standing in my garage after moving all of my belongings out of my first home

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Hey folks! I’m assuming you got to this post either immediately after taking my advice for a coffee break as we finished up part one, or you took a longer break but still read part one and are ready for the rest. Bottom line: if you didn’t read the first half, go do that and then come back. Get ready for another long update!

front yard white house with stained wood garage door
back yard white house paint with floating deck and light pole planters

We’re going to continue right where we left off and address the other bullet points I promised you from my big post announcing that we sold the house:

  • Our open house experience and the rest of the recap from selling my first home — including a stressful hiccup (and any advice I have in hindsight?)
  • Moving out (and where we’re living now)
  • Where we’re planning to move! (this one’s big!)
  • Sneak peeks of recent projects from getting the house ready to sell and projects I’ve been working on since!
  • Appending the answers to any questions I get once this post is up for a while (let’s hope they can be addressed in the comments, but if there’s something big I forgot to elaborate on, I’ll add it to the bottom of this post so you don’t have to go hunting).

A Week Before the Open House…

I was a ball of stress trying to get every room ready for listing photos, packing away personal items, decluttering, and touching up lots of paint (for tips on what the home stager suggested for home selling, see part one). I was the very definition of a sweaty mess.

And, as it turned out, a lot of that sweating was due to more than just the hard work: the HVAC freaking BROKE. Less than a week before we were prepped for the open house, my old-ass HVAC unit gave her last exhale of cool air AND DIED. For those that don’t quite understand what this meant: in pursuit of my goal to showcase the house as pristine as possible, I bad-lucked my way into thousands of dollars in additional home repair costs. After consulting multiple repair folks, the A/C unit was too old to find replacement parts and meant the entire unit had to go (womp, womp). It’s one thing to spend $$ here and there for a home sale, but thousands of dollars? It was rough news. Our real estate agent thankfully knew someone who could swap out the unit within days and keep us committed to the open house date. Phew!

Want to see our last-ever Goldilocks house tour? Check it out below:

Open House Weekend

The following Saturday, K and I dropped Ellis off with family so that we could go do some day drinking go out for a peaceful lunch and ignore the big event going on back at home. The day before, K set up cameras to hopefully deter too much poking into our personal belongings (a neighbor who recently sold their home advised him to do this) but truth be told, I didn’t want to see or hear anything about what people thought of the house. I’d put so much effort into remodeling and getting the house ready that I was on input overload. I preferred outright denial to opinions; if there was a reason people weren’t interested, I wasn’t ready to hear it. I figured if the house stayed on the market for a few weeks, I would work my way up to being mentally ready to hear why that might be. But for now, I would just take a little time to celebrate that after 12 years of DIYing, I had accomplished a lot and was ready to start saying goodbye to my home.

We spent the morning cleaning, removing baby gates, and tidying the beds when the doorbell rang (we had it professionally cleaned earlier in the week, but we also have a toddler 🥴). We expected it to be our realtor, but she wasn’t supposed to arrive for another 30 minutes. It was a couple who wanted to see the house before the open house began! K told them “I’m sorry, but we’re not quite ready… we’re still cleaning and trying to get ourselves out of the house on time. Can you please come back later?”

Without missing a beat, the guy replied, “We’ll help you clean!”

Ha, no. While I could certainly appreciate that level of effort, K mentioned that we were advised not to do any early showings and asked them to come back later when the house was ready (thank goodness for K, because I would have felt guilty and said yes despite not being comfortable with it and we were feeling pressed for time as it was). We took at as an excellent sign that we had priced the house competitively for the market and people were interested.

for sale sign in front yard

The realtor arrived just as we were hopping into our car; she gently suggested we find an outdoor restaurant with plenty of room to relax (she could probably see the stress on my face), and she would let us know how things went in a few hours.

And then: as soon as we sat down and ordered, we got hundreds of notifications from the cameras. So many people showed up for the open house that our camera’s motion sensors pinged and pinged and pinged.

Before the weekend was over, we had three competing offers. !!!

I was fully amazed! In the blink of an eye, we were under contract with a closing date. The buyers from the offer we chose seemed super eager and scheduled out the inspection, appraisal etc. It was totally unexpected and wonderful news, even with the stress of negotiating the final terms of the sale. For those who haven’t been through it before, the process was basically:

