Archive for June 2014

finding our house

continuing on with our house search (see here for the beginning)

as we moved forward with our house search, we were mainly focused on one, high demand, area.  we also looked in a few other parts of columbus, but were getting discouraged with what we were finding.  houses that looked good online had weird floor plans with tiny rooms once we saw them in person.  or the "updated addition" was in need of major structural repair.  we continued to see houses that needed a lot of work, and were already at the very top of our price range.  for those familiar with columbus, here are the main areas that we focused on:

clintonville:  before moving, i was almost positive that clintonville would be where we ended up.  we looked at several houses in clintonville, and spent a lot of time driving around the area.  i think that the people in clintonville are probably "our people", but we were a little disappointed with the walkability of the neighborhoods, and we were having a difficult time finding a house that was the size and condition that we wanted, at a price that we felt comfortable with.  we were in an awkward "in between" range - we were ready to move past some of the great starter homes that the area offered, but couldn't really afford the few larger options.  it didn't help that there were really only 2 or 3 streets that we got excited about.  we also were concerned about the school district, and knew that we'd either have to move or pay for private school once wesley was out of elementary school - we weren't sure that this was something that we wanted to have to deal with.  this area stayed on our short list though.

german village / italian village / etc:  there are some great urban neighborhoods in columbus, with some really fantastic older homes.  but the houses can be extremely expensive, and aren't always in the best shape.  we actually looked at a few houses in german village, because i wanted the "character".  they had character, but we could only afford 2 bedroom homes with no yard, and realistically, that wasn't going to be a long term solution for our family.  plus, again, schools.

old worthington:  we loved the walkability of old worthington, and were excited about the restaurants, farmers market, and ice cream stores.  we had a difficult time coming to terms with what you got for your money (price per sq ft), and also found that the inventory for the historic houses was really low.  schools were not a concern, but we actually weren't even able to find a house to tour - the few that made our short list were in contract soon after listing.  it was also just a little bit too far north - we were really hoping to be closer to the city.

bexley:  bexley offered the character, good school distract, and walkability that we wanted.  mike was even able to tour several homes in this area.  we were a little concerned about the areas surrounding bexley (having come from a "pocket" situation in stl - a nice street surrounded by not-so-nice streets, we weren't sure we wanted to do that again).  and, our families live on the north side of columbus - we were worried that the distance between bexley and our babysitters might become an issue, especially since right now they watch wesley while we are at work.

grandview:  loved the location, good schools, nice character, expensive price per sq ft.  again, we had a difficult time even finding houses to look at because of the fast moving / low inventory.  also, some of the houses that we could afford were just too small.

upper arlington:  the house that got away was in upper arlington.  i honestly don't even know if i would have added this area to our search had it not been for that house.  mostly i think that i would have just assumed that we would not be able to afford anything in ua.  after touring the area, mike was convinced that ua should be the main focus of our house search.  specifically, he liked the south side of ua - which is more historic and closer to grandview.  there are some great mid-century homes on the northern side of ua, so i kept that in our search as well.  unfortunately many of the mid-century homes that we liked did not have basements, and we really wanted to have a basement.  as i mentioned in the last post, the area that we liked in ua had very low inventory and we knew that it would be a challenge to find something in our price range, even more so contingent on the sale of our stl house.

enter our realtor - mike's mom decided to take a more proactive approach in our house search, and instead of waiting for the houses to come onto the market, she decided to start seeking out the houses before they were listed.  targeting the small area that we were most interested in, she crafted a mailer that explained a little about us, our desire to live in the neighborhood, and some details on what we were hoping to find.  after these were distributed throughout the area, she had about a dozen calls from homeowners.  some i think were just trying to see how much they could get out of their house (way over our price range), some had more long term plans and didn't work in our time frame, and some just weren't a good fit.  but she found 2 that had potential, so we set up a time to visit:

house #1:  strangely, we ended up knowing the seller of house #1.  it was great to catch up with an old friend, but the house was giant.  really just too large for mike and i and our family.  the street was perfect, and the house had a great layout on the first floor, but it was a 3 story house with 5+ bedrooms.  it was also over our price range.  it needed work (long term), but was livable, and their time fame to sell matched well with our plan, so we keep it in consideration.  if nothing else, after talking to our old friend and hearing his enthusiasm for the neighborhood, we were both even more convinced that we wanted to try to live in the area.

