So I alluded to our search a bit in a previous post, but I thought I'd share some more details about what our experience in house hunting was. (warning, slightly long post ahead!)
When we started out, we discussed everything we could possibly want in a house, and listed them out as "must haves" vs "nice to haves." For example, we'd discuss parking and start off with a must have as parking for 2 cars, but really we'd like there to be space for at least 4 for when we have visitors. And then it would be nice to have a garage! And then as a complete dream, if we could find an attached 2 to 3 car garage! And so went our list, until we both had a pretty good idea of what we were looking for in houses.
Then we started talking about preferences in design. Massachusetts has a lot of split level and split entry houses, which we both agreed early on wasn't our favorite. We also decided we wanted something with a bit of breathing room - enough land for us to have some space (ideally at least a half an acre), and also in an area where our neighbors weren't on top of us.
The next thing we did was assemble our team. It was pretty easy because I'd worked with our mortgage team, our realtor, and our lawyer previously, and had a great relationship with them. I've even recommended them to multiple friends who have gone on to buy homes with them. I'm pretty sure they're the best in the state, and I'm almost sad to not be working with them anymore!
After that, we started looking around at what was on the market. For a while I was obsessed with finding as big of a lot as I could. There was one house that had over an acre of land, but Tom couldn't stand up straight in the living room and the kitchen was built in a hallway near the bedrooms. It was horrible, yes, but you should have seen the lot! Then there was the Spanish house, which I at least considered seriously. It had a great private lot (about 0.9 acres) with a lot of trees and privacy from all neighbors. There was a nice big driveway and room to build a garage. And then there was the house. And by Spanish, I mean it. Stucco outside (which neither of us had any idea how to take care of) and a clay tile roof. It looked like it belonged in the Southwest and not in New England. Inside was the same - arched doorways, tile floors, completely beautiful, but not our style at all.
We both knew that realistically it wouldn't work for us. But I still had some fun dreaming for a while. It still hasn't sold if anyone out there is interested :)
We spent a lot of time looking at cape houses, which are also extremely popular in Massachusetts. Most of them were beautiful and seemed perfect, until you got to the bedrooms. The second floor of cape houses are notoriously small, with slanted roofs, and leave a lot to be desired in ways of closet space... or space in general. Most of them did not have a master bedroom large enough to fit a king sized bed, which was a must have on our list!
For a while I tried finding us a "fixer upper" house with a few projects we could tackle together. We almost found one with this house, which we were hours away from putting an offer on at one point:
We both loved the colonial look to this one, especially with the cute front porch. The layout was near perfect, or would be after a wall or two were removed, but again we had problems with the second floor. The bedroom wouldn't quite work for us. However, the third floor was unfinished and ready to go. There was plumbing up there already, and we were dreaming of adding a bathroom and master suite. Until, that is, our realtor talked to the town and found out that in that area of Wakefield, a third living floor wasn't permitted. We wouldn't be approved for the needed building permits which ruined our plans for the house. We were, however, extremely happy to find this out before we put in an offer!
And so it went for months... we'd look at houses that were interesting, only to find something major about them that was a deal breaker for us. Most of them just weren't speaking to us in a "this is our HOME" way. In general, the theme to our search was patience. We knew what we were looking for, and we had a flexible enough living arrangement to not feel forced to jump on something that wasn't perfect for us. We also knew that eventually a house we wanted would come on the market, and we were confident that when it did, we had the perfect team assembled to make it happen.
Finally one week I announced that we would be buying a house THAT WEEKEND. When my coworkers asked me at lunch on Friday what my plans were for the upcoming weekend, I told them "buying a house." When I was making plans with our realtor, I told him "make sure you have the offer paperwork ready - we're buying a house this weekend." It was partly because I had seen a few houses come on the market that week that looked exactly like what we were searching for, and I figured at least one of them should work for us, and partly because I was so ready for a house, that I was determined to make it happen.
Of course if we hadn't found anything we liked, we wouldn't have bought a house just to buy a house. At this point, though, I was pretty good at reading a house from the listing. Between our realtor and me, we could pretty much identify exactly what Tom and I would love and hate from a house before we even saw it.
So when it came to our house, our realtor was on it. Everything from the timing of the submitted offer, to getting us in to see the house before anyone else had, he was giving us every advantage he could. Even the offer itself was amazing due to the escalation clause he added to help us beat any other offer that came in. When it came down to it, there was us and one other couple fighting for the house. Our realtor was able to find out what the other offer looked like, adjusted ours to be as competitive, and then won us the house in some intense back and forth. And that's why I love him - hilarious and fun, but ruthless when he needs to be haha. Time after time I see him win offers that I'm sure he's going to lose, but he's just that good.
I won't completely gloss over the process too much, though - it was still an extremely stressful weekend for Tom and I. At that point, it was OUR HOUSE in our minds. We would have been so sad to lose it, and neither of us got any sleep that night. The offer was supposed to be accepted by midnight but we didn't end up hearing until 8am the next morning. That might not sound bad, but every minute that went by was excruciating for us.
In the end it was all worth it, of course. The endless open houses, the hours online looking at listings and staring at pictures and trying to read "between the lines." The months of living in our too small apartment with all our belongings in storage, and the multiple moves. Everything was worth it, because we ended up with an accepted offer on a house that we are so, so in love with.