Sometimes when you want something to happen, and it’s not happening, you have to get creative and pull out all the stops to bring it to fruition. I’m very happy with how this has turned out, and I think Tristen and I made some new friends in the process.
Here’s the deal. Some of you know that Tristen and I were looking to buy a house. We thought we’d be approved for a loan, so we started earnestly looking. We found a few places we really liked and ended up putting an offer in on one.
I really liked the place. It was built in 1950 and seemed pretty solid. The layout was a little funky and the kitchen was a tad small, but the upstairs was essentially a master suite. It was also on a half an acre lot and felt very secluded despite being in the middle of Wilmington.
My favorite thing, though, was that you could see a small lake (or large pond) from the front porch. It’s big enough that it has two islands on it. I was already making plans to try to save up to buy a paddle board or a kayak.
But alas, that fell through. It sucked. We were pretty negged out about it, but we decided to try some other options. If we couldn’t buy a house, we’d rent one.
I should say that I really liked my apartment. As far as apartments go, it’s pretty nice. It was two stories and it was an end unit, so it felt more like a townhome. One more room would have been nice since my desk was set up in the kitchen and that’s where I worked, but it had enough room, a bath and a half and a really nice magnolia tree out front that provided shade, blocked the windows a bit and was very easy and fun to climb. There was a nice pool and once a month or so the community had some small event or another.
It was also in Forest Hills, which, next to Airlie Road, is probably my favorite road in Wilmington. There are lots of large old(ish) houses on a picturesque sloping hill of a street. Hills are rare around here. There’s a big brick school right around the corner from the apartment, and since it’s right in the middle of the neighborhood you’d see people walking to school in the mornings and congregations of parents talking while waiting to get their kids in the afternoons.
The biggest downside was that there was no washer and dryer, and in the unit I was in they’d have had to basically tear the place apart to add in connections.
The other big downside was that it was an apartment. I never felt in danger at all, but I didn’t want Milly to go running around outside by herself since there were hundreds of people living in the very near vicinity that I didn’t know. Visitor parking was somewhat limited too, so it wasn’t an easy place in which to have more than a couple friends over for entertaining.
So, as I said, we decided to look at rentals. The first place we seriously considered was a duplex on Market. The inside was spacious and it was a really cool old house, but there was almost no storage space anywhere. On top of that, there wasn’t much of a yard and what it did have shared a space with the neighbor. It was a little junky looking. The other half of the duplex was vacant as well, so there was no telling what kind of neighbor we’d have had. Even though the same could be said for an apartment complex, I feel like in a duplex it’s more intimate. If there’s a problem with the neighbor it’s not as easy to ignore. Of course, you could have your future best friends waiting to move in, but it wasn’t a chance I wanted to risk. I just wasn’t quite feeling that place, so we continued looking.
The next place we considered was referred to us by our friend Brittany. It was literally in her backyard. Well, across an alley from her backyard anyway. It was the style of house we liked, an old bungalow with a big porch and a pretty big yard. I met the owner and looked at the house. It was a bit rundown, but he was making some repairs on it. He mentioned having another house nearby, so he and I went to look at that.
That house was similar, but a bit bigger and in a neighborhood I had jogged to before from the apartment, so I really liked the area. The yard was a lot smaller and the front of it was on a one-way street, but I saw some potential.
Tristen, her mom and I all went to go look at the houses again and initially put a deposit down on the second house. While the summer would have been awesome for Milly having Zoey (Brittany’s daughter) in her backyard, there were a number of things we liked better about the second house than the first.
After we left though, Laura, Tristen’s mom, brought up a number of negatives about the house, chiefly that it too needed some work and that the owner didn’t seem too keen on making enough fixes. The guy was older and had bought a bunch of rental properties a while back and just seemed kind of tired of it. For example, Laura pointed out a crack in the window in the master bedroom and the fact that you could literally see outside through a gap under it. Instead of replacing it, the guy said he’d caulk it, and that was after almost having to drag him back there to look at it.
And thus we decided not to move into either of those properties.
Tristen was getting stressed out and I was starting to not care very much. We were leaning more than ever on staying in the apartment or moving to one with a washer and dryer, but we and Laura decided to look at the website of the rental company that had the duplex again. They are, as far as I can tell, the biggest rental company in town, so most people who aren’t handling their own rentals use this place.
[pullquote type=”right”]Literally as soon as I stepped inside I said to myself, “I could live here. This could be home.”[/pullquote]There were two more houses we decided to check out. The first one was a ranch style house we’d seen before because in addition to being for rent, it’s also for sale. Neither of us is a huge fan of ranch homes and there was a lot of wood in the place, so we didn’t think we’d like it very much and never gave it much consideration.
