If you know me in real life or follow along on the blog, you probably know that we recently moved to a new house (the main reason I’ve been so absent from this space the past few months). Today I’d like to chat a bit about our move – why we decided to buy and sell when we did, how we chose our realtor, why we decided to stay in Madison, Alabama, and how the whole buying and selling process went for us (including a little hiccup with our closing). Let’s get to it!
Timing – why now?
We decided to list our home to sell and find a new one at the moment we did for several reasons. For one, we’d been talking about selling for a while now because we were starting to outgrow our old home. After decluttering our house using the KonMari Method earlier this year, we found that we had plenty of space to store our things and live comfortably in that house, but honestly, we had outgrown it emotionally, if that makes any sense at all. I’ll explain.
I’m over it!
First of all, our first home was located south of Madison in a town called Triana, but was annexed into Madison City. We were so far out of the way of most of the things we enjoyed doing and most of the places we needed to go. Even though we were still in Madison, we were 15-30 minutes from just about everything, including my parents’ house, our church, and grocery stores, the places we most frequently needed to go. We wanted to be in town, closer to everything.
Another reason we were ready to move is because we were afraid of what was going to break in our house next that was going to cost us a ton of money. Our house was built by Hunter Homes, and if you’re not familiar with Hunter Homes, they would build the most house that they could for the very least amount possible (which we didn’t realize when we decided to build with them). When shopping for our first home 7 years ago, we had a few things in mind that we wanted, but no established homes gave us the space that this new construction home would. But after living in the house for a few years, and raising babies in the house, we realized later what the house was missing. We didn’t know what we really wanted in a home when we bought our first house because we had been living in tiny apartments all of our adult lives. There were several things wrong with the house, some you can overlook and some you can’t.
- There were no closets in the house outside of the bedrooms (no coat closets, linen closets, pantry, etc.). Granted, the bedroom closets were very large, but that meant that everything had to be stored either in a bedroom or in the garage.
- Not enough cabinet space and counter space in the kitchen. When we picked our floor plan it seemed like a very nice big, open kitchen, but it wasn’t as big as it seemed when trying to cook in it. It was big compared to the tiny apartment kitchens I was used to, but it seemed to shrink once babies came along and we had more stuff to store in cabinets.
- Poor construction means things break. We ended up having to replace our A/C unit 6 years after the house was built and we had to have parts of our roof repaired multiple times because shingles kept flying off every time it stormed. We found out later that they put in the cheapest, crappiest A/C unit they could, and that they didn’t properly secure the shingles on the roof. Many of our neighbors had the same problems.
When I say we’d outgrown our house emotionally, I really mean we were just over it. I can honestly say I do not miss one thing about that house, except we had some really nice neighbors next door. But the house itself….Bye Felicia!!
Another big downside of our location was where the girls were zoned for elementary school. We lived on the south end of Madison and were zoned for Columbia Elementary, which is on the very north end of Madison city. Don’t get me wrong, Columbia is a wonderful school and we would have been happy to go there, but there are 5 other elementary schools that would have been a closer drive. It would have taken at least 30 minutes to get her to school in the mornings, maybe more because we would have had to drive through other school zones.
We also wanted to be completely moved before she started school in August so that we wouldn’t have to move her in the middle of the school year. We wanted to get it done before she started Kindergarten.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Madison/Huntsville area, just know that this is a happening place right now! The area is growing like CRAZY and it’s only going to keep growing. There is a Toyota plant being built, as well as a new FBI Headquarters. We will also be home to a minor league baseball team starting next spring. All of this means that a whole bunch of people are about to be moving into this area and we were afraid the housing market is only going to continue to boom. As it is, a good percentage of people who move to the area from out of state want to live in Madison city because of the school system. Madison City Schools are ranked at the top in the state, and are hands down the best in North Alabama. It really doesn’t matter what school you’re zoned for in Madison City School district, because they’re all wonderful.
For this reason, houses zoned for Madison City Schools are selling like hot cakes. We figured now was the time to sell our house, make a decent profit off of it, and still be able to afford a nice house in Madison, because I’m afraid within the next few years, the market is going to continue to increase and you won’t be able to get as much house for your money.
How we chose our realtor
Our realtor was Kathy Passon with Matt Curtis Real Estate. She is the mother of a friend from church who I have known for most of my life, so she was a given! We could not have been happier with Kathy and the entire Matt Curtis Real Estate team. She helped us find our dream home and was there for us every step of the way, even when there were some hiccups thrown in there. We also worked with Gina, who helped us list and sell our home in 10 days(!!), something we never imagined would happen before starting this whole process!