  • Have a signed offer, which we countersigned to officially be “under contract” that stipulates sale price, contingency terms (how long they have to get an inspection and appraisal, etc.), closing date, and more. These terms are often pending the results of an inspection or appraisal or both and securing funds (home mortgage approval by the buyer’s lender) as well as the sale of the buyer’s current home (in our case, the buyers were previously renters so they had no such stipulation on the offer).
  • They schedule out inspection and appraisal and we all eagerly wait for those to come back to the buyer, who might make changes to their initial offer based on the results (if the appraisal comes in too low, if the inspection reveals problems that require money for repairs, etc.). My advice: be prepared that the inspection will always find something (it gives buyers negotiating power to change their terms). There was a little back and forth, but I felt I had a strong bargaining position in the current market, so not much changed from the initial offer.
  • All of the paperwork is taken care of to get the sale ready with the closing office, pay off my existing mortgage, etc., and we move out. The buyers become the new owners and we hand over the keys. Bittersweet!
our family of 3 at the closing office after selling my house

We picked a closing date that would allow us a little breathing room to pack up all of our belongings, find storage, and start looking for a rental, because that’s the other part of deciding to sell that I mentioned in part one: we realized we wanted to move closer to the coast. So it probably comes as zero surprise that we aren’t just planning to move across town. And that means we need time to narrow down precisely where that will be!

Finding a new (temporary) home

Right after we were under contract, we began to look for a rental in the Atlanta area so we could stay close to my parents and to K’s cousins (who are also Ellis’s godparents), Amy and John. They had all been a regular part of Ellis’s life these last two years and we wanted to keep that consistent until the big move out of state. Our biggest concern was signing on to too long of a lease, and I’m sure lots of you know that the rental market has been just as crazy as buying/selling! After a few weeks of not quite finding the right place, Amy and John offered us their vacant basement. It wasn’t fully finished, but it offered lots of pluses:

basement apartment before
  • Amy and John share a tight bond with Ellis, and they would see him every day and get to spend lots of quality time before our big move
  • They had a daycare within minutes of their home
  • The unfinished basement could be renovated to our liking (and I had enough spare paint and materials where we could do budget DIYs to make things cozy). There was enough square footage where I could envision a sleeping area (add a wall), living space, small kitchenette, and a separated area where K could continue to work from home. It was also directly next to their two-car garage where I could store my tools.
  • Our trailer project, Ruby’s Revival, was already stored here ever since we stopped renting at the RV lot. Once we moved in, we could work on Ruby all the time to finish her up and begin planning our first road trip!
  • We anticipated there might be a few months between selling the house and finding the location and market we felt fit our needs best. Amy and John gave us the flexibility we needed to explore the new cities we were considering in our move and wait for the right time to buy without the stress of moving deadlines.
basement apartment bedroom before

As far as we were concerned, this arrangement wasn’t even win-win; it was win-win-win-win-win! As long as I don’t dwell too long about being nearly 40 and living in our family’s basement, I still feel like a grown-up. 😉

The additional upside of that is that I will soon be sharing some of the DIYs we’ve been working on for our “basement apartment” space: new flooring, building walls, cosmetic rental upgrade ideas, etc. Naturally, that means you also get a “before” tour too in the next post! I’m planning on using some of their existing furniture that was being stored down here to make over, too.

basement apartment progress with new LVP flooring

Packing up and saying goodbye

House under contract, check. Several weeks spent packing, check. Find a short-term rental, check. My parents generously allowed us space in their garage to store our remaining things (we donated/sold quite a lot of our furniture and belongings, but we still had items that we wanted to keep but didn’t need in the basement apartment).

our belongings packed up and stored in my parents' garage

In just a few short weeks, I was cleaning out the kitchen for the last time. It was both a blink and forever-taking; funny how time can do that, right?

me placing a bottle of champagne and a Swiffer Wet Jet on the counter for the new homeowners

I set out a bottle of champagne for the new owners and a brand new Swiffer as my way of welcoming them to their new home. It warmed my heart to learn that the couple who bought it had a little baby as well (and I knew our neighbors would love that too… one of the hardest things about selling was how much we will miss them!).

me standing in front of my emptied living room windows with curtains removed and rug rolled up

I looked around the house for the last time and shed some happy tears. This house and home was so good to us; I hope it’s just as good or better to those who come after. I wish them joy and that they find comfort in these walls. And when they say to leave it better than you found it… I think we did.

our first house at night the last night we owned it
the very last picture I took of the house as the owner

Where we’re planning to move

Over those same weeks, we started renovating Amy and John’s basement. Even though I am loving the makeover projects going on in the “basement apartment” right now, we have officially begun the house hunt for our long-term home too. I’m keeping an open mind that what we find might not be our “forever” home, but it’s reasonable to assume that we will be in the next house for several years, so I want to find something old and charming and brimming with DIY project potential and meets our young family’s needs. You might initially think “Florida” when I say we want to move closer to beaches, but we actually want to move further north. My sister and brother-in-law live in Richmond, VA. So, that’s our starting point!

