Blog-i-ver-sa-ry Week! A House Hunting Retrospect!

We interrupt this regularly scheduled programming to encourage you to head over to today and check out a little mention that our Laundry Room got.  Check it out – we’re feeling ver-klempt!  Cassity, you’re the BEST!!

Since we’re still celebrating our one year anniversary of living in maison du Tell’er All About It, I thought I’d give a little peekaboo into our house hunting extravaganza and a little bit of why we decided to go with this house over some of the many dozens of other homes we looked at!  I know it sounds silly, but trust me, you’ll understand who we are better by the end of it.  Here goes nothing!

June, 2008: Dr. J graduates from Ohio State University (and gets Doc-tah-fied!) on a blistering hot, humid miserably Midwestern day (the ceremony was outside) and we begin the big transition of packing up our lives in Columbus, Ohio to begin life anew in Portland, Oregon where Dr. J landed himself a killer job (that’s ‘killer’ as in awesome, NOT ‘killer’ as in hired hit man)!

They don't call him Dr. J for nothing! He was smart enough to wear a t-shirt and gym shorts underneath this wool robe.

We decide to rent first before commiting to buy mostly because we want to have the ability to scope out neighborhoods and get a feel for our newly adopted hometown.  We pick out a ridiculously cute new-build pet-friendly Craftsman-y bungalow and on our one-year wedding anniversary (hey, we’re nothing if not romantic!  Who *doesn’t* want to spend their first anniversary sleeping on the floor in an empty house??!!) begin moving ourselves in!  The plan is to stay for about a year, save up some cash, and then purchase a house after I get a job in Portland.  Hey, we’re 28 and we’re not getting any younger!  Not only that, but Maggie is really tired of being tied up to a rope when she goes outside to do her business…

August, 2008: L-blogger finally moves to Portland after closing up shop at her old job and driving Maggie cross country to Portland with her best friend and brother in-law in tow!  Cheesy Momma and Doggy tourist photo ops are in abundance.

September, 2008: The glow and excitement of moving to a new city is quickly shattered when the economy decides to tank.  Two job offers on the table are pulled and much hand-wringing and stress ensues.  Looks like the house hunt is definitely on the back burner for at least a few more years!  Finding a job becomes priority numero uno!

February, 2009: Still jobless and with our debt-to-income ratio rapidly rising, we become intrigued by the idea of an $8,000 tax credit for first time homebuyers….maybe we should buy now…Dr. J has a great job with a steady income, we are renting and don’t need to sell anything, and we’re pretty tired of living in rentals where we can’t make any changes to the house to make our home more personal and our lives easier.  Besides, it’s always been our dream to live minimally on one income and have a second income for “everything else”, so forcing a purchase while we are a one-income household sounds like the ultimate test in frugality.  Looking under the couch covers for spare change becomes a daily occurrence.

April-June, 2009: We do the typical house-hunting tasks – apply for a loan, get approved, settle on a pricepoint, and put together a “laundry list” of needs, wants, and nice-to-haves.  Here is a little rundown of the things we *need*:

  • Good location – something that is closer to the city, but not too close to kill Dr. J’s commute (which is to the furthest west end of the Portland ‘burbs, which kind of limits our location options).  A quiet street is absolutely non-negotiable – our present location is on a very busy road and waking up at 4am with the grocery store delivery trucks bounding by is becoming a nightly annoyance.  It would also be nice to have a “walk-able” neighborhood where we can take Maggie on nightly strolls without having to cross said busy street or hop into a ditch to avoid traffic….ugh!!
  • Garage – Dr. J has tons of power tools.  Power tools take up room.  Power tools need either a shed or a garage.  Shed is preferred, garage is acceptable.  Garage and shed will become woodworking meccas for possible home improvement projects and renovations.
  • Decent yard size – neither of us are big into yardwork, but we figure a decent sized patch of grass for the Magsters is absolutely non-negotiable.
  • No major renos – we decreed that for our first homebuying experience, avoiding *major* renos is probably a safe bet from the get-go.  I.e. – everything needs to be mostly “functional” for the way we live.

It’s probably pretty obvious from the list above that we didn’t include anything like granite counters, hardwood floors, and/or anything else that was “taste specific”.  We were pretty much dead-set that any house we purchased was going to be a fixer and we were happy to break a sweat to fix up an ugly house in a good location!  I have my heart set on an older fixer-upper home (read: pre-1940) with character and expect to have a viscerally emotional response when I find “the one”…

May, 2009 – We look at houses all across the city, pricepoint, age, and varying states of repair and disrepair.  We even look at a ‘two-for-one’ viewing that had two foreclosed houses side-by-side that both needed some serious love.

They are both rentals, one had stood empty for about 9 months, and both are in piss-poor shape, bland, filthy, foreclosed and out of our price range.  NEXT!  However, I am intrigued by the beautiful view and parks within walking distance, though unimpressed with the state of the house and lack of character or charm.  I am still praying that we find an older, pre-war home that just needs some minor surface treatments.  That viscerally emotional response has occurred several times, however, reality is beginning to settle in…

June 5, 2009 – It’s the last weekend before I have to take a major examination which will hopefully help me land a job quicker and I am majorly stressing.  Dr. J and I are kind of hem-hawing about what to do regarding looking for houses because we are beginning to tire of looking at the same kinds of homes over and over again (i.e. newer build homes with nary a shred of character in sight) and I’m at my breaking point (probably induced by this examination breathing down my back for which I keep failing the practice tests).

