HOW WE DECIDED TO BUY, NOT RENT, OUR NEXT HOME
Over a month ago I wrote about the process and experience of selling our house in the Seattle area. I also shared that we would be renting a home when we landed in California in early 2021.
Well, A LOT has changed since then! I thought I would catch everyone up with the latest Hill house news which is WE ARE BUYING A NEW HOME in Los Angeles! It comes down to the desire to have a space to call our own, plant ourselves where we can create community and commit to several years adventuring in the Southern California area.
This journey started with a trip to Southern California in mid-August to scout out apartments where we might live when we landed there. What we found there was clean and roomy enough, but unfortunately very uninspiring. The whole experience had me doubting our decision to move to a place that I couldn't really envision myself living in, compounding the fact of the move taking us thousands of miles away from family and friends.
Perhaps I have been spoiled, having lived for years in a home that I was able to personalize with my design aesthetic or by the amenities of our temporary apartment. Currently we reside on the fifth floor of our building where I enjoy a treetop view and can see the tiniest tip of the Cascade mountain range peeking over the trees to the east. We are fortunate to have a temporary place with generous rooms, fantastic light quality, and high ceilings.
After the disappointment of the California apartment hunt, I found myself perusing real estate websites like Zillow and Redfin to see what was on the market in California, what we could afford, and in what kind of neighborhood I might want to live.
For context, one of our goals in moving is to give ourselves a taste of adventure and to try new things, and to explore unfamiliar areas. We have entered into that empty-nest season in the family department. It has became clear to us that with two of our kids having graduated and (almost) moved out and the other two moving on to college in the last month, we no longer needed to think about things families with school aged children do. We also concluded that we certainly didn't need to stay locked into a suburban neighborhood.
Having now abandoned the apartment idea, we started dreaming of walkable communities that had unique personality in Los Angeles like Hancock Park or Larchmont Village. I was hoping to find a place where we could walk to coffee shops, restaurants and shopping. That is until we saw the staggering prices of for sale listings starting at over the one-million dollar mark for a 2 bed, 1 bath home.
Next we starting looking around the Silverlake and Echo Park neighborhoods in Los Angeles. That area has the reputation of housing the hip, creative, and artistic types, which sounded really interesting! For the record, the housing prices were slightly lower than in Larchmont Village and Hancock Park, but still expensive.
a palm tree in a residential yard
Since home shopping in-person is a valuable thing, we asked some friends about a real estate agent suggestion, sent her our favorite current home listings, then embarked on a last-minute trip over Labor Day weekend.
Meanwhile, we connected with a local lender and got pre-approval for a purchase price. Little did I know that in order to see a property during COVID-19 one must have a pre-approval letter and sign disclosure statements about being COVID and symptom free in order to schedule a showing. Most of the showings required the seller's agent to let us in, accompanied by our agent, to view the property. Traditional key lock-boxes are not available for many of the properties especially if the owners are residing there while showings are taking place.
After looking at several possible homes in the Silverlake area, we quickly discovered that we might not be THAT hip and edgy after all - haha! We then took a trip to an outlier option, a home that had caught my eye on one of the websites, but was about 15 minutes east of our intended house-hunting boundary. My husband was not as enthused about going this extra way, but he agreed to see it anyway.
front yard view to our new home
Am I ever glad we drove the extra couple of miles to look at this house - it turned out to be the one! We were returning home to Seattle that night and by the time the airplane landed, we knew we would be making an offer the next day. Fortunately the offer was accepted, but then we had all the inspection processes and negotiations for things we wanted repaired or resolved.
We happily have completed the escrow process, checking off all the boxes of the required appraisal, and needed structural and building condition inspections completed. We recently got the keys and got to do some glamping in our unfurnished place!
Buying a house in the hot LA market is definitely on the expensive side, so we are looking at this as an investment in feeling settled in to a home we can love and decorate as we please. So many homes for sale in this area have gone through bidding wars and sold for tens of thousands of dollars over asking, we were fortunate to not have that experience!
Honestly, as a designer and individual who loves to transform spaces, it is stifling to not be able to transform a rental space. For us, deciding to buy versus rent is much about a choice of lifestyle. It feels like the right choice at this time. Plus, I am now excited to live in the new place rather than dreading an impersonal rental! I do understand that I am in a position of privilege to make this choice -- that not everyone will be in the position to buy a home or have the desire to commit to a single location for an expended period of time.
the office/studio "shed" out back