The second was in the same general neighborhood as the last house we almost rented. The inside was amazing. Almost everything had been redone and it had a very nice contemporary feel.
Tristen, Laura and I went to go look at them all. The funny thing about the first house is that even though I didn’t like it much from the pictures I’d seen of it, literally as soon as I stepped inside I said to myself, “I could live here. This could be home.” The wood paneling wasn’t nearly as overpowering as I thought it would be, the kitchen and bathrooms had been updated some and there was plenty of storage all over the place. Tons of closets, plus an accessible attic. (Several places we looked had sealed up the attics.)
The second place was very nice on the inside, but I think it was the nicest house on the block. Not that it was a bad block, but unlike much of the neighborhood, the houses hadn’t been bought up to be flipped or renovated. The owner was actually there too, so we got to talk to her. We enjoyed her and I think she liked us too, but the problem was that she wanted to move into the house herself sometime next year, while we were looking for a place we could stay for a while. The yard was also a little small and you could almost reach out a window and touch a neighboring house.
We took a little walk and Tristen and I both decided that we really liked the first house better. There was more space, the possibility of staying longer, a nice fenced-in backyard and, I think I forgot to mention, it was right down the street from Tristen’s sister, Torrie. Tristen had stayed there off and on over the years and liked the neighborhood. It didn’t have the character of the other neighborhood, but it was a nice, quiet and traditional neighborhood. Plus, being right down the street from Torrie meant being right down the street from Sebastian, my nephew-to-be.
I knew the rental company was closed, but I went ahead and left them a message to tell them that we wanted to move on the place.
We didn’t hear back for a couple days, so I called and left another message. I think about four days went by before we got to talk to anyone. We found out that the person in charge of that property had been out sick, but we were also now fourth in line for the house we wanted. And of course by that time the other house had been rented out too. There wasn’t really anything else they had available in our price range, in any of the areas where we wanted to live and in the timeframe in which we had to move.
After the drama of trying to get a house and looking at so many rental places and with time running out, we were pretty upset about the whole thing. But that’s when we had a thought. The house we really wanted to move into was for sale, too. We couldn’t buy it, but we really liked it and could see ourselves in it long term and thought we’d be happy to buy that house. Since it was for sale and for rent, I had an idea.
I looked the house up on Zillow and found the listing agent. I called him, but he said he wasn’t the one actually listing it and gave me the number of the agent, Monica, who was actually in charge of it, who also happened to know the owners personally. I called Monica and left her a message. She called me back very quickly.
I explained the entire situation to her and she sounded very excited. She suggested that we offer to do a lease-to-own, which would work out great for the owners and us. She called the owner, but I didn’t hear back for a while.
Later, either that night or the next day, I can’t remember which, Monica called me back and told me that she had strongly urged the owners to do a lease-to-own, but this was the first time they were ever going to rent out a property or sell a house and they didn’t really know much about the process, so they felt a little sketchy about it. They decided not to do it and just to rent it out to the people who were already going to rent it. Monica assured me that she was on my side. “Pro-Zach” as she put it, which made me laugh, but she couldn’t convince them to do it.
We had a little more back and forth over the next couple days, then finally I asked her if she would give my number to the owner and have them call me so I could talk to them directly. She called the owner then called me back and said that they were at the property right then and I could go talk to them if I liked. It’s maybe half a mile from the apartment, so I hopped in the car and went to go meet them.
The owners were there cleaning up a little. Their names are David and Julie and they were about my age. I feel like we hit it off almost immediately, especially after I mentioned liking the storage space because I’ve got a few thousand comic books I need to put somewhere. We walked around the house a bit as I explained the situation. I also pointed out that they’re renting the house because they weren’t able to sell it right now, but in a year or two Tristen and I should be able to qualify for a mortgage. We want to rent the house and we don’t want to have to move again in a year or so, and we also really liked the house and the location and would be happy to buy it. So instead of hoping things line up next year, why not let us rent it and buy it, and put a few extra bucks in their pockets since they won’t have to use the rental agency?
When I left they said they’d think about it and get back to me that day or the next. I got a call from Monica that afternoon saying they were going to do it.
That was on a Saturday. They got a real estate attorney involved on Monday and we hashed out some details leading up to Friday. We both made a couple compromises, but never in the process did I ever feel like they were trying to get anything over on us. I feel like we all wanted to make it work and just wanted to cover possible eventualities.
We met at a bank on Friday to notarize everything. We gave them some money and they gave us some keys. Tristen and I started moving small things in that night. We found that they had left two six-packs of cider in the fridge for us. They had also replaced a door, pressure washed the house and had the lawn maintained that day.
