Best Christmas Present Ever: New Year, New Home

In case you haven’t noticed, the KaZoos have been relatively silent for a couple of months now.  Yes, the holiday season is always busy, and yes, life gets in the way of writing about life. #firstworldproblems  In this case, the reason we’ve been keeping quiet on the blog front is because we wanted to wait until we were “absolutely, positively, undeniably, and reliably” sure we could share our good news with you, and now we can say (drumroll, please): WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!  (Feel free to imagine lots of munchkins dancing and singing in the streets for those of you who recognized the quote from The Wizard of Oz).Driveway_View_of_House

When we first started this blog, we hoped it would be a space where we could dream and plan a bit about life, including the possibility of buying a home in the near future.  Over four years ago, we lost a considerable chunk of change on selling our first home right after the bubble burst in our area, and we have slowly been saving back up to buy again once I was near the end of grad school.  For the past couple of years, Chris had been keeping a close eye on the real estate market in our desired location, while I kept a close eye on my schoolwork.  Recently, Chris noticed that the supply of homes in our desired area (and desired price range!) had dwindled considerably (literally to just 2 homes in our  #1 preferred area), as investors and retiring baby boomers have been snatching up coastal properties left and right (and paying cash, compared to those of us having to rebuild savings just to make a cash down payment).  Given this turn of events in the real estate market, in August, we decided that we would plan to look at homes over the winter holidays with the plan to buy in spring.  In October, I was able to make a trip down to the coast, and we decided to look at a few places (just for fun, of course) that met our criteria (or thereabouts).  We ended up looking at three houses in varying stages of shock and awe, vaguely reminiscent of fill-in-your-favorite-home-buying-show on HGTV.

Chris named Place #1 “Rich Man No Yard.”  On the plus side, the house was in our preferred neighborhood, had plenty of interior space, and had all the upgrades we would have wanted to do ourselves.  On the minus side, the house was at the top of our budget (hence rich) and had the smallest strip of a back yard I’ve ever seen (hence no yard). When we found out that the owner was unlikely to negotiate any below asking price because he was trying to use the money to pay off his mortgage on a nicer home he had just built, we said farewell.  We knew the home would be great for someone, just not for us, as we wanted some outdoor play space for future littles and knew we would really be stretching to afford it. We would rather live comfortably financially, even if it means less comfortably in terms of features and upgrades (for now).  It has since sold–congrats to the seller and the new owners!

Place #2 Chris termed “Italian Disaster.” On the plus side, the Tuscan villa house (hence Italian) was spacious with luxury upgrades everywhere (pot filler, anyone?) and was still (amazingly) within our budget.  On the minus side, the house was a short sale that had been abandoned and was in a state of obvious neglect and deterioration (hence disaster).  When we learned the AC was on the fritz and saw floorboards with wood rot, heaps of (dead) winged insects in the puddling two-story drapes, and the mosquito pond out back (“waterfront property” in our area frequently translates to retention pond + mosquitoes), we realized it would take more cash than we had on hand to make the necessary repairs and replacements to return it to its former glory. Plus, Chris and I are apparently sweet meat for mosquitoes, so we didn’t want to tempt fate. Or the mosquitoes.  We aren’t sure of its current status, but we know that someone with enough $$$ to fix it up right will have an amazing home one day!

The third place on our list to see was taken off the market the day before I arrived, so that was that.  However, the next day, Chris received an automated email with the latest real estate offerings, including another home just listed in our preferred neighborhood.  At first, neither of us felt like seeing another home, especially one that was a former rental and considerably smaller than we hoped, but later that day, we both felt the tiniest inclination to see it anyway.  We set up an appointment for the next day, and saw Place #3.  Place #3 never received a nickname because we made an offer shortly after seeing it.  It was a short sale well within our budget, and apparently well within others’, too.  The entire street was lined with cars full of potential buyers queuing up behind us (we were the first appointment of at least five that day).  One guy literally barged in on us while we were looking around inside and mistook me for his realtor, whom he had obviously not met yet–haha!  During our appointment, the realtor indicated that short sales were taking 90-120 days to close, which for the average buyer might be a turn-off, but for us, this was perfect timing.  The house met all of our basic requirements, and despite being on the smaller side and lacking the upgrades of #1 and #2, it had a spacious yard, came with a new AC unit (major plus in our area!), and was a blank slate we could see ourselves transforming into our own home.  We drove down the coastline a few minutes, thinking and praying, and called the realtor back to make an offer, which was accepted by the owner and forwarded on to the bank.  

Having never gone through the short sale process before, we weren’t exactly sure what was going to happen, and having heard rumors where things fall through quite easily with short sales and foreclosures, we didn’t let ourselves get our hopes up.  For the rest of October and half of November we went around saying, “If we get the house we’ve made an offer on, it will be great, but if not, that’s okay, too.”  Then, on November 16, we got a call that the bank had accepted our offer and wanted to close within 30 days.  This meant closing mid-December instead of mid-February, which put us in an excited whirlwind of activity.  The broker at our realty firm, who is commonly referred to as the short sale expert in our area, said she had never seen a short sale go so quickly and that we must have had all our ducks in a row for it to go so smoothly.  We know SOMEBODY had our ducks in a row. 🙂  Even though closing two months earlier than expected meant that we would be a little tighter on our budget longer than expected, the affordability of the home made it feasible.  Living simply really is better! On December 16th, we officially became homeowners (again).  Best part? Our mortgage will be less than the rent we are paying in the city.

And now we get to start a new year with a new home!  We didn’t really do much over the holidays other than basic cleaning and airing out (more on that in a forthcoming post) since we were traveling around to see family, but we did get some good news: When the guy came to turn the gas on, Chris asked about the possibility of getting a gas line run to the kitchen, and the gas man observed that we have “a gas nub” behind the electric range (not sure if that’s the official term, but we’re sticking with it–he’s the expert, right?). SWEEEEEEEET!  We have dearly missed cooking on gas and are completely stoked that we won’t have to pay $$$$ to run a gas line to the kitchen.  Plus, they gave us a coupon for a free gas appliance installation.  If house = Christmas present, then existing gas in kitchen + free install = gigantic bow on top.  Back in the day, the natural gas website in our area had three main headings, two of which were “HAVE GAS?” and “WANT GAS?” (or maybe it was “NEED GAS?”).  Totally hilarious, right?  So now it’s a family joke. WE HAVE GAS!

Since I will still be living the city life this semester while trying to get my dissertation proposal submitted and my data collected so that I can write from home, we won’t be moving our things down right away.  I’ll keep most of the furniture with me up north and will send fragiles/nonessentials with Chris on monthly roadtrips between here and there (all those Christmas decorations now packed away, wedding china, etc.).  While I work on my dissertation up here, he can be working on the house down there.  Of course, I’m itching to get my hands on the new house (and yard!), so it will drive me nuts that he gets to be all DIY while I get to be all…DISsertation. Where’s that paintbrush? I mean, keyboard?

Anyway, after telling our family and close friends over the holidays, we wanted to share with you, too. Stay tuned for more pics and info forthcoming in another post.  We’ll be documenting the transformation from house to the KaZoo home, so we hope you’ll stick around (or join us) for the journey. Happy New Year!

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