Sunday, August 01, 2010

how to buy a house: part v

Now, if in the course of buying a house - you have a complete and thorough nervous breakdown - and you find yourself curling up in to a fetal position and sucking your thumb while crying for your mother, that's perfectly normal. Rest assure, that phase of hysteria will soon pass.

For those that missed it, yesterday we had some very minor second thoughts about this whole moving cross-country thing. It suddenly struck us that our house in California is under contract to be sold and we'd convinced ourselves that we had absolutely zero prospects in Virginia. We were feeling so desperate and frustrated and scared that Charlie went so far as to call our Realtor in California and ask what might happen if we decided to back out of the contract. All of the color drained out of my face, as I watched all the color drain out of my husband's face, once he heard (and recited to me) words like "breach of contract" and "lawsuits."

Lawsuits? But it's OUR house!

That doesn't matter.

We signed a contract.

Once Charlie got off the phone with our Realtor, he thought about calling the woman who signed the contract and asking her if she would please back out. He was going to tell her that he is married to a woman that has had a very difficult year (it's true) and is emotionally unstable (what?!) and we made a terribly hasty decision and please, oh please.

We want our house back.

Thankfully, we both fell asleep before we went TURBO crazy. And when we woke up this morning, we each had a fresh new perspective. A new perspective that involved us saying to each other something along the lines of, "We need to GROW up. We made the decision to leave California for a number of valid reasons and this is where we are meant to be. We can totally do this. For Pete's sake! This is a wonderful opportunity for us, for our children, for our entire family unit. We create and are solely responsible for our attitudes and our happiness!"

Besides. What is life if not one great adventure?!

So we decided to stop being scared and instead, embrace being happy.

We decided that when it's time to get our Virginia license plates, we want to get personalized ones that read, "BE KIND" and "BE NICE" and when we're jetting down route 267, much like we did when we'd cross over bridges in the Bay Area of San Francisco, we're going to pay the toll for the car behind us. We are going to recklessly commit random acts of kindness all over the mid-Atlantic. We are going to SMILE at strangers on the metro and TALK to people in line at the grocery store and by golly, WE ARE GOING TO LOVE IT HERE.

And then, we decided that we (and our children) LOVED the old, possibly haunted house by the creek, despite the fact that it's nearly 50 years old and hasn't had a single update since 1960-something. We decided that it is the absolute best lot in the best location with the best layout and we WANT it. We don't want to play hard ball with the grieving owners, and since they've come down almost 20% off the list price, we feel like we've negotiated it well. So we decided to bump our third and final offer up by 7%. The owners came down by 3% and we now have a fully ratified contract and are in escrow.

A whole fleet of inspectors including a home inspector, lead-based paint inspector, septic inspector, fireplace/chimney inspector, and asbestos inspector will be descending upon the house over the next few days. We are very hopeful that everything will go swimmingly and we'll be able to close escrow and move in by the end of this month.

Beyond that, it might seem like Bob Vila has taken over my blog as I start detailing our progress of knocking down walls, tearing down wood paneling, removing trees, and replacing windows. I've always dreamed of buying an old funky fixer upper house, and I'm convinced this is it. I'm also very glad that we possess so much excitement about it and hope that our enthusiasm sustains us as we tackle the 1,001 things to do.

(Including #1 on the list: have a priest come bless our new home.)

Tonight, I was telling Charlie that it's a good thing we enjoy camping so much, because the cook top in our new house isn't much larger than our Coleman propane stove that we bring along whenever we head for the outdoors.

Yep. I suspect it will be a lot like camping for a while.

(Squee!! I CAN'T WAIT!)


  1. Congrats! Psyched for you guys. Good luck w/ the inspections.

    I've felt very simpatico reading all of your house-selling/house-buying/job-change tales, as my family and I are going through much the same thing, albeit a couple weeks ahead of you on the accept offer/offer accepted parts.

    Again, congratulations. :)

  2. Congratulations on the new house! Hope everything works out swimmingly.

    It's amazing how much an attitude adjustment/fresh perspective can change your whole outlook, isn't it? An important lesson for all of us to remember-- I know I need the reminding sometimes.

  3. I have been following your journey to this place for several months with no comments. Not really a stalker, just an interested and thoroughly invested in finding out what happens next person who has prayed for you without you knowing. I am glad to see that you have finally resolved this in your own minds and love your vision of making your own little difference in people's lives. You are so open and honest and it is refreshing to read and watch as you open up your thoughts to those of us who are learning from your experiences, both good and bad. I pray that this new home will bring the kinds of memories and joys that your home in CA did and even more. Stay strong and know that there is a reader in TN that is praying for you even if you don't know it. God Bless!

