Friday, October 26, 2012

Home Is Where The Heart Is...

Home is where the heart is...or so I have been told. I lived in seven different houses growing up, eight apartments/rental houses during the college and law school years, and three houses (along with three temporary apartments) since meeting the hubs. Although I loved each of these houses and apartments and have wonderful memories tied to each, there is not one particular location that I associate with "home." This is why, when Matt and I moved back to Houston from Aberdeen, Scotland, I wanted to find a house that we could see ourselves living in "forever" and could make our "home."

Unfortunately, the relocation rules of Matt's company required us to close on a house within two months of moving home. Although that sounds like a long time, Houston's size meant that we had a lot of locations to choose from. The one thing we knew for sure was that the burbs were out because we didn't have children and both cringed at the thought of hour-long commutes to work (shudder). Based on our budget, we narrowed our hunt down to three general areas of Houston: Spring Valley, the Heights, and Rice Military. Each of these areas are extremely different – Spring Valley is family oriented and has great schools, the Heights is Houston's cool, eclectic neighborhood, and Rice Military is the twenty-something neighborhood with lots of townhouses, bars and restaurants in the vicinity (and where Matt and I lived before moving to Aberdeen). We also had certain features that we were looking for in a home: (1) at least three bedrooms and two baths, (2) a game room, (3) a kitchen that had not been recently remodeled so that Matt could create his dream kitchen, (4) a back-yard, and (5) a neighborhood with good schools so that we wouldn't have to move once bambinos joined the club. Simple enough, right? Well, turns out that the answer to that question is a big fat "NO WAY!"

After looking at 69 houses over a three week period (thanks to one very kind and patient realtor), we still had not found "the house." We were pretty distraught and getting ready to throw in the towel when my mother called to ask if we had looked at any houses in West University. As some background, West U was always my dream neighborhood – perfect location, great community, top-tier public schools, and tons of restaurants, bars and shopping within walking distance. But with all these wonderful amenities, West U comes with a price tag that was well over anything Matt and I ever dreamed of spending. So when my mom called to asked if I had looked at any houses there, I actually started laughing (and crying a bit) because at that point, we hadn't even dared to look at West U listings on in order not to tempt ourselves with something we couldn't afford. Well, lucky for Matt and me, my mother is an HAR junkie and happened upon a 45 year home in West U that had been on the market for 18 months. On paper, it had everything we were looking for: three bedrooms - check, two baths - check, game room - check, un-remodeled kitchen - check, and a back yard - check. And the coolest thing of all – the house was directly across the street from the first house that I lived in as a child before my parents moved to suburbia. I felt like I was coming full circle.

Although the house was well over our max budget, Mom talked us into looking at it that afternoon because she thought that the owners might be willing to negotiate the price since it had been on the market for so long. So we coordinated a viewing with the realtor and all headed over to see the house. We were all very curious about what the problem was with the house that made it stay on the market for so long. And we were still puzzled after we viewed it because, although it needed updating, we didn't find any skeletons in the closets and it was actually very cute with a lot of quirky charm. So we submitted our best offer that night along with a letter explaining my connection with the house (from living across the street as a child) and how Matt and I loved the quirky house and wanted to start our family there…and then we waited.

The next morning we found out that another offer was already in on the house that the parties had been negotiating it for several weeks. We were disappointed about the other bid, but felt optimistic because the parties still hadn't reached an agreement. We also found out that the reason the house had been on the market for so long. The house was being sold by five adult daughters because their mother and father had recently passed away. This house was their parents' dream home that they built in 1966 and was the house that the girls grew up in. The girls were all very attached to the home and refused to sell it to anyone who planned on tearing it down and building a McMansion in its place. They felt so strongly about this, that they kept it on the market for 18 months and were willing to slash the price in order to make sure their parents' home would go to a family who would love it as much as they did.

After receiving our bid and reading our letter, the daughters decided to sell us the house. We were ecstatic! Our realtor later found out that the daughters' realtor tried to get them to demand "best and final offers" from us and the other bidder, but the daughters were so moved by our letter and our connection with the home that they decided to accept our offer even though it was below lot value. I feel extremely blessed every day that we got the house and will be forever grateful to the daughters for entrusting us with their family's home.

After closing on the house, Matt and I went over to toast our new home and found roses and a letter from the daughters which said the following:

October 13, 2009

To the New Owners,

It is with greatly mixed emotions that we sign over possession of our family's last home. We lived one block away for almost ten years before my parents built the house you are now buying. Having previously spent many years moving almost yearly from one small town to another, they had found a place to lay down roots in West University, and were excited to be building a home of their own.

Rose and Ben Green raised five daughters and welcomed sons in law, grandchildren, and great grandchildren into their family home. They believed in celebrating life's events with family and friends, and we have wonderful memories of times we came together in this home to enjoy the strong bonds they had created with their love. This house was a source of pride for our parents and was cared for and maintained lovingly over the years. New plans for the house or yard were always "in the works". Mama designed the pergola and had it built after Daddy's death, surely a way of coping with her grief and continuing the tradition of caring for the home they built together.

We knew we wouldn't be able to select the new owners, but we are so happy that you seem to be a couple who understand the value of a well-built home and are looking to establish your own family traditions within that home. We wish you many years of happiness in your new home.

The Green's Daughters

I tear up everytime I read that letter because I can only imagine how difficult selling their parents' home had to be for the daughters and am honored that they chose to sell it to us.

So that brings us to today and this little blog. Although Rose and Ben kept impeccable care of their home, they never changed anything. When Matt and I moved in, the house was stuck in a bit of a time warp – imagine 4-prong phone jacks, no coaxial cable, and 1966 wall paper. This is where our challenge lies: we want to update the home to bring it into the 21st century, but want to honor Rose and Ben's dream and keep the spirit of their home alive. Instead of jumping straight into remodeling after purchasing the house, we decided that it would best to live in the house for some time to understand how the layout of the house worked and what we would need to change to make it work for us. We have now lived in the house for three years and have come up with our plan to make the house our home. We officially broke ground on the remodel this week and I plan to keep this blog in order to record and share this exciting adventure. I hope that you enjoy it!

post signature

1 comment:

  1. Jen,

    I love the story from the Greens. Your house has such a great energy- you can tell it was a home filled with love. I was particularly struck by the sense of home that you and Matt want to create because you have moved often. I feel blessed that my parents still live in the same home they bought in 1984. When Jason and I think of moving, it is so hard to imagine not being in the home we became a family in. My hope for you and Matt is that this home can be the place for your family to blossom!

    Love you! Darcy



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...