When to Move, and When to Stay

Around Thanksgiving, we put a bid on a house. I’d been looking on the realtor.com app for a while. We have a perfectly good house in an awesome neighborhood. But I love real estate, and tracking the market is addictive. A colleague says Zillow is like porn for women, and I don’t disagree. Seeing a house I love makes my heart race.

I’d been going to open houses for months, although it was more of a hobby than a reflection of need. Dave joined me on a few but was less interested. Open houses are the gateway drug, and we soon had our awesome realtor showing us homes.

After months of somewhat casually looking, we found a house that needed work, but had great potential. It was similar to ours, same exterior colors and architectural style, but more grown up. Larger home and lot, two-car garage, family room, master bath, walk-in closets. You know, adult-type stuff. Also, wallpaper galore and a carpeted kitchen! Don’t see many of those these days.

We took our girls for a second walk-through, and they loved playing with an antique baby doll. It was an empty home, a once well-loved home, now an estate. It could be an amazing house. (Or, I watch too much HGTV.)

That night, Edie said she couldn’t wait to move out of our “mouse house”. We’ve never called it that! Our house is cozy, but when we moved here from an apartment, it felt like the Taj Mahal.

My dad’s a carpenter, and my parents flip houses, so we can reasonably buy a fixer-upper, even though Dave and I are house-inept. We change lightbulbs, mow the lawn, and have our furnace serviced, but we are not handy. I wish I picked up more knowledge from my dad. He can literally fix anything.

Our offer was accepted, and we put our house on the market within a week. Our contract included a Hubbard Clause, meaning we didn’t get the house until ours sold, and another competitive bid could trump ours. Our clause allowed for 60 days, so we got our own house in tip-top shape…and fast!

Our house has never been so damn spotless as it was when on the market.

For the uninitiated, this is the worst time of year to sell – over the holidays, into the dead of winter. We had a few flurries of showings, some interested parties, and three open houses with decent traffic. Those parties lost interest, and our hopes ticked down a notch as each walked away. I kept driving by the ‘new’ house and pinning renovation ideas on Pinterest. Dave started saying, “You know I wouldn’t be devastated if we don’t sell. I really love it here.”

We kept the house clean and did small renovations to entice potential buyers. These improvements opened my eyes to what a great home we have. Sure the kitchen is straight from 1993, but we love our neighbors, and can walk to a school, shops, and two parks from here. We adore Edie’s bus driver; I got sad thinking about potentially parting with her. Everything here is a known. Do we really want to add more weekend projects, more debt, and more property to heat, cool, and manage? As much as I love the thought of some amenities we don’t have, the answer is no. We have enough to manage as is.

I hung out with the neighborhood ladies at a local bar recently, and remembered that I felt part of a tribe. Dave and I watched “The Big Short” and got depressed about taking on a bigger mortgage, because debt sucks. At the end of this adventure, we received one bid, and by then the wind had been knocked out of our house-buying sails. We barely counterbid, and they walked away. The next day, the sign was pulled from our lawn, our house went off the market, and we realized that bigger didn’t necessarily mean better. We’re happy to stay in our mouse house. It’s big enough for our family and we can afford it, and that’s a beautiful thing.

And this mouse is cut off from real estate apps for the medium-term future.

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