The Winner of Our 2015 Housing Search!

Let me start by qualifying that this is the result of the 2015 housing search. I don’t want you to get confused because, with the exception of 2007 and 2011, we have moved at least once every year for the past decade. Now that we’ve cleared that up, drumroll please…

And the winner is: Los Gatos Mountain Home!
(House #3 for those of you who participated in my Facebook poll yesterday comparing the three houses we were considering)

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We are thrilled at the opportunity to live in this amazing house! The most amazing part of the house, though, is the story of how we came to it.

On a cold morning in January I was getting the boys ready for school when I heard a knock at our door. It was our gardener, and he had some news: our landlord had passed away. Since he was also the gardener for our landlord’s other house–the one he was actually living in–he was the first to know the news of our landlord’s passing (freebie life lesson: people who work in service fields–secretaries, janitors, gardeners–are always the first to know important news. Treat them well.). I spoke with our rental manager that afternoon and he confirmed that our landlord had indeed passed away, and his family was sorting through what to do with his assets (our house included).

A week or so later I got curious about our landlord–Who was this man that had so suddenly expired? I knew his name and address, so I decided to Google his obituary. What I discovered was shocking–instead of an obituary, all I found were news articles about his murder. Whaaaaat?!?!  Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. I’m living in the middle of a real-life urban legend.

Over the next few months, our landlord’s brother and daughter battled in out in court to see who would gain possession of his assets. We knew that as soon as the court case was resolved or our lease expired–whichever came first–we’d probably be asked to move out. Sure enough, in early July we got notice that we would need to be out of the house at the termination of our lease (August 31).

For the first few weeks of July I went into housing-search panic-mode. I still have PTSD from looking for houses here last summer, and I was NOT looking forward to going through the whole process again. Why, you might ask, were you so worried about the housing search? Well, imagine you’re looking for a house to rent because the only houses you can afford to buy are not in the same state you live in. And because the cost to buy is so high, everyone is forced to rent. And there are approximately 5 bajillion people at any given time who are fighting over the same crappy “affordable” houses to rent. And you have a dog and two obviously loud children (which, for some reason, is not as appealing a combination to leasing agents as a young power couple who work 80 hours a week and summer in Nantucket). You get the picture.

So began the house-stalking. I would literally wake up every morning, open my computer, and refresh my housing searches on Craigslist and Zillow. Any and every house/townhouse/condo/shack in the woods that met our criteria was starred and I’d send them an email or text. Every single listing said “No pets, NO DOGS, DON’T EVEN ASK”, but I’d ask anyway because–hey, ya never know. I’d do this whole process again 5 or 6 times during the day, and again right before I went to sleep. It’s a full-time job.

Between online searches, I’d load the two obviously loud children up in the car and we’d drive around to all of the houses that wrote back that they’d consider accepting a pet as long as we gave a deposit of half our life savings and a blood promise that the dog was not a savage beast with giant dragon talons hiding under her sweet furry paws. In the 2.5 weeks that I was actively searching for houses, we visited well over a dozen houses all over this traffic-ridden region. It was raucous fun.

By Wednesday of last week, I was spent. Not a single house had panned out. One house smelled distinctly of death and urine. One house had 20 people waiting outside in the driveway for the open house–10 minutes before the open house was even scheduled to begin. One house was literally falling apart every time you touched it (this would go GREAT with my never-destructive boys). One house was in a neighborhood surrounded by barbed wire fences (not actually, but that maybe would have been a good idea). It was, in short, discouraging. Heart-breaking. Exhausting. I was spent.

After having a good long ugly cry over the fact that we would NEVER NOT EVER find a house in this awful-yet-somehow-still-wonderful place, I decided to try a new strategy. I was getting desperate. I reached out to a mommy-runner Facebook group that I’m a part of, San Jose Moms Run This Town. It’s a great network of local moms, and I thought if anyone would know anything around here it would be moms who spend their days carting children around and running through local neighborhoods.

Within a few hours of posting my housing woes to the Facebook page, I had several women from the group respond that they would help me look for houses in their neighborhoods. By the next day, I’d connected with another mom whose neighbor was about to put his house up for rent. She gave me his contact information, and I turned my house-stalking instincts to him. I’m sure he appreciated this.

As soon as the owner gave me the home’s address, I loaded up the boys in the car to drive up and see the house in person. From the owner’s description of the house when we spoke on the phone, it sounded too good to be true. Plus, the rent was significantly lower than any other house I’d found–I figured there must be some massive flaw that I was missing. I just had to see it with my own two eyes.

