The BIG Announcement
~Friday, May 4 to May 12, 2023~
The days leading up to the home purchase
Well hello again. We apologize for the lack of communication with our readers these past few months, but I swear we have a good excuse. There are a few twists and turns to tell you about and honestly, don’t even know where to begin. Even though I’ve managed to stay chronological in my posts, I now find myself going, well, a little out of sequence. This is a long post, so grab your glass of wine, cup of tea, or warm java depending on when you're reading this and enjoy.
Since our last “chat”, there have been a few pretty momentous things that happened between Asheville, NC and Lake Oswego, OR (specifically May 12th to July 14th); First, the emotional roller-coaster of searching for the perfect house to……….drumroll please🥁……….ultimately finding THE HOUSE. Yep, the outcome from all the anticipation and detailed planning is finally coming to fruition. And interestingly enough, it was the house that dictated the location, not the other way around. All along, we had been focusing on the towns that we liked, hoping the right house would present itself. Beckoning us to return for a more thorough search, it was the Blue Ridge Mountain area that spoke to us, narrowed down to 3 states……..Virginia, North Carolina, or Tennessee; a difficult feat as there were quite a few contenders out of the 40 states we visited over the course of 3 years. Multiple times, we found ourselves thinking “this could be the one”.
By sheer coincidence back in 2020, we hopped on the lifestyle change bandwagon, joining thousands of people either making the urban to rural migration or being part of the full-time RV surge spawned by COVID (actually this shift was already starting to happen even before the pandemic). Just to give you an idea just how big the RV world became, RV sales grew about 20% in 2020. As we came to like our cozy 250 square foot space in predominantly “natural” spaces, we knew that’s where our next home needed to be…..in a natural, spacious setting. Spending time in small, country-like hometowns intrigued us. But if this was the direction we were aiming for, there were a few fundamental requirements……..proximity to airports, shopping and hospitals. But wait, doesn’t a small town equate to a boring, more isolated existence? After all, we were used to a plethora of activities to choose from in our quiet little slice of suburbia while raising a family in Napa Valley for the past 20 years. Small town, slower pace of life fantasies seemed so indulgent at the time. But at this stage of our lives, and in no haste, it really seems to be the right fit.
Which brings us to Asheville, NC for a third time. We decided the best thing was to camp there for at least a month to immerse ourselves in everything Asheville……..outdoor adventures, the beer and food scene, and a hoppin’ city. Campground, check. Realtor, check. Time, check. And off we went to tour Asheville and its more rural, surrounding towns such as Brevard, Weaverville, Black Mountain, Hendersonville, Candler and Lake Lure. Of all those, Brevard really struck a chord with us, more so than Asheville proper. Brevard is the quintessential mountain town. But had we arrived a little too late?
Back in 2020 when we were researching cities we wanted to explore, Asheville was on our radar thanks to the internet and its top 10 status of places to retire. What’s more, there were lovely homes on sizable properties that were in our price range. Again, that was 2020. Fast forward 2 years where national home prices went up a record 33%. When we got down to the serious business of looking in 2023, the climate had certainly shifted in price and inventory mainly due to interest rate spikes. We found ourselves looking at a completely different picture. Over the course of the month we were camped in Asheville, we became increasingly frustrated about what we could get for our money. Gone was the notion that we could afford a home in a beautiful, somewhat rural area, located on 2 to 3 acres. Prematurely, I’d already begun planning my docent duties at either the Biltmore Estate or the Flowering Bridge in Lake Lure, even before finding the ideal property. We were so sure that North Carolina was it.
Time for Plan B, so back to the drawing board we went. Early on in our search, Jeff and I had agreed that I would be doing most of the legwork in finding our new abode……..daily check-ins on Realtor.com and Redfin to make sure not one house slipped past our eyes. Surely, something would present itself. It didn’t, until on a whim, Jeff thought he’d check out listings in the other two states we were considering, Tennessee and Virginia. In a matter of an hour, he found IT and on Zillow no less (not the most reliable real-estate listing platform). As a matter of fact, the home just seemed too good to be true for the price being asked. So on he went, looking over every detail about the home before presenting any of it to me…..a true log cabin on 21 acres IN OUR PRICE RANGE, in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Never did we think we’d be in a town the size of a postage stamp (465 as of the 2020 census). After about 90 minutes of combing through the listing, Jeff finally presented it to me and within an hour we were on the phone with the listing agent.
Mind you, we did not have an agent in Virginia and with how fast things were moving, decided to thoroughly check out reviews of the listing agent, Janie, in case we decided to use her (all the reviews were stellar). We knew it wasn’t ideal to have a dual agency situation, but wanted to leave all of our options open. Being a Friday evening, we thought we wouldn’t reach her until the following day. She picked up immediately, genuinely interested in our situation. We hit it off immediately. Jeff and I explained our story and backgrounds, honing in on our appreciation of the work and details that went into a home such as this one. Being that she knew the original owners of the home, I think our comments really resonated with her along with the other things that we were potentially offering. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to meet with us until Sunday which caused immediate concern for us that someone else could preempt our offer on Saturday, nullifying our chances of ever seeing the home. But Janie assured us that no offers would be accepted until after we’d seen the house. We felt so confident about our chances of getting this home, that it made the 4-hour drive from Asheville where we were camped, an undaunting task. We’d just have to gauge the entire situation after seeing the home and meeting Janie in person. In the end, it would be the right decision.