Richmond and surrounding map

It’s close enough to places like Buckroe Beach and Virginia Beach that we can make day trips while still living in a large enough city to meet a few of our other needs (we both prefer the convenience and a more city vibe than rural). We’re considering pretty much the entire area between Richmond and the coast in order to keep our options open until we understand the area better. The short list of our must-haves are:

  • No “cookie cutter” neighborhood; ideally older and in need of some love
  • Not recently flipped (no thanks to the gray-on-gray, faux driftwood flooring and granite counters); we are very comfortable with AS-IS homes that have ugly carpet and a deck that is falling apart, ha!
  • A floorpan where even if the bathrooms are small, we can remodel them to be bigger
  • Space in the driveway or behind the house (layout/access) where we can park Ruby (no repeats of our previous houses’s limitation on that!)
  • Something with some CHARM — which is entirely subjective
  • Nearby restaurant variety and I can easily find DIY supplies
  • 3-4 bedrooms or bonus rooms that we can turn into home office space without feeling like we’re on top of each other
  • Garage space for a larger workshop OR enough land where I can build one
  • Ellis has had a number of medical and specialist needs in the last two years, so we need to be close to these kinds of services

And then there are some nice-to-haves as well:

  • Larger bathroom/closets
  • Arched doorways
  • A level backyard (you know why I want this, ha!)
  • Brick
  • Original mouldings/fireplaces
  • Basement
  • Dedicated laundry and mudroom areas (I’d like our entryway to be a little grander than the first house)
  • Other young families or feels like we can take regular walks with our little one safely (not too busy of a road immediately in front or back)

As of THIS WEEK, we’ve started house shopping with realtors. Because we’re looking at such a large area, we’ve actually had to connect ourselves with multiple realtors to see the various neighborhoods. So far, it’s going well and I’m really excited, but exhausted — I have gotten into bed before 9pm two days in a row 😥. I was waiting to get this post live before I started sharing some sneak peeks of our house search, but you can catch the behind-the-scenes glimpses in my stories over on Instagram until a big update post is ready. I don’t feel 100% comfortable showing the front/interior of each listing; it might be a privacy thing too for the actual owners of these homes, so for now, I’ll just show you one from today that we liked a lot but didn’t buy.

fall day neighborhood with orange and yellow trees
back of a brick colonial home with sunroom that we did not end up buying

But that’s not all… what about Ruby’s Revival and other possibilities?

The basement renovation is only 600 square feet, so it’s safe to say that we’re already nearing completion with most of the projects going on in the space. And even though I have a considerable backlog of projects to catch you up on (video edits + blog posts + plans and downloadables in various stages of project management, even from the old house, such as that amazing plant shelf from my office and the door trim that you can see in the video!), we’re still going to have time to focus on our other ongoing project — Ruby’s Revival.

Ruby now parked in the driveway just outside of the basement rental

As I mentioned above, conveniently, Amy and John’s house is the exact same house where we had Ruby parked for the last year or so. You may recall that due to county rules, we were not permitted to park the trailer in our old driveway for longer than 48 hours, which made things difficult since we had to take full day trips back and forth to make any progress on this project. But John and Amy have a much longer driveway and extra space to park, so it worked out quite well to be in their basement. We now see Ruby every day! While our attention has certainly been tied up in making the basement a nice living space for ourselves, we love that we can walk outside and start making equal effort to finishing up Ruby. We finished demo and decided to replace the subfloor, so we’ve got an even bigger undertaking with this project than we first thought (sourcing the replacement subfloor has been a challenge, but I think we’ve finally got answers and can revive that effort again). I hope that over the winter, we will really start to see some big changes (I ordered replacement front windows and started learning how the existing window mechanics work, have been researching replacement parts, etc…. so we’re over the “hump” of demo and starting to place orders to put things back in!).

Ruby's revival with no windows
Interior of Ruby with subfloor torn out and Kyle sweeping out debris

We don’t want to face the same obstacle with the next house, so having enough land where we can park Ruby is part of our “must have” list. Ideally, I’d like to create a permanent “home” for Ruby somewhere on the property where we can take it on trips whenever we choose, but when it’s not on the road, it has an adorable customized spot. Maybe it can be a cozy sleepover for visiting family or something? (I know folks will be quick to point out that this would be a fun AirBnB too, but there’s a lot to consider there, and I don’t know that I’d enjoy that as a host.)

Building a tiny house????