house #2:  first impression - wow, this is a cute, but little house.  the house was a brick cape cod, so from the street it didn't look very big, but we found out it had an newer addition on the back.  it had nice curb appeal and a decent sized yard, and we loved the street.  we were hopeful, but we continued to be disappointed by our house search, so i don't think either one of us was that optimistic going in.  after we toured the house we were definitely interested - conflicted, but interested.  on paper the house met almost all of our "must haves", and most of our "nice to haves".  but there was something about it that held us both back at first.  after thinking about it, we went back and did a second tour - this time bringing all of our parents.  after our second tour, and a lengthy discussion, we decided to make an offer on the house.  we are currently in contract on the house, and will close next week.  we will not have possession until august 1.  it's been a long and complicated process, but i will try to do a quick summery, and include some details on the actual house in the next post.


beginning our house search

a few of you have asked about our new house - the story is long and complicated, but if you are interested, here's where we started:

both mike and i are from the columbus area.  we grew up in a suburb north of the city.  even before i had a job in columbus, i was 90% sure that i would be working near downtown, since architecture firms tend to be located in more urban areas.  we also realized that one of the things that we really liked about our time in st louis was exploring the area, discovering new restaurants, and making it "ours".  we wanted a similar experience with our return to columbus - meaning, we wanted to try to live in a different area than where we grew up.  we also wanted to live closer to the city, and closer to our jobs.  i do not like having a long commute.

our wish list for the area included:
- walkable, we wanted to be able to walk to restaurants, parks, stores, etc.  along with this, we were hoping to find a neighborhood with sidewalks. 
- close to things that are "local".  while it is always nice to be able to get to target without too much issue, we tend to prefer local restaurants, coffee shops, and markets, and wanted to be near those types of places
- established neighborhood with older houses / interesting architecture / character
- mature landscaping and lots of trees, we loved all of the giant trees on our street in stl
- we wanted something safer than what we had in stl.  our stl street wasn't horrible, but we were constantly worrying about things being taken from our garage, unwanted people hanging out in the alley, or something happening to our cars while parked on the street.
- a good public school district, although we were willing to compromise a little on this if there were other options for school 

our list for the house included:
- must have 3+ bedrooms
- must have a garage, 2 car preferred
- must have nice outdoor space
- must have character
- must have curb appeal
- must have a good layout, or potential to have a good layout
- would prefer it to be around 1800 sq ft since that is what we had in stl, although willing to look smaller if the layout was right
- nice to have a 4th bedroom or office space
- nice to have a master bathroom or space to add a master bathroom
- nice to have more closet space and/or storage
- nice to have taller ceilings
- nice to have a basement that could be finished for a second living space 
- nice if the yard was already fenced for our dogs
- nice if some of the big things had been updated (like hvac, roof, etc)

we actually wanted another project house because we wanted to be able to make it ours, and didn't want to have to pay for someone else's renovation.  although mike and i had a very different idea of the type of "project" :)

mike's parents and brother are realtors.  while we were still living in stl, we sent them our list and they starting sending us potential houses.  we also kept looking online on our own.  to be honest, i'd been looking at columbus real estate on and off for several years, so we already had an idea of the areas we needed to look in to get the "character" that we wanted.  around this same time i found a house that was built in the 1920s, was actually in worse shape than our stl house (project!), and was a great buy for the area.  it was a big investment opportunity, but it needed a lot of work right away.  mike just happen to be in columbus for an interview around the same time, so he, along with his parents and my mom, went to see the house.  i followed along through facetime.  knowing that it wasn't going to be on the market much longer because it had just had a big price drop, we even talked about putting in an offer that day.  we were both excited about the house, which is saying a lot since i hadn't even seen it in person, and mike is usually more hesitate about house projects.  unfortunately, since we hadn't sold our house in stl yet, our offer would have been contingent on the sale of our house.  we spoke to the seller (also a realtor) and after finding out that he had other offers coming, we knew that ours would not be a competitive offer because of our contingency requirements.  we were bummed to miss out on the house.  but, from that experience we were able to learn that:

1) we were going to have to greatly increase our budget.  the houses in the areas that we wanted were more expensive, and we needed to come to terms with spending more on a house.

