House hunting is a daunting task. So many details involved besides the packing, utilities, and the resetting of your roots. Two of my counterparts here at Coldwell Banker are going through this right now and I know the amount of stress, pressure and excitement that they’re experiencing, but my friend Vera and her family has experienced this a bit more in the past year than anyone else I know. In fact, Vera hasn’t just moved across the country and back again in the last year, but she’s also had to go through the ordeal of purchasing a house sight unseen.
I asked Vera to share a bit about this pursuit of home and what it’s like creating a home in all these different locations, especially now that she and her husband, Leonid, have 3 children. Vera obliged and I wanted to share her thoughts on what has become an amazing journey with memories made in some of the most unlikely and unexpected places. Here’s what she said:
It’s been eight weeks since we arrived at our new home in Charlottesville, VA. We found the house online and agreed to rent it without seeing if first because our plans to purchase a different property fell through when the owner changed his mind about selling. We needed a place to live and this house was in the school district that we wanted for our boys, the neighborhood seemed nice, and the interior pictures seemed ok. Thankfully, it turned out better than ok! All of our things are unpacked, pictures are up, curtains are hung, and the bright yellow chrysanthemums by the front door tell me that this house will happily be our home for a few years at least.
Doesn’t everyone want to live in Australia? Well not me…
When I was growing up, the move that I remember the best was in third grade when my parents sold their house in Morristown, NJ and bought another one on a heavily wooded property in Chester, a town about 10 miles away. I was excited because this new place was so different – surrounded by trees, deer that I could watch from the living room window, and even a shed/playhouse all my own! That house was my home for 15 years, and the amazing garden that my parents carved out of those woods was the setting for my wedding pictures. Ten years ago I married a Russian Aussie, so three weeks after the wedding we were off to live in Melbourne, Australia. How cool is that? Doesn’t everyone want to live in Australia? Well not me. When I lived in Australia, “home” was my parents’ place back in Jersey. “Home” was American accents, green woods (no eucalyptus), familiar faces and familiar places.
Then suddenly after three years, we came back home – but not really. My husband is a doctor, and the residency spot that he got was in Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport?!? Where is that anyway? (It’s in the NW corner of the state near Arkansas and Texas – the closest big city is Dallas.) I didn’t know anyone in Shreveport, but we lived there for the six years of my husband’s residency and fellowship. All three of our children were born in Louisiana. My husband and I purchased our first house in Shreveport’s historic South Highlands neighborhood and spent three years and uncounted amounts of money doing things like re-glazing the original 1940s windows that some genius had painted shut.
We never planned to stay permanently in Shreveport, but when my husband was accepted into a fellowship program at Stanford University, I suddenly realized that I didn’t want to leave the familiarity of the life we had created in Louisiana for overpriced, congested, and crazy Northern California! Even the fact that when my husband was interviewing in Palo Alto, Shreveport was suffering through a record breaking drought and over 80 days straight of 100+ degree temperatures, while the Bay Area was enjoying temperatures in the low 70′s was not enough to sway me. I even seriously considered remaining in Shreveport for the year that my husband did the fellowship – now that I look back at that time, I realize it must have been a combination of sleep deprivation caused by the new baby and heat exhaustion that led me even to contemplate such an insane notion!
So we rented our beloved home to a sweet couple from our church, put half of our things in storage, got rid of a third of what was left, and moved into a 960 square foot 2 bedroom/1 bath cottage in Los Altos. The rent on this chicken coop was just a little less than 3 times the mortgage that we had been paying on our house! But of course California was great! The beaches, the redwood forests, the Golden Gate Bridge, I could go on forever. And you know what, five people can make a home out of 960 square feet – I think there’s a lesson there in our McMansion crazed society.
Today my husband is done with all his training, and is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia. It’s the bottom rung of the ladder of academic medicine, but by the grace of God, we’re in the place we want to be, our new home is a rental, but we love the neighborhood. The boys are happy in their new school, and I am looking forward to calling Charlottesville “home.”
Now I just need to stay off coldwellbanker.com for a while, because having finally unpacked everything, there is no way I want to pack again for at least 2 years!