Before you knew it, we were moving from 0 to 60 in a flash recognizing and interpreting the “signs” that got us to this point. Coincidence? Perhaps. But I’ve always been a believer in synchronicity. You know that overwhelming sense you get when everything is lining up so perfectly? For example, the day that Jeff found the house, strangely, my normal streams of realtor.com notifications had stopped. Prior to this day, I was getting at least 50 a day. I took this to mean that we’d found the house with no need to look any further. That was Sign #1. Sign #2…..the timing. Months before, we had booked our month-long camping reservation in Asheville not knowing just how things would pan out. The length of our stay turned out to be perfect…..no extensions needed. Sign #3…..we could have been in Illinois at the time we found the home, had our granddaughter been born early, where one of us would have had to FLY to see our potential home, instead of driving (thankfully, Sofia decided to enter this world on May 30th). The stars had aligned perfectly.
Sunday couldn’t have come soon enough……I liken it to being a little kid anticipating Christmas morning.
We couldn’t wait to see what might be our next home. As we came through “our small town”, we passed about 20 older decently kept up homes that lined this former shipping town and all of its 6 commercial buildings……a town park, a town hall, a post office, police station, a volunteer fire station and a tiny family-owned grocery store in business since 1935. And of the 51 communities along the Appalachian Trail’s corridor, our 250-household town happens to be one of them (we’ll be fortunate to hike even a sliver of its 2,190 mile length). Even before we saw the house, we knew this town would be enough since everything beyond ITS offerings was within a 15-minute drive….shopping, airports, hospitals, etc. As we made the turn off the main 2-lane highway, we came upon lush, rolling fields of green with well-cared for homes occasionally dotting its landscape. The air smelled sweet from all the recently mowed lawns. Right before the turn to the house, a modest Baptist church and a small family farm sit to our left. The meandering, flat, gravel communal driveway is shared by 5 families, one of which is the guy that built the home we were pursuing. When we finally made it to our driveway, we were greeted by a small bridge over a tiny creek and up we went…….about 200 yards long, surrounded by green hills and a dense forest behind. And finally, the house came into view, on a wooded knoll, surrounded by grass and forest with Janie, patiently awaiting our arrival. We immediately felt a connection with her and the house. Yes, it needed some enhancements, particularly in terms of the landscaping, but it was……amazing! The outside had been recently stained/sealed and looked in excellent shape. There were 2 deep porches, one facing south, the other west (perfect for viewing those spectacular Blue Ridge Mountain sunsets). Doug, the builder, had his own roofing business and spared no expense on the copper roof and gutters. The quality and attention to detail was exceptional. There was a huge black cyclone fence pet enclosure we could do without. A 2-car garage with carriage looking doors and built-in shelves is part of the home and actually the first thing you see as you drive up to the house. There were 2 outbuildings set across from the house tucked into the hillside with forest surrounding both, and plenty of space for Hank, the Miata and Billie Jean. Of the 21 acres, 4 would be maintainable, leaving the rest, forest.
Entering the house from the south porch, the beautiful interior presented itself with its hardwood floors throughout, exposed beams and open floor plan. The windows were gorgeous. Within 10 seconds, we knew. As I tried to keep things on the low-down, containing my excitement, Janie wasn’t sure if we liked the home or not. Since we didn’t have our own agent, we just felt it better to play it cool.
As Jeff continued examining things UNDER the house, Janie and I were INSIDE talking about the current owners, the family that built the home and the history of the property. For 2 years, Doug and his wife built this home for their retirement years. Much of the land was originally owned by her grandparents. As I mentioned, he owned a roofing business and had a lot of connections in the contracting world; thus the copper roof and hand-hewn log home. But after about 7 years of living in the home, Doug’s wife became ill and couldn’t manage the stairs anymore, sadly forcing them to sell (they presently live in a prefabricated home just down the hill). Their daughter and son-in-law live on an adjacent property. How great is that, having the builder of our potential home, so accessible? Anyway, the subsequent owners were a young family who lived in the home for about 4 years, followed by the current owners, psychiatrists affiliated with the local hospital, who mainly used the home as a vacation property. Apparently, they also had homes in Florida, Arizona and Hawaii. Though the home was amazing, you could tell that they hadn’t maintained things in a while, placing a heavy reliance on Janie and the aid of 1 housekeeper to get the house presentable for its sale. We learned that most of the furniture, with exception of a few items, was included with the house. Wow……BONUS!!
