Since Ester was born at the end of 2015 we have lived in three different homes. Two of which we have purchased. The home we brought her home to was a rental house that Sam and I lived in for over five years, the longest stretch of time I have ever lived in a home. Leaving this home wasn't easy; in this home we grew, we started our business, and we had our baby girl. Once we found out that we were going to have a baby, we knew it was time to focus on purchasing our first home, perhaps it was "the thing to do". Between feeling rushed by the nine month gestational deadline and pregnancy hormones, I didn't find myself too invested in the home buying process, and deep down I wasn't ready to leave our sweet 1970s rental. Deep deep down, I knew I didn't want to root down in Texas. Purchasing a home is a process that involves both a rational and emotional mindset. A home must feel like home, and the first home that we purchased, ironically in the same neighborhood where my mom lives, never felt like home, and in my heart, it didn't have the potential to feel like home. The season that brought us to a point where we decided we were going to overlook how we felt about our Texas home and make it "home" eventually churned us to begin the process in moving to Colorado.
The idea that there is a "forever home" out there for us is inspiring, but can also be burdensome. Finding a forever home is a process, and possibly one that will take a lifetime. A forever home should not be seen as something static and dead-ended, but rather something more elusive and dynamic. A forever home is what we create for our families to come back to, both tangibly and nostalgically.
When I think back to the short fifteen months that we paid towards our first mortgage I'm saddened, a little heart broken. I think about what could have been, with Ester growing up a few blocks away from her Gigi, and a few miles from her Papi. Why couldn't I find it in myself to love that home for the sake of family, for the sake of a connectedness I longed for as a child? Perhaps in life, connectedness is strengthened through distance?
What Must You Have?
When shopping for a home it's important to consider a few items that must be available before offering. For us, we had to have a garage, and this was the most important qualifier. We also desired real estate that would give us more options in the future. A property with space, for a large workshop, separated from the house, and possibly an additional separate studio/workshop. With both purchases we had to put this desire on hold, and for now, we live in a new housing development with an HOA, but we have a large garage, and we are thankful for this space.
Must haves can be flexible. With thorough communication, your family will be able to decide what "must be" before a home is considered for purchase.
What Can You Change?
Thankfully Sam is handy, determined, and creative in regards to home projects. We both have an excitable energy when it comes to improving our home. We poured hours into our home in Texas, and spent more money than we should have, not knowing we would only be there a short time (deck installation, kitchen remodel, fixture updates, front landscape).
Depending on your budget and your DIY capacity, changes can be made, especially when you're considering a home that has "potential". For example, can the front garden be turned into a driveway, and if so, what will it take to make this possible? For some families, this is an easy project, for others it's impossible. Consider your skill levels and budget. A fixer-upper is always exciting, but if it's going to require a ten year timespan it may not be as exciting as initially perceived. North or west facing entrances are considered to be best, and if this is important to your family, it's not something that can typically be changed, which would put it into the "must have"category.
A home that doesn't meet the standard for your family without a complete makeover will likely never feel like a forever home.
Do You Like The Environment?
Environment is crucial: urban, rural, suburban, traditional, modern, old, new, etc. And how about the geography? Geography and climate were the two greatest motivators for moving from Texas to Colorado. I've always preferred a dry climate and more moderate temperatures. I love to hike and be outside. I found this challenging in north Texas, and Sam felt the same way. We both wanted to a different environment to settle in. We're now in a place that has the geography and climate that we love, despite finding a forever home. Where we are now is not a forever home, although I've tried to convince Sam that we can make it one, just to avoid another move. If we're honest, we both desire a quieter location, as we're close to the highway and train tracks. He prefers a more rural environment, more remote than I'm comfortable with. It would be be lovely to wake up and step outside to only birdsong, but finding a place not too removed that offers this is challenging. At some point it's worth considering staying put and purchasing a plot of land. Allow a few years to pass, and see what the heart does.
Deciding upon environment requires personal reflection. One spouse may desire a country lifestyle, while the other may prefer an urban landscape. In the case where both agree on a similar environment, it's easier to find a place to begin. For example, if the only schools nearby have a poor rating then it's probably best to move along to another area. Poor school ratings can drive down the value of a home, and make it challenging to sell in the future. School ratings do not change overnight, and if you're not sure that you've found a forever home, it's best to avoid an area that will make the future sale of your home more difficult.
What Can You Give Up?
As the home purchasing process lengthens you may find yourself giving up on preferences you once thought would be "must haves". Before moving to Colorado we said we had to have a home with a fireplace. We not only wanted one for practical purposes given the colder winters, but it was also something that we wanted aesthetically as the focal point of our living room. It didn't happen, and that was a challenge for us. Now that we've been in this home just under a year, we see how it doesn't matter too much, as we know that this will not be in this home forever. We also told one another that we would never purchase a two-story home, and that's exactly what we have. If purchasing a home is the better financial decision, and what you want isn't available right away, look at the purchase as an investment towards your forever home.
Finding a forever home can be a long process, and often requires several seasons of personal growth. As we grow and understand better who we are our preferences and priorities change. Sometimes, making the most out of a not-so-wonderful home that has been "home" to young children is worth staying in. Children desire stability and longevity, and most of us love the idea of having a home to return to once we grow up and leave our nest.
Establishing a forever home may feel like a dream chase, and may not be what you initially had in mind. What matters most is living each and every day in the present, as child-like in our faith as possible. Removing distractions, like social media, living a slow and purposed life, simplified, will draw us ever closer to our forever home, whatever and wherever that may be.
*This is a collaborative post.