About a week ago we were invited with my mother-in-law and her husband to check out one of the homes they were looking to purchase. They had us in mind to rent it, but as we started looking around we quickly realized we had different ideas about the type of home we were hoping to rent.
The home was older with quite a few odd quirks; like a closet converted into a spiral staircase to a mostly unfinished lower floor. The staircase couldn’t be used because it was no longer sturdy or safe, and there was a full page note taped to the front of the door warning everyone looking at the home not to try it out.
Their list of planned repairs and remodeling projects began to grow as soon as we all walked through the front door, and our list of reasons the house wasn’t for us did as well. After we’d all walked through the upstairs portion of the home, we went outside, around to the backyard and into the lower floor. The downstairs was a strange combination of 3/4 a scary above-ground basement, almost completely unfinished, and 1/4 an actual room. The smaller portion was turned into a makeshift room where the laminate tiles were all lifting and the uneven foundation changed from cement to wood halfway through the floorspace. The end of the spiral staircase jutting out from the closet above, just begging to be tested, also sported a note of warning at its base.
My husband and I took the kids outside to play in the spacious backyard while the others discussed their plans. Afterwards, my new father-in-law approached us and pitched his ideas for the house. He thought we could rent the upper floor while they remodeled the downstairs. After the remodel of the lower floor was finished, they would then rent it out to someone else and we’d each split that persons rent. All I really heard, that no one actually said was, “you’ll have a forced roommate”, and if I hadn’t already said no to the house in my head, I would have definitely said no then. I smiled as politely as I could while shaking my head in little nervous jolts. He joyfully continued, spirited man that he is, and I ultimately blurted out in an uneasy laugh, “I’m sorry, it’s just that the house kind of creeps me out!”. He threw back his head and let out a bellowing laugh, and said “Oh! Ok, no problem! I get it!”
I was relieved that he understood but also instantly worried that we had gotten ourself into quite the pickle. We bought a travel trailer with the intention of living in it until they purchased a house we could rent from them for a great price, hopefully within the next few months before the baby is born. The rent we discussed was going to be quite a bit less than anything we were finding, including the 2 bedroom apartment in town that we were slated to move into before this whole crazy plan had hatched. The rent for homes in town were ridiculously high, and out here there just wasn’t anything available. We completely understood that they had every right to purchase the homes that worked for them, and they had really attached themselves to the idea of fixer-uppers and remodeling projects whereas we were hoping for something clean and move-in-ready.
I felt no actual pressure to scramble and figure out a new plan. They’d both been incredibly accommodating and welcoming. However, living in a 20ft travel trailer for “up to” 3 months was a plan with a timeframe; with a third baby on the way I began to hear a ticking clock now that we didn’t have a plan at all. Also, now that the idea of living in an actual home had been stuck in my head, I really didn’t want to go the apartment route if we could help it. I had to keep reminding myself that realistically we did have time to wait it out a bit.
Realtor.com had only one incredibly high priced listing and nothing else, but Jason happened upon a lone Craigslist rental listing and it was the exact price we had been discussing with the in-laws. It only had a photo of the outside, but I was desperate to see it. We made an appointment to check it out Saturday, which was 2 days from the day Jason found it online. I was sick over it. Would we be one of the first to see it? Would someone else snag it before we even got a chance? What if I love it and they don’t choose us? What if it’s the only house available and it’s awful?
I made up my mind that it didn’t need to be fancy, it just had to fit our needs. A clean space for us to live with a place for the kids to play outside, ideally. It couldn’t have broken appliances, cabinets, or holes in the walls. I had to feel comfortable with the landlords and with the street in general. Beyond that, I didn’t need granite or walk-in closets or anything very specific at all.
