Saturday, October 20, 2012

House hunting

We moved to Oregon in September 2009. We've now been here three years. As you all know, moving back to the USA hasn't worked out quite the way we had planned. In addition to my not being able to find a full-time, permanent job, we've had a lot of difficulty finding a place to call "home." And Portland hasn't at all lived up to its hype, which has been quite disappointing.

We know Oregon better than most Oregonians, thanks to our explorations by motorcycle. And while Portland has left us disappointed, Oregon has grown on us. We like it. We have even found towns in Oregon where we would be happy to live, were we able to find jobs there: Silverton, Salem, Corvalis, Bend, Ashland, Oregon City, Newberg, Troutdale, West Lynn... but none so much that we're wanting and willing to move there without jobs, and hope something happens.

Stefan has a job now at the Beaverton-Portland border. It's a good job. It's a job where he'd like to stay for a few years. And everything is telling us that it would make sound financial sense to buy a house now. All of those Oregon towns I've mentioned are too far too commute for Stefan's job -- including the town where we live now, in Canby -- so we have been trying to find a community nearer to his work where we'd want to buy a house - a home. To invest in.

We've zeroed in on Forest Grove, Oregon. It's still far from Portland, but it's closer than where we live now - Canby - and unlike where we live now, the local fire department in Forest Grove really does want volunteer firefighters (do NOT be fooled by the sign outside of the Canby fire station - volunteers might be needed, but not wanted!). Also unlike Canby, Forest Grove has a gorgeous historic downtown neighborhood, and a downtown of businesses that don't all close at 7 p.m. There's a college there - Pacific University, which began as a United Church of Christ institution (and while it's not anymore, any thing that has it's roots in the UCC can't be bad - said the Atheist) - and I always have a preference for college towns, as long as I don't live next to a party house. It also has more regular mass transit service to Portland - we're *really* like to stay a one-car family. 

We've looked at around 30 houses in Forest Grove. 30! And it's so... disappointing. Not that we haven't seen lovely houses, not that our real estate agent isn't trying to help us and being super patient and laughing at all my jokes. But every house has a deal-breaker:
  • the cheap or affordable house would require at least $50,000 of work just to move in, and then lots more work to make it where we want to live
  • it would take too long to be move-in ready after we bought it (we can budget renting our current place two months into owning a home - that's it)
  • it has no space to add a garage if it doesn't have one already
  • the driveway has a 25% grade (been there, done that, never doing it again)
  • it's too small, and would take too long to build on to/expand
  • the expensive house needs at least another $50,000 worth of work 
  • it's three stories and I'd have to go up and down those steps three or four times EVERY day
  • it's too far from downtown (we want to be able to walk or ride bikes to downtown)
  • the house is heated by heating oil, and we're not sure it wouldn't be crazy expensive and complicated to upgrade it to gas - and there's a pool, and how expensive would that be to maintain?! And it's got a weird layout...
  • the back yard would have no privacy or peace because two story houses look down on it or the neighbor's house - with several children - is right up against it (we live that now - no thanks)
  • it has no yard - we want a space for me to garden, for us to play cornhole, and for Stefan's weekend night fire
  • the neighbors scare us
  • there's no place downstairs for me to have an office (and for Albi, or future dogs, to sleep comfortably in the night, feeling like it was truly her/their space)
And then there's the couple of houses that don't have any of these problems - but, for some reason, we're just not that into them - neither of us look at it and see "home." Neither of us want to marry it. I'd be willing to buy a house that Stefan wanted to marry, and I think he'd be willing to do the same for me. But neither of us have had that moment of "I want to marry this house!" without one of those deal-breakers being present.

And... there's really no point to this blog other than to say that, wow, this is really hard, and I'm getting depressed over this process.

I will say that cheap, well-built houses near downtown are on the market for just a few days now - there's no question the economy is getting better.


  1. Come on, Jayne, after all those steps you went up and down every day in Sinzig?

  2. Hmmmm... not sure what you mean by that... indeed, we had a crazy amount of steps (around 90), but we had a gorgeous view and, more importantly, we didn't OWN it. Owning a home is completely different. Renting is shacking up - owning is marriage. I'd like to be more sure for a marriage...

  3. I do hope that you and Stefan will be able to find a space that will suit your style. And I think it is a good thing that you are quite meticulous with the details, since it would be your home for a very long time. But don’t get depressed. When you find one that fits your criteria and has less house defects, give it a second thought. Minor defects can be polished and you can have the house that you want in no time. [Javier Bonnell]