Most of you probably know this already, I’ve mentioned it on my Instagram story and in a few other posts, but my husband and I bought a house! Ok technically it’s an end row home. We still live in the DC area but we were ready to own our own place again versus renting.
We used to own a home in Kansas City. We lived there for several years, then rented it out when we moved to DC and finally sold it a few years ago after owning it for seven years.
Since we foresee staying in the DC area for my husband’s line of work (although we are totally willing to move), we felt it was time to take the plunge again.
It all happened rather quickly although my husband has been wanting to buy for a long time and I was the one who wasn’t ready. DC is really expensive and I knew to get what I wanted, where I wanted, was going to be hard if not impossible. So I was willing rent where I wanted to live versus buying something in an area I didn’t really want to live in.
When our apartment building wanted to raise the rent on us several hundred dollars (for no reason) we were like, we’re done. Just to give you an idea — a PARKING SPOT in the building that I already paid to live in was $250/month additional to rent for residents. Ya.
Personally I looked at renting as freedom. Not being tied down anywhere. Having the ability to pick up and move to a different city or country if we wanted to. But the rental rates here (and in cities like NYC and SF) are just as much as mortgages (if not more!). So I was finally ready to stop wasting money on rent and start putting it into a mortgage where at least we have the chance of getting that money back when we sell the house. It seemed like a better financial decision.
Once we made the decision to buy, and we gave our apartment building notice and we had a move out date — it was on. Looking at houses took over our lives. Because we couldn’t extend our lease, we were seriously looking because if we didn’t buy something quickly enough we’d have to find something else short-term, or rent again last minute. Just the thought of doing a short-term rental stressed me out.
Having bought a house before about 9 years ago, I knew this time would be different, but I didn’t know how different. When we bought in Kansas City it was a buyer’s market. Houses would be on the market for months, you could offer below asking and ask for all sorts of things to be fixed before closing, which is what we did when we bought our first home.
In the DC area, that is not the case.
FINDING THE RIGHT HOME
The market is so competitive in our price range you have to be ready to make an offer almost immediately. Usually people will put their home on the market on a Thursday, do an open house on the weekend and “take offers” until a certain time on Monday and review them all at once so that people put their best offer in first. Literally, houses are on the market for less than a week with multiple competing offers. It’s insane.
So we would look online all week at houses, decide which ones we wanted to go to, organize them by where they where the the time frame of the open house, and spend all day Saturday and Sunday driving around going to open houses in the order we put them in. This went on for over a month. Every weekend.
The first house we put an offer on with the help of our awesome Realtor Anna-Louisa Yon, we bid $30k over the asking price, and we were only the 3rd best offer out of 7 offers. If that gives you any idea how competitive the market is here. Even for not so great homes it’s like this.
We were really picky about our house — as you should be, and as most people are — so it was pretty easy to sift through the market and agree on the ones we liked and didn’t like pretty quickly. Luckily my husband and I have pretty similar taste so agreeing for us wasn’t hard.
After we learned we didn’t win the bid on the first house, we had only one more weekend to put an offer on a house and close (according to our bank’s timeline of 35 days) by the time our lease was up. Otherwise we’d have to do a short-term rental while we kept looking which would not be fun. Moving twice in one summer, no thanks. Furnished apartment, no thanks.
After weeks of looking I was starting to get really down and so was my husband, so I was trying really hard to be positive and “manifest” that we’d find something THAT WEEK. Sure enough, my husband emailed me not two hours later a link to a new property that just went on the market that morning. I opened it on my computer and I just thought — that’s the one. That’s our house.
We went and looked at the house THAT DAY within hours of it going on the market, we put an offer in THAT NIGHT, and the offer expired in two days — the Friday before their open house. We knew if it got to the open house we wouldn’t have as good of a chance at winning against other offers. People do crazy things here like completely waive the inspection, or pay in cash — we weren’t going to do either of those things.
Finally, they said yes to our offer. I was so relieved that we weren’t going to have to do a short-term rental situation as long as we could get the bank to close on time. Now we just had to figure out the logistics of moving and start the mortgage process.
To throw a really fun wrench into the situation, I was going on a trip to LA and Palm Springs for 8 days during the time that we needed to move out of our apartment, and two days before we closed on the house and moved in. Clearly I planned that before we started looking for houses as I would never have put myself in that situation otherwise.
To say the least, I was stressed the F out. Lots of balls in the air, lots of things to figure out, lots of things I couldn’t control. So I was having to figure out all the options and get everything in order.
I’m going to write an entire post about the mortgage process because let me tell you — it was a complete nightmare. That was by far the most stressful part of the entire experience. Hopefully my experience can help some of you if you’re thinking of buying a home at some point.
One thing that was easy to figure out was what to do with all of our stuff for the 13 days between the time we had to move out of our apartment and our move-in date. The solution was easy — PODS.
PODS was so easy to set up and use. I was able to get it all set up online and get a bid for my move within minutes. You might have seen the videos on my Instagram story showing how they move the PODS containers around. I had no idea how it worked so it was fascinating to me.
They dropped our PODS container off early in the morning, my husband and I loaded it up with our boxes and furniture. I had planned and packed up our stuff for two weeks leading up to our move so I didn’t feel rushed or anxious about it. Then PODS came and took the container with all of our stuff and stored it for us while we were out of town.
