The House Hunting Concludes

We started our house search by attending a class and then seeing six homes. You can read about it here.

The final open house on our list for the weekend was on Sunday afternoon (Nov. 23rd, 2014). So on that Sunday as we returned from church, we saw an “Open House” sign at the entrance to our development. We didn’t think much about it. We figured that it was undoubtedly a house that would be too small for our family. But since we were already planning to see an open house in Fountain Valley that afternoon, why not stop and take a look.

So we ate lunch and did a few things at home including search the Internet for more houses. Tim also tried to find more information about the new open house but couldn’t. Finally around 2:30 PM, a few of us figured that we should head out since the one open house ended at 4:30 PM.

Tim, Jeri, Nicole, and Elizabeth first drove to the open house in our neighborhood. It wasn’t far–just over a quarter mile away. When we pulled up to it, we were immediately excited because we saw that it was the exact same model as the house that we are currently living in.

Lizzie, Nicole, Jeri, and the Realtor In the new kitchen. Click for full size.
Lizzie, Nicole, Jeri, and the Realtor In the new kitchen. Click for full size.

We were even more excited when we saw that the house had a better layout than ours. Namely it didn’t have the two wet bars that our current house has. In place of the downstairs wet bar is a much more useful storage closet. Also it didn’t have the upstairs fireplace which we never used. Plus the house had far better upgrades to the floors, kitchen, and bathrooms. It seemed like we found the house of our dreams! Perfect location and size and layout. Although the backyard isn’t very attractive, we’ll save on our water and electric bills since we won’t have a swimming pool.

Upstairs in the Bonus Room. Click for full size.
Upstairs in the Bonus Room. Click for full size.

After visiting this house, we went on to see the “scheduled” open house on Garfield Avenue. Besides being only 3,000 square feet, that house made our noses run. So we knew that that one wouldn’t work.

8541 Garfield Av Fountain Valley CA 92708. Click for full size.
8541 Garfield Av Fountain Valley CA 92708. Click for full size.

So Sunday evening, Tim shot off an e-mail to Marc our realtor asking about the house on Santa Carlotta. He later replied and confirmed Tim’s findings that the house was priced to sell quickly. Tim also e-mailed Monte and asked if we could get financing for the house. Monte said that that wouldn’t be a problem.

Marc began work on assembling an offer. On Monday, Tim asked Marc about what we should offer. Tim mentioned Monte’s suggestion of asking for the seller to pay the non-recurring closing costs. Marc recommended that we not do that but to instead ask for full price plus $1K. That way, we would come out on top if someone else offers full price.

From our RedFin house-buying class, we learned that a personalized cover letter with photo can often sway a seller. So during his bus ride home, Tim worked on the text for our cover letter. That evening, Tim e-mailed the photo and text to Marc. Marc got the docs together late Monday evening. Then early Tuesday morning, Jeri and Tim electronically signed the offer. Marc submitted it to the selling realtor later on Tuesday.

House Offer Cover Letter. Click for full size.
House Offer Cover Letter. Click for full size.

When Marc spoke with the realtor later in the day, she said remembered us and that another agent contacted her to let her know that they would be submitting an offer as well. That evening, we prayed about this and asked for the Lord’s will to be done. Jeri was glad that there was another offer so that God would be able to close the door if this wasn’t His will for us. We had a peace leaving it in His hands. He’s promised to provide for all of our needs…so why worry?

Wednesday afternoon, Marc called Tim on his cell phone at work. He told us the good news that our offer had been accepted. The sellers had actually received a total of three offers. Ours was the first one the seller received; the second was for full price but had a stronger down payment; the third was for $5K below the asking price. Marc said that the seller was sold by our cover letter and photo. The seller was glad to see the house go to a large family.

Marc said that the seller could have countered by asking each potential buyer to submit their best offer. This would have turned it into a bidding war. We are glad that they countered our offer will only a minor change that the house would be sold “as-is.”

So our house hunting ended less than two weeks from when we started! Pretty amazing. A friend at Tim’s work said that she and her husband looked for two years (not necessarily non-stop) before they found the right place.

House Hunting – The First 10 Days

Except for the period from 2001 to 2005 when we owned a home in Rock Island, Illinois (thanks to our parents), our family has always been renting. The house that we have rented the longest is our current house in Fountain Valley…nearly five years. Just this month, thanks to the encouragement of a couple other people, we thought that maybe we should explore the possibility of buying a house.

Here’s a picture from Google Maps of our former Rock Island home.

1809 42nd St Rock Island IL 61201. Click photo for full size.
1809 42nd St Rock Island IL 61201. Click photo for full size.

The first thing that we did was contact a friend in San Jose who works in the mortgage business. We filled out an application and sent him a bunch of paperwork. He assured us that Tim’s good job and our excellent credit would get us financing.

The second thing that we did was attend a RedFin home-buying class in Irvine. So on Thursday, Nov. 13th, 2014, Jeri stopped by Tim’s office and picked him up after work. After eating at Native Foods (their favorite vegan restaurant), they went to the class in Irvine. They were encouraged by the RedFin philosophy and standards. Thanks to the Internet, the house hunt began.

RedFin

Because Tim works in Irvine (as a senior software engineer for a large company), we wanted to stay close to Irvine. In addition Jason is working full-time as a graphic designer in Huntington Beach and Nicole is working part-time in Fountain Valley. So staying in Fountain Valley would be ideal.