  4. Yay! So happy for you all. Thank the Lord for new attitudes! I can't wait to hear all about your house remodeling :).

  5. Glad you feel better.

  6. Jen, I'm so glad you talked yourself down! You guys are right on; you are going to make this a wonderful adventure! Good bless, and good luck with the upcoming inspections.


  7. When I read your post about all of the rude people and your terrible experiences in NOVA, it made me sad and embarrassed. I am so sorry that your first experiences of the area have been bad. I have lived in the NOVA area most of my life. I left after college and lived in the Midwest for 10 years, but I came back and was happy to be home. I am glad to see that the post I read this morning seemed more hopeful. I hope you will be happy in the area. I know we are not SoCal but the museums and the history in the DC metro area are phenomenal. I sincerely hope that things get better and everything with your house goes well. If you see a 3PZNPOD minivan, please wave and I promise not only will we wave back, but we will definitely smile at you and even let you merge into our lane.

  8. Holy cow! After the years I have spent reading your blog (one of my very favorites, btw,) you would think that your whiplash decision style wouldn't surprise me anymore. Apparently not! I was sure you and Charlie were about to back out and I was so frustrated at you and for you! I was practically yelling at my screen like a crazy person.

    I think you and Charlie made an awesome decision (dig the license plates, too!) and I do think you guys will find happiness here. And if not, you will be giving it time to actually KNOW whether you would be happy here or not.

    I'm proud of the two of you. Good job.

    So once things settle down, can you take some photos of your house? Obviously w/o the house number and stuff but I am dying to see it!

  9. PS= why aren't you publishing comments anymore? I am dying to hear if other people were shouting at their screens yesterday too!

  10. YAY!!!! What a great blog entry!! SO GLAD YOU ARE STAYING!!!

  11. I want to thank you for today's post. See, I recently moved to Fairfax, VA myself and have been hating it for all of the reasons that you laid out yesterday (rude, crazy drivers, everyone is in a hurry, no friendly personalities to be found, etc).

    We left our home in Cleveland to be closer to our families and improve my husband's job situation. While those things are still true I have been really down recently because I miss the comfortable life that we built in OH. I miss our friends, our neighborhood, and our house.

    We're currently renting and in the midst of looking for our permanent home. Our searches so far have left me even more disheartened and yesterday I was ready to pack it up and head back. (Despite the fact that that's impossible).

    But if you can do it with 4 small children, then I can do it too. You're right, we are in charge of our attitude -- I'm going to be happy here! I will smile to people in the grocery store! And on the train!

    Maybe I'll see someone else smile back and realize it's you.

    Longest comment ever, sorry. But all that to say, thanks.

  12. so so happy you have found some peace! hope it all goes well and you are out of the motel soon.

  13. Somehow, I felt this house was meant for your family. If you remember Ronney and Dick's house on Bancroft St. was in a constant state of renovation and yet they continued to reign as the neighborhood entertainers supreme!!! The fact that it hasn't been updated is a big plus - you don't have to fix others errors....Congratulations and live long and prosper there..Love, Mrs. D.

  14. Congrats!!!! You are on your way, and your attitude is just wonderful!!!

    Northern VA is definitely a big city so people are not going to be as outwardly friendly and social as what you may be used to, but I promise you that underneath it all, city folks are just as kind-hearted. It just takes a bit more time to get to that interior, since people are busy and rushed and there are just so many more people which makes random smalltalk, etc. just a bit more time consuming, etc. I know you'll meet some wonderful people and will be THRILLED with the Fairfax County school system (which is where you are, right? Not sure.)

    Anyway, congrats on the house! A huge home improvement project is going to be soooo soul-satisfying!

  15. I am so happy for you!! This will be a grand adventure!!! Are you going to be in Brecon Ridge? I live up in Greenbriar. Let me know when you guys move in, and I will bring over some dinner.

  16. Oh Jenn, I'm so excited for you! There is such sweet relief when a decision is finally made and the action plan can actually be executed.

    I've said it before, but I've been struggling with my work vs. stay-at-home dreams. I've finally come to a decision...I gave my notice last week! I'm terrified...I'm excited...I'm a little more terrified. But you're such an inspiration to me with taking Life by the horns and just going with it. My attitude has so much to do with it and you constantly remind me about that.

    Blessings and good luck on the final stages of closing on your home. I'm excited to see how the renovation goes. Show lots of pics please!!! :-)

  17. Yeah Jenn and Family Yeahhhhh! Hey! Isn't This Old House on the east coast? Maybe honestly they would be willing to come and film at your place. All of those shows on the DIY networks are in the east... it might be worth a trip to those shows online and see what they could help with... what a great show 2 parents and 4 kids 5 and under hehhee. TV Stars in the making. What a story THIS would tell! Congrats! Ruth

  18. Congrats on the decision! I'm sure you will make it all work wonderfully, and think of all the amazing blog topics you'll have for the next decade!

