We sold our home!
I know, I know. It was a surprise to me as well.
Soon after this post, we put our house on the market and what ensued the past two months has been a bit of a whirlwind.
But before I get to the current details, I'm going to back up to the beginning. Because before I start the second chapter of my adult life, I can't help but feel like I need to write down the first.
Yup, that's a huge warning! This post is written more for my benefit, than for yours. So, please feel free to stop here. Photos of the new digs will be up in a future post! But for those of you curious to know how and why we bought our first home, as well as our second...read on friends!!
Ten years ago, Brian and I started dating. He lived in Nashville and I in Charleston. We dated long distance for a few years and Brian's career change is what brought him to Atlanta exactly eight years ago. Soon I followed suit and we started our life in a tiny one bedroom apartment located near the industrial district of Atlanta.
The location was perfect for us. Close proximity to work, but in an area that still had a lot of neighborhoods and green space near by.
On evenings and weekends we took extended walks, sharing about our day and talking about what goals we hoped for our future. These walks typically took place in a neighborhood directly behind our apartment complex. The tree lined streets were adorned by 1950's cape cods and there were always smiling faces and waves shared among the residents. These walks ended with a stroll through the park and a trip to the grocery store.
During one of these walks one fall morning, we noticed an open house sign for one of the houses. We had just started talking about buying a home, and were all too excited to see inside one of these quaint capes. The home was in need of fixing up, had three beds, two baths and compared to our current living space the house felt big. The agent on property was friendly and kind and we quickly explained that while we loved the house it was way out of our price range. She offered to show us some houses the following weekend, no strings attached, but to give us an idea of what we could afford in the city.
Like many first time home owners, we had quite the list of must haves. Must be close to our current neighborhood, must have character, fixer uppers are fine, must have a yard and we hoped for a location that offered a bit of walk-ability.
House number one was BIG. A 1960's ranch that hadn't been updated since. We were impressed by the moldings in the dining room and excited that the home had a place for a small office. Location was in our ideal part of town, but the downside was this houses front yard literally overlooked a major intersection of two of Atlanta's busiest freeways. That was a deal breaker.
House number two was in a very transitional part of town, but still close to our desired location. Hands down the price point was amazing, significantly below our price range. But upon walking the property the basement had evidence of major foundation problems. That paired with the neighborhood crime rate made this house no longer an option for us.
House number three was by far my favorite. A cute mini cottage located in the very up and coming hip district near our current neighborhood. It happened to be even closer to work and the neighborhood provided sidewalks and restaurants all within walking distance. Listing price was at the very top of our price point, and if I remember correctly even slightly over. Throughout the day our standards had lowered significantly, so the fact that Marta (Atlanta's subway system) ran directly across the street didn't bother us. Nor did the fact that there was absolutely no yard space. The house itself needed major repair. And I mean MAJOR! There was a tree...not a branch, but a full grown tree growing through the toilet in the bathroom. Clearly the property had sat idle for a long time. But I loved it. And episodes of HGTV ran through my head. "We can do this!". After walking through the house several times, we noticed a grey cloud of smoke above the worn carpet. It took us a moment to realize that the cloud happened to be an insane amount of fleas. Yeah, you read that right...FLEAS! As we walked out of the house, I noticed my legs and arms were covered in bites. That thought still grosses me out to the day! But for some crazy reason that still didn't phase my love for the house.
The following days were spent debating putting an offer on house number three. In the end, the house needed way more work than we could offer and buying it at that price point wouldn't allow for extra funds to do so. Plus there was no way you could ever have a dog in that house ~ it would take like for-ever to get rid of those fleas!
Our agent encouraged our decision to pass and offered to continue to show us homes, ideally out of the current zip code we were set on. Not quite ready to commit to another location in Atlanta, and not wanting to waste our agents time, we asked she set us up on the MLS server (this was before the days of Realtor and Zillow). That way we could keep track of new listings, drive by locations, and then, if we were still interested, have her show us the house. She agreed to the idea and gave us a few other zip codes to consider.
Over the next few months we drove by houses, checked out different parts of town and weighed our pros and cons. The one problem we ran across time and time again, was whenever we found a house we liked the look of, the location was anything but ideal. We really needed to decide what compromise we wanted to make - location? or look?
That led us to looking at house number four. It was in our almost perfect location and on paper it was great. Reasonably priced, offered the space we wanted, had a small yard, but at the end of the day something just didn't feel right. My heart said no, but my head said this is as good as it gets. Truth be told, I hated the look of the house. It was everything I didn't want in an exterior. But again, this option was so far the best overall. In the time Brian and I spent debating putting an offer in, we were notified that someone else had beat us to the punch and the house was now pending with another buyer. At the time I was disappointed and afraid we had missed our only opportunity to buy a house in our desired area.
Our wedding was planned for the following month, so we decided to take a break from house hunting. We also went back to the drawing board. Were we open to a condo? What about looking in the suburbs?
