Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tree Swings

My husband did another drive-by of a house last night and sent me photos.

"Oh look!" I told my son, Sam. "A tree swing!"

Just before Sam was born, we found a tree swing for the big linden tree in the front yard of our home in Michigan. It was made of barrel staves from wine barrels in California. I loved that swing! I would hold baby Sam on my lap, and we would swing under the sheltering branches, looking up at the birds and leaves.

It was bliss.

We have brought that swing with us for every relocation. Unfortunately, we've never had a tree that had a limb at just the right height. We have a forest full of trees in our back woods, and not a single one would accommodate our tree swing.

The new home search has me dreaming of tree swings again. Maybe, just maybe we will find a house with the perfect tree that has the perfect spot for a tree swing.

I'm adding this to my list of prayers.

It's a growing list.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Long Distance

My husband has been living in his temporary housing for nine days now. Nine days, four hours and eighteen minutes. I know, it sounds really pathetic when you start counting the hours and the minutes, doesn't it? I miss my man! We're both feeling the separation now, and can't wait until we're all together again this Friday.

Ed spent the weekend investigating a few new towns. He did some drive-by shooting (of the photographic sort) of a few houses I had found online, and reported back to me with details of the areas and neighborhoods.

This is an important step in the home relocation process. We figure if we can narrow down the towns, then we can save our future realtor from wasting his or her time showing us homes in areas we've already crossed off the list.

I've been taking copious amounts of notes for future reference. This is a good time to get organized in the home search. My lists generally include the following:

* home address and MLS number
* year the house was built
* days on the market
* listing price
* last year's taxes
* number of beds and baths
*square footage of house
*square footage of yard

After doing a quick drive by of the house, we can then add the following to our list:

* condition of the outside
* condition of the neighborhood
* flat or sloped yard (this matters in Pittsburgh!)
* driving distance to nearby amenities

I even take notes on the towns, such as:

* school rankings
* does the town have a library?
* does the town have a Y or other community centers?
* traffic patterns

This system has helped us cross a lot of houses and even a few towns off our list.

The good news is that my husband found a really quaint town that he wants me to see next week. A small downtown shopping district, independent book stores and coffee shops, a really nice library and a really big YMCA. That's the good news! The bad news? Charming comes with a very high price tag! We'll have to see what we can afford in nearby areas.

In the meantime, we keep in contact with lots of phone calls, texts, and emails. I send him photos of silly things, like our dog covered in snow. He keeps me updated on the new job and the quirks of the new city.

We hope to be assigned a realtor this week so that we can begin house tours in the days and weeks ahead.

That is when the real fun begins!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Getting Perspective

There's nothing like a Monday to give you a little perspective. What seemed disastrous on Friday now looks like a mountain that was made out of a mole hill.  It appears that our relocation company is now offering us several options in which we can proceed. Their list of "extensive repairs" were not extensive at all, and we're feeling much more confident about making the necessary improvements to put our house on the market.

On Saturday, we had another realtor walk through our home to give it her appraisal. She was very glowing in her assessment, and recommended that we have a Plan B in place in case our house sells quickly (and she believes that it will. Whew!).

"Your home is so warm and welcoming. I wish that all of my clients would make the changes to their homes that you've made to yours," she said.

Our list of changes were pretty extensive over the past five years. I would recommend these updates for anyone who is thinking of putting their home on the market:

*New light fixtures
*New window treatments
*New appliances
*New bath and kitchen fixtures
*Newly painted rooms in coordinating neutral colors

These are the cosmetic changes that can take a house from drab to fab.

Our house has an open floor plan, which can be a challenge when it comes to decorating. Paint colors and decorating styles have to flow from room to room. Sitting in the great room, you can see the kitchen, dining room, office and front entryway. It needs to have a cohesive look.

To give an open floor plan some continuity, I picked two colors and two neutrals and mixed them up in each room. Blue, green, khaki and cream. Each space has one dominant color (walls), with secondary colors repeating frequently.

The mud room:

Which is visible from the kitchen:

Which is visible from the great room:

Which is visible from the office:

Which leads to the dining room:

This "flow" didn't happen overnight.  As a matter of fact, the colors on the main floor, as of last autumn, were mostly red, yellow and green. It wasn't until I made the decision to paint the dining room blue that all of the other colors finally came in to place.