2) we needed to be realistic about how much of a project we really wanted.  how much could we do with wesley?  did we want to jump right back into spending all of our free time on the house?  also, since we were going to have to increase our budget to purchase the house, we weren't going to have as much flex in our monthly budget to finance big projects, at least not right away.

3) we needed to be realistic about the school district.  property taxes in columbus are high (at least compared to stl), which we knew from the beginning, but we were surprised to find that even in the areas within the not-so-great school districts, the taxes were still high.  high enough that property taxes + tuition for private school would have actually cost us more than just trying to get into one of the few older neighborhoods near the city that also had highly ranked public schools.  

4) we were most likely going to have to wait to even put an offer in on a house in columbus until our house in stl was in contract.  the housing market in columbus was just too competitive and we knew that in order to make a solid offer, we needed to try to eliminate that contingency.  this also meant that we would need to move in with my parents while we wait for our stl house to sell, and while we looked for our new house once we were in ohio.

5) we needed to be able to make a decision quickly.  unlike our first home buying experience, where we were able to look at 40+ houses over several weeks before making a decision, there was just not that kind of inventory in columbus.  we were only coming up with 1 or 2 houses at a time that were even a possibility.  so if we found something that was a potential fit, we needed to be able to make a quick decision.

i was willing to continue to look in a wide variety of areas, but after seeing the house that got away, mike had fallen for that neighborhood.   unfortunately, the area that he wanted to focus on seemed to be the worst for a buyer - it was a sellers market - so much so, that houses were gone the day that they were listed.  we were afraid that we wouldn't even be able to get in to see a house before it would be gone.  

up next, i will share our slightly unconventional strategy for finding our house...

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wesley - 8-11 months

wesley turned 1 on saturday!  i can't believe how quickly the last year has gone.  i wanted to do a one year post, but realized that i should probably do a quick catch up post first.  unfortunately, my phone decided to randomly delete the note that i was keeping with all of wesley's stats and milestones (note - do not keep important information only on your phone!).  i'm hoping that i can remember the important ones...

8 months:
the biggest milestone of wesley's 8th month was that he started crawling!  he had been rocking back and forth for a little while, and then one evening, he just took off.  shortly after he figured on the crawling thing, he also started pulling himself up on furniture.  we continued to introduce new foods to wesley, and he continued to love everything we gave him.  his favorite was bread - he loved to go out to eat at restaurants that had bread on the table.  he was still doing well with sleeping, although he sometimes woke up in the middle of the night wanting his pacifier, or to be held for a little while.  he was taking short morning naps at daycare, and a longer nap after lunch.  this is also about the time when we decided to make the big move to ohio - so we started telling our friends and family about our plans.

DSC_0053hanging out with murphy

standing by himself in his crib

9 months:
at his 9 month dr appointment, wesley was 17 lbs 11 oz, and was 28" long.  he was still on the higher end for height, and lower end for weight, he's always been a long skinny guy.  the dr didn't seem as concerned about his weight since he was still eating well.  wesley started getting a little more clingy this month, esp with me, and continued to wake up during the night a few times a week.  we were busy getting the house ready to be listed, and frantically packing up our belongings.  my mom came out to help us, and we moved to ohio at the end of his 9th month.  new things that he started this month included clapping and waving, which were super cute.  he liked to wave at random people - at the grocery store, restaurants, etc.  he also started putting his hands up in the air when you said "yay wesley" - also super cute.  his crawling skills improved, and he was starting to cruise along furniture.