Location, Location, Location
I’m sure it’s obvious by now why we decided to stay in Madison City. The schools are top notch and it puts us closer to the places we go on a daily basis. Before, we were 20 minutes from my parents’ house, and now it takes just 6 minutes to get there. We’re around the corner from a grocery store, a Walgreens, and several restaurants, including a McDonald’s, who probably knows me by name by now because I go there to get a large iced coffee pretty much every day. Before, it would take a good 30 minutes to get to Hwy 72, where most of the businesses are that we go to frequently – Target, Lowes, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, lots and lots of restaurants, etc. Now we can be on 72 in about 5 minutes and make it to these places in 10-15.
We’re much closer to many of our friends’ houses, which make play dates much more convenient. I would never want to invite people over for play dates before because I didn’t want them to feel obligated to drive so far out of the way. It’s safe to say we are much happier with our location than we were before!
How it all went down
Back in January we found out some friends from church were selling their house (which is in the same neighborhood as my parents’) so we contacted Kathy asking if we could schedule a showing. We had not actually sat down with a realtor to discuss putting our house on the market or anything. We just thought, “hey, lets go look and see if this is something we’d be interested in, and if so we’ll go from there.” Little did we know just how in demand Madison City property is right now. Their house sold in an afternoon! We didn’t even get a chance to look at it because they got an offer so fast.
This got us talking a little more about selling. The thing that had been holding us back for so long is that we didn’t really have money for a good down payment. When we got out of debt a couple years ago, the next step was to start saving for a down payment on a house. But then we made the decision for me to stop working full time and take the opportunity to stay home with my kids. This time with them is invaluable and irreplaceable and we don’t regret our decision one bit, but our ability to save for a down payment took a big hit. Then we kept having little things creep up, like needing a new HVAC unit and having to get our roof fixed and our cars fixed, that started to drain our savings account, and we thought it was even more impossible that we would ever get out of that house!
After emailing back and forth with Kathy and talking with our friends from church whose house sold super fast, we decided the best thing to do was to sit down with our realtors, figure out realistically what our house could sell for, and start getting our home ready to sell. We had a few things that needed to be fixed up around the house (like a huge hole in our carpet thanks to our dog) that needed to be fixed before we sold. We thought that everything would need to be fixed before the house went on the market, which was another reason we kept putting it off, but we found out that it didn’t. We also found out that because of the market, our house was valued at a good bit more than what we thought it would be. Hearing that the realtors thought we could sell for a pretty substantial amount more than what we bought it for gave us a little more hope and lit a fire under us (well, it lit a fire under David. Mine was already lit. He was more hesitant about it all. I was ready to GO!)
Being able to sell our house for a profit gave us the money we needed for a down payment, which is what was holding us back all this time. So we started to get our house ready to go on the market, which meant deep cleaning and finishing up decluttering. In the meantime we decided to look at a couple of houses. One Saturday afternoon we went to look at a house (before our house was actually on the market) and we decided immediately that we wanted to put in an offer. We even got to meet the owner of the house and have a nice chat with him, so we thought we had a good chance of them accepting our offer. They had multiple offers on the table and a couple nights later we got a call that they had accepted our offer! But since our house was not on the market yet, they had a 24 hour first right of refusal, which meant that if they got another offer that they wanted to accept, we then had 24 hours to sell our house! Whoa. We were very excited that our offer was accepted, but it never felt real to us because our house wasn’t even on the market yet.
I went into high gear trying to get the house ready for the Matt Curtis photographer to come take pictures and for them to get it listed. In between all of this, I ended up having my car accident, which helped me put a new perspective on all of it. Long story short, they got another offer on their house the day after ours went on the market, and ours didn’t sell in time. We were not too bummed about it because the entire time we had been praying that God’s will be done. If that was meant to be our house, it would work out, and if not, God would help us find our perfect home at another time.
Our house ended up selling after 10 days on the market, and 2 days later we put in an offer on a new construction home. We had looked at several homes, and none quite felt like it was “the one.” I had sort of avoided seeing new construction homes because I honestly wasn’t sure about doing a new construction after our experience with our last home. But we decided to give it a look anyway and fell in love. This time we knew what kinds of things to look for and we’ve found that Stone Martin Homes does much more quality work than Hunter Homes did. They ended up accepting our offer and agreeing to do a few extra things we asked for, like put in a fence, extend the patio, and put in blinds. It all felt like it was coming together, but it didn’t feel final until we closed on both. We were both a bit paranoid that something was going to end up happening with the closing of our sale that would cause us to not be able to buy this home, but all of that went perfectly smooth!
