When we moved here seven years ago I could not for the life of me understand why anyone who lived in Jacksonville would want to live anywhere other than where Lane and I ended up. It was the perfect little spot, nestled safely in an established residential area, with downtown 15 minutes to one side, and the ocean 10 minutes to the other. “Across the ditch”, as we say here in Jax, (which means on the other side of the Intercoastal bridge from the beach) and a mere three minutes from Target and basically any eatery you could imagine. It should have been our FOREVER HOME, right?
Cut to seven years later and we are smack-dab in the middle of minivan mecca, without so much as a Taco Bell for an available dining option past 9 p.m. So why did we do it?
The reason is simple really: LIFE. Seven years ago I was 27. Seven years ago we were not married. Seven years ago we were not parents. And I would be lying if I said that in my 27 year old mind I ever saw us as parents. But guess what? Life happens really fast. And if you don’t believe that, then just pull up a beanbag chair and our one year old can explain it to you.
Just after we got married back in 2012 when we were shopping for a house we thought of everything. We made checklists, we researched neighborhoods, we climbed over fences to peek in windows of vacant houses, we had a very specific budget, and an even more specific list of criteria.
We identified the floor plan that we wanted, and a neighborhood that we loved. Once we had that part all figured out, the next step was to wait until that particular floor plan, in that particular neighborhood, came on the market. I thought, “this is wonderful. This nice little pause will give us time to save up a bit so that we will be ready when our new house hits the market.” Well… remember that whole life happens fast thing? Imagine my surprise when the exact house we’d been dreaming of popped up on the market less than a month later.
I was driving through the neighborhood just to kill some time one Saturday and my jaw dropped when I saw a new FSBO (for sale by owner) sign in front of the kind of house that we’d been eyeballing. I snapped a pic, sent it to Lane, and said “this is our new house.” We were at the closing table about 90 days later.
We chose that house because we imagined ourselves there “forever”. It was perfect, right? It had 3 bedrooms and an office, a big living room and a family room that we were going to use for a game room, a double-sided fireplace, a big nice kitchen, a view of the golf course, a huge screened in porch, and was in our idea of the perfect location in Jacksonville. Why would we ever want to leave?!
So we renovated every square inch of that house. (p.s. I wrote about it several years ago and I cut and pasted that story here if you are so inclined… it was quite entertaining for me to reread it just now. Oh the things you forget!) But anyway, once the renovation was done, we were set! We were living as young marrieds and loving it. And then, about two years later… we had a martini night and one conversation about “entertaining the idea” of having kids, and our daughter was born juuuust about nine months later. And then it all changed.
Our perfect, renovated, forever home just… wasn’t. We looked at everything with a fresh set of parent eyes, and we found that there were some things we missed on our must-have list when we were house shopping. Only… they weren’t really things that we missed. When we were looking for that house, we were looking for things that were important to us at that particular time in our lives. We had beer bottles, not baby bottles. (Now we just have both actually.) We had no idea what was in store for us, or how our circumstances would change. And honestly no one does. When you’re house shopping, all you can really do is give it your best guess.
Now I’m not saying that no one should make plans for the future. I would be the last person to say that. My birth plan was roughly the length of War and Peace. What can I say? I’m a planner. And I get that some people do actually build or buy homes that they stay in for a long, long time. But I also know that on more than one occasion, I have met with homebuyers to make selections for their “forever” homes, and then met with them again two years later to make selections for their next
forever home after they’ve had twins. Or their in-laws moved in. Or they just flat out changed their minds! These are things that happen all the time and can switch up the priorities on your perfect home checklist faster than I could say “I’m pregnant.”
If you’re house shopping now, my advice is to surround yourself with a great team who will help guide your decisions. Work with a knowledgeable Real Estate Agent (as a buyer it doesn’t cost you a dime!) who will be your advocate, a voice of reason, and possibly even a marriage counselor. Use their resources for loan officers and home inspectors. Both of these things are far too critical to a successful and enjoyable home buying process to wing it on your own. Be flexible on your must-have list, but do not ignore your gut feelings. If a house you’re looking at hits every single one of your wish list items but the backyard is three square feet too small, you should probably consider compromising. But if you think in the back of your mind, “this neighborhood doesn’t feel right” or “this location isn’t great”, don’t ignore it. Those are biggies and you will regret it every day if you ignore it. I learned the hard way. And last but not least, don’t be afraid to take the “forever” out of your home search… the reality is that Americans move an average of every five to seven years. So plan for the future? Yes. Add the pressure of finding a “forever” place? In my opinion, no.
So with a tiny little newborn and our beer goggles traded in for safety goggles, when we started getting that itching little feeling that mayyybe, just maybe, our house wasn’t our forever home, and we were casually flirting with the idea of moving, we decided to post our home on Zillow as a Make Me Move listing with a crazy high price. Ya know, just to put some feelers out. “It wouldn’t hurt just to test the waters”, we said. “It won’t even officially be on the market”, we said. “This way we can take our time”, we said. Except that we had an offer eight days later. We went from “testing the waters” to full on naked cannoball “OMG did we just accidentally sell our house?” in eight tiny days. Life happens fast.
We said goodbye to that house three years to the very day after we closed on it back in 2012. We peaced out to a rental house for a few months, and then found our next “love it right now” home in the depths of suburbia. It’s in the best school district and our neighborhood is insanely kid and golf-cart friendly, and it has a giant pool and a playground. And we really, really do love it right now. But I also really miss Taco Bell…