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Chapter One – Finding Our Dream Home

Chapter One – Finding Our Dream Home

My husband is a saint for putting up with me and my crazy ideas.  Let me start by saying that being married to a realtor has its pros and cons.  

Pros?  Limitless access to the MLS – being able to check out a house “just because” even if we’re only 5% actually looking.  Cons?  Always looking (even when you’re not really looking) for the next great home.  

To give some background – to date, we have yet to last in a house longer than 4 years…

Our beautiful home in Tempe where we’ve lived for the past four years.

Let’s jump back about two years ago.  Only two years into our home in Tempe, I began to feel the “itch.” When we had moved in in early 2014 we were convinced we found our forever home.  Huge beautiful lot, playroom for the kids, and we had slowly begun to remodel various parts of the home.  Alas, though, two years in, the itch began.  We needed a place for guests to stay, and we were beginning to discuss potentially becoming a party of five, in which case we would need another bedroom and a larger kitchen.  

The Search…

So, we made a search.  We set our criteria, and I began “casually” perusing on a daily and weekly basis to see what we could get in our price range.  Homes came on and off the market and nothing was right.  Either the house was perfect with a teeny tiny backyard, or the backyard was amazing and the house needed too much work.  We kept our location options open, knowing full-well that we could get more for our money a bit outside of town.  And then one day, the most beautiful home Mike and I had ever seen came on the market.  A perfect 5 bed, 3.5 bath home remodeled in just our style.  I called Mike and we decided to look at it that weekend.  On Saturday, we went to visit the house – it was a little far out, but once we were inside our concerns vanished – it was drop-dead gorgeous.  Wood tile floors, open kitchen with a large island and marble countertops, ideal floor plan, adorable backyard and literally everything was P-E-R-F-E-C-T.  

"Picture Perfect" Home
“Picture Perfect” home; design and photos by TomKat Studio

But as we calmed ourselves down, and began counting the bedrooms, we realized it was one bedroom short – they had counted the office as a bedroom, and unfortunately we needed both.  Once we realized the bedroom shortage, reality came back to us and we realized we could never make it work.  Additionally, with a house this beautiful, we’d need to put in an offer (and an aggressive one) out that same day.  With a contingent offer (and a house that was nowhere near ready to be sold) we knew it just wasn’t in the cards.  We were bummed.  But we made do.  Within a few weeks, we actually made the decision to redo the kids’ bathroom.  If we were to ever list the house, that upgrade would have to happen for it to get sold.

Before After Bathroom
Left:  Before photo of the kids’ bathroom, Right:  After photo, design by The LifeStyled Co.

Fast forward 6-9 months later.  My daily MLS and Zillow inquiries were getting more and more desperate.  Not only was nothing right for our family, but nothing could compare to that other picture-perfect house.  I got desperate.  I reached out to the stylist who redid that home and found out she was redoing one in another part of town.  Completely out of our price range, and yet again one bedroom too short, we were at a loss.  Nothing that came on the market was remotely interesting and we were getting discouraged.  Becoming a family of 5 was beginning to get more and more likely and with kindergarten only a year away, I wanted to be in the home where we were meant to be.  

There was a house on the market in the same subdivision as “Picture Perfect.”  We had been keeping our eye on it as it was the same floor plan – ultimately the backyard was far from perfect, the interior needed major updating, but lo and behold it had a basement – yes, a basement!  By adding in the potential of a basement, we realized that we could actually make this floor plan work!  Out of curiosity we tried to see this house three times.  Each time, the tenants or the property management company made it impossible, so it always loomed in the back of our minds.  After yet another failed attempt to see the house, out of frustration Mike and I decided to look on the MLS for homes just like that model, in that same community, but that were not on the market.  “I just wanted to see what was out there.”  

The idea…

And then we had our idea.  After finding four homes that were in no way shape or form on the market, but had our floor plan and a backyard we felt was worth the effort for, we figured, “why not write each of these homeowners a letter to see if there’s any chance they’ve considered selling.”  Mike scoffed at the idea initially, but I told him I would write the letter, and he would need to just sign and send it as the realtor.  

Ultimately, what did we have to lose?

We mailed four letters.  Homeowners ranged from owning the home a year and a half to 10+ years.  We knew it was a risk, with a low likelihood to amount to anything, but at least we were trying.  Every day after the letters were sent I’d ask Mike if he had heard anything.  If you know Mike, you know how much he loved this.  

It got to the point where I stopped asking; no one was looking to sell.

And then…

Actual homeowner response

And then one day in August, Mike called me.  “Someone emailed me about the house.”  I couldn’t believe it.  One of the homeowners had responded to the letter!  We were ecstatic.  The next day, we had a call to better understand situations and timing.  It turns out, the day after the owner heard he may be getting relocated, his wife sent him a picture of our letter she had received in the mail.  They weren’t in a rush as the relocation wouldn’t be happening until the next year, but we agreed we could come check the house out in August.  After touring the home and later agreeing to an off-market price, we eventually signed the contract for the home in December (at which point, we were also 3 months pregnant with baby #3).

So here we are, in escrow for our dream home.  A completely unrealistic yet perfect situation to make our dream home a reality.  

Now, all we have to do is sell our home…


Guest Blogger:  Kelly D’Elena

Chapter 1 of 4



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