Today is my birthday…. well I should say, “when I started writing this blog post it was my birthday.” If this post goes like all the rest, I will be well into my 40th year of life before I finish it and hit publish. But anyways, I tell you this because last night Rory, with the help of some of the best friends a girl could have, threw me a surprise party in our future home. It was so sweet and could not have been a more perfect way to kick off this next chapter of my life and home.
Cake Cred to Patty Cakes. Is it not the cutest!?! Look at that little carhart hat and SBH t-shirt.💓
“Wait?!! What?!?!” you say.
Yes, it’s true…. I am 40 YEARS OLD! Hard for me to believe too….. Huh? What’s that you’re saying? Oh…, that’s not the part that surprised you? Oh!!! You want to know about our future home.
Well ok, but I’m going to need to take you back several months to get you caught up. so let’s get started…..
Last year, after the dust had settled from the sell of Caldwell, and I had brain space to process that we had actually really attempted to sell our beloved home, the idea of moving started to sink in, and it kinda got me excited. You see we have lived inside the walls of Sister for the last 9 years, which is a long time for the Thompsons. Prior to this home, the longest we had lived in a home was 4 years and the shortest was 7 months. Our past moves had been motivated by a need for more space and/or an itch for a new project. But with Sister, we have had all the space we need and thanks to the birth of Storybook Homes my project cup overflowith, so thoughts of moving had not crossed our minds…. until it became part of our back-up plan to stay financially afloat during the Caldwell renovation. (If your new to the blog, you can read about that plan here.)
Once the idea of moving was rooted in my head I pitched the idea to the family. On an excitement scale of 1 to 10 here is how my family ranked on the thought of moving:
Cohen – 9
So with an above neutral average I took that as a sign to officially begin our house hunt. To help elevate all excitement levels and to live out my House Hunters fantasies I took an inventory of everyone’s wish list for the new house.
⬜ Within biking distance to school and friends.
⬜ Workspace for Colby’s Creations
⬜ Mancave (excuse me while I try not to roll my eyes)
⬜ Carl Stuart school district because that is where the majority of his friends from sports and church will be going
⬜ Basketball goal (inside room and/or outside)
⬜ Mancave (I’m not even going to try to hold back an eye roll…he’s 10 years old!)
⬜ Tiny House – “we just need to get rid of a ton of “junk” (aka all Niki’s seasonal decor and stock pile of home goods) and live simply”
⬜ next breath… “I need my own personal office, a personal storage room for all my hunting/camping gear, a large garage with NOTHING but cars in it.” (quotes from Rory)
⬜ New construction (shot to my heart)
⬜ Land for a horse and donkey
⬜ and of course (say it with me….) A mancave.
⬜ Must be a fixer upper! The uglier the better
⬜ Must be cheap! I want a large budget to work with
⬜ Want enough land for a shop- I’m tired of driving across town to get to my tools
⬜ Close to Kroger! Once you have lived within a mile of Kroger, you can’t go back!
So with my House Hunter wish list, I started the hunt! At first, I stuck with the traditional routes of finding a home: realtor, zillow.com, realtor.com, and drove the city looking for sale signs. But after a few months of coming up dry, I expanded my search to homes NOT currently on the market. That’s right, no home was safe from me trying to purchase it. If it met a large chunk of my family’s wish list, I would AR County data the property to find out the name of the unsuspecting home owner, then I would use my sleuthing skills to track the owner down on FB, and last I would send them a message asking if they would consider selling me their house. While waiting for the owner to respond back I would draw out a dream floor plan based on the perimeter footprint provided by AR County data, and I would daydream about how I would decorate and furnish it. Not creepy at all! Surprisingly, not one person was willing to sell me their house*
* If you were one of the people I approached about buying your home, I promise I am harmless. But should you ever decide to renovate, I have a plan already drawn out and a full Pinterest board I’d be happy to share.
Because I let myself become emotionally attached to each home I approached, each rejection took a toll on my spirit and I was beginning to get really discouraged. Then one cold morning in February, on an early morning run, I ran across a FSBO (For Sale by Owner) sign. Now, you should know, that I am the most oblivious runner (and driver) on the planet. You could come within 1 inch of running me over and I won’t notice but I can spot a FSBO sign a mile away!
What is crazy about this particular property, was that I had literally been running past this house since my college cross-country days (20+ years) and I had NEVER noticed its existence before. I snapped a picture of the phone number and then I waited and watched the seconds tick by for 2 hours until it was an acceptable hour to call the number on the sign. No answer. I left a voicemail, then a text, then another voicemail just for good measure. Finally at 2pm that afternoon I got a call back from the owner and we set up an appointment to see the property later that afternoon. While on the phone she warned me that the house was very dated and would need some work… I tried to play it cool but inwardly I was doing backflips…. “dated and needs work” are 2 of the most important qualities I look for in a home!
My parents were in town visiting, so my Mom and Rory went with me to look at the house. The house was dated but minus the stained carpet it was very clean by storybook home standards (in other words, it didn’t stink). I tell you what…. instead of just describing it, I’ll take you on a quick tour of what we saw:
When we stepped inside the front door we walked directly into the carpeted living room.
Here is another picture of the Living Room.
The living room is open to the dining area…
Here is a close up of the kitchen.
