We moved last year. Well, end of 2021, start of 2022. But, we no longer live where we lived. Don’t come visit us there at the old place. We’re not there. We have left. We moved!
I lived west of Portland, Oregon, variously in Beaverton and Hillsboro from 1989 till roughly around 2007 or 2008. We stuck around there largely to graduate my kids from the schools that they were familiar with. Christina’s kids were no longer living with us full-time, so they stopped being a major factor in our decision about where to live. But, they were a factor nonetheless.
By that time, Christina’s parents had also moved from Florida to be closer to her and her kids. They had found a place up in Vancouver, Washington, north of Portland, across the Columbia. Not long after that, her sister had also relocated from Florida and found a place a block away from her parents. With her parents and sister in Vancouver and her kids going to school in Vancouver, we decided that it was time to move from my familiar stomping grounds and relocate to Washington, primarily to support her being closer to her parents and sister and kids.
We found a nice house in Vancouver, just a mile from her parents and bought it at what seemed to be a smoking deal. It was the smallest house in a new neighborhood and I’d heard and read that being the least expensive home in a new neighborhood meant the best opportunity for financial upside as the value of the homes increased. Spoiler Alert: That turned out to be true!
This was the first time in my life that I had lived in a new home. No one had lived there, any damage or the like would be from us! It had that new car smell!
It was a good home for us for 13 or 14 years. We did some upgrades, things we thought would improve our value and improve our enjoyment of the home, but at the end of the day it was still a 2000 square foot home in a neighborhood in Vancouver. We were surrounded by neighbors, some good, some with very loud barking dogs that would sneak into our yard and terrorize our dogs. Occasionally beer bottles would be flung into our yard from the same neighbors. Great fun.
After we’d been there for more than a decade it was clear that we had done pretty much all we were reasonably going to do in that house. It was what it was. And I was starting to chafe.
I had a great office and I had a small shed in the backyard where I could work on projects. I couldn’t do anything of any real size because my tools would have to be brought out of the shed to operate and our garage was full.
We were starting to talk about me retiring and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with myself. As we talked what became clear was that what I really wanted was someplace with a shop. Someplace that maybe wasn’t quite so “in the middle of a neighborhood”. But, were it up to me, that would likely have remained largely idle chatter because looking for a new home is kind of a pain. To me. Christina is an amazing shopper and finder. And she seems to enjoy it, which is foreign to my experience!
We started to look a bit, but the market was getting pretty hot back in 2021, which would be good for selling our home, but not great for finding a good deal for a new home. The answer seemed to be that we were looking at having to move out from the Portland/Vancouver area. Like out a ways. We looked in little towns like Yacolt. Or outside little towns. Up in the hills. Away from … everything.
Eventually, we found a couple of homes that we thought would work for us. We found a place that had a view of Mt. St. Helens. We put in a bid and it seemed like it was well received, but in the last hour, before the bids closed, someone from California swooped in and outbid everyone. We were in second place, we were asked if we’d like to be a backup buyer in case the primary dropped out. Yeah, no thank you.
We found another not too far away, but similar deal. We came in second place.
I was getting frustrated. Christina, as is her way, persisted.
One day she sent me a link to a place. Not a place referred to us by our realtor, but a place that had just come on the market. It was amazing. It had a view. It had a shop. It had acreage. It was … out a ways. Like outside Longview, Washington, which is roughly an hour outside Portland. But, the price was good. Great, actually. Assuming it matched the pictures because anyone who has shopped for a home knows how much bigger a wide-angle lens can make a room or a place look.
We reached out to our realtor to arrange a visit and a few days later made our way up. It was even nicer than the pictures. The view was … exceptional. Like nothing I had ever imagined. It was on six acres of largely cleared land. It had a shop. Not just a “shop”, but a big ass shop. A shop with its own attached kitchenette! A shop with 220V power. This was a real shop.
It wasn’t perfect. It had a kitchen that had been transported from the late-70s, early 80s. The deck was showing some real wear and would need to be replaced. But, for the most part, the work that had been done on it was good quality and the place was pretty great looking.
We talked and decided we were definitely going to make an offer. One of the things about the real estate market in late 2021 was that you were not going to be seen as a serious offer if you came in with contingencies. It used to be, in prior markets, you might say things like “contingent upon selling my current home” and things like that. In this market, 40% of the offers were coming in as cash and almost all of them were coming in with no contingencies. The first place we lost was a cash-only offer and it was $40-$50k over our offer. That seems nuts, but it was where the market was. So, if we were going to make an offer, it could not be contingent.
Fortunately, we had paid off our home and by using some other assets as collateral, we were able to get pre-approved for an offer that we thought was competitive. In fact, we had an escalation clause that would increase our offer by increments over any other incoming offer up to a max that we had predetermined. That’s how much we wanted this home.
It was a fairly tortuous process, but we did get the home and we managed to get through the buying process during a time when it was almost impossible to even get someone to come out and assess the property in a timely manner. In fact, the first assessor came in and gave a number so low that it was farcical. Basically, the bank got another assessor to take a look and that assessor gave a number that was over our sale price, meaning we didn’t have to worry about paying more for the house than it was worth, which is immense peace of mind.
2022 was all about getting moved in and settling into a new place and new area. On top of that, we had the kitchen remodeled. A process that was supposed to take six weeks ended up taking almost six months because we hired terrible contractors. We had the deck replaced and, similarly, what the contractor estimated would take a few weeks took months because he kept taking other jobs after he had half my money. Yes, we suffered some consequences for our contractor choices, but in the end it got done. We got a new kitchen and a new deck.
Oh, and Covid. Our contractors gave us Covid.
Moving away from all our familiar resources has been a challenge. We still drive back in to Vancouver or Portland as needed, which seems like that’s more often than expected.
We have enjoyed eating out, but when you’re 15 minutes out of town, Door Dash or even bringing a pizza home hot is not an option. And, to be charitable, the food choices in Longview are not awesome. We’ve found a few places we like, but they are merely adequate, not excellent.
Politically, we moved from a city that was probably closer to 50/50 than I wanted to believe, but I at least felt like I wasn’t necessarily outnumbered. Just an hour north of Portland, the color of the political spectrum has definitely shifted. Interestingly, Google says that Cowlitz County is 60/40, Republican to Democrat, but it often feels redder than that.
Fortunately, it’s a bit like religion: If you don’t talk about it, you can all pretend you wouldn’t otherwise be fighting about it. So, we get along with our neighbors great. But, we also don’t talk about religion or politics.
We have a flag pole at our new place. I’m looking forward to flying a LGBT flag up there below the US Flag. I know that will piss off some locals. The prior owner had a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag, so my putting up a different flag feels like balance.
On the whole, and especially once we got the contractors out roughly mid-year, our time here has been pretty great. I’ve told friends that living here feels like I’m staying at an AirBnB where I keep expecting someone to show up and kick us out. This isn’t the kind of place I ever had reason to think I would live, let alone as an owner. This middle-class boy still deals with impostor syndrome. My shop is wonderful. Having acreage is sometimes hard work, but I love the space and the privacy and the quiet.
Here are some pics of our place. I hope I continue to feel grateful and appreciative about living here. We’ll stay as long as it continues to be fun and not too hard work for us. I give it five to ten years before I’m tired of the physical labor and I’m ready to do something else, but until then, this really has been a wonderful change and adventure and I’m really, really fortunate to be doing it with a partner that I enjoy!