Without uttering a word and the power of mental telepathy settled into our 32 years of marriage, we were IN!! It really was the perfect home. We could completely envision us entertaining friends and family (especially our precious grandchildren) and putting our stamp on the property. Though no house is perfect, the positive aspects far outweighed the glaring things that needed improvement. Here are the top 10 reasons why this property really resonated with us…..
A solidly built 2-story log home. On our past visits to various lodges throughout the country, we’d always dreamed of having a log home, but thought it would be just that….a dream.
The view orients west for viewing those spectacular sunsets and we’re up on a hill looking down on the valley
The porches. Had to have at least 1 porch, now we have 2.
Outbuildings were amazing. There are 2. The “shop” as we call it, is bigger than our first house (about 1200 square feet), perfect to develop Jeff’s man-cave. Now for that she-shed…..
The vaulted ceilings on the second floor make the space feel huge. The house is about 2,600 square feet but feels bigger.
The house can’t be seen from the main road. We’ve always hoped for a somewhat long driveway to get to our home.
Our goal was always to have at least an acre to have a garden and a place to store the trailer.
The house backs up to a forest. So we feel we’re in nature everyday which is so important to us. Bring on the wildlife!
We have neighbors but still feel secluded
A guest room for friends and family so they don’t have to stay in an outbuilding.
In terms of what we’d consider improving on (with caution),
Strangely, though this house screams large fireplace/hearth, it doesn’t have one. There is a portable fireplace in the master bedroom, but non in the common area
The master bathroom screams “put a window in please”. We can’t figure out why this wasn’t done in the first place. If we do this, we would also remove the space-age shower and put in a walk-in shower.
The downstairs bathroom does not have a shower, but a nice jacuzzi tub. A walk-in shower would also be nice.
The kitchen. This is our favorite room in the house being that we love to cook. Reconfigure island to accommodate a pot-rack, and room for at least 3 barstools. We’d also love to replace the Jenn-Air stove with a 6-burner gas stove and hood.
Landscape, landscape, landscape. A whole new learning curve for us being in a new planting zone from 9B to 7B which also happens to be in deer country.
When it came time to present our offer, Janie made it clear, the owners were firm on their price. With the size of the property, its location, and the many boxes that were checked, we felt the asking price was within reason and decided to offer full price (pending inspections). One thing we learned about Virginia, is homeowners are not required to disclose anything, nor are required to fix anything. But Janie was transparent from the beginning that the owners would do whatever they had to, to make things right. With no contingencies except the inspection and no financing, it was as straightforward as you could get. Like I said, we were completely comfortable having Janie handle both ends. She said she’d present our offer and get back to us the following day. We got the call 30 minutes later that our offer had been accepted. We were off the ground and running. This is insane!! We’re grateful to be embracing change, branching out of our comfort zones. So Virginia it is!
Was it too early to break the news to our peeps, with the possibility that things could go wrong? No! Everyone had been so supportive and excited for us, even if it did mean we’d be a great distance from most of them. That is why being close to an airport was so important. Our family and friends will certainly be missed, but take comfort knowing everyone is just a plane ride away.
The inspection phase. A week after our offer was accepted, we were back at the property meeting up with Janie, and Curtis, the inspector. With his stellar reputation and the fact she’d worked with him for over 20+ years, Janie brought him on board. Man, talk about thorough. While Jeff was within earshot in case anything came up, but not in a hovering way, Curtis spent nearly 4 hours inspecting everything top to bottom and side to side. They’d both not seen a crawlspace so immaculate. Janie and I took to the inside of the house, scouring the furniture pieces that interested Jeff and I. We chose to keep about 75% of it which changed our outcome of what we were hauling across the country from our storage unit. Who knew we’d inherit such nice pieces of furniture? It also gave Janie and I an opportunity to get to know eachother even more. We had a wonderful conversation about our families and her experience growing up in Virginia. While working full-time as a real estate professional, she also has the immense, but loving task of taking care of her mother who lives with Alzheimers. I don’t know how she manages it all.
As we wrapped up our inspection day, Janie apologized for sharing so many family details with the excuse that all southerners love to tell a story. I didn’t mind lending my ears. Curtis said there were a few mechanical problems with the upstairs A/C and the 2nd water pump under the house. But in order to test the water/pipes, not having water pumping to the faucets would be a problem wouldn’t it? Other than a little termite damage on the outbuildings and carpenter bee boring on a few fascia boards on the house, oh, and my discovery of skunk smell under the front deck (a family of skunks did in fact make a nice little home under the front porch), the house got a clean bill of health. We’re reasonably asking the homeowners to give us a house that works with the basics….running water and running appliances. And that’s how things went.
Ready to embrace our next season of change, we are optimistic that the lifestyle we’re choosing will offer everything we need to continue a happy, fulfilling life. It’s so satisfying to have new and novel experiences, throwing caution to the wind, not letting fear keep us from moving forward. Excited, nervous, stressed, and maybe even a little sad, soon we’ll be back to the responsibilities of owning a home again, adjusting our revolving backyard lifestyle as of late to a more permanent one.