House search update no. 3: The conclusion

21 May 2013

Friends! Apparently owning a home takes up a lot of your time! I know I left you hanging after my last post (thank you for all of your kind comments!!), and I wanted to make sure I completed our house search story before too much time has passed. You now know where we ended up — here’s how we got there.

craftsman bungalow

When last we left off, we had just canceled our contract on the historic downtown home. As I pressed publish on that post, we were actually in the middle of negotiations on another downtown home. This second one kind of came out of nowhere for us, even though it had been on the market — and our radar — for a few months. It was outside of our budget but not outside the realm of possibility (dangerous territory). And it was perfect. Like, move-in-and-not-change-a-thing perfect. Finishes, wall colors, layout — I loved it all. Best of all, since it was new construction (well, within the last ten years), it had all the charm of a historic home without the headache. Witness:

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 10.27.55 PM

Doesn’t it look exactly like this house??

Like the other downtown home, we thought this one was overpriced, too. And, since we had just been bitten by our last house not appraising, we were very hesitant to offer a price that we (and our realtor) felt would not appraise. So, we submitted an offer that was substantially below the asking price. Wouldn’t you know, a day later the seller’s realtor tells us they have a competing offer and invites us to submit our “highest and best” offer. We did, and our realtor called a few hours later to tell us we had been outbid.

Friends, I’ll be honest: this is the first point in our saga where I cried. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but we had just come off a roller coaster ride with the historic home, and were so eager for this house (on the opposite end of the spectrum) to fix everything and finally end our house search. This also felt like the first offer situation where it was our fault for not coming out on top: we could have bid more, even if we didn’t want to. We started to wonder whether we’d ever come out on the winning side of a contract, or if we’d be outbid for the rest of our lives. Dramatic? Yes.

As the weeks went by, we started to wonder about a few other things, though, until three thoughts began to crystallize for us.

No. 1: Were we looking for a house that simply did not exist? Were we at least subconsciously looking for a house that matched the type of houses we grew up in — big, private lots and old neighborhoods with mature trees — in an area where houses like that simply do not exist? The answer, I think, was yes. As you can imagine, if you’re looking for something that doesn’t exist, you’ll never find it.

No. 2: This didn’t have to be our forever home. Again, we never discussed this, but I think subconsciously we were both measuring houses against an unrealistic standard for a first home. This is likely based on our own experiences growing up: I’ve only ever lived in one house, and John, two. However, we didn’t need to have the pressure of finding the PERFECT house, or finding a house that would meet our needs for the rest of our life, in this particular search.

No. 3: We began to see being outbid as a blessing. At the time all of this was happening, we were completing the “Disciples Path” study with our small group. As part of it, we took a spiritual gifts assessment (you can take it here if you’d like!). John and I both came up with Giving as our dominant gift. Here’s the description:

“The God-given ability to give material wealth freely and joyfully, knowing that spiritual wealth will abound as God’s work is advanced. People with the gift of giving are not always affluent, but they are always generous with what they DO have. People with this gift usually manage their finances well, may have a special ability to make money, and tend to be frugal in their lifestyle. They use these skills to increase their support for God’s work and trust that God will provide for their needs.”

Yes. That is what we are, or what we aspire to be. We want our home to be a blessing to us and others, not something that impedes the work God is calling us to do.

So! Armed with these realizations, we returned to the search with a more generous frame of mind. We quickly found three houses we were interested in in two adjoining neighborhoods, and visited them with our realtor one Saturday morning. The second one we visited was our favorite. It was in a neighborhood that we always thought was cute, but had dismissed in the past because of the tiny size of the lots. However, when we looked with our “new” eyes, instead of just tiny lots, we saw houses purposefully close together to contribute to a sense of community, and happy young families everywhere we looked. The house itself had everything we were looking for — an open floor plan, a big kitchen, storage, charm from the outside, a space that could be used as an office, and a laundry room not in the basement :)

So, we placed an offer. And wouldn’t you know — a few hours later, the seller’s realtor told us there was another offer on the table. This time, though, instead of asking for our “highest and best” offer, the sellers sent both parties a letter rejecting our offers and stating terms they would find acceptable, and saying that they would favorably consider an offer with similar terms. Since we found their terms acceptable, we immediately submitted a new offer, and it was accepted!

Friends, I can’t even tell you how much more of a humane process this was than the “highest and best” situations with all their worrying and second-guessing and uncertainty. We were not surprised, then, to learn that the seller husband is a local pastor (in our denomination!). To add to the “coincidences,” we later found that we share the same sporting allegiances, and we even honeymooned in the same place!! Uncanny.

The due diligence period proceeded uneventfully, and on May 13, we became homeowners. It might not be our “forever” home, but we love it and are so excited to make it our own, and for the life that will happen between our four walls. Our hope is that it will be a blessing to us, and a place of radical hospitality and welcome. We are glad to have finished our home search, but especially to have finished it in such a satisfying way.

More to come soon!

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May 21, 2013 8:43 am

Your house reminds me so much of ours! We also live on a small lot… our neighborhood is a “Charleston-style” community, with small lots but tons of common greenspace with mature trees for people to play with their kids, pups, etc. Although there are times I wish that we had a larger yard, I love the sense of community we have with our neighbors, and I LOVE being able to make the most of our small garden — I think I would be overwhelmed (and very broke) trying to landscape a large yard.

I can’t wait to see hear more about your house and the process of making it a home!

Congrats, again!

May 21, 2013 1:44 pm

I’m so inspired by your perspective on this whole process. I can’t imagine how trying some of these moments must have been but the Lord’s timing is truly perfect! Not to mention, your new house is absolutely beautiful :)

May 21, 2013 2:11 pm

Wow – I am LOVING your three thoughts. SO insightful. We had a similar situation with our new apartment. While we are not ready to buy, we were going around in circles about this one apartment we loved and finally bit the bullet. Corey called me and said, why are we stressing about this so much? It’s JUST one year. It’s not forever. So we signed a lease and we are moving in just a few weeks and CANNOT wait for a 2nd bedroom!!

May 21, 2013 7:23 pm

Emily, this is so, so good. As with so many things in life, we tend to have unrealistic expectations that we don’t necessarily recognize until we stop and take a second look. Of course that happens when you’re searching for your first home! I’m bookmarking this and re-reading it again when my husband and I start that journey in the next couple of years. Congratulations on your lovely new home!!

May 21, 2013 8:59 pm

I love the photo of you two on the front steps!

May 21, 2013 10:05 pm


May 22, 2013 11:25 am

So, so happy for you, Emily and John! Sounds meant to be if you ask me. Can’t wait to see more posts from inside your lovely new abode!

May 24, 2013 11:19 am

Just now catching up on my blogs this week, Em – thanks for the update. Everything seems to have worked out for the best. I’m so happy for you guys and cannot wait to see the house in person someday! (Yes, I just invited myself over…!)

May 24, 2013 10:10 pm

I love your perspective of the entire process Em. I love that you and John really looked at your spiritual gifts and allowed yourselves to “give & take” a bit. Your home looks and sounds absolutely perfect for you two at this time in your life.; I can’t wait to see more!!

May 24, 2013 11:09 pm

I cannot wait to hear more! This is so exciting and I love your perspective. So cool to hear a deeper version of the house hunt story!

May 28, 2013 1:30 pm

Love hearing this whole story! So excited to see how it all progresses!

June 3, 2013 6:24 pm

Congratulations, Emily! So exciting!

May 16, 2014 9:33 am

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Emily! My husband and I are just starting our house hunt and we greatly appreciate your wisdom and advice! So glad you found such an adorable place to call ‘home’!