Monday, March 7th, 2016 • 4 Comments on House Hunt 2016: The Almost Perfect House
House hunting is exhausting. It’s been one year this week since we first decided we wanted to move. That decision took us in the direction of South Carolina (the Charleston suburb of Summerville) for awhile. We made two house hunting expeditions in May and August, looked at over a dozen different model homes in several new communities and we thought we knew what we wanted. The houses were beautiful, the planned communities had all of the amenities any suburban homeowner could ask for, but ultimately we changed our minds and changed direction.
By fall, we were looking elsewhere for a house, and no longer focused on new construction. We have been inside around twenty houses in the past few months and looked at dozens more online. We have pre-qualified, we are preparing our house to put it on the market in the next few weeks, we are ready to get serious. And we almost found our house this weekend. Almost.
We went on a road trip yesterday to visit a couple of open houses, and added a third while we were already in the neighborhood. All were beautiful, but the first of three seemed… almost perfect. Of course, this was based on a twenty-minute viewing with two kids in tow– which is less than ideal for trying to make as important a decision as buying a house. “That’s why we left our rugrats at home,” said one woman who was also touring the house as she watched me get my energetic boys under control. I couldn’t have rolled my eyes harder. Leaving our kids at home isn’t an option most of the time and, really, I like seeing how they respond to each house. They’ll live there too, after all. Of course, after being cooped up in the Jeep for a few hours, they mostly wanted to run around and touch everything. Sigh.
So, this house. Oh, this house. The porch of my dream house. A very lovely house, well below what we’ve pre-qualified for and very reasonably priced. It is bigger than the house we have now but not so big we’d feel lost in it (like the second house we saw– with tons of space but lacking the room configuration we need). Many, many pros, from highly rated elementary, middle and high schools to a community clubhouse, tennis courts, playgrounds and swimming pool. Lovely, flowing streets, lots of green space, walking trails. Houses spaced far enough apart that you can get to know your neighbors– or avoid them. A partially wooded lot for exploring with a two-level deck for entertaining. Just minutes to all the places we shop and a convenient 6 minute drive to Starbucks, which is closer than I am now. Lovely.
Of course, as with any house that’s nearly 20 years old, there were some issues too. Minor things, things we could change in time on our own dime. Rooms to be painted, floors to be covered, an aging air conditioner that would need replacing sooner rather than later. A fence that would need upgrading so our escape artist dog wouldn’t run away. But, all in the all, nothing that was a deal-breaker.
We made the several hour return drive home, discussing. Pros, cons, timing. It’s really too early to make an offer– the best we could do is make it contingent on the sale of our house and hope they would be willing to wait until the end of June to close. Should we? Could we? It feels wrong to make a decision like which house to buy– conceivably the very last house we’ll ever buy– based on a 20 minute tour and a couple hours of discussion. I thought we should give it a few days. Maybe try to see it in private with our own agent in a week or so.
We got home late, put the boys to bed, and continued discussing– missing The Walking Dead in the process. “Is it the house? Is it our house? Do you love it?” Jay asked the important questions and I hedged, giving him the pros and the cons (again) and saying, “Yeah, maybe, possibly, let’s wait though..” I could see us living there. I could see how I’d decorate the spaces, what colors I’d choose for the rooms. Was it perfect? No. Was it perfect for us? I thought… maybe. But still, there was time and we could keep weighing it, think about whether we want to commit so early. “Early” is relative, of course, since we’ve known we want to move for a year and looked at so many houses in two different states now. But still– we don’t want to move until the kids are out of school and shouldn’t it take longer to decide on a house than a quick viewing and a couple hours of discussion? I think so.
Turns out, it doesn’t matter. By 10pm last night, less than 8 hours after we saw the house, someone else had already decided to buy it. Jay checked the listing, and there it was. Pending. 4 days on the market and a 2 hour open house and someone had fallen in love enough to make an offer. And it wasn’t us. Should it have been? I still don’t know. I still feel like I would’ve wanted to look at it one more time, preferably without other people in the house and without having to keep a hand on each kid, and just feel the energy of the place. I think with a little more time, I would’ve decided it was the right house. I think. Maybe. I’m cautious like that– seeing the possibilities in anything, but wanting to be sure and not wanting to feel pressured.
And so we’re back to waiting for other houses to come on the market, as the other two houses we saw weren’t quite right for us, for different reasons. Three houses and one was almost perfect. Or maybe it would’ve been perfect after 6 months of living there and making the changes necessary to make it our own. I’ll never know.
I can’t really mourn a house I never had. I can’t really feel like I lost something that I wasn’t even sure I wanted. It’s a beautiful house in a beautiful neighborhood– a neighborhood we’re going to be watching closely for other houses to go on the market. Maybe the next one will be the perfect house. Maybe it’ll simply be perfect because we’ll be the first to say, “We want to make an offer.”