It was a whirling dervish of a week, but Mindy and I are back in Portland.
We flew down to Phoenix because we bought a house site unseen. We figured we'd better see it after friend-of-Burnside Dan Gibson checked the house out and said, "Well, if you're into neighborhoods where you can get meth without dealing with pesky middle men, it just might work."
We arrived at Sky Harbor International around 10:30 am. Sky Harbor is one of my favorite airports for a few reasons. First, it has a great name. Second, free wireless. Third, last time I landed at PHX, I finished the last page of A Prayer for Owen Meaney 30 seconds before the wheels touched down. Anyone who's read that book will realize how bizarrely coincidental that is.
We had some time to kill before meeting the realtor, so we figured we'd swing by for, as Dan called it, "the big reveal."
Now, I grew up on the east side of Mt. Tabor, which is a great neighborhood, but it's near the border of where SE Portland starts to turn from middle class enclaves into more depressed areas. I went to school in those areas, and worked in those areas. I've never lived in the ghetto, but I have lived in rougher neighborhoods, at least by Portland standards. At least one of my most recent residences was in the process of gentrification.
All that's to say, as we entered the area, I thought, "Well, this isn't that bad." The house was close to the hospital, the homes next door were decently kept up. The "drug house" Dan had told me about was at least two blocks away. Then we curled around the block, the houses got worse, and Mindy pointed at a group of men standing on a lawn with a burnt out '77 Chevelle. "Those men have guns! WHY DO THEY HAVE GUNS!?!?"
Fortunately, the men with the guns were plainclothes cops. Unfortunately, the men with guns were plainclothes cops busting someone a block away from our new home.
Jennifer, our realtor, arrived and took us inside. The remodel was shoddy, the rooms strange, and the backyard which seemed so idyllic in pictures was thrown together.
We canceled our offer within three minutes.
For the rest of that day and all of the next, Jennifer and Mindy's mom, Karlene, drove us back and forth across Phoenix. The city is laid out like a grid, so I got a feel for where we were quickly (thanks, Mormon city founders!). We focused on the Biltmore and Arcadia neighborhoods for their proximity to downtown, restaurant districts and Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Both nights, we stayed with Dan. He lives with his lovely wife Tara, Tara's mother, and their two kids. Dan's son, Johnathan, is some sort of cartography genius. At six years old, he's drawn a map of Riverside County in chalk on the Gibson's back patio. I showed him a map on my desktop of Portland circa 1897, and pointed at the river on the north edge. "That's the border between Oregon and Washington," I told him. "Oh, the Columbia River!" was his reply. Piper is just a few months old, and is in the 99th percentile when it comes to charm. When she wasn't sleeping, she was displaying a dizzying arsenal of adorable expressions. Mindy was going bananas. I was surprised she didn't try and nurse her.
Dan and Tara were ridiculously great hosts, and while they live a fair distance from where we were house hunting, we feel relieved to have good friends already.
Our second day, we found a place we loved. It was outside the upper edge of our price range, but we took a look anyway. The current owners hadn't moved out yet, and we started to notice they might be strangely similar to us. Two crosses were hung, along with a world map of wine regions and a wine chiller. A stack of Bibles sat on the bookshelf. They had dogs. Mindy spotted a 4D ultrasound taken recently.
Jennifer ran some comparisons that evening, and felt the price was high. We put in an offer that was in our range, and we included a letter and photo of Mindy and I. We wrote how we were starting out, too. We told them how we wanted to have a baby soon, and how we loved wine, and how we shared their faith. We told them we weren't moving alone, that we were bringing a dog and two cats. We also wrote, "If you're like us, you've built an emotional connection with your residence. As silly as it may sound, you want it to be in good hands…at least that's how we feel about our house back home."
It was a plea, of course, but it was earnest. If I was selling a home, those types of things would matter more than the price. Maybe it didn't pop immediately to mind, but I realized after we put in the offer and wrote that letter how amazing it was that the house we liked best was owned by people we could so easily relate to. I don't buy prosperity gospel, and I can be cynical, but it's times like these when it's blatantly obvious God is taking care of us.
From what we heard, the sellers initially planned on countering our offer, which could've put us out of our range, but they read our letter and looked at the comps and accepted.
We're ecstatic and thankful.