A green summer and a boy grows up and helps his mom look for a house

Lots of change is unfolding in my life right now, some small, some big.

The first has to do with this summer’s weather. In all our time here in Colorado, it has never rained as much as it has this summer. This is a photo of the open space in back of our house:

summer 2014

Usually by the middle of June, the trees are a medium green, and you’re in a constant battle with your grass to keep it from turning brown. This year, the trees have shot up like weeds and have maintained their deep, rich green coloring; it’s all just beautiful.

Next, I have to report that aliens have kidnapped our son and put someone else in his place because I found this in the basement the other day:

school supplies

Someone who looks like Ross had gone through his desk drawers to gather all of last year’s leftover school supplies, grouped like items together and made a list of things he needed from the office supply store—even though college doesn’t start for another three weeks. Time to call 9-1-1 and file an alien abduction report.

The biggest change, however, is that in addition to becoming empty nesters at the end of this month when Ross leaves for college, before the year is over, John and I will undertake another major household move.

This move will be very different from the last. John has a golden opportunity to co-found a start up company and he’s taking it. There’s a medium amount of financial risk for us, but he’s at the age and point in his career where it’s worth the shot—breathe!

So, after seven and a half years in Colorado, we are returning to Houston, a city that has experienced explosive growth since we left in 2006 and continues to get bigger. Growth like that has its downside, a major one being traffic, which makes you really think about where to live relative to your job.

Commute time and some other factors have led us to a huge decision, but one we’ve had in the backs of our minds for a very long time, and that is to build our own home.

With the final documents for the formation of the new company signed on July 13, the new job became a reality. Last Thursday, Ross and I boarded a 5:35 a.m. flight from Denver to Houston, rented a car and hit the ground running: Five days, four appointments with potential builders, one day with a couple who already built their own home, and two days with a real estate agent who specializes in our target area. The challenge: extremely low inventory, escalating prices and an urgency to make the transition as quickly as possible—crazy!

The real estate agent showed us a handful of homes/lots on Thursday. On Friday we met with a builder who had some lots in our desired area and we went to see them. Ross was a great help. He took photos and sent them to John along with the address and a few details about each property so John could view them on Google Earth.

One in particular that day stood out and before we parted company, I asked the rep if she would notify me if they had any bites about that property before the end of the day, and she promised she would. I was surprised to learn later in the day that Ross had the same feeling about that lot. Even though it felt perfect, I had to bury my excitement about it because I knew that anyone at any moment could snatch it up and I’d be helpless to stop it. My only option was to wait until John flew down on Monday to look at it.

At 4:00 on Friday afternoon while getting my hair cut by my favorite Houston stylist, a phone call came from the builder’s rep with news that someone had contacted her about the lot and was considering buying it sight unseen. Do. Not. Panic. I called John to let him know and followed up with a call to the real estate agent.

Over the next two days, I asked several people if they thought the builder’s rep was jerking my chain, and every answer was an emphatic no—the market is that tight.

I explained the situation with the builder’s lot to the realtor and flat out asked him if, realistically, he had anything viable for us to see the next day (truly, pickins’ are slim in this neighborhood) because if he didn’t, I wanted to discuss with John whether we should be getting aggressive about that lot, even though he hadn’t seen it yet.

In true salesman-like fashion, he assured me he had some realistic options, one in particular he thought we would really like, the advantage being a motivated seller and the fact that it wasn’t listed yet. Mentally, I felt a tad better, although my stomach had been in an uproar most of the day. I made no more phone calls and returned to my hair cut, mind still reeling.

On Saturday, Ross, Rhonda and I piled into the realtor’s large yellow Hummer/4-wheel billboard and started in again. The realtor delivered as promised and the one lot he thought we would like was, in fact, a strong contender. The weird thing? Same street as the builder’s lot, opposite side of a major thoroughfare. Current owners are John and Terri (hers spelled with an “i”, just like mine).

other house1

other house2

Later in the day at a very late lunch, Rhonda, Ross and I tried to unwind and figure out the way forward. Everyone agreed that the builder’s lot (house #1) was the ideal one for us—if it was still available. If it wasn’t, the one shown by the realtor earlier that day (house #2) was a close second.

The only problem was where to live while the house was being built?

Then Rhonda suggested this brilliant idea, pending proper alignment of the sun, moon, stars and all the planets: Purchase house #2, live in it while house #1 on the builder’s lot is being built. When house #1 is done, move down the street from #2 to #1, sell #2 and live happily ever after.

I could not wait to call John to plant the seed and urge him to figure out if we could do it.

On Sunday, I had a great visit with John’s former employer and his wife about their experience building a home. One great tip I took away from that meeting was to purchase a large binder, add some dividers and plastic business card holders and use it to hold all the paperwork that will come our way during the building of the house.


house binder

On Monday morning, after interviewing the fourth and last builder, I fetched John from the airport and took him to see both houses, after which he completely agreed that house #1 was the one for us to build on—if it was still available.

Next, we headed to the realtor’s office to discuss house #2, during which I phoned the builder to ask about the lot and was relieved to hear that nothing official had happened—yet. Only a phone call from an interested party.

We returned with the realtor to walk through house #2, grabbed a quick lunch and headed for the builder’s office.

We got the lot:


The house is vintage 1960s, at least 50 years old, and while it appeared to have a few updates, it was being sold as a teardown. It’s in a great neighborhood—great location with great schools (good for resale when John retires).

It resides on a boulevard style, beautifully tree-canopied street, with safe and easy access to a paved, six-mile hike and bike trail.

This is a view to the south from the front yard.


Here’s the view to the north:


It’s a shame the pool sits where it does because it’s occupying space where part of the new house needs to be.

teardown back yard

We were told we still have the option for a pool, just not this one. We’re mulling it over….

We returned to the realtor’s office to prepare the offer for house #2.

Late on Monday, we were dispatched to the builder’s architect for our first meeting about the house plans.

Tuesday we flew home and learned that the seller for house #2 had countered our offer.

Wednesday morning we countered the seller’s counter.

Wednesday afternoon, we signed final documents and transferred earnest money.

Today, a home inspection was done on house #2.

Now all we have to do is plant Ross at school and sell our house. After last week, that’ll be easy.



Filed under house, kids

2 responses to “A green summer and a boy grows up and helps his mom look for a house

  1. Mel

    CRAZY! I hope all continues to go well with planning, moving and building!

  2. jo ginther

    WOW!!! What a wild and crazy ride!! Seems like you have your own tornado going right now. Hope you can find a few minutes here and there to relax and enjoy the view in back.

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