A House and A Coffee Mug.
I don’t really know when or how it started, but I kind of have a thing for mugs. We don’t have a ridiculously big collection or anything, but I tend to be choosy about the ones we do have. I like them to be meaningful and add an extra smile to my morning coffee or evening tea. Most of them are reminders of place we have lived.
Some, are just wishful thinking, and reminders of wonderful vacations spent with people I love.
When we moved to Seattle from Virginia, we spent our first year in a teeny townhouse in the funky Fremont neighborhood (a rental, so we could get a feel for our new city). We loved the city-vibe, the walkability, the proximity to friends and so many great Seattle spots, and the quick bus ride downtown for Casey. I was incredibly spoiled by being able to walk to a natural foods grocery store, a huge farmer’s market, a vegan bakery, the waterfront, and the Seattle zoo (among much, much more).
As we approached the one year mark last spring, we started looking into moving into something more “permanent” (which is clearly a phrase I should never be using!). We loved Fremont the year we were there, but we were itching for a bit more space, a better layout for our now-mobile child, and some functional outdoor space.
Somewhere during all of this, Casey went to the drug store to exchange our Soda Stream bottles, and they were doing a promotion where if you spent $20 you got a free Seattle neighborhood mug. He came home with Fremont and Magnolia (another nearby neighborhood), and said “I spent $50, so I had to pick a second one, and I figured we were most likely to want to live in Magnolia.” I smiled and agreed.
We hunted and hunted and must have toured at least 100 houses of all different ages, shapes, prices, and sizes. I know the housing market is different in all parts of the country, but here in Seattle is it on FIRE. Housing is incredibly expensive and competitive, and we were pretty overwhelmed by it. After about two months of religiously searching every weekend (and many evenings!), we found our house. In Magnolia.
The layout was perfect, the backyard was gorgeous and BIG (by Seattle standards), and it was just a few miles away from our current digs in Fremont (and even closer to Casey’s office!). We made an offer, crossed our fingers, and eventually worked out a mutual deal with the sellers. We were ecstatic.
The following week we got a phone call that sent all our plans into a tailspin. The sellers had changed their minds and were no longer going to sell their house – they would keep it as a rental instead. We were devastated, and at that point I kind of felt like we gave up. Frustrated by the Seattle market, we started looking east toward the ‘burbs. On one of our first visits out to the Eastside (as we call it here), we walked into our (current) house and were mesmerized by giant closets, expansive space, and the world’s most beautiful kitchen.
Things moved quickly – too quickly, really – and before I knew what had happened we were packing up and moving 30 minutes east to Kirkland. There is a lot that I could say about our move and the months that followed, but in the interest of maintaining some privacy I’ll just say that it ultimately wasn’t the right choice for us. We had a big beautiful house in a really nice neighborhood, and found ourselves really unhappy in it most of the time.
The biggest issue over this past year has been Casey’s commute. Of course, we knew it would be longer going into our move (and even tested it out via bus), but riding a few times and riding every day (at different times of the year) is totally different. On a good day, Casey would be home in an hour. On a dark, rainy day in the winter (of which there are many!) it would often take 90 minutes or more. Meanwhile, I was hauling Cullen all over Seattle and spending way too much time in the car myself – as most of our friends and activities remained closer to our old house.
The other commuting issue was that Casey was severely limited in bus options that run directly to our house. He only had three options in the morning, and three in the evening – if he missed them he was out of luck. On many, many occasions, he’d have to work late and end up missing the last bus, which meant I had to put Cullen in the car at bedtime and go pick him up at the nearest transit center (fifteen minutes away). All of this is to say, it just wasn’t working.
All year long, we’d think about – and talk about – the house in Magnolia. We’d long for the big sunny backyard, the mountain views from the kitchen and master bedroom, and the floor plan that would have worked so well for our family. In the meantime, we did our best to explore our new area and find new adventures and things to enjoy there – admittedly, somewhat half-heartedly.
Somewhere in early spring, as we approached the one-year mark in our house (and also learned we had another baby coming), we decided we needed to figure out one way or another if we were going to move. The feeling of living in limbo and indecision had gone on for way too long, and we were making ourselves miserable.
After a few long talks and “what if’s” – we called our realtor and threw out a total long shot scenario. We decided to re-approach the original sellers of the house we had loved in Magnolia the year before. We knew they were likely approaching the one-year mark on their rental contract, and thought perhaps they were reconsidering selling it this year instead. He told us it was very unlikely we’d convince someone to sell us a house that wasn’t even for sale, but he was definitely willing to try. He made the call and we waited, and waited, and waited.
We moved on and moved forward, and then one afternoon we finally heard back – the sellers were interested, and wanted to talk. I could write many, many paragraphs about the months that followed, but I’ll give you a brief synopsis…
We did all the back and forth phone negotiations with the sellers in early March, and agreed on a mutual selling price. The real clincher here was that they were willing to accept a contingency offer that would give us a short window in which we would sell OUR house, in order to make our deal official. This is absolutely unheard of in the competitive housing market right now.
To complicate things, this was just days before Casey and I went out of town for two weeks (to Atlanta and Hilton Head), so everything had to freeze and go on hold until we got back. After two weeks away, we returned home with just four days to get our house listed and ready to go on the market. We worked nonstop cleaning, organizing, staging, and coordinating listing appointments. We went live on the market in early April.
Once our house was listed, I was in charge of keeping our house in perfect condition at all times, as well as getting Cullen and the two dogs out for all open houses and showing appointments (many of which gave just 30 minutes notice!). It was a chaotic blur, and we spent many afternoons all cooped up in the car driving around (it was a particularly rainy week) while people toured our house.
Just as this whole situation has sort of felt like a dream, our good luck continued. Our house sold in just five days. We met our contingency clause for our purchase, and our move was officially underway. It all felt very surreal, and as each hurdle was passed (inspections, appraisals, etc.) I felt more and more weight drop off my shoulders. I continued to shuffle schedules and haul the family around town to accommodate lots of meetings and appointments in order to get the deal done on both ends.
In the interest of our privacy, which I’m sure you can understand, I’m not going to get into the financial details of any of this. But we’ve gotten a lot of questions about what it means to sell a house after living in it for just one year (read: people think we are insane, and we probably are!). As it turned out, the house we bought last year was considerably underpriced and also in an area that appreciated very quickly. So as crazy as it sounded to sell so quickly, we ended up profitable on our sale (even after fees, commissions, etc.) and without any losses. Pretty much a dream scenario.
Also – we actually downsized! We learned a valuable lesson that square footage and shiny master bathrooms are overrated when compared to location, character, and priceless proximity to friends and jobs. I will say a bit more about our new house tomorrow, but it’s smaller, it’s much older, and it’s exactly what we wanted all along.
Through all of this, I never talked about it because I was so afraid it wouldn’t come true. I also knew that we were so lucky to live in (and own) a beautiful home, and I didn’t want to seem ungrateful or unaware of our blessings. And despite having many of them, we knew we needed this big change.
I’m sitting here typing this from my new sunroom in a house that I have loved for more than a year. I can’t even describe the feeling of happiness we have all felt since our moving truck rolled into the driveway on Saturday afternoon. I can’t believe that we bought a house that wasn’t for sale, sold our house in just five days, and finally ended up in the Magnolia house we dreamed about for so long. It was one hell of a lot of work, but so indescribably worth it.
I’m looking forward to telling you more about our moving weekend, sharing some pictures, and giving you the very exciting news from our gender reveal party (!!!) – can’t wait to share!
Thanks for following along on our crazy journey. I joked on Saturday that I love this house so much that my next move will be into a retirement community. Finally – finally, we are home.