On Saturday, our friend Dylan and I went to get a van and moved some of the big things. Tristen took beds apart and packed. Dylan had to go to work and Drew came over to help with the rest of the big things. We got most stuff moved that day, set up the beds and spent our first night there on Saturday, July 18.
We got the rest of the stuff from the apartment slowly over the next week. Today is technically the last day of my lease at the apartment, though I turned in the keys yesterday. We spent Thursday night doing the major cleanup (mostly Tristen cleaning, as she used to do it professionally) and me moving the rest of the stuff to the house. We went there Saturday afternoon to spot clean a few spots on the carpet. We left the place in terrific condition, so we expect to get a huge chunk of the deposit back. The only thing I think should be an issue will be the blinds.
Milly was sad to leave the apartment. Since most of the work we did on the move was while she was with Amanda, she didn’t have to worry too much about the move except to get her bedroom in order. Milly was there one afternoon and helped some, although she spent most of her time with Mycah, the boy next door, popping packing bubbles. She said moving was bittersweet because she liked the apartment, but she was happy for me because I wanted a house.
Tristen and I did a couple things to try to make sure she’d be happy with the move. Tristen got her some nice headphones (white with gold trim, and Milly’s favorite color these days has solidly become gold, instead of a tie between gold and pink).
Tristen got me a chihuahua puppy as sort of a housewarming gift. We talked about getting a dog when we got a house, so she jumped right into that. She saw him on Craigslist; there was a lady moving from Myrtle Beach to Wilmington who couldn’t keep him. She was crying a little when she left him. It took him a little while to warm up to us, but he’s fine now. I’ll go into that in another blog post, but the point here is that I figured Milly would be very surprised to have a cute puppy waiting for her here, and she was.
The last thing I did to help make the move easier for Milly was to give her something she had asked for that I didn’t think I’d have given in on.
About a week before the move, Milly told me she would like a TV in her room. “Zoey has a TV in her room,” she reasoned. We do have two TVs. In the apartment, there wasn’t a really good place to put the extra one, so it sat in one of Milly’s closets. (The bedrooms in the apartment were about the same size, but I liked the room at the front better. It had a view of the magnolia tree, whereas the back bedroom, which had two closets and was technically the master, had a view of another apartment complex.)
In the house, my fist idea for the extra TV was to put it in the back room, which I sometimes call the woods because it’s all dark and wood-paneled. Pictures from the online listing showed how David and Julie had set up a sort of second living room area there. Tristen and I decided not to do that though, and that area now has a treadmill.
The second option would be to put it in the office. It’s not a bad option, but I don’t need it there and it’s the smallest room in the house, so I don’t know if I’d even like the look of it in there. Besides, Tristen and I watch the same stuff and she doesn’t mind if I feel like playing video games some evening, so there’s not much need for a second TV for us.
A third option would be to put it in the master bedroom, but Tristen has always had a rule of not having a TV in the bedroom, and I like the idea behind it. Besides, the way the master is laid out, there wouldn’t be a very good place to put it anyway.
That’s why I decided to let Milly have a TV in her room. We don’t have cable or satellite, so I added an antenna to it and it gets PBS Kids very well. I added a Chromecast to it too, so I’ll be able to stream Netflix on it for her, which will be cool when she has friends over for sleepovers.
As of right now, we’ve been in this house for one week and three days and we’re really liking it. It’s a nice neighborhood for bike (or scooter, as Milly’s preference goes) riding and walking. It’s quiet. The walls are thick, I suppose, as sound doesn’t carry all that greatly. The floors creak a bit, but they’re very nice and hardwood throughout. The toilet in the master screams, but that’s not a hard thing to fix. Tristen bought some lawn furniture from Craigslist, so we’ve got couches and a fire pit, so now we just need to fix up some lights for the backyard. We haven’t come close to filling up all the closets. The range, fridge and dishwasher are all new, and the dishwasher is one of those quiet ones, which is awesome. And we have a washer and dryer. We were so excited by that that we caught up on laundry in the first weekend.
There are a few things we want to change. We’d like to paint the woods, which David and Julie are fine with. We may or may not paint the wood in the living room after we buy the place. We’d like to add a back porch and put in doors to it, as right now you have to go out the side (which has a very large, two-car carport that we love) and walk around to the back. We want to put up some sort of wire around the inside of the fence because Duke, the chihuahua, can easily get through it, though he tends to stay pretty close to us outside anyway.
The only actual problem we had was that the temperature inside wouldn’t go below 80 or so. I called David about it on our first Sunday and he had someone come out that very afternoon. It’s been just fine since then. David and Julie are awesome and we’re looking forward to hanging out with them.
We’ve still got a good bit of stuff to put up and away, particularly pictures to hang, but we’re settling in nicely here. I think we’re going to enjoy life here in the new place.