Monday, May 01, 2017

A Love Letter to our Neighborhood

Real Estate: A Love Story

I still remember how elated we were the day we bought our first townhouse, a purchase that made us feel completely grown up, even more than, say, our wedding and the birth of our child.  

Our first house

Still, by the time we moved from the condo into our current house, we were more than ready.  That’s how real estate is, right?  You love it so much when you move in, but when the time comes to move out, you can’t imagine staying there for one more second.  Well, that’s how house buying has gone for us in Wisconsin, anyway, and I imagine it’s about the same for you no matter if you’re looking at real estate in Columbus, Ohio, or right down the street.

Three-year-old Jack and I stumbled upon our neighborhood, filled with charming single-family houses and small backyards crowded with trampolines and swing sets.  

Look at these adorable little houses and cute little swing sets!

But don't worry, the back yards are big enough for grass-killing water slides.

We were in the ‘hood to drop off kindergarten registration forms for Harry at the elementary school that sits in the center of all of the houses, and I fell in love. The school social worker gave us a tour, and I stopped near the second-floor windows and looked out over the neighborhood which was mainly half-built houses and dirt piles and construction vehicles.  I saw the spot that would be our house and thought how awesome it would be to live so close to school that I could hear the kids on the playground at recess and Harry could look out the window and see us if he ever felt scared. 

Serendipitously, we were already house hunting because I was pregnant and the condo only had 2 bedrooms.  House hunting for us was maddening because nothing we saw had everything we wanted.  We wanted the perfect cleanliness and maintenance-free living of a new neighborhood, but we also loved the mature landscaping and rolling lawns of an older neighborhood.  We saw ranch houses in established neighborhoods, fixer uppers with huge yards in nicer-than-we-could-normally-afford neighborhoods, the saltbox colonial of my dreams on an unfortunately busy street, but still, we thought of the neighborhood by the elementary school.

It had nicely landscaped yards and absurdly small trees, and every time we drove down the quiet little streets we saw pregnant women and tons of toddlers in strollers and preschoolers on bikes with training wheels. 
Such a tiny tree.  Now it's taller than our deck.

The school had a huge playground, and there was another little park a couple of blocks away. 
Oh, this tiny little park!  The kids still call it the small park.

It looked like the perfect place for a young couple with two little boys and another on the way.  We were worried about building because I was pregnant with the person who would turn out to be Cooper, and I didn’t want to be moving in with a newborn.

Finally, one day, on our way home from almost writing an offer on a split level on a huge lot with a recently constructed family room addition that we balked at in the final seconds, we drove by our favorite neighborhood and noticed a house we hadn’t looked at before catty-corner from the school.   It was a sweet little beige ranch with a walk out basement.  
How did we overlook this gem?

It was raining that day, but we got out of our car in the drizzle and looked in the windows and called the builder’s saleswoman, who had shown us several two-story models in the neighborhood and was actually right at that moment working on a quote for us to build a 4 bedroom with a central vacuum and an office that had French doors and would be our playroom.  She came right over and showed us the ranch, a spec house with an adorable kitchen and a huge basement.  It was all subfloor and drywall except for the main room, but we loved it anyway, and two months later, we were moving in.  Something about the house from the first glimpse in the window that would be Dorothy’s room—Dorothy, who wasn’t even a possibility in the universe that rainy afternoon—said Hey guys!  Nice to see you.  You’re HOME.

Dorothy's windows the day we fell in love.

Dorothy's windows now.

I always joke that our neighborhood has cartoon butterflies because that’s how perfect it is.  Row after row of matchy-matchy houses, sidewalks covered in chalked-on games of hopscotch, a pool and clubhouse restaurant just a walk through a golf course away.  Some nights, the six of us take Beatrix for a post-dinner walk, and as we stroll through the prairie that surrounds the school, Dorothy and Cooper on scooters, the big boys on bikes, Ben and me taking turns with the leash, I almost have to pinch myself.  

A walk through the prairie

I remember the day when I first drove through this little gem of a neighborhood on my way to register Harry for kindergarten, and I remember how badly I wanted to live here.  And now I do.

Our first front stoop picture

And now the front stoop is full

Neighborhood Must-Haves

If we ever leave this place, I’ll need a future neighborhood to do a few things:
1.     Have lots of kids
2.     Have parks and green spaces
3.     Be completely walk-able
4.     Be safe for the kids to roam by themselves
5.     Have quiet streets
6.     Be small enough for me to shout for the kids when it’s dinner time
7.     Be large enough that every kid can have at least one neighborhood friends close to their age, but hopefully they all get a wandering pack of kids on bikes like they have now
8.     Be walking distance from at least one school
9.     Be walking distance from at least one bar

The fact that we can also walk to the pool?  That’s just icing.

If you’re in the market for a new house, I hope you find one you love as much as we love ours.  I also wish you the sit-com perfection of a neighborhood like ours. May you love it as much the day you move out as you did the day you moved in.

Did I mention the perfect sunsets?

Feel free to share this post with someone who is looking for a new neighborhood, and share with me why you love yours in the comments.

This post is sponsored by Nakturnal.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Very nice Sarah. We are hoping our home will sell soon and we find the perfect house in the very same neighborhood you wrote about 😀

  3. Anonymous8:32 AM

    I am hoping to be buying very soon. My little one is still so little that I worry so much about picking the wrong place. Hopefully I get less nervous as she gets bigger. I'm sure that won't happen! lol

  4. Anonymous8:27 AM

    Your neighborhood seems so lovely! I'm glad you were able to find a place that could fit all of your needs and the expectations of your growing family. Neighborhoods that are of walking distance to many amenities are a must for me. It's nice to hear that the kids have many friends living in the same neighborhood too :)

  5. Anonymous9:36 AM

    Wow! Awesome story! It's nice to hear about families going through the process of finding a home that you can feel safe in and that the kids can enjoy. I'll keep this neighborhood in mind whenever I'm looking to find a fun, family-friendly home in the near future.

  6. Anonymous10:20 AM

    This neighborhood sounds awesome! It's nice to know that it is possible to find the "perfect" neighborhood that fits all your needs. A safe neighborhood is on top of my priority list. I'm glad you found the right home for you!

  7. Anonymous10:19 AM

    The comparison stoop pictures are so cute! Your neighborhood looks lovely. Our family recently moved to a more urban area from the suburbs and I have to say that we enjoy the change.