On buying a new (old) house with three babies in tow (sponsored)

If you’ve been following along with Heather’s personal life, you might know that she and her husband purchased a new house this year.  Since moving with kids is such a HUGE deal, I thought I’d force her to answer some questions for us. Spoiler alert: This post is (appropriately) sponsored by PestWorld.org.

Q: You bought a new house this year, and now you are fairly settled. Not surprisingly, moving with three kids caused you a lot of anxiety. What was the hardest thing about it?

So, to recap the past year: Our third child pushed us into both a minivan and a larger house. We had discussed these changes rationally before we even conceived Sawyer, but we still managed to get caught off guard. (There may have been tears.) Anyway, the master plan included starting to shop open houses in the spring and moving in the summer. Instead, we found and fell in love with a house from a listing online and scrapped all our plans. We saw the bright sunny rooms and location near public transit, a park and our elementary school. We could suddenly imagine our lives from preschool to retirement.

Note that a quirky house was part of our fantasy. This one had been partially a doctor’s office before, so Alec and I each imagined fun uses for the exam rooms (maybe a craft room, mud room, maker-style workshop, guest space, board games, and on and on). The space was more than double our existing home so it was easy to dream about the potential. These conversations continued until I visited the house and was slapped with a disclosure packet about the size of a city phone book. Ugh.

Asbestos, termites, old furnace, dangerous electrical wiring and on and on. I became anxious about the size of the house (too big — would I lose the kids?) and the scope of the remodel (new everything!) but my husband kept the dream alive.  Tentatively, we moved forward with purchasing this fixer-upper and making the unsexy upgrades needed for me to feel safe moving in with small clueless children.

Q: Were there any unpleasant surprises?

Beyond the asbestos in the walls, our new home featured a non-functioning furnace, knob-and-tube wiring, water damage, termite damage, corroded pipes, and brick foundation here in earthquake country. Actually, many of those things we knew about in advance of buying the place; however, I was unpleasantly surprised by the extent of the asbestos and termite damage in areas where I thought we were okay.

One day, I put my foot on a stair to tie my shoe – not even stepping on it! – and the entire step gave way and collapsed beneath me. The better question might be if there were any pleasant surprises. I can’t think of any.

What would your kids say is the best part of the new house?

They can really spread out. Though they still share a bedroom, each of the boys has space for a desk and some privacy. They have a play room for dangerous toys like tiny LEGO where  Sawyer is not allowed. I’m sure they like being able to walk to school each day with Daddy even if they grumble about it sometimes. Or maybe they like the fort best. We still have a pretty decent fort in the yet-to-be-decorated living room from all the moving boxes.

Your husband likes to do some of these renovation tasks himself. Are there any that force you to say, “I think you’re really amazing, but I don’t want you to ________?”

Oy. He wants to add a new bathroom to this house and do many handy DIY projects so we can feel like this house is really ours. So far, he has demolished that icky carpet and laid new flooring. He has also run network cable into all our rooms. He has replaced some of the plumbing fixtures, too. Because he has a full-time job and three children, we have to call in trained professionals for bigger jobs or the dangerous stuff — or when we just run out of time.

He had wanted to lay down about a dozen tiles in the second bathroom after the plumbers had finished re-piping, but we just ran out of time before his parents were due to visit so I hired someone else to do it.

Another example is pests. We’ve endured serious issues with bees who made a home in our roof, termites, and rats as well as general annoyance with ants (hate ‘em!!). I hate to think that there will be more pest problems in our future, but I’ll be realistic and assume that it’s possible. I’d much rather get a licensed professional who has the knowledge, training and tools to properly identify a pest species and deal with the little buggers than allow my husband to rent a hazmat suit.

Do you have any words of wisdom for parents who are about to move houses?

Oh good, let’s end this on an up-note. I do have a few bits of advice.

  1. Stay positive in front of the kiddos so they know this is a fun adventure and not a Stressful Bad Thing. We thought it would be fun for our children to see the transformation of the new house but after the first visit, we could tell they were just made anxious by the thought of living in a destruction zone.
  2. The night before, if there’s a night where they don’t have a bed yet, better to do that in the old house or a hotel rather than make the first night in a new house scary and unfamiliar.
  3. On move in day, we set up their room first and let them each pack an “open me first box” with favorite toys. We served their favorite takeout pizza and ate picnic style because our table wasn’t ready.
  4. Give it time. Be prepared to take a few days off of work while kids are happily in childcare so you can turn it into a home pronto.

This post is sponsored by PestWorld.org, a resource that allows home owners to find a pest professional in their areas by entering a zip code in the Find a Pro database. All the words and experiences are Heather’s own.

[Photo credit: Christine Koh and Heather Flett]