Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

House-hunting the second time around: ups and downs

We've been through a lot of ups and downs this summer thinking about houses.

We started thinking about selling ours back in April or May. The market was looking pretty good for selling, a lot of people we know are buying or moving, and we've been really getting the itch to get chickens and a dog--which we need a yard for!

We love our townhome. We watched it get built in early-mid 2012. (Seriously, watched the whole thing--here, here, here, here, here, and finally here. See all the construction and progress here.) We picked out finishes, wall/ceiling color, a built-in, even a little bit of the closet shape. We waited for more than 8 months while the house was constructed, and lived in our tiny, dark, 80's townhouse in a funky neighborhood in Portland and visited our home site almost every weekend. I started collecting decor pieces and ideas months ahead of time.

Now, we've lived here just over 3 years, and for the past 2 or so I've hardly changed a thing! It has been so wonderful to live in a comfortable, adequately sized space with all my favorite stuff in it, not having a list of house to-do projects every spare moment.

But... pros and cons, all good things must come to an end, all that. We developed 3 primary goals of moving from our lovely home into a new unknown. Three big goals:

  1. Yard. It's time. When we bought our townhome, we were excited to have two decks, a common green between the rows of houses, and no yard to mow. It's been good, but we've about hit the limits of container gardening and we'd like chickens, a dog, and bees! And a garden!
  2. Be closer to family. Both Jason's and my parents live west of us, farther from the city. We want to be closer and see them more often!
  3. Save money. I know, I know... we want to buy a (potentially) bigger house with a yard and save money?? Thankfully we have some equity in our current place and the market has picked up so we'll walk away with a good down payment on the next place, which will help, and we won't be paying the $103 HOA anymore. With husband hoping to attend physical therapy school for the next few years starting next fall, we saw the opportunity to sell as a great chance to be in a more stable position during that time. One thing we considered was finding a split level home with a basement apartment unit in the bottom that we could rent out to family or a tenant. More on that later... 

We started our search in May looking for the perfect split-level home. The price range was pretty wide and I found quite a few very nice houses!! But even the nice ones often needed construction and a kitchen added or wet bar expanded in the basement... it got overwhelming thinking about everything we'd need to do, and imagining our profit from the sale slipping away. It got pretty stressful.

So, we started from scratch. We stopped with the ambitious renovation plans and thought, what kind of house would we want for just the two of us?

In order to still achieve goals 1 and 3, that got us looking at a relatively limited list of homes with at least a 6,000 SF lot but still in a pretty low price range. We did a few weeks of serious house-hunting with our realtor (who we love, by the way--Claudia Pobanz at Knipe Realty) and looked at a lot of depressing places. Some very small, some very boring, some very gross ("The Cat Pee House") or damaged, one nice but literally under powerlines, some okay but too expensive... 

Then, in an act of desperation, before our last round of tours I flipped through my Redfin favorites and saw a split-level home for way cheaper than the others. No trendy updates (original 1977 kitchen, lighting, doors, etc.) but really well kept up, great yard, good size, all that. I gave it some thought and asked husband--should we look at this one just to see?? What if it's almost ready to be divided for a basement apartment and all it needs is a few fun, cosmetic updates? What if it's a totally great deal and home for us and we can go back to the old split level plan?

So, we looked at it. We fell in love. 

We listed our house Thursday, had a full price offer on Saturday, and accepted it Monday. We're making an offer today (Tuesday) on "Grandma and Grandpa's House," as we're calling the split level (it's a one-owner home that is clearly occupied by elderly people with familiar-looking grandma-ey decor and two twin beds in the master bedroom), and we really hope it works out. If not, it'll be back to boring, small, and/or gross ranch houses and garages with houses attached! ;)

Update: We did not get Grandma and Grandpa's house. Someone else submitted an offer at the same time, and theirs was not contingent on the sale of their home. We did find another split-level home, though--it needs a lot more work!

Update 2: We didn't get the second one, either. It needed a lot of exterior work as well (scary inspection!) and the sellers weren't willing to make it what we consider market-ready, given the price. We don't know what we're going to do now.

Here are a few of the houses we've toured, favorited, and thought about. Some of them have gone pending in 2 days, some were too expensive, some were terrifying inside...

It's a tough world out there, house hunting in summer 2015! I'm so grateful that we're able to sell our place and hopefully find a great opportunity to move up.

While we wait to work out the details of the new place, we're SO excited it's hard to handle. I lie awake at night thinking about how I'll install the new floors and whether or not I should paint the window trim (probably yes). I seriously can't wait to start the project! I already have a spreadsheet started!

In the meantime I'm also looking for split level/70's remodel success stories. This one is super similar to the house we want, and I'm so impressed by their entry stair remodel! This one is a little bigger, but also some great ideas (here and here).

Wish us luck, and pass on any words of wisdom if you have them!

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