before daddy's birthday dinner

one of our last dinners in stl - burgers with friends

10 months:
when wesley was 10 months old, we had just started living in ohio with our family, so our entire routine had changed.  the actual move to ohio with him was crazy - we didn't leave st louis with everything until early evening, and ended up driving well into the night.  mom road in my car with wesley and all of our pets, and mike drove the uhaul, towing our car.  on the plus side, wesley slept most of the drive.  i was also super sick during all of this (strep throat, nasty cold, and pink eye, all at once!) but luckily wesley didn't catch any of my illness.  leaving his daycare in st louis was difficult, but we were grateful to now have grandmas to help with his care.  setting up wesley's "room" was our top priority after arriving in ohio.  he has his own room at my parents house, and we made sure to set up his crib and his chair, trying to make it a little more comfortable and familiar for him.  he did great with the transition.  as part of my new job i had to work in the cincinnati office a few days a week for the first month. wesley was able to travel with me for the longer first week, and stayed at the hotel with my mom.  after that i tried to only be gone a night at a time and left him with mike.  the first few weeks we were in ohio he kept waking up once a night, maybe 3 or 4 times a week.  he would usually fall back asleep after 15-30 mins of rocking.  we started letting him fuss for a few mins before rushing in to soothe him, and he started waking up less and less.  his typical day included getting up around 7:00 to nurse, then he would have breakfast (baby cereal with fruit) and play.  he was taking about a 2 hour morning nap, followed by lunch (baby food), more play time, and another 2 hour afternoon nap.  he continued to get 3 bottles a day and would nurse again at night before bed.  during his 10th month we dropped his early evening nursing since he was eating more and more food with dinner.  his bedtime was around 8:00.  by the time he was 10 months old he really wanted to walk and was cruising on everything.  crawling was still his main way of getting around, and he started "speed crawling", sometimes even putting his head down for faster speed!  his cute new habit of the month was this really cheesy grin.  mid-april we had to give wesley his first haircut!  his hair was getting in his face, and we thought he needed a trim.  in april we also went on our first big family vacation - flying to california.  i'll post pictures of that trip in a separate post.

easter sunday (long hair)

traveling with me for work


first hair cut!

lazy weekend morning (he doesn't normally sleep in our bed, he just went back to sleep!)

out to dinner in california!

the aquarium in califonia

11 months:
wesley started walking while holding onto things - hands, furniture, and his new favorite toy - a red push wagon.  on 6/4 he finally took his first unassisted steps!  he loved walking, but would get really excited when he realized what he's doing, so he usually fell over after a few steps.  although he still wasn't saying any clear words, he continued to "talk" more and more, and always seemed to have something to say.  we also tried out his bike trailer this month, pulling him along as we went on bike rides.  he didn't care for the helmet at all, but had no issues sitting in the trailer.  one saturday we even took him on about a 15 mile ride, just stopping once for a lunch picnic.  he was a fan. at this point wesley was eating a wide variety of foods - both the toddler baby foods, and small pieces of food that we were eating.

uncle jonathan's graduation from miami (in front of dad's fraternity house), he looks so big!

having fun on graduation weekend

showing off his miami gear

love this little guy

playing in the water park downtown after the arts festival, the water was cold

playing in the baby pool

i think we're pretty much caught up.  i'm thinking that instead of doing monthly posts, since that obvs didn't work out, i might just try to do smaller posts on specific milestones or other events.  it's hard to keep up with the monthly posts, plus it's a little difficult to divide things up by specific months.

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before / after

so...  here we are.  non-home-owners.  we are officially between houses - the closing on our st louis house went well, and we are (trying anyway) patiently waiting to close on our new columbus home.  not having a mortgage (or rent!) is nice, except that i keep finding things that the new house "needs"...  you know how it goes.

as we pulled away from our st louis home with our moving truck + trailer for the very last time, we both commented on the mixed emotions that we were feeling.  while we were obviously sad to be leaving something that had been such a huge part of our lives, and free time, for the past 6 years, we also felt a sense of completeness.  the multi-phased moving process somehow made it easier to leave.  first we moved our clothes, our smaller possessions, our pets, and our baby.  but the house was still ours, and was still filled with our furniture, so we didn't have to say goodbye just yet.  we knew we'd be back.  then we lived away from the house, getting settled in our temporary space with family in ohio.  and we were busy.  busy starting new jobs, busy catching up with old friends, busy looking for a new home, busy selling our old one...  a few months had passed before we went back to pack up the rest of our belonging and our furniture.  that time, it was just mike and i - our family (pets included) stayed behind in ohio.  we frantically packed up our remaining things, helped the movers load up our uhaul, ran out of space in said uhaul, rented a trailer, and filled the trailer (with chairs... mostly chairs...  i might have a problem).  so when it came time to say that final goodbye, we knew that everything that was truly important was already gone - and we knew that the new homeowners were excited and anxiously waiting to start making our old house their new home.

before we move on to our next adventure, i thought that it would be fun to do a final before and after picture post.  i'm so glad that we were able to see past the pink carpet, the crazy paint colors, and the wallpaper.  thanks for the adventure 528!

  front exterior


dining room

living room


half bath


master bedroom

guest room

den office

full bath

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