said the GPS tonight as we drove into the cul-de-sac and then pulled into our new driveway. Not ours forever, of course, but for at least the next two years (give or take), we have a home! A house with not one, but two front doors, a garage (attached) with a working door, a long driveway, sidewalks, and a mailbox that gets mail (are you ready for this?) six days a week, no keys required!
Mind you, we loved Iceland and miss our friends, the food (Skyr smoothies...), and the swimming pools (O.K., I miss the steaming hot pots!). However, when overseas you rarely if ever have a say in your housing. You can give your preferences as to where you would like to live, or offer that your 5 person family would love to squeeze in a 2 bedroom apartment (a slight exaggeration).
In the end, though, it is not the same as grabbing the real estate section, your pen, and a hot cup of coffee to check out this week's possibilities. The excitement of driving up to a new place, seeing it from the outside, praying the inside is as nice or hoping that the interior is so fabulous that the neglected front yard can be disregarded.
We had been looking at online listings since February. Mostly just to see what was out there, but sort of hoping to eventually see something fabulous...maybe even so fabulous, I would be willing to send a check sight unseen. And, in fact, I did see a house on-line that looked almost perfect...a newer looking kitchen, backyard with a play area, spacious living room, and separate dining room. I discounted it, though, as it was early July and I thought it would be gone well before we arrived.
Fast forward a few days and we are in Memphis. Gretchen and I looking just for fun and she pointed out a house that seemed to have its own style, not as "California" as one might expect, yet looked as though it would be just the right size. Yep, it was the same property.
One week later, we arrive in CA, dazed and confused. I am trying to adjust, convinced everything and everyone will be so different here and yet, it's not that different, just much, much, much bigger. Since we were somewhat under the gun with regards to school registration, we got to work on the house-hunting. Day and night, night and day, checking Craigslist and every possible real estate site out there. Not all rentals are on Craigslist or the MLS, and the perfect house might be out there but only listed on an obscure site you would find by accident.
We called, called, and called a few more times. We wrote to anyone and everyone who advertised anything that looked like it might be a fit for our family. For every 20 calls and messages, we received two to three responses. By Saturday, we were desperate and I was ready to break down as we had not looked at one house.
Luckily, there was an open house, one of our four responses. Just as we were walking up the sidewalk, Pete's phone rang...."This is it!", I thought, the calls have begun! Nope, just the parents calling to check in. We kept walking, went into the house, and wow.
The owner/realtor/property manager (?) sat in a recliner and did not even peer over the edge of his paper. Just told us to walk on in and look around. We weren't even sure he was talking to us at first, but figured since we were the only ones there....
We took a look and despite the fact that there was new laminate flooring, it could not make up for the overwhelming amount of space that had not been updated. Should I mention the brown Jacuzzi tub in the master bath...with the rusty jets? The girls saw beyond that, of course, "Ooh, a big tub!!!!"
Between that, the carpet that looked 30 years old, the half-bath with cat litter that looked as though it hadn't been changed in months, well, you get the picture. We skedaddled on out of there and hoped perhaps it was just an anomaly, that other owners were a little more concerned about appearances, at least on open house day!
Ironically, after we left the house, somewhat dejected, the calls started coming in. Open houses were cropping up everywhere as well as many independent appointments. As of 3 p.m. on Sunday, we had looked at more than 8 houses in several different towns. Our heads were spinning, the 'mean lady' on the GPS was beginning to sound tired, and we were really weary of walking into a place that looked absolutely ideal only to find out we would have to supply our own washer, dryer, and refrigerator. Add that to the average rent, the several thousand dollar security deposits, and we were beginning to think retirement might never happen...until we went to our final open house.
It was "the" house we had seen online. We were now a little concerned as it seemed so right, yet had been advertised for so long. Was the school bad? (Nope, the word is that it is excellent) Should we be worried about crime? (Nope, it's a very safe neighborhood).
No, it was just everything falling together for us. As you read previously, once we walked in, we knew it was for our family. We could just feel ourselves living there (despite the fact we had to work hard to conjure up images of the eclectic combination of furniture we now have). The kids ran outside and played, Pete chatted with the property manager and I picture us grilling on the patio, hanging the Christmas stockings, and not spending my days vacuuming endless cracks in the floor.
And, tonight, signed lease in hand, we drove home. To our home, where Cait will play the piano and regale us with her sweet voice, where Kelsey will master bike riding and perhaps play a few hoops, where Nicholas will begin to talk, learn to walk, where next year, with bated breath, I will open an email from Peter that begins with..."Honey, the bid list is out! Can you believe a position in **** is open? Let's put it at the top of the list!"...and the adventure will begin all over again.