Archive for the ‘House hunting’ Category

Believe it or not, this weekend marks one full year that we’ve been in our new house. I guess that after a year, you can’t really call a 52-year-old house new, but it still feels like yesterday since we had boxes piled high everywhere. We’ve been pretty busy this year, ripping things out, putting new things in, and making our own personal mark on our space. We’ve also accomplished a lot out of the house, from regional travel to making friends, from getting involved at church to traveling out of the country a few times. Let’s take a look back at what all our first year as homeowners in the DC area has brought us.
Home sweet home

Home sweet home


Not that Washington, DC is “Home” yet, but it’s our home for now. We’ve learned to appreciate the opportunities here in DC and how to deal with the crummy parts, like traffic and overcrowding. Being settled in our own house and finally having friends and being involved in a church has helped us reorient and figure out what our new chapter of life looks like. It’s ever changing still, but that keeps life interesting, right? It will be interesting to reflect on the coming year next October to see what year two in our house and year three of Washington, DC, look like.

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A year ago we went under contract on our house and were doing things like paperwork, home inspections, and furiously packing. Now, eleven months into living in our new home, we’ve moved on to completely ripping apart our prized investment, but hopefully for a good cause.

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Believe it or not, this week marks one year since we woke up, put our suitcases and the dog in our cars, and turned our backs on the Rocky Mountains. We arrived in Maryland exactly one year ago today, literally and figuratively in the dark. Twelve months, two states, and two houses later, I still wouldn’t say that we’re totally settled here, but being in our own house seems to have closed the chapter on a year of transition.

I don’t think I anticipated how difficult the first year here would be from a personal standpoint. I knew there would be challenges with fighting traffic, getting lost, finding grocery stores, meeting people, joining a church, and learning my job. But surprisingly, I struggled with feeling like I was wasting my time and lacking purpose in life when we didn’t have any friends or anything we were involved in and just sat around the house looking at real estate listings on the internet all the time. At times, I felt despondent, unmotivated, and a little sad. Bart reminded me that this was not a truthful way to look at this time. It wasn’t time wasted, but it was a season of rest and rejuvenation so we would be ready to begin again with those things when that time came. And, of course, he has been right about that. In due time, things like finding a house, meeting people, and getting involved have fallen into place. We aren’t completely back up to speed, but we’re accelerating in that direction, and it seems like every week we see new opportunities around us.

It never hurts to look back and see that we have actually done a lot in our first year here. You don’t often have such a period free of obligations to explore a new place and have new experiences, so we tried to take advantage of it. Looking back over the last year, here are some of the most notable things we’ve experienced:

  • Visited twelve different states along the Eastern Seaboard and New England. When was the last time I visited twelve states in one year? Probably never.
  • Now that I think about it, we should also include the seven other states we drove through when moving here, and two more we hit on a trip back home in April. That’s an incredible 42% of the United States.
  • Bought a house. This is typically not something you do every day, and given how many months it took us to find this one, it definitely isn’t an insignificant accomplishment.
  • Hosted our first dinner party. That happened this last weekend, in fact.
  • Weathered a presidential inauguration, sequestration, furloughs, shutdowns, and a gubernatorial election in a state where we missed the voter registration deadline by two days. And there have been numerous other little quirks we’ve experienced living in Federal City.
  • Had seventeen separate house guests stay with us, some multiple times. I can think of maybe 10 overnight guests that we had in Colorado the entire eight years I lived there.
  • Waited at the DMV twice. Remind me to never move states or buy a new car or anything else that requires a trip to the DMV ever again.
  • Both of us had jury duty in Montgomery County. And now we’re back at the top of the list in a new one.
  • Driven past or walked on a beach three times. Not something we could accomplish in Colorado or Arkansas.
  • Visited many monuments and museums on a whim that most people have to go on vacation to see.
  • There were also a few things we didn’t do that we expected to do, mostly because finding a house was a real time-sucker for the nicest six months of the year. But we look forward to having time to do these and more now that we’re not in the market for a home. Of course, I hear that home improvement projects take up weekends, too. Good thing we don’t have a list of dozens of things we’d like to do to the house…or something. ;p

