I know this may seem like a no-brainer, but I'm not sure I ever realized how much having kids would impact the process of buying a new house. Until now, we hadn't really been serious about it, at least not anytime soon. We've been in our house now for a little over four years. I guess I didn't anticipate us staying any longer than five years or so, but I think I figured by then that we'd have found some excuse to move back to Buffalo, or that we'd both have fantastically high paying jobs that would afford us a dream house...not huge, mind you, just newer, bigger, and nicer. As much as I didn't want to start with a starter house (because I didn't want to be in this exact position of having to move, whenever), we didn't have much of a choice. We were both making peanuts at the time and only thanks to my generous grandparents and high savings account interest rates could we afford what we ended up with. Fast forward four years and we both make considerably more money...but it's still not what we'd like to be pulling in, and day care swallows up a bunch of the extra anyway. Knowing how much money we've put into the house, we probably could have gotten a better one to begin with...but we just didn't know at the time. Unfortunately, there's still a lot more we should do. Forty-five year old houses sometimes come cheap, but they come at a price all their own.
When we bought our house, the goal was to have at least one child while we were there, and then figure out how the space fit our needs beyond that. I spent the first five-plus years of my life in a house that size and our family of four was fine. But times have changed, I guess, with the need for a computer and just more "stuff". Craig and I had more than enough room when it was just the two of us, and were fine when Jacob was a newborn. Once he started getting bigger toys and started to get more mobile, it started to feel a little cramped. And when I think of adding another baby to the mix in the next couple years, I immediately start feeling claustrophobic. We'd have to move everything out of our office--computer, bed, dirty laundry, Craig's extra dresser, a bookshelf--and find other places for it all. And really, there's nothing convenient available in our living space. We're pretty full. Sure, we could reorganize our storage and move at least the computer to the basement, but I'm not sure any of it would make a great difference or be particularly convenient.
Ultimately I think we'd run out of room no matter what, and I decided a while back that there was no way that I wanted to pack or move while pregnant or with a new baby. I don't need the stress (mental or physical) on me or the baby. Moving is incredibly stressful and exhausting when you're 100% healthy, let alone when you're pregnant or sleep-deprived. I find it hard to slow down when pregnant (hence my bathroom border installation and frequent furniture assembly last time around), so I can only imagine the damage I could do mid-move. So...since my ideal timeline is to be freshly pregnant about this time next year, we'd have to move sometime between now and then. It's still a relatively decent window, but it could close fast when you take into consideration the time it could take to sell our house and go through closings on both. Just the thought of it gives me serious anxiety, and I haven't even added packing into the mix...ugh.
I've always kept my eye on the real estate world, probably more out of curiosity than anything, but a while back I set up a recurring search on our local real estate site within the bounds of what I thought we'd want. Every week I check to see if anything new has popped up. There had been a couple that intrigued me, but nothing to the point of going to see any. One neighborhood in particular had caught my interest a couple times because it had newer houses that were moderately sized and priced. They were also a bit more contemporary looking than your average house of that size, so that was neat. It's a series of three cul-de-sacs, making for a quiet neighborhood. Houses have gone up for sale periodically there, but either we weren't serious enough about it or I never bothered to try to see one before it sold. Well, last week I noticed that one of the houses up for sale in that neighborhood was having an open house. So last Sunday while Craig was at work, Jacob and I headed off to see it. I really figured that it would just be a means to an end--that I would see that the house wasn't that great, that the bedrooms were too small, that it just wouldn't work for us--so I could stop staring at listings for houses like that one. Well...that's not exactly what happened. The house was pretty stinkin' great. The last time we looked at houses, there were only a couple out of maybe eight or so that we walked out of thinking, "Yeah, we could live here." The rest were good, solid no's. So imagine my surprise when the first house I look at is really decent. The kitchen is large, the dining room is comfortable, the living has a cathedral ceiling and open stairway, the basement is partially finished with lots of storage, the laundry room is on the first floor, the bedrooms and full bath are nicely sized, there's a nice deck and backyard, and the house itself looks well-built and well-maintained. I liked it enough that we set up a meeting yesterday with the realtor so Craig could see it too. He liked it as well. Now our biggest concern is deciding how serious we are and what we have to do to get ours ready for the market.
But for all the times I've complained about our house and dreamed of moving on to bigger and better things, I still find myself hesitating. When you get settled into a house it becomes a part of who you are. And in the time we've been there, we've had a baby and watched him grow for the last 16 months. And he factors in so greatly to this whole process, in so many ways. As it was we had pretty much decided to stay in Greece so Jacob didn't have to change daycares. I do wonder what a house change will do to him...will he stop sleeping well because he misses his old room? I'd be a little sad to leave our house because we have so many good memories there now with all of Jacob's firsts. It's in a nice neighborhood with a school and a playground right around the corner. I always imagined walking there day after day in the summer to play with Jacob, and maybe even walking him to school there one day. Speaking of schools, is that elementary school any better or worse than the one we'd be moving to? Right now we have a great tree for his swing, but I'm not sure there is one at this other house...though I suppose we could put up a swing set there instead. Our neighborhood has sidewalks perfect for wagon rides, while the other one doesn't really get enough traffic to necessitate sidewalks (but still...it'd be nice to have them). What kind of friends would he have in each neighborhood as he grows older? We have great neighbors now that have been really thoughtful toward us and Jacob, and I would definitely miss knowing that they're there.
Even just having to consider how our routines will change over the years with a growing boy, and someday another baby, is mind-boggling. For example, one of the drawbacks for me with this new house is the laundry room. The good news is that it's on the ground floor. The bad news is that the stationary tub is in the basement and there's probably not much room for an ironing board, drying rack, or a place to hang clothes on hangers in the laundry room itself. Jacob is entering the muddy knees phase and will be getting even more into self-feeding over the coming months. I already spend a bit of time each week scrubbing in our (new) stationary tub. Will it be inconvenient if I have to do that in one place and bring it to another spot for washing? I don't know. I'd definitely appreciate the bigger kitchen with plenty of room for sippy cups and Jacob-specific foods (it's all crammed in one little cabinet right now), not to mention enough cabinets to have a "fun" 0ne for Jacob to dig through. Right now my cabinet space is too scarce to have one like that. It will be nice to have more space for him to run, and I'm sure he'd find endless fun climbing the stairs. But will stairs become more of a pain than they're worth? In particular I think about that for when we have another baby and we're climbing up and down stairs every time we need to go to the baby's room from anywhere other than our room or the bathroom. That said, I think we'll have a tough time finding a ranch that's large enough and in our budget, since most large ranches cost a ton.
We know that at some point we'll have to move because we're just going to outgrow our space. We could potentially spend a lot of money on upgrades for our current house, and there are still things that concern me about it (aluminum wiring being at the top of that list), so it may not be a bad thing to do. I don't know if we'll find many houses this new, this large, and this nice within our budget, but what if we jump the gun and miss out on something better or find out that this house isn't all it's cracked up to be? At the end of the day we just want what's best for our family...be it comfort, convenience, health, or anything else. And when you don't know exactly what that entails, it's a tough decision. Stay tuned...