October 4, 2023
I’m not sure where to begin! This is supposed to be my first big post about what it’s been like for us living the dream as we set up a home near Disney over the last
sixnine months. I also want to finally discuss where we ended up buying a house, what we got, and where we had to compromise. But I’ve also been ridiculously quiet over the past 15 weeks or so, and I should probably explain that too because a lot happened!
Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to split this piece up into several parts and try to get them all posted over the next month. Today I’ll finally talk about the house we ended up in. Then I’ll do a piece about the reality of life here after all the dreaming. Later I’ll write up something about what we’ve been dealing with recently and what’s coming next. (Long story short version: as of last week we are officially empty-nesters!)
When I last left off on our house hunting story, we had just lost out on the most beautiful home we’d seen. The location wasn’t great but the house itself more than made up for it. Not only were we devastated on striking out on offers for a second time, we were also growing concerned about how long the search was taking. It was mid-November and we’d been at it for six weeks. We had assumed we’d be in a new home in plenty of time for Christmas. Now we were worried we might not make it by the end of the year, which, besides being frustrating, would come with a significant tax penalty.
After losing the amazing house, the prospect of continuing to look at more was losing its appeal. We, of course, didn’t have much choice! But while doing that, I also went back and started reconsidering some of the houses we had already looked at and passed on. One stood out. We were originally very excited to see it. It was in a great spot, had most of what we were looking for, and seemed to be in good shape. But after visiting it in person, it felt a bit too small, especially at the price they were asking.
But several weeks and many open houses later, this one still stood out as one of the best we had seen. There was nothing we could do about the size. But if the price were better, it could definitely work. So we went to take a second look. With a more experienced and weary eye, we realized the size really was fine for us. And with so many other features we wanted there was no reason to drag out the search.
The house was without a doubt overpriced! It had been purchased by one of those online “iBuyer” companies earlier in 2022 when the market was especially hot. By late 2022, things were cooling a little. While researching, we read lots of articles discussing how iBuyer companies were having to unload inventory they had paid too much for. This particular company had listed the house at $45,000 more than they had paid for it a few months earlier, and by the time we saw it they had already lowered the price some. Based on all the news reports we’d seen, we took a chance that maybe they’d just want this off their books before the end of the year and made an even lower offer. After a bit of back and forth, we eventually agreed on a price just under the top end of our budget, but $32,000 less than their original asking price.
We’d done it! Offer accepted! After the usual rigmarole with the bank, we signed the paperwork and were in the house with just days to spare before the end of the year.
So how’d we do? In my first post discussing our house hunt, I listed five factors we were considering when viewing homes: price, location, condition, space, and the outdoors. (I won’t recap those here in detail, so feel free to go back and re-read that part if you’d like.) As I said at the time, we did not expect to get everything we wanted… and we did not! But the full range of things we got that we wanted and things we had to pass on, I think pretty much balanced each other out. Because I’m a numbers guy, I’ll score how we did on each factor.
This, perhaps not surprisingly, was our biggest compromise, especially in this market. The house we bought was literally at the very top of our budget. We could have gotten something less expensive, but would have had to give up the vacation home feel and the distance to Disney. In the end, we decided we’d rather spend more money and have those things.
• SCORE: 0/5
This was our biggest win. The home we bought is in an area I had not even considered, since when we were looking from Tennessee I had all but ignored areas east of I-4. The neighborhood is called Williamsburg. It’s four miles from my wife’s work, four miles from Disney Springs, four miles from Universal Studios, four miles from the mall, four stoplights away from where they’re building Epic Universe, and two blocks from SeaWorld. In other words, it’s right in the middle of the things we want to do!
• SCORE: 5/5
Thankfully the house passed inspection with no issues. It’s not brand new but it was freshly painted, cleaned, and looked great. So far, we’ve found no problems!
• SCORE: 4/5
As explained in that earlier post, this bullet point consisted of three separate things.
First, the house size. My wife is happier than me! She wanted something smaller than we had in Tennessee, but I wanted something bigger. This was the second smallest house we looked at. That said, it is not tiny. It has three bedrooms, two baths, a living room, den, kitchen, dining room, and garage. So, no complaints really, other than I don’t get to spread out as much as I had hoped…at least until I eventually finish the garage into a home theatre!
Second was space between us and the neighbors. We’re definitely closer to them than we were in Tennessee. But we’re not nearly as close as most of the other houses we saw here in Florida.
Third was room to park. Not something I went in looking for until we got here and so many houses were limited in this department! Here we did good. We’re on a corner lot, so we have our driveway which can fit two cars, and the curb on the dead-end street side of the house which could fit at least three more. That should be plenty of space and allows us to leave the curb in front of the house clear.
So basically you could consider this a win (parking), lose (size), and draw (neighbors).
• SCORE: 3/5
Last, but definitely not least was the outside spaces. We didn’t just want a house near Disney. We wanted a Florida house near Disney! I use the phrase “vacation everyday feel” when talking about what we were looking for and I’m happy to say we got it. We have the pool, we have the lanai, and we even have a separate large covered area under the lanai so we can sit outside in the rain, as I’m doing now! There’s a fenced side yard for the dog to run around in. All that and we even got a water view with a lake across the street from the front door.
• SCORE: 5/5
That’s 17 out of 25 total points, meaning we scored almost 70% of what we wanted. Not too shabby!
Nine months in and we’re very happy with our choice. The location has probably been the best part of this decision. But I’ll talk more about the specifics of living here in part two.