  • Go to Gettysburg. I was 100% positive we would do this sometime in our first year, but it never happened. It’s definitely going to, though.
  • Go to Mount Vernon. Granted, we now live about ten miles from it, and we’ve heard it’s awesome during the holidays. I’m motivated to make this happen before the year is out.
  • Go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. We almost did this on our trip to New England over the Fourth of July weekend, but we passed, opting to go during the off season this winter. We like excuses to head to upstate New York.
  • Go to New York City. We ran out of non-house hunting weekends in the summer. Depending on the weather and our travel plans around the holidays and first of the year, this might have to wait until next spring or summer.
  • Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in Shenandoah National Park. This would have been awesome to do three weeks ago, but if you recall, we bought a house three weeks ago. But I hear Shenandoah is beautiful all year round.
  • That’s a quick snapshot of our first year in Washington, DC. I guess we can’t consider ourselves “new” to the area anymore, but I still feel pretty green most of the time. But we’ve still got a lot of living to do here as long as we live here, be in a few years or the rest of our lives. I appreciate your accompanying me on this journey and hope you have enjoyed the blog so far. I intend to keep sharing our adventures with you, both with exploring the DC area and the East Coast as well as fixing up our new house. I hope you’ll continue to join me as we start Year Two in Washington!

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    As of this weekend, the Taylors have officially relocated.

    While I was at work on Friday, Bart and my parents went over to clean the new house and get it ready for moving in. I ended up leaving work a bit early to finish up some last-minute packing on the other end.

    No matter how much you think you pack in advance, there’s always way more left at the very end than you expect. But after cooking dinner on Friday night, mom and dad washed and packed the last kitchen items while Bart and I sold our old vacuum cleaner to a couple from the area (first successful local Craigslist sale!). Then it was just a matter of packing bedding and toiletries last-minute in the morning.

    Saturday morning we got the moving truck. There was a bit of uncertainty right off the bat, as they didn’t have the larger truck we had reserved. We compromised by getting a smaller truck and making two trips (which we probably would have had to do anyway), plus the smaller truck was easier to get around. The lady at the rental place was nice about it and helped us out on the mileage charges. With the online discounts I found with our reservation and the break on mileage, our move cost just over $100. That’s amazing! We’re so thankful for that working out Providentially in a better way than we had planned.

    We had some friends from church help us with the loading and unloading, and between the six of us, we were able to make two trips and move 98% of our stuff all on Saturday. I don’t think any of us anticipated getting that far, but it’s amazing how much faster you can move with six people instead of just two. We even got settled enough that we sat down to share our first meal in the new house together: delivered pizza on real plates around our actual dining table. We’re totally indebted to my parents and to Jerry and Tracy for their help.

    Now life is totally disorganized and chaotic, but we’re slowly piecing things back together in the new place. It’s a bit trickier because the kitchen, bedrooms, and bedroom closets are a lot smaller than we’ve previously had, so it takes more thought and creativity to figure out where to put everything. The best course of action seems to be stashing things wherever we can find a place for them and slowly finding the optimal organization as we live in the house for a little while. In the meantime, as long as we can cook and I can get dressed for work, I think we’re doing pretty well.

    So, this is what our basement rec room looks like as of Day One:

    So many boxes….but eventually Bart’s office will be set up here. He still has a couple of days off, so he should have a functional work area by then.

    We also have enough stuff unpacked in the kitchen that we were able to pick up a few groceries yesterday and cook dinner there last night. While we’ve tried to cook as much as possible instead of eating out every single meal, grabbing something convenient when your entire kitchen is packed is inevitable, and I haven’t been eating as well as I normally do.

    In addition to unpacking, we’ve already jumped into routine housekeeping activities. Namely, I’ve already swept a metric ton of leaves off the front porch and our ridiculously huge back deck. We practically live in a forest, so moving in the middle of fall is not giving us any misleading expectations about how things are going to be around here. And this photo was after I’d already swept off the other half of the deck.

    You can barely see him, but Murphy was on the deck helping me. He was almost totally inconsolable during the move; he knew something big was up, and when we closed him in the basement of the old house to keep him from under our feet while we loaded the truck, he whined the ENTIRE time. Finally, when it was time for him to make the big move, he was so ridiculously excited. Poor little guy; he had no idea what was going on, and I’m sure part of him feared we were going to up and leave him. But of course we would never do that! He was so tired from being so wound up that he passed out in the car when I finally took him over there.

