My Stress Level is Fine, Thanks.

Hey… Remember me? It’s been a while. What can I say? That thing called life kind of got away from me. My daughter and I have had some health issues we’re trying to work out but we’ve FINALLY settled in here in Alabama. We’ve all made friends and gotten into routines. We’ve had visitors and found new places to go explore. So of course, you know what that means right? It’s almost time to move again. Sigh…

We JUST did this! How can it already be time to start house hunting AGAIN??? There are a ton of great things about military life – frequent (as in 2 in 12 months) moves are NOT one of them. It was marginally easier before having a child or even before she was in school. Now? Hard doesn’t begin to describe it. I imagine it’s similar to trying to take the President’s Twitter access away.

Speaking of, we’re headed to the D.C. area in June and I thought finding a house in Alabama on short notice was stressful… The real estate market on the east coast is a whole ‘nother ballgame as grandma would say. So let’s break it down.

We’ve got a certain budget for rent, based on what the military gives us. There are houses all along the scale. Some are reasonably priced and are really nice. There are also some owners that are really proud of their property; because, I’d never dream of paying what they’re asking for that small/old/falling down house. The farther out from the metro area you get, the more square footage you get for your money, but then you have to factor in traffic and commute times and whether there is a train station within 20 minutes. That’s an added level of difficulty we haven’t had for a few years.

Just sticking with the houses we can afford, we have to find one that fits our needs. We need at least 3 bedrooms and if we want to retain any shred of sanity there should be 2 or more bathrooms. Sharing a bathroom with a teen girl is not on my list of fun activities. A guest room for visiting family is good even if it has to do double duty as an office. A single story would be best (visiting family members don’t deal with stairs well) or at least one with all the essentials on the main floor, but those are practically non-existent in this area. I’ve never seen so many split-levels in my life!

We also need a fenced yard, which is evidently not a huge priority in the north. It can’t be the cute little decorative fences that are so popular if there actually is a fence either. Did I mention we have 3 dogs? Three relatively large, somewhat older dogs? One of which is a jumper, so we need a 6 foot privacy fence if I don’t want to be known as the crazy lady constantly chasing a dog that’s gone walkabout. Yes, I realize that’s a criteria we could have avoided by not having 3 dogs, but here we are, much to my husband’s eternal dismay.

I love to cook and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I’d really prefer one that’s bigger than a postage stamp. I had that in Japan and wasn’t impressed, although I could actually touch every countertop at once if I wanted to. An open floor plan so that I could kind of feel connected to the rest of the house while I’m in there would be fabulous, but I’ve lived without it this year and survived. Which is good, because I haven’t seen many of those except way out in the suburbs anyway.

Now we get to the really fun part! Our daughter turns 13 this year and will be going into 8th grade in the fall. Soooo… we have to factor in school districts. Sweet Mother of Mercy – school districts. There is no rhyme or reason to how these lines are drawn up there. So just when you think you’ve got one in the right area, you find out you’re one block too far and that puts you in a totally different school. Not only that, but we have to look at both Middle and High Schools since she’ll move up the next year. There are a few, very few High Schools that cover 8-12, but what are the odds we’ll end up with one of those? Yeah, I wouldn’t run to place a bet in Vegas just yet.

I know, that’s a LOT of criteria and we didn’t even talk about not having seizure inducing wall colors or enough wood panelling to rival a set from Bonanza (I’ve seen it!), but that’s pretty much assumed right? Let’s sum it up with a visual.

Rent we can afford (1)

That little tiny triangle in the middle? Might as well be Bermuda… The likelihood of us finding something that actually hits all three main criteria is less than that of a dog NOT yarking on a freshly vacuumed rug. Which, based on personal experience, is pretty much never.

Needless to say, I’ll be busy searching listings for the foreseeable future and stressing about not renting the House of Horrors, The Year We Spent In Jersey all over again; which is a story for another time.

Ever lived in the D.C. area? Got any tips for me? Places to avoid? Schools you loved? Real estate agents you adored? Wine that pairs well with impossible dreams? Fire away! I’m all ears.


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