Buying a House and The Butterfly Effect

The year was 2008.  That is an important detail in this story.  It was 2008 and we had just looked at a couple of houses on the water.  It was little disheartening.  Most were too small, too weird or too much money.  Finally our tireless realtor, Marna showed us a house that was big enough (too big really) and cheap enough we could afford it and only a little weird in a low-ceiling-ed, creepy prisoner-hole-in-the-crawl-space sort of way.  The girls hated it but I didn’t care.  I had visions of running a B and B in the extra space.  My friends politely pointed out how much work the house needed, but I didn’t care, I could customize it, make it my own. I had big plans.

We put our house on the market and had three months to sell it.  We received a disappointing offer, but took it.  We were ready to move.  The night we accepted the offer, it rained.  Rained hard.  In the middle of the night Laura came down to tell us that the roof was leaking on her.  We put a bucket below her bed and looked at the roof the next day.    We conducted an investigation into the problem.  It was shot. Needed to be replaced.  We informed the potential buyers and they pulled out of the deal immediately.  We scheduled a repair and added “bad roof” to the disclosure statement and waited for another offer. But remember the date?  2008?  Yep.  The market crashed.  We lost that house on the beach to someone who did not need a contingency to buy it.  BOO!

It was an emotional drain and we stopped looking.  The feeling lingered a few years anyway.  I contacted Marna when I once again saw a water front house, it was maybe 2012 or 2013.  We looked at a few more houses,  size, weirdness and price were all issues again.  We decided to hell with it.  We loved our house, and our little neighborhood community.… we would do that kitchen upgrade and overhaul we had always wanted!!  I planned and planned.  I made a board on Pinterest, I collected photos, wood chips and granite samples.  I Talked to friends, started creepily opening peoples drawers to see if they were “soft close.”  I found and turned on their under-counter lights. I started to notice things like how tall and what shape toilets were.

We had a few years of dinner parties and big family get-togethers in this house, with this kitchen and I started to get antsy again.  The girls were now all gone, none of them coming back, all graduated from college, married or with a baby.  That scenario.

A friend of a friend had a beautiful lot for sale.  As she said, “it was the best piece of land in Ketchikan.”  It was a bit of a drive out of the city, on a shallow cove (think stand-up paddle boards… exploring tide pools… splashing).  It was on a point that had a 360 view up and down the Narrows.  Scott fell in love.  He crunched numbers, priced out lumber and construction costs… but in the end.  Meh.  We just didn’t have the energy for it.   We looked at one more house, it was lovely and had the best neighbors ever, but it was too small.

When we went “Down South” we set aside a day to look for houses in our beloved Cannon Beach.  (It is also a dream of mine to retire there – probably not a reality, but one can always dream).  The realtor there took us to a range of houses.  We looked at some that were in a price range we had never considered before and were pleasantly surprised.  Scott worked up the numbers and we decided we could make more expensive house work, especially when you consider rolling over equity into the new house, you weren’t mortgaging that much.

We found out a couple things when looking at houses there.  The “plan” of buying a house/condo and vacation renting it when we were not there is not a reality.  The town codes only let 17% of homes do that and there is a long wait list.  So there would be no way to recoup those months that it sat empty.  Other logistics played against the idea as well.  We just decided to put that on the back burner, wait until we were fully retired and ready for a move, then we would move and live there, but it would not work as a part time gig.

So I am sitting on the plane.  I put in  our new, higher cost parameters into the Zillow search engine, and instead of selecting Cannon Beach, or Gig Harbor, I put in Ketchikan, my home town. And this stunning home appears.  I look at it over and over again.  Then I look on the other end of town and there is a friend’s house, selling because she is leaving.  And it is beautiful.  I show Scott.  I don’t know if it is because I have worn him down with looking at properties but he said, “Sure, let’s look.  We can look at both.”

We looked at one and it was not our style, too big if you can believe it.  Then we headed out of town to look at the other.  From the moment we pulled in the driveway I fell in love.  IN LOVE.  This was the most beautiful house.  After ten years of looking, this was the feeling I wanted.  And then we went outside.  Five feet from the back of the house was a 90 foot drop off to the ocean below.   Scott calculated that getting to the bottom would be like going down a nine story building.It was treed, but scary as hell, Marna even reflexively put one hand on my arm when I got too close to the edge.  It was like that.  My grandson certainly wouldn’t be playing in the woods behind grandma’s house.  Boo.  Another house down.

And that was that.  Or so we thought. Fast forward one week.  Marna sends a text that she heard of a house that would be going on the market.  We scheduled to see it Wednesday morning, we were not the first people to look at it that day, and there were others scheduled later.  We pulled in the driveway and the cutest house ever was sitting right there.  I had never noticed it before, even though it was on a bike path we walked often, it was nestled in trees.  We opened the front door and just stood there in the foyer looking around.  Our eyes met.  I knew what Scott was thinking.

We went back to Scott’s office following the viewing.  We knew we were going to make an offer, but we had to sit quietly and get our head around it.  We called Marna.  She was not in the office.  The competitive side in me got anxious.  What if someone was beating us to an offer!!  I think we showed great restraint not calling her every 15 minutes until she answered.  We distracted ourselves by going to lunch.  And that is when she called.

We offered.  They countered. We accepted.  And, just like that we bought a house!! Then we looked at each other.  Shit.  We had to sell this house.  The family home.  The house we raised our girls in.  The house we lived in for over 20 years.  The house FULL of stuff.  FULL.  Remember.  It is still only Thursday.  We rented a storage unit and then we cleaned, packed and hauled.  Down come the twinkle lights and the 5,000 pushpins holding them up.  We scraped glue from the walls that held glow in the dark stars.  We changed the Brad Pitt light switch to a “normal” one.  I donated 12 prom dresses to a good cause.

I put a large, heavy wardrobe on a “Buy Nothing” social media page.  A young woman agreed to pick it up the next day. Meanwhile I wake up that day with a sore back and decide I cannot help her load it in the truck.  She shows up, 8 months pregnant with her grandfather to help her… They take one look at the size of the wardrobe and called a burly friend to help.  Phew, dodged a bullet on that one.

When we are done, the house is transformed.

Screen Shot 2018-08-07 at 2.44.49 PM
Our House. I will miss this view from my breakfast table every morning.

One week after putting in an offer on the water house, ours hits the market.  We show it once on Thursday, twice on Friday, three times on Saturday.  Sunday morning we receive a decent offer.  Sunday night we get a better offer.  Monday morning the first offer raises theirs so now we have two identical offers OVER asking and we have to choose.  We select the woman who worked with Scott for ten years. He actually said, “Awwww… It is (blank), I like her!”

In ten days time we bought and sold a house! So.  This story is the evolution that got us to that place.  Who knows if Marna would have called us if she had not just shown us those two houses.  And we would not have looked at those two houses if we had not looked at more expensive houses in Cannon Beach, and we would not have gone house hunting if we had not looked at the the beautiful property and the little house in May. Our house might not have sold as quickly without the remodel, which we would not have done if we had not looked at the weird house out North and decided to stay put.  And that first house?  The one we put an offer on in 2008?  Well.  Someone bought it, remodeled it and it is beautiful. I still look at it longingly when I drive by even ten years later. But I think those days are over.  I really, really love the house we bought.

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