The following month we got married and honeymooned in Hawaii. One evening we pulled up our emails to see a sneak peak of our wedding photos from our photographer. I continued to go through them while Brian went to bed. And before calling it a night myself, I just had to look to see if there were any new house listings. I did my typical search, first our desired zip code, then our second, then our third. I also opted to do a 'search all' and right there in front was this cute little bungalow in need of love. The listing zip code was one I had never seen before so I did a quick google search of the address. The address showed the house to be in a part of town Brian and I drove by daily on our way to work. In an area that neither one of us had a clue houses resided in. But in searching the listed zip code it showed the area to be 3 hours outside of Atlanta? So which was is it? Was the house in a prime in-town location or was it in a rural part of Georgia? Knowing it was an answer that would have to wait, I kept the house to myself. After all, we were on our honeymoon and I didn't want to distract Brian with my questions. But either way, the seed had been planted and that little yellow house was continuously in the back of my mind during our stay in Hawaii.
We returned home just in time for the holidays, and enjoyed spending our time with my family in Charleston. Christmas evening I pulled Brian aside and showed him the listing I had secretly been obsessing over. (you can view those pics below)
The next morning we contacted our agent and she agreed that it looked to be a typo. She made some calls and confirmed that the location was in town and asked if we wanted to see it the next day. We viewed the house on December 27, 2009. It was exactly what we had hoped for. A "charming" fixer upper on a quiet street in our ideal location. The house had two bedrooms and one bath. A proportionally large kitchen, a mudroom, and an additional office. A magnolia tree resided in the front yard and the back gave way to a large private yard. It needed a lot of work, but we loved every single bit of it! It seemed way too good to be true, the price, the location, the look. So, what was the catch?
It was a short sale.
The current owner had purchased it as a second investment property and when the housing market crashed they needed to get rid of it. The house itself sat on the market for quite some time and the listing agent shared that the current owner had multiple loans from multiple lenders on the house. Therefore what was taking so long was for the banks to negotiate cost among themselves. The listing agent also divulged that there were currently ten other offers on the house, mostly from contractors. We decided right then and there to put our best and final offer on the house.
Now, I do want to acknowledge that Brian and I were one of the very lucky few that happened to be in the right place at the right time following the market crash. Nothing other than age and luck attributed to our ability to purchase our first home during such a volatile time of American economy. Our down payment was funded with money that Brian had saved while he worked painting houses in Australia years before. And because we were first time home owners, with good credit and a down payment, banks were willing to work with us and we were also able to benefit from government tax breaks for first time home owners. Brian was also lucky enough to secure his full time job in Atlanta months before the market crashed. And we were both lucky enough to keep our jobs during that time. I also want to share that neither of us were making a lot of money. Our weekly grocery (food & toiletries) budget was $50 and we both shared a car, Brian's 1996 Ford Explorer. We didn't have a ton of money, but we were happy and hopeful that we too could accomplish the American dream of owning our own home.
So, here we were...
Lucky to be at the right place at the right time. And lucky enough to put an offer on a home that just one year prior would have been completely out of our price range.
Unlike typical real estate offers, with short sales, you put an offer in and wait. And wait. And wait some more.
We put our offer in on December 27th and didn't hear anything from the banks until March. This started a lot of back and forth from our agent with the banks and we still weren't given much information.
Luckily we were in a position where we had time to wait. Our current apartment lease wasn't up until June and we could renew our lease if needed.
So we waited and waited. And out of the blew one day near the end of April the banks called saying they wanted to close the following week.
That time was a whirlwind of paperwork and phone calls and somehow that first week of May we closed on our first home. Brian's face that day says it best...
In purchasing this house, we lived up to the old adage, "buy the worst house, on the best street". That couldn't have been more correct. We were one of three remaining original homes on our street. Contractors had started tearing old ones down and replacing them with large McMansions. Upon moving in many of our neighbors continously asked when we planned to tear the house down.
"Tear the house down?!" We weren't planning to tear this beauty down!
We were going to duct tape this bad boy back together.
And over the next five and a half years we did just that.
This house taught us a lot.
A lot about each other.
A lot about fixing up houses.
A lot about design.
And a lot about life.
We did project.
We got our first dog, Rawley.
I started this blog.
We even brought P & K home to this house.
This house couldn't have been a better first home.
And for a long time we didn't think we would ever sell it.
As our neighborhood continued to grow...more and bigger homes were built. Restaurants and shops were added. The economy got better and house prices started to rise. Quickly our hidden neighborhood became a hot spot for Atlanta real estate. Brian and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the transition, but frankly every old home that was torn down really hurt my heart. After having P & K we knew that our house as is, with just 2 bedrooms and 1 bath would not accommodate our family of four for too much longer. The past two years we've continued to weigh the pros and cons of adding on to our home. Adding on would allow us to stay in a prime Atlanta location and of course we'd never be able to beat the current mortgage we had. But adding on would also eat into the equity of our home and because we happened to be in an Atlanta hot bed for construction, building costs were sky high. So, we waited, and continued to discuss our options.
This uncertainty started affecting renovation decisions for the current space. For example the bathroom. It was in need of a major overhaul since day one, but because it sat at the back of the house, we knew that an addition would change that space completely. I hated the idea of throwing significant funds into a bathroom makeover, only for a year or two later to add onto the house. So, we've been living with a bathroom that was starting to fall apart.
