighborhood!  Why would we let it be damaged by careless renters!?

But, then again, why would we run the risk of selling it to someone who wants to tear down the ceiling paper, repaint the rooms ecru, tear up that carpet, and let the yard turn into a swamp again!?  And what if they’re not friendly and our neighbors hate them?  What if they don’t like dogs!?  No.  We can’t sell.  Not knowing who lives here and what they’re doing to our house is worse than getting the call in the middle of the night that the water heater finally kicked it.  Not only that, but we have only lived here since September 2014 so we’ve barely put a dent in our mortgage.  To sell now equals very, very little profit and the actual possibility that we’d have to pay more to sell this house we love and would happily live in again.  If only we could take it with us…

So, we rent and we take our chances.  There are five rental houses down our street, populated by university students and people who work in the medical district, both of which are a ten-minute drive away.  We know we can easily rent our house and it will sell when we’re ready (never), so let’s hang onto it and give it a few more years, no matter how complicated it may be.  Loads of people own properties they don’t live in, so it can’t be that bad.

What’s more complicated, actually, is trying to find a house in a city you’ve never even visited.  When we moved here we rented for the first year, but now we’re “homeowners” and don’t want to go back to renting.  When you tell people where you’re moving, everyone has an opinion whether they’ve been there or not.  Getting objective opinions is hard, so I look for hard facts: crime rates, school test scores, median income, median home prices, rates of foreclosures, etc…  Our wish list is pretty short, but it narrows our search field enough, so I have a few homes saved and we’re trying to decide if we should take next week to go explore and see a few properties.  Then there’s getting people to rent, having a lease in place, getting our financing in place, blah, blah, blah…  Balls.

So let’s talk about something fun: our house wish list!  We want and older home, preferably pre-mid-century, but we’re open to homes build up to the 1960s.  After that, it’s more kitsch than craftsmanship.  For some reason when people renovate a home they tear out the radiators, which is something we want and are having a hard time finding.  We also want central AC, but not forced air heating.  The biggest thing on our list, like the non-negotiable, is a fenced yard or a yard that can easily be fenced.  We want a modern kitchen and two updated baths, hardwood floors, four bedrooms, space for activities…a porch or deck or patio, sidewalks in the neighborhood, enough yard for a garden and hopefully bee hives.  This is doable, but we might have to wait a little while to get what we want.  Waiting is not easy, but we will!

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