The house is finally just the way I've wanted it...just in time to sell it!

Isn't that always the case?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Good and The Bad

In the wonderful adventure of relocation (insert sarcastic voice here), this has been a really tough week.

We had our home inspected this week, and the report was not good. I suspect we need a new roof. The relocation company is not happy, and wants to drop us like a hot potato.

Our realtor, who last February was all confidence and roses, now seems to be hedging his bets. He is wavering on pricing strategy, which thus fills me with doubts. I don't want the house to linger on the market for weeks while I'm breaking my back to keep it open house-ready.

The neighborhood bunko ladies were telling me tales of friends who'd recently sold their house in a day. Not a terrible problem to have, actually, but it could be bad news if you do not have a new house to move to and are quickly rendered "homeless" overnight.

So, what's a gal to do at a time like this?

Dream of gardens, of course!

I've been doing a little research on square foot gardening. It's basically a raised bed garden that combines certain plantings together in small spaces to maximize growth and produce yield.

I'll be moving at an awkward time, in terms of gardening, and I may not get much accomplished this year. It's good to dream about the next great garden, though. It distracts my negative thinking about roof replacements and real estate.

Happy thoughts, little garden in my mind! Happy thoughts!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Doing Your Homework

Homework, homework, homework. It is an important part of any corporate relocation. Don't know the area you are moving to? Then you better do your homework.

Some homework can be done at home with a good map and the internet. With the help of real estate websites like, zillow, and hotpads, you can get a feel for the housing that is available in certain areas, as well as the pricing. You will quickly find out if that new township that everyone is flocking to has any affordable older homes, or if its inventory is strictly limited to the brand new McMansions that are well out of your price range. Looking for older homes with character? You can find that out, too.

But eventually, boots have to hit the ground.

We spent our first weekend in Pittsburgh recently, just perusing the area without a realtor. This is a VERY important step in the relocation process for several reasons:

1.) A realtor will show you lovely homes, but they probably won't show you the traffic patterns near that house. For example, they're not going to show you how it's nearly impossible to get out of your own driveway during rush hour traffic or backups at the tunnel. They'll take you for a visit during a quiet part of the day. They are in the business of selling houses, after all.

2.) A realtor will get to know you on a superficial level, but they may not know the things that really matter to you. Does the town have a fantastic or mediocre library? How are the coffee shops? Are the locals friendly? Are the parks dog-friendly? Any nearby farmer's markets? These are things that you'll have to find out for yourself. It's a good idea to park the car, get out and walk around the town. Have a coffee with the locals. Try the Greek restaurant. Pop into the needle art shop. You will quickly get a vibe for the place.

3.) Everyone has a different definition of "town". We found that out quickly. What one person calls "town" can consist of a few strip malls and subdivisions gathered around a certain zip code. Someone else may think of "town" as the business district where all of the shops and restaurants are congregated. Still, others may take a broad view of town, including the architecture of the homes in the neighborhood, the condition of the schools, the accessibility to public transportation.

4.) Finally, houses often appear much prettier in photos and online listings than the do in person. Google Earth and Street View can only tell you so much. It cannot tell you if the house has a snarling rottweiler next door who barks at all hours, and you probably won't spot any photos of the junkyard auto hoarder who will be your new neighbor.

Here are a few photos from one of the towns we visited last weekend:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The House I Want To Live In

My husband and I drove to Pittsburgh this past weekend to spend some time in the city and its surrounding area, just to get an idea of where we might want to focus our housing search. It was a frustrating experience. Here in Indiana, the cost of living is very cheap, and the housing market is one of the most affordable in the entire country. Not the case in Pittsburgh, where we were looking at houses half the size of our current home and twice the cost.

We came home feeling a little defeated. We were filled with doubts. After all, what is the point of intentionally uprooting your family if you are taking a step backward financially?

We've decided to expand our housing search next time by looking at areas much further north. I'm looking for something that feels like "town", not necessarily "sprawl". I'd like a home with a decent yard for the dog and my gardens, somewhere for Sam to kick a ball without breaking a window of the house next door.

