Monday, April 29, 2013


There have been many times in the past few weeks that I wished life came with a set of instructions, or at least a map sketched on the back of a napkin.  Signposts would be nice - this way to long-term stability, pitfalls of unending debt that way, no seriously just go this way and you'll be fine.  But since I seem to be driving in an unmarked area - or, like in Japan I can't read the street signs anyway - I've been left to flounder around a bit.

Oh, we're thinking of moving.  Did I forget to mention that?

It's not a huge move - just one or two towns over, mainly to get a slightly larger house that we can grow into as Liza turns into a teenager with a big personality and long arms and legs.  Our current house could be made to work, of course, but none of us are sure we want to invest the time and energy that would take.  After years and years of to-do lists that are a mile long, we all just sort of want a house that's DONE, you know?

The last time Jason and I have had to make this decision on our own, it was 1996 and 1997.  We had just gotten married, and we wanted to buy our first house.  We saved diligently, found a buyers' agent to help us find good house possibilities, and we toured a lot of houses in the shag-carpet-and-waterbed price range.  Ah, the good old days of gold-flecked formica vanities and finding "secret" stashes of porn magazines on a closet shelf!  We took our time because we were able to renew our apartment lease for a few months at a time, if we needed, and eventually we found a great property.  We had to do a lot of work to get it to look the way we wanted, but the bones of the house were pretty sound.

We got to live in it for 11 months before we moved to Japan.

Ever since then, every move we have made has been a corporate relocation.  They were, by and large, very simple to pull off - Jason decided to take the job, and almost everything else was handled by the company.  They suggested real estate agents, hired appraisers, scheduled moving companies, arranged for mortgages and title searches ... everything.  All we had to do was pick a town to live in, and narrow down what we wanted in a house.  With a radically compressed time schedule (Let's buy a house during a one-week trip to the States!  Let's look at houses during the two weekends I can drive down to Kentucky in between classes!), stakes were both higher and lower.  Yes, it was possible that we'd miss the "perfect" house because we couldn't wait that long to buy, but we also were forced to make a decision, rather than letting the process drag on for months and months.  No, we probably wouldn't get our perfect house, but we weren't all that picky and there were plenty of decent options in our price range.

We didn't need a map - we just floated along like a chip in the river of Corporate Relocation Services.

But now we don't have that crutch to fall back on, we're doing it all ourselves.  What started as a whim - Wouldn't it be fun to live in the same neighborhood as our friends we visit all the time; oh look, there's a house for sale on the next street over from them! - has turned into a time-sucking search for The House.  We've got time, we've got (some) money, we've got a list of things we want ... and it's killing me.  Over the course of the weekend, we have pretty much firmly decided:
- to wait until a better house becomes available in our desired neighborhood
- to build a new house in the next neighborhood north of our friends'
- to not move at all, just renovate this house
- to keep looking at houses in other areas of our friends' town
- to only look at houses in our desired neighborhood
- to not look at any houses, just plans for new construction
- to build the Barrington model
- to build the Kensington model
- to wait to make a decision until we can walk through the Rothchild model
- to not move at all, we can call the electrician and carpenter on Monday about finishing the basement
- to pay off the remaining balance on the mortgage on this house
- to check and see whether our favorite lots are still available in the new construction neighborhood
- to reserve the last remaining desired lot in the new construction neighborhood
- to get in touch with the friend-of-a-friend who might be selling their house (in our friends' development)
- to see if my mother would be willing to loan us money if our current house doesn't sell before we close on the new house we might be building
- to call mortgage companies to learn about new construction vs. existing stock mortgages
- to write a check and sign paperwork - seriously, go call the realtor now - and reserve the lot we think we want before someone else snatches it up (never mind that we didn't even think about locations in the neighborhood until, um, Friday - that's OUR lot, dammit)
- to stop looking at Zillow and because they just get our hopes up and then we find out the perfect house we found is already under contract
- to obsessively check Zillow and so if anything new gets posted we can jump on it before it gets snatched out of our grasp again
- to drink, early and often
- to agree that the traffic in that town is worse than where we are now
- to agree that the traffic in that town is fine - we lived with it before, we can do it again
- to not plant anything new this year because we don't know if we'll be here to enjoy it
- to plant stuff early so the outside of the house will have curb appeal
- to put in a footbridge over the mini-stream in our backyard, because footbridges are awesome and I want a damn footbridge and I'm going to paint it bright periwinkle and it will be awesome and make me grin every time I see it
- that we like house A but the lot socks, and we like lot B but the house sucks, so if we could just swap the houses we'd be perfectly happy, but that's not really feasible, right?
- that we want to build the Barrington, with these "optional features," and, Holy Christ, is that really going to add close to $80,000 to the base price of the house, and that doesn't even include any landscaping or a playground for Liza or even freaking CURTAINS?
- to stay in our house
- to go to bed and not worry about it
- to not be able to sleep because we keep worrying that someone is stealing our lot

Meanwhile, Liza doesn't want to move away from her best friend, who lives four doors down from our current house but would be a 20-minute drive away from the new town.  She's communicating this fact by being surly, uncooperative, and frankly awful any time we attempt to discuss houses in front of her or have to take her with us to go see one.  She touches things she's been told not to touch, won't stay with us, makes inappropriate comments about the awfulness of the house/yard/bathroom/basement/decorating.  The only thing she has enjoyed out of the whole process so far was climbing on the big pile of dirt that was in the lot next to the one we took a look at in the new construction development.  Talking to her grandmother afterwards, yeah, her bedroom in the new house would be twice as big as her current one, but OMG LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THIS PILE OF DIRT I GOT TO CLIMB IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER.

I'm sure I have more fun things to say about this process, but I don't have time.  After all, I have to call loan officers to talk about possibly getting a mortgage on a house that we might possibly build, assuming we can get the lot that I have to call and reserve and drive out to give them a check.  Then we have a week to make all the decisions on EVERY ARCHITECTURAL DETAIL on the new house, including whether we want all of those $80K in bay windows, tray ceilings, and hardwood floors.  First World Problems, I have a whole bouquet of them.

Also, do you think I'll be allowed to trap some of the squirrels in my backyard and bring them with me to the new neighborhood?  The lot we want has a line of scrubby trees at the back of it - they could totally live there, right?  Anyone have a havahart trap I can borrow in October?

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