We got there about 15 minutes early, and shortly after the landlords pulled up. I was fairly confident that we were the first to see it, that day at least. We walked together up to the house and as the door opened we entered a very dark space, all of the curtains were pulled and the carpet was dark brown. As we all shuffled in, the wife walked over and opened the curtains and windows letting in a beautiful breeze and the space flooded with light. A gorgeous hearth and large wood burning stove hugged the corner to the left and I knew Jason would adore it. I pointed to it as soon as he came around the corner and he lit up. The living space was small, but I liked it a lot already. I wandered around the corner to the right into the U-shaped kitchen, the space for the refrigerator on the right, the stove directly ahead. The floor was an older linoleum with a few digs in it, but it was nothing I couldn’t live with. I walked over to an ajar drawer that appeared to be off of its track, and the husband spoke up right away, “We’ll be fixing that.” I noticed a scent of dog pee in the air, but I know that my pregnant nose is overly sensitive so I didn’t mention it. The kids, the wife, and I wandered out onto the back porch, a weather worn red deck a few feet above the grass. I loved it. To the left there was a small wooden gate that opened to a few stairs taking you into the yard. The right side of the yard had a small gated dog run, and a large fruitless mulberry tree, I believe. It hadn’t yet gotten its leaves back, but with the fullness of the branches I could tell it is amazing in the summer.
We all chatted separately, wandering around the home and we all ended up back out on the porch together. They mentioned the dogs the previous renters had, and I spoke up about the scent inside the home and they assured me they fully intended on replacing the carpet. The husband was very unhappy about it because they had just replaced the carpet the year prior. For me, it was right then that I was 100% sure I wanted it. No yucky carpet and a perfectly clean little home with a darling yard? I’m in. I asked what we needed to do to get started and the husband gave Jason an application to fill out. We chatted a bit more with him, as the wife had headed out front to talk with the current renter as he was moving things out of the garage. We left shortly after, and I was so hopeful they would pick us that it was all I could think about. I racked my brain about the proper ways to ask someone to choose you over everyone else, but we decided we didn’t want to be annoying and that we should give it a couple of days at least. We did have the timeframe thing on our side, though, as they mentioned they wanted someone in as early as the following weekend, which was the 1st of the month.
As soon as our closing check from the escrow on our house came the following Tuesday, Jason decided to give the landlords on the rental a call just to let them know we have 1st, last, and the deposit ready to go. Once he got the husband on the phone, he informed Jason that the choice was now between us and another couple. The other couple being the wife’s first choice, us being his. I was crushed. I just knew that we weren’t going to be chosen and I was so sad to have it still be in the air, but he told Jason that he’d run a few more things and get back to us shortly. Finally around 6:30pm or so, he called back and they chose us!! Jason did a little fist pump in the air and I just about shot out of my seat waiting for him to get off of the phone and tell me all about it.
We’re still up in the air as to when exactly we’ll be able to move in because they are still working on getting the carpet replaced, but we’re supposed to meet up sometime midweek to sign our lease and give them a check.
I still feel a little uneasy just because it’s not completely a done deal yet, but I do feel worlds calmer about everything. I do enjoy living in the travel trailer and I know I’ll miss it being our little temporary home but having to depend on other people for things like water, electricity, laundry, etc is a strange feeling for me. I don’t like feeling like I’m taking advantage of people even if they are 100% on board. It makes all of this a lot easier for me now that I know it was a very temporary means to an end.
We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to even look for a rental where we really wanted to live without this transitional period and I’m so grateful my in-laws allowed us to do this. Another bonus is that the rental house is just off of the main road out of this neighborhood and my in-laws will have to pass by anytime they go anywhere, so I’m hopeful they’ll feel inclined to pop in a lot more often.
This whole thing has been a bit of a risk, and while it feels like it’s been a crazy ride, it hasn’t even been two full weeks yet. I think taking this time to wait it out instead of diving into whatever was available at the time of our home selling is going to pay off big. I am so looking forward to all of the things coming together before us; the house, the trips we’ll be planning in our new travel trailer, the baby coming later this summer, and all of the adventures that will come from all of it.