As you know, my family is moving from Little Rock, Arkansas to Denver…next week. Initially, our plan was to stay with family there for a few months as we explored the city and figured out which neighborhood we wanted to live in before committing to buying a house. Then, a few weeks ago, we found out we had an opportunity to buy the house Jon’s grandparents built in the 1950s, which his aunt and uncle have been living in for the last several years. The only thing was, we needed to decide soon, because the Denver real estate market moves fast. Number one real estate market in the country fast. Cue a whirlwind trip to Denver.
As we ate breakfast on our first morning there, we realized that, like every house hunter on HGTV, we had three main choices before us: the grandparents’ house, a city house, or new construction in an area of Denver called Stapleton (a redevelopment of an area that used to be the airport into a “New Urban” community).
The Grandparents’ House
Jon’s grandparents’ house obviously held a lot of emotional pull. The idea of keeping the place in the family really appealed to us. Plus, it had a lot of great midcentury modern appeal, and great mountain views. The main drawbacks were that it was in Wheat Ridge, an area of town farther from the Children’s Hospital than we had initially been considering, and that it would need significant renovations to get it to where we wanted it to be.
A lot of people who heard we were moving to Denver asked us if we were considering Stapleton, because it’s apparently one of THE places to be if you’re a family with young kids. We toured the community and several model homes. I can’t lie, the homes are large and gorgeous, and I could imagine that we would easily make friends with other families just hanging out in the community’s playgrounds. There is also lots of shopping, dining, and great schools nearby. However, the lot sizes are very small, with postage stamp yards, and the area had more of a cookie-cutter, suburban feel than we are really into. We currently live in an older neighborhood full of 20s Craftsman bungalows, and that’s the style we like.
So we crossed off Stapleton, which left us considering the grandparents’ house and a house on the east side of the city where we had been thinking we would buy before the grandparents’ house came into consideration. We knew we’d need to see some houses in the city in order to really decide if the grandparents’ house was a real contender, so we connected with a Realtor through a friend, and planned a very ambitious day of house hunting. We saw 12 properties in one day!
Since the Children’s Hospital is on the east side of Denver, we were considering areas like Park Hill, Five Points, Cole, Whittier, and Congress Park. One way in which Jon and I differ from most couples on HGTV shows is, we’re in almost complete agreement about the kind of homes we like. I really think either of us could pick out a house for the other one without them there, and they’d be totally pleased. In fact, I once did that when we first moved back to Little Rock– I chose our rental house on my own, but Jon loved it! Our Realtor said we set a speed record for seeing houses for him. We could walk right into a place and know if it was a contender or not, and if not, there’s no sense wasting time there.
Of the 12 places we saw, we ended up with 5 strong contenders:
- The Garden Bed House: had an amazing front yard with a ton of raised beds for Jon’s “victory garden,” and a large back yard with a covered patio too. However, the interior living space was smaller than we’d like, and the ceiling in the basement was a little low for my 6’3″ husband.
- The Funky Victorian: was on an AMAZING triple lot with a pond and gazebo. Had been nicely renovated with an amazing kitchen and dining space. The main drawbacks were there was no bedroom on the main floor, which we prefer for Claire, and the ceilings in the upper floor were slanted in strange ways because of the roof– Jon might not have been able to shower in the master shower because it was so low!
- Race St: I walked into this little Victorian bungalow and loved it. It had been nicely renovated into a big open kitchen/dining/living room, had two bedrooms on the main floor, had a second floor master suite, and a great basement with playroom, guest room, and full bath. However, the yard was the size of a postage stamp, mostly eaten up by the large garage. Also, we weren’t entirely sure about the schools it was zoned for.
- The Congress Park House: This house and street reminded me a lot of our current neighborhood. It had a great Craftsman feel, and the tiny closets to go along with it. The main drawbacks were that it was near a noisy street, the back yard was looked down on by a large apartment building behind it, and the basement had a real hobbit feel with curvy floors that hand’t been fully dug out to level it. Also, because of its location, it was at the very top of our budget.
- The Hip Bungalow: This house was very similar to the Race St. house, but had cool exposed-brick walls in the main living space, and a slightly larger yard. However, it had no finished basement, and all the bedrooms were upstairs. We were the very first people to see this house, and it was already under contract the next day. Not kidding about how fast the Denver market moves.
Ultimately, we were left considering the Grandparents’ House and the Race St. House. The day after all our showings, we had to catch a morning flight back home. When we went to bed that night, I felt like my heart was leaning toward Race St., and I felt like Jon was leaning toward the Grandparents’ House. We slept on it and didn’t talk about the decision until we were on the way to the airport the next morning. “So, which house are you thinking about this morning?” I asked. “Oh. I decided which one I wanted at 3 am when I couldn’t sleep,” Jon said. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I’ve been with this internal processor for 13 years now, and he always needs some time to work out things in his head. What surprised me was when he said “Race St.”
He realized that what appealed to him about the Grandparents’ House was mostly emotional, but that Race St. seemed like the place we would be the happiest, in the area we had been considering all along, before the Grandparents’ House came into play. At the airport, we called our Realtor and told him to start writing up an offer. Given the seller’s market, we had to offer full price, and all closing costs, and I even wrote them a letter about why we loved their house so much. We anxiously waited to hear if we got the house, and the next morning, the call came.
WE GOT THE HOUSE! Looks like our 10 year wedding anniversary gift to each other will be a house in Denver.
*Image of Stapleton via Flickr user BeyondDC under a Creative Commons license.