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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