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Friday, January 28, 2011

Long Story Short: We're Moving!!!

And, here's the long story :)
Mom and me at the lot the morning after we signed our contract!!!  The Port-a-Potty is indeed on our property!
Chapter 1: A House Hunt is Launched
Around Thanksgiving, we started wondering how we would decide when the right time to start looking for a bigger house would be.  The first time we moved (from our apartment in Evanston to our first house in Crystal Lake) was an obvious time: we wanted to own a house!  Crystal Lake was the closest we could get in order to afford something worth buying.  The second time we moved (to our current house in Springfield) we needed a new house because Josh's job was sending us halfway across the country.  Now that we are settling in Virginia for a while, we knew we eventually wanted more land and space, but we didn't know what types of motivating factors to look for.  So, we just puttered around on the Internet and came across two houses in our current neighborhood that reminded us a lot of our Crystal Lake house.  We called the realtor who helped us with our last house search and asked her to take us to see them.  Well, let's just say they didn't quite live up to the standards we had in mind...  But, this outing led to a more serious conversation about actually launching a house hunt.  We decided that we will rent our our current house since the market is still recovering from it's craziness.  We are ok with that since we are in close proximity to Fort Belvoir and we are looking to be moving around summer which is the busy moving season for army-folk :)  

Chapter 2: New Construction?
We started a more serious house hunt online and decided that we needed to expand our area outside of Springfield.  While searching, Josh came across a listing for a new construction home.  That led to us looking up the website for Builder A.  We really liked what we saw, so we drove out to walk through some models.  We really liked what we saw in person, so we spent our time between Thanksgiving and leaving for Chicago pre-Christmas meeting with sales associates and pricing out options with Builder A.  We had chosen the model we wanted and got a chance to walk through an example of that model while it was in framing.  That was pretty cool, but we realized once the walls were up that it was much smaller than we thought.  We were also going to be sacrificing a lot backyard-wise.  We are in no position to settle since we have a perfectly lovely home already, so we decided to close that chapter of our house hunt.  It was a hard decision because we really liked the area, the neighborhood, the perks the subdivision offered, and the people we had worked with.  But, those aren't good enough reasons to buy a whole new house!

Chapter 3: Back to the Drawing Board
We set out to do a good old-fashioned house hunt where we got listings e-mailed to us, picked out some we wanted to see, and then went out and saw them.  Our original bar was VERY high! We (maybe I?) only wanted to look at "used" houses that looked really similar to the new construction we had been considering.  But, I wanted them on larger lots with backyards, etc.  I (we?) quickly realized that was unrealistic.  We had many evening where our activity consisted of me combing the real estate listings for good choices.  I have a bad habit of liking LOTS of houses even if they need a "little" work... :/  So, I would open all sorts of tabs, and then Josh would come over and close a bunch of them.  He also pointed out I was picking houses that had really new and pretty kitchens and bathrooms.  While those are nice features, we can technically do that in any house.  We agreed that it was always going to be a great back-up option to just stay where we are and update our current kitchen and bathrooms.  With that in mind, we went out for two full days of house-hunting with our realtor, Leslie.  She is awesome--mostly because she is really patient and never made us feel like we were wasting her time for wanting to see so many houses!  On our first day there was one great option, a maybe, and four blechs.  On our second day there was one pretty great option and six blechs.  At the end of that second day we went to see the great option from the first day again.  We were standing in the kitchen mentally placing our furniture when we found out there was already a contract written!  Boo!  But, I wasn't crushed.  That told me that wasn't really our house.  I know, what a risky little game to play!  The pretty great option was definitely move-in ready with the potential to do some interesting projects to make it our own--a nice combination.  But, it didn't have a basement, which was becoming more and more important to us.  At this point we were both pretty much ready to throw in the towel and postpone all of this until at least the summer.

Chapter 4: For Sale By Owner?
There was one wildcard left.  Josh had found a very intriguing house listed on  We really wanted to see this house, but it was definitely more of a headache than dealing with the standard houses listed in the MLS with real estate agents.  We went one evening by ourselves and got a good feeling.  We went back a few days later with Leslie and during the day.  We realized that while we liked the neighborhood overall, we weren't nuts about this portion of the street (houses really close together, short driveways, and a narrow street).  So, that one was nixed, but we had picked two others to see since we were out.  The second one was fine, but the third one was OUR HOUSE!  Unfortunately, it was under priced (which I just suspected while we were walking through) and quite a few other people felt it was their house too.  It ended up going under contract for OVER asking price!  Good for the sellers, but not so good for us :(