    I think he really loves the new place. It didn’t take him long at all to seem adjusted. I wish I could take everything in stride like dogs do; moving was just no big deal to him, as long as he is with us. He particularly enjoys his new backyard; it’s large and full of little nooks and crannies to explore. We’ve also discovered that we have big dogs living on both sides of us….just awesome. :p Oh well; those dogs bark, our dog barks, everybody’s dog barks. I will just not feel bad about it. Heck, maybe Murphy can learn to be friends with them…maybe.

    So, all the Taylors are learning to adjust to their new surroundings. It’ll take a while to really get settled in, but it doesn’t take too long to get comfortable enough for normal life to pick back up. I can’t wait for the unpacking to end and the housewarming to begin.

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    It’s official: we tied the knot with our house today, and we’re finally home owners again. The Taylors are off the market!


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    Today marks eleven months since our move from Colorado to Washington, DC. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year.  Eleven months gets overshadowed by the impending one-year mark, but there’s still a lot to commemorate. Our biggest achievement has, by far, been buying (or almost buying, as we haven’t closed yet) a house. However, we’ve still accomplished many things, fun or otherwise, while here.

    So far in 11 months I/we have:

    • Had dinner with actual friends from church.
    • Played a violin special during the offertory last Sunday.
    • Gone to an event for a local charity.
    • Weathered both furloughs and a government shutdown.
    • Listed two items for sale on Craigslist.

    We have not:

    • Officially closed on the house.
    • Sold anything on Craigslist.

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    As a federal employee, the last eight days have been interesting, to say the least. I was actually recalled to work, as my position falls under a new bill that provides services for the Armed Forces during this time. While I’m certainly thankful to not be spinning my wheels, it’s still frustrating to see so many others doing so. While I certainly have my thoughts about the matter, expounding on my views of the situation is beyond the scope of this blog post, but as a person with a sensitive spirit and a desire for peace and not conflict, I can generally say of the situation that my hope is for a swift resolution for the common good.

    While all this uncertainty persists inside the Beltway, the contract on our house just a few miles away is quickly drawing to its conclusion. In a mere eight days, we are set to close. It has been interesting to reflect on this transaction, especially compared to the purchase of our first home. I remember feeling excitement and anticipation during the whole contract period with the first house. This time, there was a flurry of paperwork for about two weeks at the very beginning, but after that, except for packing, I feel like I almost forgot we were buying a house. Just in the last three days, however, it began to shift back to oh-yes-it’s-happening mode. It’s finally close enough that we can now book our moving truck, set up new utilities, pack most of our stuff, and attend to the final paperwork.

    Naturally, with one’s first house, there is all kinds of naive excitement about how to design and decorate your new place to make it your own home. Amidst all the paperwork and checklists, we eagerly picked out paint colors and made lists of things we wanted to do to the house. While I’m technically doing all these same things now, it is with a much more subdued, mature, and thoughtful demeanor (does that mean I’m getting old? Wait, don’t answer that). We won’t be rushing into the house with paintbrush and screwdriver in hand like we did last time; instead, we plan to move in and get settled before making too many changes. The house itself is different in many ways from our first one, and I believe it requires more thoughtfulness and foresight to decide where we want to go with it. Since it doesn’t need major renovations, we don’t have much to immediately tend to and have the luxury of focusing on the overall feel of the place, turning it into our own home.

    One thing that didn’t exist when we bought our first home was Pinterest. Ah, Pinterest, how I have conflicting feelings about thee. While it’s inspiring and addictive to see pictures of high-end decor, there comes a point in ever Pinner’s life when she realizes that her home is never going to be like the great designer showcases featured everywhere she clicks. Even Bart, who isn’t on Pinterest all that often, commented yesterday while perusing decor ideas with me, “nobody’s house actually looks like this.” My paradigm also shifted after finally being under contract on a house and mentally trying to apply Pinterest ideas to that specific space. While I might love photos of a modern, industrial style, my 1960’s ranch is never going to be a soaring loft in an old warehouse.

    My recently remodeled, traditional galley kitchen is never going to be a giant farmhouse kitchen with a pantry and expansive center island. So, while Pinterest can indeed provide inspiration, one has to be careful to set her expectations appropriately. (For what it’s worth, you can probably say the same thing about every area of Pinterest; cooking, fashion, parenting, weddings, fitness, etc.)