However because there were very few homes currently on the market that are large enough for our family (five+ bedrooms and at least 3,000 square feet), we expanded our search area to include areas such as Tustin and Orange. Our hunt for the right house didn’t seem promising–each house that we saw had some major reason that made it unworkable for us. Those areas would have lengthened Tim’s commute by a little and Jason’s and Nicole’s commutes by a lot.

The day following the RedFin class, we contacted our realtor (Marc) and asked to see three houses. Turns out that we could see two of them Sunday afternoon. After seeing them in person, neither home seemed to be workable for our family.

We saw this one in Orange and it had some nice features (like a pool and nice downstairs bedrooms). But we wouldn’t really fit.

853 South Newhaven, Orange, CA 92869. Click photo for full size.
853 South Newhaven, Orange, CA 92869. Click photo for full size.

We were hopeful about this one in Santa Ana…the price was attractive. But our dining room table would have extended into the already small living room. Plus the pool had been removed.

2601 S Glenarbor St Santa Ana CA 92704. Click photo for full size.
2601 S Glenarbor St Santa Ana CA 92704. Click photo for full size.

Here’s Jeri looking over the area where the pool formerly was.

Jeri Looking at Backyard. Click photo for full size.
Jeri Looking at Backyard. Click photo for full size.

During the next week, we kept searching for a house on the Internet. Although prices were more affordable in Corona or farther south in Orange County, we didn’t want to sacrifice quality of life for a bigger house.

We saw that four large homes were having open houses on the next Saturday (11/22). The ones that were 3,000 square feet or smaller just didn’t have enough room for our entire family. In a lot of cases, the dining room was too small for our 10-foot dining room table.

This one in Huntington Beach was definitely too small…about 2,750 square feet and only four bedrooms.

8192 Falmouth Dr Huntington Beach CA 92646. Click photo for full size.
8192 Falmouth Dr Huntington Beach CA 92646. Click photo for full size.

We thought that maybe this one in North Tustin could work. Although it was only four bedrooms and 2,800 square feet, we thought that all five girls into the huge master bedroom upstairs. The house looked very nice plus it had a pool. But after we thought it through, we realized that there really wasn’t enough space.

13532 Loretta Dr North Tustin CA 92780. Click photo for full size.
13532 Loretta Dr North Tustin CA 92780. Click photo for full size.

Next we looked at another home in North Tustin. It was HUGE (3,700 sq. ft. when counting the basement) and would be great for entertaining. However it had only “four” bedrooms…which was really only three because the “Jack and Jill” bedrooms were open together.

13001 Loretta Dr North Tustin CA 92780. Click photo for full size.
13001 Loretta Dr North Tustin CA 92780. Click photo for full size.

We finished the day looking at this one in Orange. Great yard and pool but the location and size (under 3,000 square feet) wouldn’t work.

398 S Wrightwood St Orange CA 92869. Click photo for full size.
398 S Wrightwood St Orange CA 92869. Click photo for full size.

So through the first 10 days, we saw six houses with none looking promising. There was one more open house scheduled for the next day (Sunday). The house hunting concludes.

Pacific Youth Symphony Fall 2014

Thanks to a generous donor the tickets to this concert were free! Although the orchestra members were young, the music was outstanding.

Tim and Jeri at the Pacific Youth Symphony Concert. Click for full size.
Tim and Jeri at the Pacific Youth Symphony Concert. Click for full size.

Here are Victoria, Joanna, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Nicole. Justin also attended.

Victoria, Joanna, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Nicole at the Pacific Youth Symphony Concert. Click for full size.
Victoria, Joanna, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Nicole at the Pacific Youth Symphony Concert. Click for full size.

Here’s a picture of the orchestra as seen from our seats.

Pacific Youth Symphony Fall 2014. Click for full size.
Pacific Youth Symphony Fall 2014. Click for full size.

The Stevens’ Girls Weddings

Two girls from our church were married on Saturday, November 8th, 2014. Here are some photos.

After the first wedding (which was at a church), everyone headed to a farm where lunch was served…complete with Moose-meat Sloppy Joes! The couples will be living in Alaska.

Victoria and Jeri Helping in the Kitchen. Click for full size.
Victoria and Jeri Helping in the Kitchen. Click for full size.

There was a cat that loved the deviled eggs. You can see the eggs on the table in the background.

Josiah's job was to keep the cat away from the food. Click for full size.
Josiah’s job was to keep the cat away from the food. Click for full size.

Lizzie and her friend, Christeen, helped keep the two buffet lines stocked.

Lizzie and Christina Serving Food. Click for full size.
Lizzie and Christeen Serving Food. Click for full size.

Here’s Lizzie eating her food while on the job.

Lizzie Fixing a Plate of Food. Click for full size.
Lizzie Food on the Job. Click for full size.

Jeri and Tim relaxing.

Jeri and Tim Eating at Stevens Weddings. Click for full size.
Jeri and Tim Eating at Stevens Weddings. Click for full size.

Here we are sitting around the table.

Jason, Victoria, Josiah and Tim. Click for full size.
Jason, Victoria, Josiah and Tim. Click for full size.

The second wedding was outdoors on the farm. We even sat on bales of hay!

Josiah, Lizzie, Victoria, and Jason at the Outdoor Wedding. Click for full size.
Josiah, Lizzie, Victoria, and Jason at the Outdoor Wedding. Click for full size.

(Why is Lizzie’s face so serious?)