Driving up to the house was surreal. Jon’s dream ever since we moved here has been to move to the “mountains” (not mountains like you PNW’ers know, but large hills covered in Redwoods and gurgling streams). The house is located just past the town of Los Gatos (Imagine your quintessential all-American town with historic Victorians and Art Deco architecture. Now throw in a bunch of multi-millionaires driving Lamborghinis, and that is Los Gatos.). The house is nestled in the woods so you feel like you’re a million miles away from everything, yet you can still be at the closest winery and local coffee roaster in 5 minutes.

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When we got to the house Jacob had fallen asleep in his carseat (this is what happens when your loony mommy throws you in the car for yet another house expedition right in the middle of nap time). I parked the car on the side of the house (because it’s a one-lane road and I didn’t know where else to discreetly spy from). The current tenant was out working in his garage and somehow he noticed my conspicuous SUV parked outside his house. Thankfully he was a friendly and  pretty normal looking guy, and he invited us in for a quick look around while we were there.

I grabbed the sleeping child and the crazy one, and we trekked in for our unscheduled house tour. When we got inside, I was floored. This wasn’t just a house, this was a great house.

The living room has sweeping vaulted ceilings covered in gorgeous cedar. There’s a wood-burning fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows leading out to one of five decks.

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The kitchen is massive. And all appliances stay (not the case in most of the rentals we looked at because, I don’t know, if they charge you an arm and a leg for rent I guess they feel like they can punch you in the stomach, too, while they’re at it).

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The master bedroom is not even a bedroom. It’s a sanctuary. It has those same huge gorgeous ceilings as the living room. There’s a gas fireplace to warm your toesies as you snuggle into bed. There’s a walk-in closet the size of most Silicon Valley homes. There’s an en-suite bathroom with a soaking tub and a glass shower. There are not one, but two private decks.

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Downstairs has two bedrooms with views of the creek, a full laundry room (complete with cabinets and counter space for all of your sorting-and-folding needs), and a two-car garage.

The community consists of about 50 homes along a 1 mile stretch of private road. From what I hear, it’s a close-knit group of people with oodles of children running amuck. Perfect.

Or nearly perfect, at least. There are a few aspects of the house that will take some getting used to. Like the fact that there’s no yard–the house faces the road and backs up to a creek so any time we go outside I will need to have my eagle eyes watching kids and dogs. And there’s no cell service (which Jon assures me he will remedy). The house is heated with propane (propane = $$$…good thing we don’t get real winters in California!). For the few sacrifices we will be making, though, we knew that this house was The One.

We called the owner back that night and emailed him our application (and for good measure I also attached the cutest family photo I could find and a personal letter that I wrote in hopes of helping our case right along). The next day the owner called us back and gave us the news I never thought we’d hear: WE GOT THE HOUSE!!! Jon still hasn’t even seen the inside of the house, but we knew it was the right one and we signed the lease.

Perhaps the most amazing part of this whole story is how perfectly perfect everything turned out. We had a list of everything we needed in a house, and the things we wanted but didn’t think we could ever get. We prayed over that list every night and (not-so-patiently, on my part) waited to see how our prayers would be answered.

Now I can tell you for certain, those prayers were answered. Every prayer–from the location to the price to the timing of the move-in–are exactly what we prayed for. Or better. Because that’s how God answers His children. He always gives His best–not good–the best. It doesn’t matter how many times I re-learn this lesson, it always leaves me in a state of sheer amazement.

So, in not so few words, that is our house story. I am grateful to Jon for putting up with my irrational fear of homelessness. I am grateful to my new friend and neighbor-to-be Melodie for leading us to this house. I am grateful to the owner for taking us with our crazy kids and our sweet, calm dog (dragon talons excluded). I am grateful. And that’s a good place to be.

Almost as good as being home.

House Hunters: Silicon Valley

Since I arrived in California a week ago I have had one mission: FIND US A HOUSE. We are currently living in corporate housing, which has actually been sort of amazing. Our apartment complex is not too shabby…in fact, I think it might actually be a five-star resort and they just gave us keys to the wrong place. But I’m not complaining.

In a few weeks, though, we’re getting kicked out of the resort (er…apartment) so we need to find something more permanent. The rental market here is crazy (I have literally been on the computer when a house is listed, called the agent, requested a viewing for that afternoon and gotten a call back before my scheduled viewing saying that the house has already been rented). The houses, if they’re any good at all, are available one minute and then gone before you can dress the kids, go to the bathroom, lug your diaper bag down to the parking garage and buckle the car seats.

But that doesn’t really matter anyway, because nobody wants to rent to you if you have a dog (which we do) because they’re afraid the dog’s nails will scratch up their brand new hardwood floors (which they will). Oh, and another thing. The rent here is expensive. Shockingly so. And, so, it’s been a week of many deep breaths and faith and pleading with landlords to just consider our sweet dog and “let’s try this again’s”.