    Another source of inspiration for me, be it good or bad, has been DIY blogs. While researching questions about updating older homes, I stumbled upon this vast sub-genre of web information. We are DIY addicts, and we did a large number of projects in our previous home. It’s been a year since we moved, and reading these blogs has me itching to get our hammers and paintbrushes back out. Again, what one person does with his home isn’t exactly what needs to happen in mine, but generally the information and can-do spirit is very inspiring for our new blank canvas.

    So, instead of letting the internet bum me out about the things I can’t change about the house, I’ve decided to let it inspire and motivate me instead. I look forward to embracing the truly unique features of this house and boldly accepting the challenges of fitting a modern lifestyle into a home that was built before flat-screen TVs and personal computers.

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    Earlier this week, we had our requisite home inspection. I left from work and went straight to the house, thereby having a preview of my afternoon commute. Of course, one lane of Rock Creek Parkway happened to be closed on this particular day, but I hope that isn’t a premonition of things to come. I’m not going to lie: the thought of forging a new commute route–especially through the middle of downtown, over a bridge, and down a parkway that switches to the opposite direction if I don’t leave early enough in the afternoons–plants a small pit of terror in my stomach. However, many people at work do it every day, and I’m more familiar with the area in general than I was ten months ago, so I think I’m going to be okay. It’ll just take a little time to acclimate.

    Bart and I were there for the entire four hours of the inspection. We were glad it was thorough, but we were absolutely exhausted by the time it was over. And to think…the inspector does two of these per day. More power to him.

    When inspecting a 52-year-old house, one doesn’t expect everything to be perfect. But, relatively speaking, it got a pretty good bill of health. There are a few minor things that we can handle ourselves, and we’ll discuss a couple of larger items with our agent tomorrow. Basically, it’s not falling down and the roof isn’t collapsing, so I think we can come to terms with everything else.

    I snapped a few pictures as we explored the inside and outside to share. First, it has fabulous outdoor space. There’s a gigantic deck in the back…


    Massive deck

    Massive deck

    …and a very unique, gigantic covered porch in the front of the house, right off the kitchen/dining area.

    Screened-in porch in the front.

    Screened-in porch in the front.

    The kitchen is a little small for all my gadgets, but it’s a nice, updated kitchen. I’ve got some ideas for paring down and organizing without having to compromise too much. Plus, never in my life did I think I’d have Wolf appliances.

    Wolf wall oven. It's blue inside, people. Blue.

    Wolf wall oven. It’s blue porcelain inside, people. Blue.

    Finally, after all these years....a beautiful gas cooktop.

    This five-burner gas cooktop and I are having a moment.

    It’s just a simple ranch, so it’s not a huge house. But it does have a relatively open living area, which is rare for a house of this age. And for the first time, we will own a fireplace….and not just one, but two! We have one on the main level and another in the basement just below it. We’ve had fireplaces in rentals before, but didn’t have one in our previous home, so I’m looking forward to hanging our stockings by the chimney with care this Christmas….we just need a mantle on this one first.

    Open living area.

    Open living area, and future stocking hanging location.

    All in all, the house has some great features that were unique and refreshing compared to week after week of identical ramblers and split levels that got churned out in mass quantities in the 50’s and 60’s in the DC metro area. However, being a house of this age, it does lack a few modern conveniences, such as large bedrooms and baths, a large kitchen, and ample closet and storage space. I’m a little bummed about those, but no house is perfect anyway, and what it does offer far surpasses what it lacks. Instead of feeling down about it, I shall instead rise to the challenge of making clever, efficient, and awe-inspiring storage solutions.

    We also look forward to fixing up the house with our own touches to make it our own. I know I can’t change everything that I would like to, but I am also up to the challenge of making a big impact with a few strategic changes. Pinterest and I have been gearing up, and it’s possible that I am a tiny bit addicted to a few DIY blogs, too. Our first instinct is to rush in with paint brushes and hammers in hand, and that’s exactly what we did with our first house. But, now that we’re a little older and wiser, we’ve decided to move first and live in it a little while as we assess what we’d like to do. There are certainly a few projects we will need to do immediately, so that should give us some time to really get a feel for living there and let that guide our personal finishes. Plus, it’s usually about the journey anyway, and not just the finished product.

    So, one more item down in our home-buying checklist. There are still a few more hurdles to cross, but every day more stuff gets done. It’s not over until the fat check is written and the dotted line signed, but hopefully it continues smoothly until the end.


