This is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done in my life. It’s also a lot of fun, but only in spurts between the stress.
It’s probably easier to look for a house when you live in the area. Ruth and I had to take a 24-hour drive to even get to Vermont from Oklahoma in the first place. We hit terrible lake effect snow in Buffalo and had an issue with the washer fluid freezing up. Not the most amazing start.
We had a total of around 18 properties lined up to look at, all over the state. Since the price point we’re looking at is low (it’s hard for self-employed people to qualify for traditional mortgages, so we’re going with what we’ve got in savings and retirement accounts) we knew a lot of the houses would be fixer-uppers. But we weren’t prepared for quite the level of issues that some of them had. When the mechanicals aren’t working, touring a house in the middle of winter can be . . . interesting. There was even one house we had to enter by unscrewing the plywood boarding up the door!
No plan survives first contact with the enemy. Ours sure didn’t, either. We didn’t end up looking at all the properties on our list. We met a couple really nice and helpful realtors who added additional properties we hadn’t known about. Ruth took a lot of photos and videos, and I took notes and drew out floor plans. We drove over mountains, and in the snow. Our Prius doesn’t yet have snow tires. We stayed in a different hotel every night, most of them cheap and sad. Once we got a great deal on a lovely bed and breakfast.
We have it narrowed down to our top three houses. Today we’re going back to number one, and walking through it with a contractor, and asking a bunch more questions, and taking measurements. If that goes well we want to make an offer. Having never done this before, we don’t know precisely how an offer is made or what the process may be. I’ve read a bit about it, and know that there are inspections, and putting earnest money down, and that it’s easier when you’re a cash buyer because a bank is not involved. I hope the realtor can help us through it. I hope we can do most of it remotely, and not have to drive back up here until we move for good, because I’m really tired of not being in my own bed.
Vermont is a lovely state. Ruth squeals over every new mountain vista, every picturesque town with a steeple and woodsmoke rising. I like it, too. But it’s hard to love anything when there’s so much uncertainty. When we know which house, which community we’ll be living in, maybe I’ll be able to fall in love. Once we’ve made an offer, had it accepted. After closing day. I don’t know exactly when it’ll feel real. But I have to trust that it will.