Mar 27, 2011

Moving: Out of my comfort zone

Moving, or--to be more specific--the process of buying and selling homes, induces high anxiety in me. Like most people, I've always taken home ownership seriously - it's a big commitment, and shouldn't be entered into lightly. But beyond that, my view of real estate transactions was warped by an unusual and thoroughly unnerving situation about two decades ago.

Two of our volunteer fence builders
Our first home was beginner's luck, and we stumbled happily through the process.  We built a 1,200 square-foot house and it felt huge compared to the apartments and rentals we called home before it.  We were blessed by family and friends who pitched in to help us paint it, clean it and move in.   We sodded and fenced the yard ourselves.   (Well, the "boys" did the fencing, but I planted sod, too.)

All in all, it was truly a great starter home. Our oldest son was about two when we moved in; his baby brother came along the next year.

After a few years we felt we were quickly outgrowing the space, so we listed our sweet little home for sale. We fell hard for a two-story Tudor-style home on a wooded acre lot. With a contract on our home, we put in a contingency offer on this house and confidently assumed we would close on both homes on the same day in late February, moving out of one and into the other with minimal fuss.  What could possibly go wrong?

The nightmare began when we were midway through closing on our home.  The routine survey was complicated by unexpected flood zone issues as the Corps of Engineers maps had been updated since we built. The buyers bolted, the second home closing was canceled, and we had to turn back on the utilities and move back into our home.   Blindsided doesn't begin to describe how we felt as we reeled through the days and weeks and months that followed.  We finally obtained a letter from the Corps of Engineers confirming our property was not in a flood zone.  By then, we had lived in the house for 9 years, and I was scared witless at the mere suggestion of selling and moving.

In the meantime, the baby (swimmer girl) came along and we were truly squeezed for space.  Shortly after baby girl's first birthday, at the urging of a very conscientious and calming real estate agent (and friend), we successfully sold our little house after a single showing she arranged.  She made it easy, but I couldn't assume it would be successful.  In fact, I refused to breathe a sigh of relief until we handed over the keys.  Fortunately our agent had located a house for us to rent after closing, or we might have been temporarily homeless.   Yes, I was really that fatalistic.

We built and moved into our second home six months later, but in less than three years, we found ourselves moving again, this time back to Tennessee. I house-hunted for two weeks and settled on the house we're in now.  We successfully transitioned everyone and everything from one state to another just before school started, but the entire process was nerve-wracking.  Even though no missteps or mishaps occurred, I still couldn't relax until the ink was dry.

And so here we've stayed ever since - in part because of my fear of moving (and buying and selling) again.  This house is our home, but it is my least-favorite house we've ever owned.  For whatever reason, seeing our old house for sale was the catalyst that overcame my paranoia and propelled me down the path of house hunting.

The house we first fell for has suddenly fallen into our laps.  It's big, but not too big, and it has almost every feature on my wishlist.  Big kitchen with pantry, open floor plan, lots of closets, walk-in attic storage, soaring ceilings, lots of windows and a wraparound porch.   The backyard needs a fence, but has a nice big deck, storage shed, and room for my greenhouse and "outhouse"shed - I bet my neighbor will be so sad to see it--and us--disappear from his daily view, as we will him.

The "outhouse" shed in my garden.
The garage on the new house will hold our vehicles and the boat, and I can introduce my Louisiana iris and pond plants to the natural pond in the front yard to greet visitors and passers-by.  Truth be told, the place is a gardener's delight, with rose bushes around the porch, and hints of perennials greening up among the spring bulbs already flowering.  We will be surrounded by horses, cattle, sheep, poultry, and even emus.  A few strategically placed trees will screen the few neighboring houses from view.

I want this house bad enough to steel myself for a month of emotional ups and downs as we run the steeplechase course of paperwork, inspections and appraisals.  Please hang with me during this process.  I'll try to skip the boring details and share only the fun and instructive highlights of our experience as the journey progresses.

And maybe this time around, I will be finally be able to relax and enjoy the move.

Happy moving on,

P.S. A shout-out happy birthday to my dad.  May he blow out all the candles on his German chocolate cake and all his wishes come true!