On Buying A House

· 6 min read ·

Well, we took a month-long sabbatical back to the East Coast — escaping the worst of the Denver (and, to be fair, national) heat wave by driving back to New Hampshire to visit family & friends in late July. Upon arriving back to Colorado, with Buckwheat capering excitedly (no dog has ever been more relieved to get out of the car), we took a look around at our apartment and realized it was time to move out.

Making The Leap Into House Hunting

Yup, you heard it right! The things that we loved about our apartment when it was much colder seemed bigger issues in the heat. Lack of good airflow, a constrained kitchen with limited counter space (which, in the month that we’d been gone, had somehow become an ant haven 🐜😢), and the persistent “smell whatever your duplex neighbor is smoking” scent all combined together to give us the reasons we needed to start looking elsewhere.

We’d been talking about buying a house since prior to getting our current apartment. At the time, with both of our businesses newly formed and with us also having just relocated to a new city, entering home-ownership seemed like too much too fast. We didn’t know if we were going to like Denver; we didn’t know what our financial situation would be 6 months down the line. Fast forward to the end of August, when we returned to Denver. James had landed a new software engineering job located in Denver, all but assuring that we’d be here for at least a few years — we knew more about the city and liked what we’d come to know about it. We liked being close to Sheila’s cousins, with plans to attend all of Olivia and Aiden’s future soccer games (or rock climbing competitions, Olivia seems ready)!

Yet, there was also a common-sense factor in buying a home that swayed our minds even further; we were getting a steal on rent, and would likely need to pay quite a bit more money to find a place as big as the one we’re currently renting (necessary, considering our home is also our office!). Looking at the average costs for paying mortgages monthly versus rent, the super-low interest rates at the moment, and our current housing predicament … the choice was clear. Was this really happening? Were we about to start house hunting?

House Hunting — Also Known As “Our September”

It became an addiction. Just kidding, but we quickly became acquainted with Zillow and set up alerts to monitor the Denver area. That became a fire hose of data and we found over a dazzlingly fast period of time an area — in the Northwestern corner of Denver — that we would be excited to call home, which helped us to prune the amount of information we were receiving and focus on the houses that really excited us. We also lucked out with our realtor, who Sheila was randomly assigned on Zillow. For three weeks straight, we saw him at least 5 days a week. We kept up a steady conversation with him even when we weren’t in his presence —he also had a strong Bitmoji game, which made the whole thing feel very personal. 😁

Over the course of those three weeks, we saw more than two dozen homes — on some days, we saw 3+ houses! We brought Buckwheat to every showing, carrying him through the rooms, letting him explore the backyard. COVID meant that masks were always worn, and that combined with us carrying Buckwheat gave the whole experience a slightly surreal feel — did we even know what our realtor really looked like?! He would sometimes take his mask off before getting in his car, just to ensure that we did. What a world we live in.

On the Friday after Labor Day, at 6 AM a new listing appeared that matched our criteria. It felt right. We immediately spoke with our realtor and got a showing for that day. We already had an offer outstanding on another house — indeed, the aforementioned offer came after having made offers on two houses previously (one we lost the bid for; one we withdraw our offer after further reflection) — but we liked the house that had just come up a lot and we were none too sure that we would have a chance with the other house.

A few hours before our showing, our realtor texted us — casually — to let us know that he would be getting married this weekend and had to send a substitute realtor in his place (Uhhh hello! I thought we were friends?!). We had three showings lined up for the day, and for once decided to leave Buckwheat at home. The first place was a total bust. The second place was a dream — pure magic. As we left the premises we decided to make an offer… and we felt bad that we’d left Buckwheat at home and. We’ll spare you the strange details of the third house (though it did have a hot tub!).

Things You Need To Keep In Mind When Buying A House

To make a long story short, we ended up the victor in a bidding war, and are now in the process of closing on our future home.

Sheila walking outside of … our new home?!
Sheila walking outside of … our new home?!

In reflecting on the process, we had some thoughts to jot down. Once you start looking to buy a house, some things that you may have never thought about before start to become abundantly clear, like:

  • how important is square footage to you? We saw some homes that we < 1000 square feet which were absolutely charming; we saw some 2000+ square feet homes that were scary. Of the two, both of us would definitely choose a smaller home over one that was big but laid out haphazardly.
  • how important is having more than one bathroom?
  • do you value an open floor plan, or would you rather have many rooms?
  • a house isn’t just the home — it’s also the lot that you’re buying. Do you value having a large yard? A garage?
  • would you be willing to immediately put more money into a home after buying it (buying a fixer upper, for one). There were so many listings we saw that featured electric stoves (for instance) which we immediately dismissed in our first week or so of searching … only to realize (perhaps belatedly) how easy it was in many places to install a gas line if it was something we really cared about. Same for the layout — the second house we had an offer on, we 100% planned to knock down a wall in the kitchen prior to moving in
  • what’s the neighborhood like? What’s it like at night? Could you envision a walk or run around the block?
  • do you have a local lender for your mortgage? Our lender, a Denver local, ended up being a huge part of the reason that (spoiler) we ended up winning the offer we made (and we didn’t even know that until later on in the process)!
  • what’s the market like in your area? Ours was moving insanely fast for a while, with new homes going up for sale all the time and having multiple offers on them that same day — in retrospect, we’re so lucky to have found the place we did when we did, as there have barely been any new homes for sale since our offer was accepted

Once your offer is accepted, there’s a whole host of other exciting steps in front of you, all carefully calibrated by your realtor and lender. We had a lot of fun at our inspection, for example — learning about the good & bad of a house built in 1924. It has been well taken care of, and getting to see that through the eyes of the inspector made us both feel really confident that we’d made a great decision.

So what’s next for She & Jim? Over the next two weeks, we’ll close on the house and begin packing up our apartment. In early November, we’ll move a couple dozen blocks North and put down roots for the first time in a long time! Needless to say, we’re both very excited — we also recognize that we’ve been remiss in posting updates here, and plan to catch you all up more in the coming weeks.

For now, a few photos, with more to come:

The three-season porch is something we were both immediately drawn to
The three-season porch is something we were both immediately drawn to
Raised beds for planting!
Raised beds for planting!
We like this picnic table and we’re hoping the sellers will leave it for us!
We like this picnic table and we’re hoping the sellers will leave it for us!

Adventure travel blog by James Simone & Sheila Murray. Travel along with them on their backpacking trip(s) as they actively explore the American West, Europe and beyond:

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