Off the dining area there is a powder bath
Then down the hall…
are 2 bedrooms
and a full bathroom
Then back thru the dining area and the kitchen we found the master suite which was obviously a enclosed garage conversion
Stats: a little over 1800 sq. feet, 3 bed, 2.5 bath on 0.41 acres. And to help orient you a little better, here is a rough floor-plan of current house:
What do you think? Could it be the Thompson’s DREAM HOME!?!?! As far as the Thompson Family wish list: it met all of the location requirements, but the current floor-plan checked off very few of the space requests. For me, this was part of its charm. I knew I would LOVE the challenge of rearranging the walls to meet my family’s
Rory has stressed to me the importance of keeping a poker face when looking at a house, so without giving any of my excitement away I let the owner know that we would discuss and get back to her in a couple of days. Problem was Rory was leaving on a mission trip the next day so I knew if he hadn’t had an immediate attraction to the house, it would be a whole week before I would even get a chance to launch my persuasion tactics on him. And in the world of real estate, we might not even have a house to discuss in a week. So the second we were out of ear shot of the owner I tried to get a read on how he liked the house. His response was, “Crunch some numbers and see if you can make it work.” Yep, he gives me the same real estate poker face that he gives home owners. I think he feels he has to keep things detached and neutral to help balance out my immediate obsession and passion for every home I tour.
So the second I got home, I sketched out a rough floor plan that would satisfy almost all my family’s wish list (minus the horse and donkey) and then made a speculative budget for how much money it would cost to bring the vision to life. The renovation total plus the owner’s asking price equalled a number just outside our target price range. I presented the numbers to Rory that night before we went to bed along with my rough sketch of what I was thinking the end product would look like. After looking things over he liked it enough to give me his blessing to make a long shot offer that the owner was not likely to accept but would land us nicely in our price point comfort zone.
Now normally after I am first introduced to a house, I will spend a blissful but sleepless night laying in bed trying to keep up with my racing mind as visions of floor-plans and light fixtures dance in my head. But that night, my normal house thoughts took a detour from the cosmetics of the home, and instead I could’t stop thinking about how the house might function. The more I thought about how we might use this house the more excited and convinced I was that this property was destined to be our next home. The next morning as I drove Rory to the church to leave for his mission trip, I shared just a little of my vision for the property with him. He didn’t say much (again with the poker face) but I could see the wheels start to spin in his head, and once again he blessed the decision to submit our agreed upon offer with the owner, but added that he would be praying over it and encouraged me to do the same.
The next day, I met the owner back at the property to submit our offer. Before I gave her our offer I accidentally told her about all the plans I had for the place. I mean I went on and ON and ON which totally broke Every Last Rule Rory has ever tried to teach me about real estate negotiations. I kept thinking “Niki, STOP TALKING” but I couldn’t help it…remember Rory was out of the country so besides the brief conversation we had had on our 6 minute drive to church I had been all alone with my thoughts for over 48 hours so it all just came pouring out at the feet of the seller. So by the time I actually gave her our offer, she pretty much knew we had all but moved into the place. Despite this, she did not outwardly laugh at my offer, but rather she said she loved the vision I had for the property and that she would think about our offer and get back to me.
The next day, while waiting to hear back from the seller, I started spreading the news among my friends that I thought I had found us a house! Everyone was excited about the news until I revealed where the house was located. At this point, in EVERY conversation, the excitement plummeted and the talk turned to warnings against purchasing the property. Not one person thought it would be a good idea. (Well, I take that back, ONE friend was on board but this friend is as sweet as honey and I’m not sure she is capable of saying anything negative.) But seriously, EVERYONE else I told about the house basically said we would be crazy to purchase this property because of its location. In fact, I had so many negative reactions I was almost relieved when the seller called with a counter offer that was well outside our comfort zone.
That night, when Rory called from Belize, I let him know about the counter offer, and I also communicated all the negative feedback I had received from our friends. I was fully prepared for him to tell me we just needed to walk away, but instead he asked “Do you think you could adjust the design to make the counter offer work within our budget?” At this point we must have entered the twilight zone because while Rory was trying to make this house work for us, I heard myself argue, “I just don’t think this house makes good financial sense for us.” THIS folks, has NEVER happened in our marriage. It was a complete role reversal. But instead of being swayed by the warnings of our well meaning friends or by my completely out-of-character prudent financial concerns Rory simply reminded me of the vision I had shared with him about the place and suggested that I not be so quick to reject the offer but rather to continue to pray about it until he got home and we could sit down and look at the numbers together.
Three days later, after continuing to listen to wise counsel from those familiar with the area, I called the seller to let her know I just didn’t think we could make the counter offer work. I did let her know that Rory and I would discuss further when he got home, but I did not want her to hold the house for us. At this, she offered to drop the price a little more. Now putting us just slightly out of our target range.
That night, I called Rory to tell him that I had tried to walk away because I just did not have a peace about the location, but that she dropped the price to $X amount. As soon as I said the number, Rory said “do it.” I was like, “what?!?!” He said, I want you to call her back and tell her we will take it. To which I, fully embracing my new role as the voice of financial reason in our marriage, responded “Let’s just continue to pray about it until you get home and then we can sit down and really discuss. If the house is supposed to be ours, it will still be there” (although after listening to the onslaught of warnings against the house all week, I wasn’t too nervous the house would be swept up by another buyer before Rory and I had time to have a looooong conversation).
I will share with you how Rory confirmed that this house was to be part of our family’s story as well as my vision for the space in part 2 of this blog.
But because I already spoiled the ending with my opening paragraph I will let you know we went under contract the day after Rory got home from his mission trip and officially made this house our own on April 20th.
Do you recognize this house? Do you know why our friends might have been a little concerned about its location?