I didn’t even realize just how much easier a PODS container is than a moving truck — there’s no ramp! The container is right on the ground, so you don’t have to hoist things up into a truck or use a sketchy ramp. My husband and I got all of our stuff into the container within a matter of hours on our own.
One amazing thing about using PODS that we didn’t foresee was that we didn’t have to drive our stuff anywhere. Especially that day after you’ve just spent your entire morning moving heavy things around. We could just leisurely get lunch and clean up our empty apartment. We also didn’t have to move all of our stuff into our new place on the same day.
In my mind, that is where moving gets absolutely exhausting — moving out and moving in on the same day. We had almost two weeks before we had to move all of our stuff into our new place. It was such a nice feeling to break up the move like that. Since we did the move ourselves the break was really nice. PODS was storing all of our stuff until our move-in date.
THE IN-BETWEEN: LA, PALM SPRINGS & THE RITZ-CARLTON
The morning after our move out, I was flying to LA and my husband was meeting me there 4 days later. He slept on an air mattress in our empty apartment for those 4 days (and deep cleaned our apartment and dealt with all of the loose ends — credit deserved!) with the dog before meeting me out in California. Our lease ended the day after he flew out to meet me. Hemingway went to stay with a friend, and then we enjoyed 5 days in Palm Springs over our 12th wedding anniversary.
We got back to DC late on a Wednesday night, and our closing/move-in date was Friday morning. So we had two nights in limbo. I knew we could stay with friends, but having a dog I hate to ask anyone to house us and the dog. Luckily my friends over at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City saved the day and hosted us for two nights. Ritz to the rescue!
Honestly, I can never tire of saying amazing things about the Ritz-Carlton. I have always had amazing experiences with them. Their customer service is just beyond. Nothing is ever an issue. They take care of everything with a smile.
They gave us a room on the club level which is basically a private floor with access to their club room which has food and drinks all day long. The entire experience was nice and calm. Just what I needed.
We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia last year and had the most amazing time so I was excited to experience the one here in DC as well. It was so nice to get off a long flight and know I was going to a clean, beautiful hotel, where I could just plop down in the comfy bed after an 9-day trip in the middle of moving.
The night we arrived back from Palm Springs we made it just in time to put our bags in our room and go downstairs to eat at Fyve. Everything was delicious, but the onion soup was some of the best I’ve ever had. Melty gruyere all over the top, mmmmm.
Even though our mortgage process was a stressful nightmare during this entire time, knowing PODS had our stuff safe and sound, and we were staying at the Ritz-Carlton during our two nights in limbo was such a relief! Two potentially stressful things that turned out to be the easiest parts of our move. Hemingway stayed with a friend at a local dog daycare that he loves.
Friday morning we were up and ready to move in, our PODS container arrived, and again — we got all of our stuff out of the PODS container and into our house within a matter of hours. I even was able to help my husband get our dressers up our narrow staircase and into the bedroom thanks to my new CrossFit muscles. This is definitely the strongest I’ve ever been, which made moving much easier on me, and my husband. I remember the first time we ever moved — a week after we got married, I couldn’t even help carry our TV and I dropped it on the ground…
Back to moving in. We got everything out of the PODS container and into our new house. No returning a truck or anything since they come and pick the container up! My husband and I found this so convenient, I doubt we’ll ever personally use a moving truck again.
I was able to get the kitchen in order that day, and over Memorial Day weekend we unpacked all the boxes, everything was in its place so that by Tuesday we actually felt settled. The only problem was, we didn’t actually own the house yet…
MORE ON MOVING
Our mortgage guy messed up our mortgage, and we had to do a rent back where we rented the home from the owners for a week before the bank could finish getting everything in order so we could close — a week late.
I wrote the story with all the details in this post — there’s a lot to learn from our mortgage situation (short version is make sure the person you are dealing with knows WTF they are doing, ours didn’t), but luckily our physical move couldn’t have been easier because of PODS and our 2-days of homelessness couldn’t have been nicer because of the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, so I have a lot to be thankful for.
Also, Hemingway loves his new house and yard. He’s much more chill in our new neighborhood. Less people (although still a ton of people), less sirens (less but still daily), less chaos — the chaos where we lived in the city (14th St.) really made him anxious. Now we live in a more calm area with a huge field nearby where he can run around and get his energy out. At the same time we still live right by a metro stop — so we still have all the conveniences of transit and are still living in a super populated area with tons of restaurants but I personally feel much more calm myself. There’s just an instant relaxation factor when you hear birds and see lots of green grass and trees every day.
The house is coming along. I already repainted almost the entire interior of the house. We still have some work to do on the kitchen and bathrooms, and a few other things that will probably take a year or so to fully transform, but it already feels like home.
Stay tuned for more home coverage this year! There are so many things I’m wanting to do — paint the entire exterior, get a new front door (or have our current one painted), extend our back patio and turn our backyard into an outdoor dining and lounge area, update our kitchen cabinets with new paint and hardware, replace our washer/dryer, get new blinds for the entire home, update the bathrooms, and get new light fixtures and fans in every room. Our kitchen and bathrooms are updated, but just not in our personal style, so while they are absolutely livable, nice even, I still want to redo them in our style. Don’t worry, I’ll be donating all of the current fixtures to a cause as to not waste them!
Top photo by Emma Weiss
Thanks to PODS and the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City for partnering with me during my move!