Chapter 5: New Construction, Take Two?
Luckily, the same day we had found Builder B online.  It was kind of a fluke--Josh still can't even tell you how he found the site!  It must have been a link from a link from a link.  Builder B was building in a little portion of an already completed neighborhood and had three or four lots left to sell.  We called him to figure out when we could meet to hear what he had to say.  Since we had just gone through almost the whole process with Builder A, we felt pretty informed when we jumped into this conversation.  Builder B was able to meet us the next day.  We met him in the afternoon and walked through two houses in framing on-site and then we went somewhere warm to discuss options and other details about his property.  We were very interested in what he had to say, but we also were watching the clock because we wanted to get an offer in on the house we had seen the day before.  It was quite a stressful few days!  We finished with Builder B, wrote an offer for the "used" house, sent Leslie off with it to hand it in just before the deadline, and then waited.  We found out about the over asking price offer and were disappointed, but then we were really motivated to go home and see how we could make Builder B's option work.  We stayed up until 2:30 the next morning just talking about everything and playing out different scenarios.  We slept on it and were both sure we wanted to proceed with Builder B.  Side note: Builder B had a few lots left, but there was ONLY one we wanted!  And, you guessed it, that's the one other people wanted too!  We were able to put a hold on it for 24 hours, so we had a little time to think.  We were prepared to call Builder B and tell him we wanted to proceed that evening.  But, Leslie called first that afternoon and explained no contract had been written the night before for the "used" house!  The sellers didn't want to move as soon as the buyers were proposing so they had countered.  If the buyers didn't agree, we could offer again.  That made things a little tricky!  I really loved that house, but I didn't want to pursue it AND risk losing the great lot.  So, we decided we would offer again if we were given the chance, but put a time limit on it so we could still give Builder B an answer without losing the lot.  That didn't happen because the buyer and seller DID come to some agreement.  Again, while it was disappointing, that was one decision we were happy was made for us!  So, Josh called Builder B and let him know we wanted to go for it!  

Chapter 6: A Last-Minute Wrench
Josh was swamped all day Wednesday, so we decided to meet on Thursday to write a contract and pick our our options.  Wouldn't you know that we got a large snowstorm Wednesday into Thursday night and our power was out from 10:30pm on Wednesday until Thursday afternoon!  We spent the late morning and early afternoon at the Yancyes since they had heat, but we used our time to make and take phone calls from Leslie, Builder B, and various lenders we are talking with.  Luckily, when Josh checked the power status during naptime, we were good to go!  Leslie and Builder B came to our house at 6 and by 10:30pm, we had signed a contract and picked out our options!  We also all only had chips and salsa and some Deceptively Delicious cookies for dinner...  Dinner of champions!  They should start digging our foundation late next week!!!

Chapter 7: The Details
Our new house is in Dumfries, about 20 minutes from our current house and about 30 miles outside of D.C.  Builder B is Focal Point Homes and our neighborhood is called Keswick Forest.  While we are a bit further from the city and Josh's commute will be a little longer, we are  ok with those changes :)  The new house is on a cul-de-sac (almost the point position, if there was one) and we'll have a third of acre.  Our backyard leads right into Prince William Forest so we have really great views.  When we move in (early summer, hopefully), we will have an upstairs with four bedrooms, two baths, and laundry, a main level with a living room, dining room, family room, kitchen, and library (playroom!), and an unfinished basement.  We plan to finish the basement as a future project, and then it has the possibility to have another bedroom and another full bath.  There is lots of room to grow!  

As I think about the last three months (and particularly the crazy last five days), I find it interesting to follow the path we took to reach our final decision.  I feel really good about our decision to take advantage of the good market to buy a great piece of land and put a house on it that will serve us for many years to come.  We did not choose to upgrade every option in the house, but that's ok.  In time we will perfect an already wonderful house :)  The reason we chose new construction was not because we felt a desire to personally choose each item going into our house.  We were attracted to the two builders we pursued based on home models and locations.  Now that this is becoming slightly more real, I am pretty excited that everything in our house will be new and I won't be cleaning anyone else's old dirt!  I'm currently driving Josh nuts every time I realize some exciting new detail about our new house.  I know he thinks a lot of it's silly, but this is a big decision, and we should be really excited!  

Epilogue: Pictures!
(all of these pictures are of PREVIOUSLY BUILT houses and they were found on the Focal Point website)
The Emerson model: Ours will have a blue/gray color scheme.
Front foyer.
View from the front door into the living room and then the dining room.  All of these arches are what drew us to this floor plan!
The kitchen complete with island!  This feeds right into the breakfast area and then the family room.
  Breakfast area that is between the kitchen and family room.
View of the family room from the breakfast area.  Our house will have carpeting in the family room instead of hardwood.
 Master bedroom with attached sitting area.

 Master bath--this might be our third house, but this is our first master bath!!!
 An example of an extra bedroom.

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