The hiccup in closing came from our lender and affected the closing on our new home. They had the date wrong and didn’t send us our Closing Disclosure to sign until the day before closing. Little did we know that the Closing Disclosure has to be signed a mandatory 3 days before closing and there’s no getting around that 3 days. We had no idea that this was something we needed to be on the lookout for and needed to have signed 3 days in advance. PSA: if you’re buying a home, be sure you’re checking with the lender to make sure they get that to you 3 business days before closing.
We were scheduled to close on both houses on Thursday May 2 and we had movers come and load all our stuff from the old house onto the truck on Wednesday May 1. We find out as they’re finishing up loading that we would not be able to close on our new house on May 2 as planned and would have to wait until Monday to close. Thankfully we were able to stay with my parents for those 5 nights, and the lender agreed to pay the extra overnight charges for all of our stuff to stay on the moving truck until Monday. It was quite frustrating in the moment, but looking back, worse things could have happened.
Why we chose this house
There were a few things we were looking for in our new home:
- At least 4 BR/2.5 bath
- Separate dining room
- Space for an office for David
- Space for a playroom for the girls, preferably with room for bunk beds
- Good size back yard
- Open floor plan OR the potential to make it open in the future
- Closets outside of the bedrooms (linen closet/coat closet)
- Space for a mudroom/drop zone area
We preferably wanted to find a house with a separate dining room, a bonus room, and an office, without having to use one of the extra bedrooms for either a play room or office. This was proving very hard to find in our price range. If it had a separate office space, it didn’t have a bonus room. If it had a bonus room, it didn’t have an office. The more we looked, the more we came to the realization that we needed to stop being so picky and find something that we liked that we could make work.
The house that we ended up buying actually does not have a separate dining room or a separate office, but it does have a large bonus room upstairs. We loved everything else about the house though, that we were able to overlook these things. If there’s one thing I wish this house has that it’s lacking, it’s the dining room, but it didn’t bother me so much that it deterred me from wanting to buy it. There is still a large dining area, large enough for a farmhouse table that seats 8, plus a china hutch and a coffee bar. The living room, kitchen, and dining area are completely open, which I love, and there’s a beautiful large island with a crap-ton of cabinet space!
Another thing that sold us on this house is the huge back yard. We were shocked when we saw the size of the back yard, and honestly if the yard was not as big as it is, we probably would not have been as gung-ho about jumping on it. This was by far the largest yard that we had seen, with the exception of maybe one other house.
We also loved the isolated bonus room. All of the bedrooms and living space is downstairs, with a bonus room and half bath upstairs. This is the absolute perfect space for a play room and we could see our girls growing in this space. The bunk beds fit perfectly in this little alcove in the corner of the room, and there is still plenty of space to play or spread out sleeping bags all over the floor for sleepovers. I can picture the room evolving when they’re teenagers into a fun movie room where they can have friends over (no boys allowed). Being able to picture our family in a home years down the road was huge when searching for our new home.
We are using the fourth bedroom as an office for David instead of a guest room, which isn’t ideal, but I think it will work out well for now. When guests spend the night they will be able to stay in one of the girls’ rooms and the girls can sleep upstairs in their bunk beds. We also have a futon in the office that guests could stay on if need be.
One other thing I was looking for in a home was the potential to shift all of my KonMari organization into a new space without needed all kinds of new storage solutions. For example, I had carefully decluttered and organized my bathroom in the old house and when looking for a new house I wanted to be able to store everything in a similar fashion (in other words I really wanted a linen closet and at least one drawer in the bathroom). This wasn’t a make or break thing, but it was ideal so that I wouldn’t have to come up with different ways to store everything. That may sound silly, but I have grown to really love the KonMari style of organized living and I wanted to keep everything how it was. Thankfully, this house has ample closet/storage space and I was able to get everything organized neatly just as before, if not better.
Phew, sorry to be so long winded! I didn’t realize this post would end up being this lengthy, but thanks for sticking with me to the end! We are still not 100% settled in, but I’d say we’re about 85% there. We’ve still got a few things to unpack and a few projects to finish up before it feels complete.
If you’re looking to buy/sell in the Madison/Huntsville area and have questions about our realtor, don’t hesitate to ask! Also, my brother-in-law Jayce is a real estate agent in Montgomery, so if you’re moving there I’ve got a contact there too! Have a great rest of the week!