As we moved on from the house we lost, we kept previewing homes in the neighborhood. We hadn't done the type of research we recommend our clients do...
- Walk the neighborhood to get a feel for the vibe, neighbors, friendliness-factor
- Drive the neighborhood at night, sometimes you notice things when the sun is gone and the streetlights are on
- Research the schools, understand when your kids would start attending, ratings, demographics, student/teacher ratios, activities, parent feedback, etc.
- Drive your commute during rush hour, have a realistic sense of what your daily to and fro experience will be
- Figure out your closest: everything you travel to with frequency (for example... grocery store, playground, gas station)
We knew we wanted to stay in DC, we knew we wanted a yard, we knew we wanted public schools we could send our kids to without reservations (I guess there's some double meaning here: without hesitation, but also without a waitlist!), we knew we wanted a single family home, and we knew we wanted diversity.
So with a little digging around at school ratings and demographics, I picked an elementary school, and we started visiting every house that came on the market within the bounds of that school. Again, we didn't intend to move quickly. But we did want to start getting a feel for the houses in that neighborhood so that we would know our house when we saw it.
And one day, while scouting out a few homes that had newly come on the market, we realized we weren't too far from the house we didn't get (and the house we couldn't see). The snow had long since melted, and we soon found ourselves driving up the mystery driveway, all the way up to a large, heavy, and long-unmoved chain-link gate. With two kids in the backseat, I climbed out of the passenger seat, lifted, nudged, and scraped the gate six inches forward, and waited for my husband to join me on a little exploration.
And here is what we found:
That crush we had developed from some online photos and a terse description of the home from the original listing agent (not unlike a poorly executed dating profile), was creeping away from infatuation and crawling towards true love. We circled the property and took in the back yard and wrap-around porch, we peered through windows and squinted at hardwood floors and a finished basement. It was dusty, overgrown, and a little sad, but it had oh so much potential.
We tried to contain our imaginations, because we both had the feeling we had found our home, but it wasn't for sale. At least not yet.