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    I’ve had a really hard time coming up with the right word to describe today. Awful, sad, frustrating, and overwhelming are just a few that have come to mind. I don’t work at the Navy Yard, but I work a few miles from it, and there is solidarity in sharing the sorrow of your fellow Navy folk, and we did experience some fallout from it. How do I feel? Maybe angry, but less angry at the perpetrator and mostly angry that our world is such that these sorts of things happen. I’m actually sad that this person ended up in a state where he felt like this was something he needed or wanted to do. And I’m sorrowful for the families of those who will never come home from work.

    Needless to say, with that distraction in our group, our heart wasn’t exactly in our work today. On top of that, Bart and I are embroiled in jumping through all the necessary hoops required for home buying. It’s been enough years since we bought our first one that I’ve forgotten all the oh-so-joyous splendors of titling, mortgages, inspections, and insurance.

    While it certainly wasn’t a great day, I wouldn’t say it was a bad day. I think “overwhelming” is the kindest way to describe it.  I’ve had the opportunity to unwind a bit this evening, but I’m definitely ready to try again tomorrow. Thankfully, God’s mercies are new every morning. The prophet Jeremiah faced even worse days than the one today; heck, he even wrote a whole book named “Lamentations.” But he still has this to say in Chapter 3:

    22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    His mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
    great is Your faithfulness.

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    At last…….my house has come along!

    Yes, as of yesterday, Bart and I are officially under contract on a house. We actually had our offer accepted and were mostly official on Thursday, but there was one other piece of paperwork that needed to be signed, and that took the sellers over 48 hours to handle (not quite sure why it took so long, but whatever…at least it’s done now).

    After months of blind dates, a few rejections, and wondering if we would ever find the one, we realized that The Right House was actually there all along. Meaning it was initially priced almost $100k over market value and not even on our radar. I actually remember when it first came on the market; it was in a neighborhood that we really liked, but we were focusing our search in a lower price range. I MLS-stalked it a little as it dropped in price once. Then, a few weeks ago, it had a second, very significant price drop, right into our target price range. We had actually scheduled a showing for two houses one evening, and when one of them was sold right out from under us, we decided to tack this one on as a replacement, just for kicks. But when we walked in, we knew there was something about it that really resonated with us.

    Unfortunately, when we talked to our agent, he looked at comparable sales in the neighborhood and determined it was still overpriced. Since they had just done a massive price cut, we didn’t think the owners would be willing to entertain the price we felt like we’d have to ask for it. So we made a very tough decision and waited two full weeks to make a move. If it sold before that, then it wasn’t meant to be. If it didn’t sell, then we felt like we had more position to negotiate, since well-priced homes move quickly in this market.

    When we decided on our firm, top-dollar price, it was still so far below the current asking price that I wasn’t all that hopeful for outright acceptance. But the owners had already moved out, and it had been on the market for nearly four months, so we thought they would be motivated to work with us a bit. I can’t tell you how shocked I was Thursday morning when our agent said that they had flat-out accepted our offer. I seriously was dumbfounded. But hey, we’ll take it.

    I’m sure we’ll more formally introduce you to the house when we move, but here’s a general overview and some more interesting features. It’s a 1960’s ranch with a fully finished basement, 3 bed/2 bath upstairs, and a nice guest bed, bath, and kitchenette downstairs for when you come to visit. It has a two-car garage (routine and ho-hum where we’re from, but utterly luxurious here in DC). It’s on a wooded, half-acre lot on a dead-end street. It has both a huge deck out back and a unique screened-in porch off the kitchen in the front. It’s a relatively easy commute into DC (at least during the hours I work). It has a newer kitchen and baths. And, maybe most excitingly of all, it has a five-burner, gas Wolf cooktop with a down-draft vent system. Swoon.

    While it has some wonderful qualities, Bart and I realize it’s probably not going to be our forever house, and one day we’ll need to move on from here. But we think it will suit our needs for a number of years down the road. And while we’re under contract, we still have a few hurdles to get past before it’s official, namely the inspection and appraisal. So it’s not in the bag just yet, but hopefully it’ll be an uneventful process into October when we close.

    Now I’ve gotta start packing. Dang.

    P.S. Thanks to MH for the inspiration for this post title. 😉

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