Over the years we've replaced most major appliances. Like the AC, furnace and water heater. All updates were pricey but worth it. Two major things still not updated were the roof and plumbing. And while neither of these were giving us any current problems we knew they would need be be replaced in the next several years. Not a huge deal if we planned to stay in this house, but an expense we would hate to spend should we sell.
So, last year we really got serious about making some decisions. In looking at real estate, we knew that there really was no way for us to afford a house in our current neighborhood. So, if we wanted to stay, the only option was to build on.
In possibly selling our home, Brian and I started talking about what our 'perfect world' situation would be. We would love to stay in our current school district...we would love to buy an older home...we would love to still have a private back yard...we would love to have a park and hopefully some restaurants/shops to walk to...and in the perfect world we would love to own a second property one day.
We started our search last spring. We considered new areas, we even looked at one house and seriously contemplated putting an offer on it, but a lot of factors ultimately made us pass. We found a lot of options we liked, but price points would prevent us from owning a second property. What we really needed was to find a location that offered in town living at an affordable price. That's when we started to discuss the area near our old apartment. Still considered an industrial part of town, I frequently drove near the area to shop local thrift and antique stores, and after all it was only a mere two miles from our current home.
One day last spring, I drove through the neighborhood that Brian and I had so regularly walked years earlier. There they stood, those quaint cape cods. Some had been given new landscaping and a fresh coat of exterior paint. Others, stood in need of some TLC, not being touched since I last saw them. The sidewalks meandered by each home and eventually led to the ballparks that I forgot existed. Further down the path led to tennis and basketball courts that were being newly renovated. A pair of playgrounds near soccer fields bridged the way into another neighborhood. I turned around to drive back down the cape cod lined streets. It's funny but my memory had remembered these houses as being bigger than they actually were. In reality they were small, but charming in their own way. I knew right then and there that this place felt like home and the perfect place to raise a young family.
So started the search for a house. One came on the market soon after my drive through the neighborhood. Brian and I loved the house itself, but it had been quickly flipped by a contractor. The finishes weren't my style and because everything had been 'renovated' asking price was at the very tip top of of our price point. Ugh. And in order to afford the house, the offer would need to be contingent on us selling our current home. Within a matter of hours the home had multiple offers. We realized the buying market now, was much different than when we bought our first home five years ago. Our gut told us this wasn't the house for us and frankly we weren't quite prepared to put an active offer on anything.
Another came on the market, this time the price was practically unbelievable. But with the low price came a house in need of desperate and major repair, it didn't have central air for one. We knew that a major renovation with one year old twins and Brian having a full time career, just wasn't a possibility at this point of our lives. And like the previous cape cod, multiple offers were placed on the house before we could even consider making an offer ourselves.
Over the summer and into the fall we kept our eye on real estate in the area, with nothing else coming onto the market. We were advised that if we seriously wanted to be in that neighborhood, we would need to already have our house sold. Due to the nature of the current real estate market, bidding wars were to be expected and having an offer contingent on selling our home, would pretty much be a deal breaker to any seller. We wanted to be in the neighborhood so badly, but the thought of selling our home, moving into an apartment and hoping something in our price point would come on the market, just didn't seem like the best thing with little ones and a dog. I had almost resigned to the fact that this just wouldn't work.
One afternoon right before Thanksgiving, while driving through the neighborhood (I did this whenever me and the kids went to the grocery store), there was a sign 'for sale by owner' in front of one of the houses. I called the number, got the info, and immediately called Brian. We contacted an agent, and by the end of the week viewed the home. Like the story of Goldilocks, it wasn't 'too new and renovated' but it wasn't in need of 'too big of renovation'...it was just right! It still needed a lot of work, but nothing that couldn't be done over time and DIY-ed. It was perfect...for us. I'll spare you all the details, but after a month of negotiations we were able to get all parties to sign a contract that included a contingency to sell our current home.
I spent the start of the week cleaning and staging. Took listing photos on Wednesday and by Friday, our agent listed our home. (view photos below using right & left arrows)
Within the first few hours we got our first offer and by the first day we were lucky to have five really amazing offers on the table. Now, I don't want to mislead and say selling our house was this easy process. Honestly, it was way more stressful than I expected. We had our first two offers fall through and there was a couple weeks where we weren't sure what was going to happen. But in the end we were so lucky to get our house sold and closed a mere month after listing.
So, in the end, everything worked out. And in the scheme of things turned out as simply as possible.
I type this after two weeks of moving. I'm currently sitting in our new dining room, watching flurries fall from the Atlanta sky, feeling very lucky to be where I am. It took a lot of work to get to where we are now. But isn't that what the American Dream is all about?! I can't wait to share more of this new home with you. And while it was bittersweet letting go of our first home, I'm super excited for all the new adventures ahead.
And to think I'm starting this next chapter of our life so close to where Brian and I started eight years ago. I hope we'll continue to take extended walks through this neighborhood, sharing about our day and talking about our hopes for the future. Only this time it will include Rawley, P & K!