After a lot of driving, visits with family and friends and a stay at one horrifying hotel, we arrived at our Airbnb on September 5th. Nothing fancy, but it was a nice little studio apartment in the basement of someone’s home in Georgia, not too far from Chattanooga. We rented it for 4 weeks with the possibility of extending the stay, although we were determined to find a home within that time frame.
Initally we decided to simply search on our own using Realtor.com and Trulia.com. We knew what we wanted: a lot of acreage, privacy, enough room to provide a space for my art studio and Kevin’s yoga studio and fit within our budget. When we finally saw one we really liked we contacted the realtor on the listing to take a look. The house was not exactly what we wanted, but the realtor convinced us to use her services as we continued our search. I then created a spreadsheet in OneDrive with our most important criteria: price, acreage, square footage and minutes from Chattanooga. I also added spaces for the length of time the house had been on the market, pros, cons and a link to the listing. This way we could compare listings and share the spreadsheet with the realtor to get additional information.
Kevin and I decided that a one hour radius from Chattanooga would get us out into the country, but close enough to the city for visits. Within a week we found the perfect home on 33 acres in Spencer, Tn – just over an hour north of the city. It was a beautiful house and the the landscape reminded us of Vermont with green rolling hills and lots of farms. Sadly we realized, as we imagined ourselves living there, that it was simply too rural. It was a twenty minute drive to a gas station and if we went to the city on a regular basis, we would begin to hate that one hour commute.
We revised our search to a thirty minute radius from Chattanooga. The trade off is less acreage which we were (grudgingly) willing to accept as long as it had a lot of privacy. We visited four more homes that weren’t the right fit. At that point our realtor decided that we were taking too long to make a decision. She began to pressure us to buy in a highly populated, very commercialized area similar to the one we left in Mass. Discouraged but determined not to settle for less than what we wanted, we enlisted the aid of Chuck Jones, a realtor in Georgia.
Moving over the state line just south of Chattanooga gave us the opportunity to get more acreage at a lower price. With our new realtor we visited three homes on the first day and found one that was an excellent fit, though there were still two others set up for later in the week. While we waited for those showings we decided to drive by the house again. It was unoccupied so we wandered about the yard and then, seeing the neighbor washing his car, we walked over to say hello. A long time resident, he gave us a lot of inside information about the town, the current and previous owners and the house itself. As we walked back to our car discussing this information the owner of the house pulled up and offered to give us a tour. How could we say no? Kevin and I took all of this a good sign that this was The One.
The next day we met the realtor and although we had already made our decision, we went to see the last two houses anyway. I’m so glad we did! The first house was beautiful – set back off the road on top of Lookout Mountain with hang-gliders floating overhead. We split up and wandered all over the house pointing out things here and there and then left. As we drove to the next location I asked Kevin, “So what did you think?” “You know what I think,” he said. “I do?” I asked hopefully. “Yes. It’s exactly what we’ve been looking for. We’ve found our house!”
We made an offer and two weeks later we moved in! This move accomplished our goals: we have lots of privacy, the city is an easy 30 minute drive with little traffic, the cost of living is much lower so that we could afford to buy a larger home and the weather has been beautiful – so far in January it feels more like November in Massachusetts. Most importantly we absolutely love it here!
That was the “Moving South” part of the story. Settling in takes much, much longer. That’s the “Moving Forward” part and is an ongoing process. In Part 4 I’ll offer some tips about moving art and a few things that we’ve learned about our transition.