    I need to look up escrow and see what that means...I'm guessing it means "conditional" as we call it here in Ontario. Anyways, hope this time passes fast and you will be in that house before you know it!

  19. Do yourself a favor and get a radon test done also. It does not cost much (@$400) and you are better to know now than find out later. A mitigation system will run just over $1000 if you need one so you can negotiate that with the seller.

    Our realtor in NY told us we did not need the test done when we bought the house. When we went to sell the house a few years later we forked over the additional $ for the buyer to install one. And we lived in the house with the radon for 4 years prior.

    Our lesson was learned so I pass this info onto you...not that you asked for it.

  20. Woman, reading your blog is like a wild, roller coaster ride - and I love it! Wheeeeeeeeeee! I hope you get that blessed house :)

  21. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I know you loved that house from the first day you saw it. I'm glad to hear that you and Charlie were able to negotiate with the owners.

    Can't wait to hear about inspectors report, remodeling, etc.

    YES, get a priest to bless the house, a few extra blessings might come in handy. : )

  22. I am so glad to read this and send my love and blessings. I spent 43 years on the East Coast-PA and FLA. Nice can be done.

    I felt the house spoke to you on your first visit and so came out in favor early. Really cool that you decided to go with it. Henry was the decision maker for me with his naked self; that and the reverence felt in the basement by the two of you adults was too strong to ignore I thought.

    My family of origin grew up on an acre in SE PA with a creek in the woods out back and fields and space and an old house and four kids and we loved it. I think you are doing the right thing-for the whole family and the family from whom you are getting the house.

    Admittedly, ten years ago I made the best move of my life and came to the Bay Area, but I am not you.

  23. I am waiting with baited breath to find out what happens with this house! Will you post pictures? This has been an amazing adventure and i am impressed with your candidness. I sincerely hope all works out for you and your family. I know it will because of your spirit!!! Please update more often!!!!


  24. Congrats on the house!

  25. Congrats on the house. We bought a fixer upper and while it was a lot of work we love it!!

  26. Good for you - am very happy for you - when you described House B driveway I was terrified - you are so right to RUN.

    Everything will improve now that you will have somewhere to live soon.

    Love your comments about being happy and polite and try to improve the happiness factor of Virginia - sounds like they need it.

    We have decided to move back to Aus at xmas (we've been here on holidays for the last 3 weeks). We have a job offer we are looking at and the kids and I are going down there to look at schools this week. All very exciting picking a new city and looking on a map and saying - think we will live...... there. As our kids are older, we are picking the best school within 50km of his office and will then rent something for 6 months to test drive the area (we won't do state schools, too underfunded). Hopefully not as stressful as your situation (but still exciting). We need a new adventure.

  27. Congratulations you guys. Sounds like a good move.

    BTW: I met your former neighbor K. (the nurse) at school today. Her boy is in the kindergarten class next door to our sons' class. She and I decided to form a support group to work through our feelings of abandonment. Ack, you guys are missed!

  28. praying for you this morning. i cannot wait to see how this all turns out. A grand adventure indeed!

  29. Did you hear yet?? Did you hear yet?? Did you hear yet?? Oh sorry, my 3 year old is rubbing off on me. Please uncurl yourself from that fetal position and update your blog - inquiring minds NEED TO KNOW!!! :)

  30. Michelle M in TX8/5/10, 7:40 AM

    Hey Jen,

    Sorry this is off-topic, but I'm watching Food, Inc., a documentary about the food industry. There is an incredible farmer in VA that does sustainable farming. Check out Polyface Farms. I wish they shipped their meats out, but they only do locals. Here's their website:

    Hope the home inspections are going well.


    Michelle M in TX

  31. That pic of Carolyn on Twitter is so sad--praying she's okay. Like you need this!!!!

  32. Hope you are happily getting settled in a home you love. I can't wait to see what God has in store for your family next.

  33. Just getting caught up on your house hunting adventures...

    I find it amusing that (although I'm from Fairfax) we both are doing the cross-country move at the same time. And right now I'm actually in Fairfax, maybe right down the road from you and your crew. We're living in a camper and you're stuck in a hotel, but if you want to get together and take the kids out, let me know. I swear I'm not a crazy stalker. :)

  34. What an adventure. I hope everything is going swimmingly.

  35. Good luck with everything. I hope you get settled soon so you can concentrate on getting the trio ready for school and getting acclimated to the new job. My dau.'s GBG trips turned 2 in June and she had bonus son on 7/7. It is joyful but exhausting! Don't know how you do it.


  36. You've kind of left us hanging girl!

  37. ...and? What has happened? I check EVERY DAY (and actually commented there at the beginning :) I can't wait to get an update!