Another possibility we’re keeping in mind for future building is Knoxville, Tennessee. Not for our primary home, but K and I have had repeated discussions about building a tiny home on his parents’ land as a place for us to stay when we visit. They currently have a camper parked on their property which is where we sleep when we see them (they have a tiny house on the same property, but there is no room for guests). So, it would be really nice to build our own tiny living space on that land or build out a convenient spot to park Ruby and connect it to water/electrical/etc and maybe have a connecting outdoor deck. In fact, we have already begun mapping out the area best suited for this, so stay tuned on updates on what that project might entail (though note that this is at least a few years out). The last time we visited we took a walk out on their trails and marked off a section we think we could flatten out and create access to from the road… which would be such an amazing project! I’m thinking super-modern A-frame!

red string ribbon tied around a tree with wooded background to mark our potential second home near family

Upcoming Updates

Alrighty: so after part one and this post, we’re looking at over SIX THOUSAND words to catch you up on everything! I hope that gave you lots of intriguing info and a sneak peek into our excitement about the future. And since I promised you sneak peeks of the posts that will be coming soon, here are a few photos!

It’s a lot to process, but I’m really excited to share more about our house hunt. It feels like the start of our greatest chapter. If there are any additional questions, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to answer! Thank you guys SO much for reading, supporting us, sticking around, well wishes, etc. It means so much to be able to share this news with you!

P.S. If you’re in the Atlanta area and are looking for an agent, contact Melanie Galvez at Supreme Home Group!

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  1. Congratulations! So bittersweet but excited to be invited to continue along on your journey!

    1. Thanks Ella! I’m very optimistic about what’s next. Fingers crossed we find the perfect home for our next phase in life!

  2. Wow!! You made me relive my summer. We are also in suburbia Atl GA and also sold our home of 21 years. 21 years of stuff, 2 grown kids gone but still stuff. My tools, both outside and in, and yes, the dreaded staging and decluttering!! Aren’t you glad you sold when you did!! Unlike you, we are going to what I call camp senior citizen and a smaller house in a 55+ community. I figure if we don’t like it we can move in a couple of years again, but we are already downsized.

    Congrats on realizing what you want while you guys are young. Life is supposed to be an adventure. Virginia is for lovers!! Have fun!!

  3. Wow congrats Sarah! That was so bittersweet yet exciting to read. Can’t wait to see where you end up!

    1. Thanks Allie! You’re absolutely right, big and bittersweet changes but exciting too. I’m thrilled about taking this next step and that K and I will look for a home that we both love (after all, I bought my house to suit my needs back when I was single).

  4. Wow what an adventure- thanks for sharing this exciting time. Good luck with the house hunting. Ellis is adorable 🥰

  5. Wow! That was a lot, big changes, big dreams and someday when things slow down a bit you two will look back at everything and be amazed at what you two had accomplished. Here’s hoping your son will grow out of his medical issues. We have 5 grandkids and watching their personalities develop is amazing.
    I’m looking forward to more of your projects. I’m starting my first with the platform bed, this is for my dad and his wife. RV projects and repairs can be tricky, I’m currently repairing small water damaged area in mine.
    Will your projects be listed on your website? I don’t have any social media accounts, sometimes there is too much drama on them.
    Good luck and stay safe

    1. Yes, projects always come back to the blog as the main hub for everything I post on social media. Social media allows me to share things a little more closely to real time when they happen, but then I go back to the blog and explain/document things in greater detail as the main resource of all of the projects (supplies lists, plans, video tutorials, written tutorials, etc.). Subscribing to the blog via email is one of the best ways to stay up to date on any new projects I publish about.

  6. Wow is right! The details of such a big, quick move can be overwhelming but you both made it work. Close family is a godsend, but your flexibility shows, and with a toddler too! The new to-do list is long, but the basement makeover will be a help to your family when you find a new house to make into a home.
    I’ve been following you for awhile and am always inspired by your DIYs and look forward to more. Especially the window shelves. I plan use that idea myself!

    Good Luck in this wild real estate world we live in….

    1. Thanks Maria! I have hope that when we move, my parents will be open to moving too since both of their grand babies will be in close proximity and they love being grandparents. When Emily moved away, it was tough on them, so I know being welcomed to Virginia will mean a lot. All in the future, of course, since we still haven’t picked a city for sure yet!

  7. Happy to hear you’re moving north to be closer to your sister. Any plans for your parents to move north too?

    1. We’re slowly working on that! They’re retiring age so getting them to pick up and move is a tall order, but two grand babies close together is a strong selling point.

  8. Your HVAC saga had me nodding my head. We just sold our first home after nearly 13 years. To paraphrase what our real estate agent told us, selling your house is sort of like fight club, never talk about it in front of the house. She joked that whenever she meets with someone about selling, inevitably something breaks after she’s been there. In our case, we met with her nearly 2 years ago. Shortly after that walk through the giant oak tree in our front yard came down because its roots loosened up from heavy rain (thankfully no damage, just a mess). Reading these two posts was bittersweet because it is very reminiscent of how we spent most of our summer (toddler on board and all). I’m looking forward to reading about your new adventures!

    1. Oh wow! I have never heard of that “jinx” but now that I know, I’ll never forget! That’s so funny.