April 12, 2012

house hunt: accomplished.

Well folks, I cannot believe I am saying this, but we have a house! It happened late last night. In fact, we were in bed when our amazing realtor emailed to tell us that our offer was accepted!

I had a feeling this would be the one, and I received a positive sign yesterday when James and I were walking past the "free books" bin at the library and an adorable (albeit worn and stained) 1969 copy of The Little House was sitting in the pile. If you have never had the joy of reading this sweet book, it was originally written in 1942 and is about a city that grew around this little old house. The house goes to ruins, but is then transported out to the country and fixed up.

Anyway, I know I have said before that I would tell the whole house-hunting story once we finally found one, so, use the restroom, grab a beverage, and get comfortable, because it's a long one...

At first, we wanted (or thought we wanted) a house close-in Northeast Portland. Lane works on the East side, so the West side was not an option for us. We decided to establish a "no commuting over bridges" policy. We wanted at least two bedrooms with a basement or other "non-conforming space" (a popular term in the NE Ptld market) to make into an office, and perhaps a bonus room later down the road.

house #1: the one that got away
Sigh. We still talk about this house and how much we loved it. It was in Rose City, with built-ins, a big fireplace, hardwood floors, and a surprisingly open floor plan. However, it was a short-sale. But we were young and inexperienced little house hunters back in June of 2011, so we put an offer on it. At first we were outbid, but then the other buyer backed out, and so our offer was first in line. It wasn't until August that we got the call saying that the bank wanted more money. We refused to give them any more and re-submitted our same bid. Time was ticking because our landlords needed to know if we were staying or leaving. Around that time we started to think we might want something bigger a little further out, which brings me to....

house #2: the one that thankfully got away
I shudder now to think about this house. It was big and fairly nice inside, but I don't think I would have liked the neighborhood or the yard. We put a low offer on it to start negotiations, but the sellers decided to take it off the market. At this point, we had to give an answer to our landlords (who, by the way, have been saints through this whole process, thank God), so we had to cancel our offer on the short sale.

house #3: new construction
So we assumed that we would be in our rental until at least May, but we continued to watch the market closely, especially short sales and new construction, which take time. We saw a floor plan way out in Gresham that we really liked. We also really liked the idea of a brand-new house in a nice neighborhood. We put in a full-price offer. The builder was apparently out of his mind and asked if we would please write him a twenty-five thousand dollar non-refundable check before he began construction. We politely declined and decided that new construction was not for us.

house #4: very practical
Around January (or was in February? they all start running together) we began to look in a cute little neighborhood that would have been a five minute commute for Lane. The neighborhood has shops, a post office, a few parks, and a library in it. It would have been ideal for little kids because you could walk everywhere. We found a good sized, newer home, and put in an offer. After a little back-and-forth we finally met the price that the seller wanted. He suddenly had something come up on a Friday and said he would be unable to respond until Monday. Late Monday afternoon we found out that he had chosen to take it off the market. (Sound familiar? A bit like house #2?)

house #5: right behind kennedy school
This house was tiny. I mean, a shoe-box. But we liked that the basement was the same square footage as the main floor, so there was plenty of room to expand and build. There was no dining room, no garage, and one very little bathroom. But it was old and charming, and one block from a park, and three blocks from Kennedy School. Our offer was one of many, and so it took a while to get a response. In the end, we were runner-up, and someone else got it.

house #6: 31st and Alberta
No, I'm not kidding. This house was on 31st and Alberta. It was also so cute. Unfortunately, the sellers were quite aware of how desirable it was and, despite our crazy-high offer, we were again runners-up.

house #7: the one
At this point we were beginning to get a little sick of the Portland market. Everything in our price range was small, needed work, and resulted in a bidding war. I started dabbling a little in the Gresham market to see what kind of home we could get out there. Turns out, we could get a water-front property that is twice the square footage of any home in Portland.
I found this house online a week or two ago. It is big. And it backs to a reservoir, complete with ducks (and hopefully some beavers). There is a path around the reservoir that leads to a huge park with a couple fun play structures and picnic benches. But before you go thinking it is too glamorous, let me just say: it was built in '81 with no updates. We have our work cut out for us.
Lane, James, and I did a drive-by Monday on Lane's lunch break. We liked the neighborhood and the location within the neighborhood, so we called Patti to set up a showing that afternoon. What we saw was not pretty. Green and blue carpeting, wood paneling (not the funky kind, but more the yee-haw! kind), a lot of dark wood, and door knobs that Patti described as "castle-like." "More dungeon-like" I replied. She agreed.
But all-in-all, it is a house that we can grow into, and change the cosmetics to suit our style a little more. We decided to talk about it and get back to her.
Naturally, we found out Tuesday that someone else had put in an offer late Monday night. I was ready to walk away and continue our search. Thankfully, Lane was not ready to let it go. He pointed out that we would not find a house that size situated on such an ideal property again. So, we put an offer on it.

We began our house hunt thinking we would end up with something old, small and charming in the city. We ended up with big and outdated (I can't wait to show you the pictures of this place.. oh, and did I mention the lobster back splash in the kitchen?), but in a beautiful location. I guess it just goes to show that you never really know where you will end up or what you're looking for until you find it.

PS if you are in Portland or surrounding areas and need a realtor or know someone who does, I cannot recommend our realtor enough. She was so patient, so kind, and so knowledgeable about absolutely everything when it came to house hunting. She is also so good at keeping in contact with us that James often asks about her. Sometimes he will be "on the phone" and we ask him who he is talking to. "Pat-tah" (Patti) is his reply. To go to her webpage, click here.

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