I decide to call a friend who has also sat for the examination to get some advice and just generally chew the fat about everything going on in our lives.  She props me back up again (and encourages me not to pull out of the exam – more on that later) and then we get to talking about the house hunting experience and a lightbulb literally turns on in my head!  I realize that as “dreamy” as it sounds to buy an older home with character, the reality in a city like Portland (whose older, character-filled homes are in great abundance on the eastern side of the city) is that it’s much more difficult to buy an older home within our budget and within a reasonable commute distance – i.e. they are in short supply on the western side of the city where we dream of living.  And as romantic as it sounds to have a beautiful older home, a 90 minute commute one way every day just isn’t gonna cut it for being gas/eco-friendly *or* for having a decent work-life balance.  The other caveat is that Dr. J and I want to be able to travel to far away places and having a home that might eat into our travel budget via renovations is looking less and less desirable.  Lastly, we’ve seen many beautiful homes that didn’t need work and we were pretty set on finding a fixer that needed some love – why pay for somebody else’s renovations when we can do that ourselves?  Cue rational L-blogger, exit viscerally emotional response to finding “the one”.  So we thought back to all of the houses we looked at on the western side of the city (closer to work) and thought about the ‘two-for-one’ showing which was out of our price range.  We check the MLS listing to see if the smaller one is still available.  It miraculously is *and* the price has been decreased by about $20,000!  Interesting…

June 6, 2009 – …we call our realtor first thing in the morning to tell her we are going to put an offer on that ‘two-for-one’ showing.  We show up to our realtor’s office with my exam flashcards in my hand and checkbook in Dr. J’s.  We hurriedly sign the paperwork so I can get back to studying…

June 10, 2009 – I decide not to cancel the exam.  I take the exam and pass!  Phew!!!

June 10 – July 15, 2009 – Somewhere in there our price is accepted by the bank after a good deal of annoying back-and-forth (and us continuing to look at other houses “just in case”).  We float through the rest of June and July packing and getting ready for the move in a blazing hot summer, including scheduling the inspections and appraisals, purchasing appliances (the house had been ripped of its fridge, range, and washer and dryer), and planning for some minor facelifts.  Somehwhere in there while searching for decor inspiration, I stumble across this website and become intrigued by the idea of starting a blog to detail all of our renovations….hey, I’m still not working!  Why not?!

July 13, 2009 – We sign all of the paperwork (I think my hand still hurts to this day), but due to some weird Oregon law, we actually can’t claim the keys until July 15th.

July 15, 2009: Since our house was owned by a bank….and since banks are not in the real estate business…there were a few unfinished details that prevented us from claiming the keys.  It had something to do with back HOA fees that hadn’t been paid by the bank (see aforementioned comment “banks are not in the real estate business”).  As a result, the key hand off is pushed back a day.  However, we get money in our pockets later on down the line for overpaid interest!  Yippee!

July 16th, 2009, 6:00pm – we show up to our house, claim the keys, Dr. J carries me over the threshold, and we open a very special bottle of wine that had been given to us on our wedding day two years earlier:

It says "For the night you close on your first house - it won't stain the carpet!"

Maggie enjoys her first meal in the new abode…

…and Dr. J rips down the “For Sale” sign so that we can officially call this foreclosed dump our own!


All of the sudden, we went from being renters to homeowners with a whole boatload of responsibility and work to do like re-caulking and attaching our plumbing in the kitchen:

Dr. J and his Dad at work on our first weekend of ownership!

…painting what little we could prior to move-in (you can read about how we painted these stripes in our laundry room by clicking here and even how we completely reinvented the room by clicking here):

…and trying to stay cool in 100+ degree heat.  And while we were at it, we managed to start a blog to document our progress and keep our family and friends involved.  And 12 months later, we’re still at it!!  And we’re not even halfway done yet!  When will we be finished everybody keeps asking?  Probably never.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way…

So that’s our tale of house hunting and how we decided on a foreclosed fixer (and completely changed our philosophy about houses halfway through the search).  Anybody else have a similar story?  Anybody else wanna share?  Do tell!


10 thoughts on “Blog-i-ver-sa-ry Week! A House Hunting Retrospect!

  1. You guys were so smart to start a blog. If anyone wants to go back and blog our past three years since moving into our second house (our forever home), that’d be great.

    The house hunting story: was much different than when we bought our first. We looked at one house, feel in love & made an offer.

    You know our story on the second house. We bought a house with no kitchen, all it had was a sink & a refridgerator, no cabinets or appliances. The crazy gurner bought from had gutted the kitchen & no replaced it.

    Looking back on all we’ve done a blog would be fun to go back & read. If only one if us had written one, LOL! Keep blogging!

    Your line, “a home that won’t eat into our travel budget,” rings so true for us….or vacation this year is the lovely new roof on our house. Get out you lawn chairs & drink umbrellas we’re setting up the sprinkler & filling the kiddy pool! =0)

    All that being said, I wouldn’t change our past three years for anything. New house, an addition of two little boys & never ending home improvement projects (we defiantly fell for the 1888 character).

    Congrats on an impressively productive year!

    • What a great story! I would love to read a blog about your house – it’s beautiful!! But writing a blog is definitely a labor of love (as is owning a home!). And when it’s all said and done – who’se got time to sit down and blog with wee ones about?!?!

      Thanks for all the support, Dorothy! love the story!


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  3. Ok, love the post, but you have to know I’m going to bust your chops on the Ohio State University comment. I know you went to that other school back here and all, but didn’t you forget something? As in THE OSU! 🙂 love your post, love your blog, it has been very entertaining this last year. Keep it up! All I want to know is what’s next?

    • Ya know….I *almost* put in THE….however, I didn’t want to seem all hoity-toity so restrained. Wouldn’t want to be considered too posh for my britches…


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