After many dead-ends, we have finally come to a place where we have some good housing options. I now present to you 3 of our top-contenders in this edition of House Hunters: Silicon Valley. Now that we’ve narrowed it down, maybe you can help us out. Which is your favorite?

House #1: Santa Clara Luxury Apartment

IMG_8864 Description: This is the apartment we’re living in now, our corporate housing “resort”. It is located in Santa Clara.  Our apartment is on the third floor and has 3 bedrooms/2 bathrooms. If we decide we don’t want to move, we can just stay here (or in one of the other thousands of apartments just like it that are run by the same apartment company).
Monthly Rent: I don’t even know, but there are a lot of Ferraris in the parking garage.
Pros: 5 salt water swimming pools, huge central park with running trails/playground/fields/basketball/tennis; free yoga/Zumba/spin classes in the state-of-the art on-site exercise facilities; on-site movie theater with free movies every week; on-site Starbucks/pizza place/taco restaurant; brand new apartment with all the bells and whistles.
Cons: We’re on the third floor, which means every time the dog needs out or we have to leave the house it is a 20-minute ordeal to dress and pack up the children, walk 3 flights of stairs/wait for the ridiculously slow elevator, and get outside; 30-45 minute commute to Jon’s office (and we all know how much he LOVES traffic…); no yard for playing or entertaining; only 1 reserved parking spot

House #2: Los Gatos “Big House”

Audrey big house Description: Located on the border of Campbell and Los Gatos on a quiet dead-end street (there’s an elementary school at the end of the road). The house has an open floor plan with 3 bedrooms/2 baths. There is also a detached 3+ car garage/utility room.
Monthly Rent: An arm and a leg
Pros: By far the biggest house we’ve seen with spacious bedrooms that we might actually be able to fit beds into AND two family rooms that you could actually fit furniture into; fully fenced yard with a covered patio, grassy play area, and a separate “hot tub” patio that is just waiting for a sandbox (or maybe a new hot tub!); weekly gardening service included (because, in California, apparently that sort of thing is considered standard); brand new stainless steel appliances in the kitchen; a ginormous detached garage with wall-to-wall storage, a full fridge/freezer, and a utility sink; in a great school district
Cons: At the top end of our budget; moderate commute to work (15-20 minutes); we have to provide our own washer and dryer; can’t walk to Starbucks in under 5 minutes

House #3: San Jose Remodel

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Description: A newly remodeled home (as in, they’re still finishing the remodel this week) in the heart of Silicon Valley. 3 bedrooms/2 bath with an attached 1 car garage and a fully fenced back yard with mature fruit trees. There is also a large workshop/storage shed in the back yard.
Monthly Rent: #allthemoneyIMG_9022
Pros: Fully remodeled with state of the art appliances, newly tiled bathrooms, fresh paint, and new hardwood floors; great location in a quiet neighborhood 10 minutes from Jon’s work; plenty of storage; wood stove for all of those cold California summers; window seat in the dining area off the kitchen; brand new washer and dryer included; separate den in addition to the bedrooms; great price for the area
Cons: Small bedrooms; shop/shed is directly outside the back door so it would be difficult to see the kids if they were playing outside and I was inside; no air conditioning; kitchen is mostly closed off from the rest of the house

Sound off! Which one would YOU choose? We’re signing a lease on one of these beauties this weekend, and our choice will be revealed tomorrow 🙂

 

 

 

Final Housing Search!

One of our "potentials" in Cork

One of our “potentials” in Cork

This morning Jon woke up at 4:45 AM to catch a flight to Ireland for his third–and final–housing search. Unfortunately, 12 hours later, he is still…sitting at the airport. His flight got delayed…then delayed…then delayed…until he eventually changed to a new flight plan altogether. He will now be leaving Seattle at about 6:00 this evening, flying through the night to London, and then on to Cork. This is an unfortunate beginning to the trip, but hopefully it’s not a sign of disappointments to come!

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks researching housing online, making spreadsheets, and plotting potential houses on maps. In the end, though, we will be at the mercy of the quick-moving Cork rental market. Houses go very quickly there, so hopefully the right house is available for us at the right time. Jon will have less than 4 days to set up a bank account, see houses, make a decision and sign a lease. We are planning on moving July 6th, so we are really hoping we can find something that will be available in the next week or two.  It’s a lot to accomplish, but we know that God has the right place already picked out for us!

As soon as he signs a lease I’ll update here with some photos. Crazy that by the end of this week we’ll have our very own house in Ireland!