On Christmas Eve 2016, we found out we were going to become grandparents. Our oldest son and his wife had been married for 3 years, and it was an announcement we had waited anxiously for. It was the best Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten.
Two months later, my husband made an announcement of his own. He wanted to move. Son #1 and his wife lived over 200 miles from us. He wanted us to move closer to them, and said he didn’t want to be like his own parents, who had almost no involvement with our two boys, their only grandchildren.Despite the fact that, as everyone knows, my heart was set on moving to the beach, I immediately agreed that we would, instead, move north so that we could be a part of our grandchild’s life.
There was nothing really keeping us where we were in southeastern Virginia. My parents, who had, years before, relocated to be closer to us and their only grandchildren (at the time), had moved on and were living in Colorado, near my brother and his family. Neither my husband nor Son #2 was particularly happy with their employment. As for me, being self-employed, my job is portable. I can do it anywhere.
So, we contemplated what it would take to uproot our lives and devised a 12-to-18-month plan to move.
But as often happens, circumstances beyond our control didn’t much care what our grand plan was. Within days of us announcing our news to Son #1 and his wife, an interest rate hike was announced, accompanied by warnings that it was the first of multiple such increases planned for the year.
Suddenly we didn’t have the luxury of time. Rising interest rates could make a big difference in how much house we could afford — or price us out of the market altogether. We quickly decided we needed to revise our plan and kick it into high gear.
My husband immediately started looking for a new job, I started shopping for houses online, and our first official step in the process was a trip to the bank to find out what kind of a mortgage was right for us and how much we could pre-qualify for.We were pretty happy with the number the bank gave us. The loan amount was enough to buy a nice home in the new location. Armed with that information, we decided to pursue our accelerated plan and, after 25 years in the city where we’d raised our boys, commit to making the move.
We started interviewing real estate agents, both on the sell and buy side, began de-cluttering and de-personalizing our home in anticipation of putting it on the market, and my husband made the first of many trips in connection with his new job.
Then we hit our first real bump in the road. We found out the pre-qual number the loan officer had given us was overly optimistic — by about 15%. That made a pretty big difference in what kind of house we could afford, and we had to accept the fact that, to find something we’d be happy with, we were going to have to cross the border into West Virginia, where housing prices are much lower.
Not to sound like a snob, but I really didn’t want to live in West Virginia. I’d been a legal resident of Virginia literally all my life (though I did live in Maryland for 3 years) and I wanted to keep it that way. But there wasn’t much chance of finding the kind of home we wanted — at our new price point — in Virginia, so we took a deep breath and accepted that we’d have to move to Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.It was me and Son #2 on the first house hunting trip, and I quickly became discouraged. Homes that looked beautiful in online photos all turned out to have some deal-breaking flaw. The very first house we looked at — which I had loved when I found it online — had a deck that overlooked a neighbor’s backyard, filled with old cars, junk, and a big dog. Another house that had a spectacular backyard was a tri-level so small that the current occupants had turned the entire downstairs area, meant to be a family room, into their master bedroom.
We found one house we really liked. It was in a quiet, well established neighborhood with mature trees. It was a quad-level, something I had never seen before, which meant it had lots of options for our multi-generational/home office lifestyle. There was a big hole in the back yard where apparently there had once been a pool, but we figured that was easily taken care of, and we decided we’d make an offer.
However, we had not yet gotten an offer on our current home, and there was no way the bank was going to give us a loan on another house until we closed the sale on the first one, so it had to be a contingent offer. Unfortunately, we discovered that the hot seller market worked against us as buyers — but wasn’t working for us as sellers — and our agent said we’d have no bargaining power until we had a contract on our current home.
Dejected, we went back to southeastern Virginia and tried to regroup.
Then the floor dropped out from under us.