There are few moments in life more surreal than signing a “Residential Offer to Purchase” on a home, but that’s exactly what Tara and I did on Thursday night.
You know the Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime”? The one where David Byrne spouts lyrics like,
And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”
That was totally me yesterday. One year ago, all of this would have been unthinkable – and yet, here we are. We submitted an offer on a house. In Wisconsin. Not only Wisconsin, but Fort Atkinson, of all places. A town we had never even heard of before. We only ended up here because we needed an apartment quickly and Fort had an immediate vacancy. This was only supposed to be a temporary stopover while we searched for a home in Madison. This house is most assuredly not Madison. Hell, it’s barely in Fort. It’s a rural subdivision on the outskirts of town. When we pulled up to the house to meet Justin the Realtor on Thursday afternoon, roosters were crowing across the street.
And you may say to yourself, “My God, what have I done?”
What can I say? Fort Atkinson charmed us almost from the moment we set foot here. Turns out this small town of 12,489 – I guess we can make that 12,491 now – is the very definition of a hidden gem. It’s got a charming downtown, a beautiful riverwalk, a bunch of great bars and restaurants and parks, and of course, that library. What’s not to love? Madison is still an easy 45-minute drive to the west, and Milwaukee, about an hour east. We’re basically smack dab in the middle. And cheaper than both cities. So, it’s not surprising that we decided to set our sights on finding a home here. I just never expected that home to include almost an acre of land, let alone a septic system and private well.
Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground.
So, about this house. We actually looked at it when it was first listed back in early December. Sat in the car staring at it for a good 10 minutes. The setting is gorgeous: the home is situated on .8 acres and lushly landscaped, with mature trees, three ponds, a waterfall and bridge, a grapevine-covered arbor. By thinning out a few of those trees, Tara would have plenty of room for her dream garden. And the house itself has some great features. Not one, but two garages. A covered porch swing. A heavy duty wood stove. And a heated driveway. I never even knew such a thing existed! Ultimately though, we passed. My big issue was walkability, or lack thereof. Being in a country setting, there are no sidewalks, and I’m a near-daily walker. A few days later the house had an offer, so it was a moot point anyway.
The real estate market is dead this time of year, and inventory around here is so limited, the few houses that did pop up for sale were always snatched up quickly. We’d had a showing scheduled on one, but it sold before we could get there. Then we were going to check out an open house, but that was cancelled because it sold too quickly. We realized that whenever the perfect property came along, we would have to act fast.
Wednesday afternoon, Tara emailed me. I see the contract on that house fell through. Would love to know the inside scoop on that one. It had been awhile, so I started looking through the listing pics again. Just for fun.
Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.
The house really is beautiful, and all that land was awfully appealing. Last weekend, driving by rural properties on the way to New Glarus, something stirred in me. I suddenly understood the appeal of a country lifestyle. Let’s face it, people suck. The fewer around, the better. When I got home from work, I told Tara we should reconsider the house. She was down, so we reached out to Justin the Realtor, and he scheduled a showing on Thursday at noon. I think we pretty much knew we were going to make an offer the moment we started looking around. Naturally, we wanted to know why the first offer had been rescinded. Turns out the sale was contingent on the buyers’ house selling, and that did not happen. Apparently they were devastated. I feel badly for them, but not too badly, you know?
We officially submitted our offer that evening, and a tense 24 hours followed. JTR checked in with us mid-morning, letting us know the listing agent had forwarded our offer to the sellers and they had acknowledged it, but there was a slight hitch. The agent had jumped the gun and shouldn’t have re-listed the property because the original buyers hadn’t yet formally rescinded the offer and technically still had until the end of the day to pull together financing. JTR said it would be “a miracle” if that happened, but we live in strange times, so I certainly wasn’t assuming the house was ours.
My work day ended at noon, so I walked to Tara’s office to meet her for lunch. We drove through the rural subdivision again and found a 52-acre park basically right around the corner from the house. With hiking trails and wetlands and ponds and woods. Honestly, if we had seen that when we first looked at the house in early December, we would probably already be living there now. That lack of sidewalks suddenly didn’t matter. Seeing the park, we decided we really wanted the house and were willing to pay full asking price if it came to that.
‘Course, we didn’t tell anybody else that.
Finally, at 4:36, JTR texted. You two have time for a call? This was it! Immediately, my heart started racing and I tried to read into things. Normally, our business with JTR was conducted via text. Was a phone call a good sign or a bad sign? And then, when he conferenced us all in, he took two excruciating minutes to get to the point.
The news was good. The sellers had agreed to all terms of the offer except for one. “Care to guess what that is?” JTR asked.
“The price,” Tara and I said in unison.
Bingo. And at that point, I knew the house was ours, because we’d already decided we were all in to the max. Their counter was a compromise – $8K more than our offer, but $6K below asking. Which was more than fair, considering JTR was able to surmise that the original buyers had made a full-price offer. We accepted on the spot, and about an hour later, it was all official. That’s when our celebration began. Brandy Old Fashioneds felt very appropriate for a new life in Wisconsin.
You may ask yourself, “What is that beautiful house?”
It’s ours! That’s what it is!!
JTR called a little later to let us know we were locked in, and shared some other interesting news. Apparently, there were four showings for the house scheduled over the weekend. He is 100% sure it would have been sold by Sunday regardless. Thank god we swooped right in and moved quickly! Testament to how competitive the marketplace is around here, even in the dead of winter and with high interest rates.
GUYS, WE DID IT! WE’RE BUYING A HOUSE!!!
Lots of work ahead obviously. Good god, the thought of moving again makes me want to crawl into a hole. Seems like we just did that!
Oh, wait. We did just do that.
But a 10-minute drive is a lot easier than a 12-hour one, and we’ll be able to make lots of trips back and forth moving stuff. We are hiring professionals for the big items, because it took me months to recover from an arm sprain suffered moving in, and kayak season isn’t that far off.
So much more to say, but this post is long enough and I’ve got shit to do.
Coming soon: the eerie parallels between this home purchase and the Rapid City house, the seller’s interesting background and close community ties, and our planned timetable. Stay tuned!