How NOT to buy a house in 3 months…

Usually, when a couple decides to buy a house, they spend months visiting potential new cities or looking at houses and patiently wait for that perfect house to  become available. You know, that dream house that you can picture your kids growing up in and you growing old in… Instead, we spent 2 weeks looking at houses and said this one! Crazy! Well… it was a bit more complicated than that.

We knew we were moving while still in Australia so I spent tons of time day dreaming on various real estate websites trying to determine the best place to look for a place to live. We were literally all over the map. The one thing we knew was that we did not want to live in New Jersey. Sorry Jersey… nothing against the state and all but it just wasn’t realistic with James’ office being in Long Island City. Plus, the tolls to Jersey are crazy expensive! Yes, my big brother lives there, but the commute was one of our key factors. James was determined to have a total transit time of less than 1 hr - that means from the time he walks out the door to the time his butt is at his desk. So, at least that was a starting point.  We also knew we couldn’t live in the city… as much fun as the city is, we got used to the suburban lifestyle in Sydney and the idea of schlepping the kids around the city on public transportation, cabs or walking just sounded horrific to me and the craziness and expense of public school - for 3 kids - well, that was an easy decision. So, that pretty much left us with lower Westchester and Long Island.

We toyed with the idea of Long Island City for a while but the schools didn’t seem so great. We thought maybe Queens but the parts we liked (Forest Hills) was way too $$ for what we wanted. So we finally settled on Lower Westchester and Port Washington and Manhasset as key target areas. James’ company helped us secure real estate agents in both areas and we started communicating with them before we came. So we had an idea of what we were looking for before the physical hunt.

Once we landed back in the US, we didn’t have much time. We left Sam and Noah with the grandparents in Southern California but had to bring Annabelle with us as I was still breastfeeding. James had a week before work officially started so the plan was to look together for a week and I would keep looking for a few more days. So, set off on a whirlwind house hunting adventure, and boy was it an adventure.

We started off in Long Island first, but for the oddest reason, our agent was located in Queens. We should have seen the warning signs early… but it was such a waste - she had no clue about the area we were looking in. We took the train to her in Queens and she drove us in her car to Port Washington. We had picked a bunch of houses we saw online that looked interesting and she made appointments to see them. For the most part, she was just our chauffeur. She could not tell us a thing about the area, the houses, the schools, NOTHING. I got excited when the buyers agent would be at the house so I could ask questions. It was a disaster… unfortunately, we had to get new representation.

The next day, we headed out to Lower Westchester which includes Pelham, Larchmont, Mamaroneck and Rye - all towns along the Long Island Sound and off the Metro North New Haven Line.  We knew of these towns but had never visited before but James used to pass through them everyday when he worked in Stamford.  Our agent, Barbara, picked us up at the train station and she was just the nicest woman we had ever met. She was also so great with Annabelle. Let me tell you, house hunting with a 5 month old is not a lot of fun. Sometimes the walk throughs would take twice as long as one of us would have to stay in the car with the sleeping baby and we’d take turns. Or we’d rush through a house with a crying baby. But Barbara was great and very patient. Her first course of action was just to drive us around town showing us where things were, getting us acclimated to the area, showing us the schools, giving lots of info on the area. Such a total difference from our time in Port Washington.  We went back the next day and on the following Saturday and we must have seen every house in our price range in all those towns.  It was crazy! On the days we weren’t in Westchester, we got a new broker who showed us around Port Washington and Manhasset properly.  Shelly was amazing. She knew her stuff. I finally realized what a good broker really meant. She was such a wealth of information.