We're praying that God will give us direction in the days ahead. In the meantime, we're meeting with realtors this week, and will likely have our house on the market in just a few short days.

Today, the relocation company sent out an inspector to check out our house from rooftop to basement. He spent a few hours inspecting every square inch of this place. When he was done, he asked me "What church do you go to?"

"Lord of Life" I responded. "We're really going to miss it, too. It's been a wonderful church for our family."

"I can tell you go to church," he said, "just by seeing the things in your home."

I looked around the house after he left, through the eyes of a visitor. I guess our house does have a lot to say about us.

I wouldn't call it "in your face" religious art. But I do surround our home with the things that matter to us. Some realtors will tell you to stow away your family photos and religious art, lest they offend a potential buyer. I hope that my artwork is subtle enough for the average person, while at the same time being meaningful for me and my family.

Today, in the midst of our search for the perfect town and the perfect house, God reminded me that the best house is the one where Christ is the foundation. That's the only kind of house I want to live in.

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone."  Ephesians 2:19-20

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mud Room Rug

My new rug for the mud room finally arrived. The verdict? I love it!

I ordered this rug from the Plow and Hearth catalog ( This super durable surry rug is made of polypropylene for indoors or out...perfect for a mud room! I ordered the 2 1/2 ft. by 4 1/2 ft. size for only 39.95!

I think this rug is a successful purchase for a number of reasons. First, it brings together all of the colors in the mud room in a fun and funky floral pattern. Second, your eye is drawn to the fun and funky rug, not the ugly vinyl flooring underneath.

I think a potential buyer can look at this room now and say "Wow! Modern and updated! Exactly what I'm looking for!"

We spent the weekend scouting out our next location in the new city. (That deserves its own post, most certainly!) I will also have tips on giving an open floor plan a unified, cohesive look. Stop back soon!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

When Good Enough Is Not

I hear it a lot from people who are thinking of selling their home.

"Why do I need to change that/replace that/fix that? It's been good enough for me. It should be good enough for someone else, too, right?"

Actually, no. Good enough for you does not equate to good enough for potential buyers.

I understand. You really don't want to spend money on a house that you are leaving. I get that. But when you refuse to do updates and repairs, it invariably leads to the same thing.

a.) Your house will sit on the market for twice as long, becoming more stale than a loaf of twelve-day old bread.

b.) Your house will not sell for the price that you are hoping for because the potential buyer will deduct the cost  of every repair and update from their offer.

When my realtor, Mike, reviewed our house, he mentioned "You should probably update that chandelier in the dining room."

He was right.

It was an old, cheap, faux brass chandelier that the builder had installed when they built the house thirteen years ago. The truth is, it wasn't even pretty when it was new. I'd put some shades on it when we moved in, and I kind of forgot about it. We meant to replace it, but we had so many other projects that took precedence.

I could have said "You know what? That ugly chandelier has been good enough for us."

But I didn't.

Here's the old chandelier:

And here's the newly updated chandelier:

This was not a costly update. It was an eighty dollar chandelier that we plucked off the shelf from our local Home Depot. A little investment can make a big improvement, don't you think?

Friday, March 1, 2013

On The Hunt

I'll admit it. We're seeing way too much of each other.

Zillow. Hotpads. I'm wasting a LOT of hours of my day with you.

You lure me with your pretty photos and your pretty words.

"Charming." "Character." "Original woodwork." "Huge potential."

It's very seductive. I want to trust you. I so want to put my faith in you. You will find me the perfect house!

I haven't spoken with the first realtor, or even taken the first trip to get a lay of the land, and already I'm hanging wallpaper and painting cabinets in my imaginary house.

I'm trusting my own abilities to buy and sell and plot and plan. And of course, we all know the headline to that front page story:

Woman plans, God laughs.

I'm happy to give you a chuckle today, Lord! And if my wishlist seems ridiculous, you can laugh at that, too!

In the meantime, I'm pinning all of the pretty things I'd love to find in my next house.

Things like a dutch door:

A kitchen booth:

A laundry chute:

A clothesline:

Impossible list? Probably. But it hasn't stopped me from looking!