Don't Move to Portland

 A couple of the trees in the  woods around our new home in Tennessee. Feb. 2016.

A couple of the trees in the  woods around our new home in Tennessee. Feb. 2016.

It all started as a casual idea to move. Maybe rural. Maybe Oregon. Maybe more space. Slow down. It seemed as though everyone was moving to Portland. Should we follow the crowd? Look at those rising prices. Portland, Oregon just didn't prove to be a strong enough draw. I know, we're missing out on all that coolness.

We sat down with a pad of paper and wrote a list of requirements. One long list. After a few months researching, sipping tequila while quibbling over the finer aspects of needs versus wants, "get me another beer honey" while debating how far is still close, there was a moment when we all agreed: Tennessee. 

With always sunny at my back and a cold and wet February in Tennessee in front of me, I headed out for the first round of house hunting. I tried to ignore the weather as I dragged my gear across the airport breezeway to pick up the rental car. Wimp. I spent weeks on the road, stayed at a different AirBnb each night to meet people and check the area out, and criss-crossed Middle Tennessee looking for the place.

Coffee and planning. Yes, they have lattes in Tennessee. Yes, my mug goes everywhere, same mug since 2005. Hey, my mug has goals too! FeB. 2016.

Magda and me taking a bit of time for sightseeing and fun! June 2016.


Through some crazy stroke of luck I was working with an awesome real estate agent, Magda, who was game for finding what truly became a needle in a haystack. Did you know that only 10% of Tennessee households rely on well water?

We drove over the hills, we found ourselves trapped on winding clay roads seeming to never end, and roads that made us say, "Huh? That's interesting. No signs, no road, now what?" We braked for cemeteries and we occasionally made poor food pitstop choices. Reasons I pack dried fruit, nuts, jerky, chocolate, and water and try to not deviate from the pre-packed food plan. Don't do it, just let that feeling roll right over you! See, now you and your tummy are sorry. I warned you.

One of the many winding roads! Feb. 2016.

We checked out old family cemeteries.  Feb. 2016.

Tennessee road signs. Feb. 2016.

The first trip solidified Tennessee as the state and narrowed down the number of counties to less than ten, but I didn't find the property. By the way, there are 95 counties in Tennessee.

That's not quite true. There was a property that I was super excited about but the deeper I researched, it became clear that it wasn't the property for us. Don't get me wrong, it was a gorgeous property! Magda and I spent hours with the owner/builder even eating lunch together. The property and the owner/builder opened my eyes to the even greater possibilities with our move. My city eyes were acclimating to the rural possibilities. The owner/builder really carved out a piece of super alternative awesomeness and when it came back on the market we debated it again. But, again, it just wasn't quite right for us. But, wow! [Update: The folks who ultimately purchased the property later described it as a $300,000 tent as a result of the challenges with the off grid infrastructure.]

One of the trees that I fell in love with. June 2016.

Then, in early May I spotted it! The one. "Look, it's only been listed for a couple days." I critiqued the listing on Zillow and checked RealTracs to be sure that the listing was at least still listed on the regional MLS (multiple listing service). I poured over the every scrap of information available about the property, I researched the current owners, I dug and dug looking for a flaw or red flag.

I emailed my agent, Magda, who confirmed the property was still available. A whole bunch of back and forth between agents and the seller to fill all the gaps about the property ensued. I spent nearly three weeks looking for problems with the property. Yay or nay or go see the property? It was tough because if it wasn't the one, then it was a wasted trip. But, if it was the one, then we could put in an offer. Are we serious about this or not? Ticket booked, car reserved, and four days to find out if it was the one.

On hot and humid June morning, my agent and I headed up the half mile private drive. I did my best to put my feelings aside. Business mode. Investigate, evaluate, compare, critique. 

I viewed the property again the following day. The owner led me around the property to visit the trees and we chatted. Wow. It was the one. Did you see those trees? Wow.

Lastly, other than the property inspections, it had to pass the cream test. Cream test: Less than 20 minutes to buy half and half for Dale's coffee. Bam! 11 minutes flat! Yes! Of course, a cream separator and a nice dairy goat owning friend is even better!

I returned to San Diego. I was stoked. Dale and I jumped into the thicket of what-ifs and then-whats as I pointed out all the details from my visit. We decided it's the one and submitted an offer. The offer was flatly rejected. Not countered, rejected. Sword through my chest. We put in another offer and it was accepted. "Oh shit, we just bought a house in Tennessee." Meanwhile, we were in the final hours to get our house on the market. With the help (and cheering) of a terrific agent, Bobby, we had multiple offers and a deal cinched the first week our place was on the market.

The stars aligned, our place in San Diego closed at the beginning of August, and our place in Tennessee closed just two weeks later. 

Wow, that sounds easy! Super not easy.

Getting the house staged and ready to market. AKA Placing your items in the most appealing positions including not at your house to get top dollar while living on pins and needles. Hide trash cans and cleaners as the house produces no trash and never requires cleaning. Buy me! June 2016.

Some of the business cards from the open house. AKA strangers and neighbors checking out your digs, judging its value and potential, and wondering about what you did or didn't do before putting it on the market.  June 2016

There was so much between A and B! There was the process of selling of the San Diego property. Finding an agent proved difficult. All the open houses and showings. I still cannot believe the things folks will write into an offer. Seriously?We had house cooling party with friends and family whilst blissfully unaware of the upcoming last 10% butt kicking.

There were two moving trucks, friends and family with trucks and cars, meal deliveries, sweat, and stunning Tetris skills. The incredible rally got us on the road on closing day just minutes shy of the hammer drop! Two weeks on the road with a 26' moving van and a 46-pound dog were ahead of us. There was a crazy idea that we would camp and tour across the country. Who thought that was a good idea!? Instead we hopped from real bed to real bed across the country even finding respite with Texas friends for a few days. 

At the end of it all we arrived in Tennessee safe, sound, and very tired.