How We Found Our New House

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I’ve been promising to tell you all the story of how we found our next house in Southern Pines, because we hardly ever do things in the “usual” way around here!

First, we decided to rent this time around.  We still own an income property (our Nashville house), and we’re not sure that we’ll be in North Carolina for more than a year this time.  As parents of a rising 10th-grader, we certainly hope to be there through his senior year, but there are no guarantees.  We usually try not to buy unless we know we’ll have at least three years in one place.

While I probably do what the rest of you do when it’s time to move–i.e., spend hours staring at all the online home sites (until my eyes bleed) looking for the perfect house, it’s pretty hard to find a rental that works for us.  Why?  Well, #1 I’m really picky and most rentals look like rentals, #2 we have two enormous dogs and lots of landlords don’t like pets (which I totally understand), #3 they have to be OK with letting me paint, wallpaper, build things, and otherwise make alterations to their home, and #4 they also have to be willing to let me photograph their home and plaster it all over Pinterest and the internet.  Oh, and #5, did I mention that I’m really, really picky?

{As an aside, if you’re moving to a town that has a large military population, then I definitely recommend Military By Owner.  You don’t have to be in the military to use the site, and military landlords are usually awesome and have homes that don’t look like rentals (see #1 and #5 above).}

Because it’s easiest just to cover everything right up front with potential landlords, I’ve created a {very nerdy and Type A} brochure about our family, our pets, and the blog, so it’s all out there on the table before we even look at a house.  It’s a two page (front and back) PDF file that I can email to realtors, landlords, and friends who are keeping an eye out for us, and the most recent version looked like this:

Market your family by creating a brochure for potential landlords | 11 Magnolia Lane
I grew up with both parents in the real estate/homebuilding business, and if you’ve ever been a landlord, then you know that you’re most interested in knowing that your potential renters have a steady income; will take care of your property like it’s their own; and won’t let their kids or pets wreck your walls, floors, and yard.  You also would choose someone willing to sign a multi-year lease over someone coming in for just a year, right?

So, I cover all of that information on the first page so they know we’re not going to punch holes in their walls or forget to pay the rent.  I also include a few paragraphs about my decorating and blogging work, the magazines and book we’ve been featured in, and then a bit about how I can help them improve their property value.  Since working on projects around the house is my business, they will benefit from my sweat equity–the painting, wallpapering, hanging light fixtures that I do for fun, as well as having an online home tour featuring their house.

Even if you’re not a blogger, if you’re writing one of these up and have a knack for decorating, then include some photos of your previous houses.  You will be an asset to them when it’s time to stage and sell (or rent) the house and they will see how high your standards are!

When we were moving to Savannah two years ago, I actually mailed our brochure to a few local realtors and homeowners.  I literally jotted down addresses of homes that were for sale that I loved, then went online and looked up the owners’ names in the property tax records.  I copied their realtors, too, as we offered to rent their home that was on the sale market.  We very seriously considered one house in Savannah’s beautiful Ardsley Park neighborhood, but then made the difficult decision to live in military housing so my husband could be closer to work.

The takeaway on that is that quite a few homeowners who don’t have their home on the rental market will consider renting to someone if they know a bit about them ahead of time, and the longer the house has been on the market, the more willing they are to consider it as an option.

That’s not at all what happened with this house, though.  It was on the sale market for quite a few months, but it was so far out of our price range that it was never even on my radar (I’m sure you all know this, but the more expensive a house is, the longer it takes to sell it, even if it’s absolutely beautiful).

Our brochure was on the bulletin board of the brokerage that had the house listed, though, and the owner’s sister happens to work there.  She got in touch with me and we all started talking…as often happens, there were too many coincidences for it to be anything other than meant to be.  While they had no desire to rent on the open market, they were tired of taking care of two houses and knew that we would treat it like it was our own.  And since Camie (our landlady) has two rescued dogs, too, and volunteers with local rescues, like we do, Harley and Sunny would be welcome tenants at “Hounds Cottage”, too.

We met at the house for a look around (obviously it was wonderful), and then for dinner to go over all of the details, and it all worked out perfectly, down to my having a white kitchen again (random shallow detail that makes me happy).


So, the bottom line is that while I know that having a pretty house is far from the most important thing in my life and that I can make almost any house a home for our family, I’ve learned after all of our years of moving that a little bit of extra work and being proactive pays off tremendously when it’s time to find a new nest.  I know quite a few military families who never look for a house ahead of their move; they just pack up, drive to the new location, find something that’s on the market, and move in.  To each his own, of course, but if you’re a Type A “nester” like I am, then give the brochure idea a try the next time you’re changing your address!

Thanks for hanging in for such a long post (you can wake up now)–I’m really looking forward to sharing this house with you all as we get settled!  {If you’d like to follow along with me as I decorate our new home, just click here to sign up for our email updates}

PS  The other posts on this house are {here} if you want to see more.


Final New Christy headshot 2015

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  1. Christy, while not military (my oldest brother is however, and renting in VA while working in DC, and owning a house in MD) your advice is fantastic. I know many friends who get relocated due to their jobs, and this great advice for them as well. And, I know from experience in our neighborhood that we have had a few families that while they didn’t want to publicly advertise they would consider a rental were willing to do so once approached by the right family. One even ended up purchasing the home after realizing they would indeed be permanently relocated to this area and had sold their other home. Wishing you the best in your new home. Can’t wait to see more. And, your landlord sounds like a wonderful person.

  2. Yes, this house was just waiting for you, white kitchen and all…your landlady sounds wonderful and she knows that she has the perfect family to love the house as much as she does….Good luck on the move!

  3. I would have never thought about making a brochure. What a super smart tip! I am SO happy you found such a great place to land and love this coming year.

  4. Love the informational sheet idea! Genius!

  5. adriana esparta says

    UAU!!! Thanks for the great ideas and I hope you great and wonderful times on your new house!!
    I can´t wait to see…

  6. Well, IMHO, this was a total God deal! 🙂 The brochure idea is stellar and I can only imagine how much it helps when you must move often. Can’t wait to see more ~ the kitchen is a dream!


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