Name: Kate and Sara; cats Jaspurr and Blondie; dogs Sophie and Brutus
Location: Durham, NC
Size: 1,600 square feet
For Kate and Sara, finding a home in the super-competitive Durham market was like running a marathon of sprints: They had to be ready to jump on new listings immediately and get offers together fast. How fast? When they finally toured their dream home after a two-month search, the place fetched 40 viewings in 36 hours! Kate and Sara's instinct was to bid high on this hot property, but their real estate agent advised that offering the most money isn't always the right play. Luckily, they listened.
Kate and Sara knew they loved the two-story Craftsman home on a lush lot in Durham's bustling and diverse Lakewood/Tuscaloosa neighborhood — they were living in a rental a few houses down! So when Kate saw a for-sale sign in the yard one morning, she and Sara immediately called Realtor® Alison Domnas, a real estate agent at Red Collective and member of the National Association of Realtors®. A friend had recommended Alison, singing praises for her ability to understand what her clients were looking for and what worked with their budget. (No easy task in Durham.) She rose to the challenge — big time.
Alison scored them the first available appointment — at 8 a.m. — and it was love at first sight. "We toured the house faster than I've ever toured anything," Kate said. "It was perfect!" The gorgeous remodel, an ideal combination of modern comforts and original detailing, ticked all their boxes: more square footage than their rental, a yard for the dogs, and a short trip from downtown Durham. There was even a mind-blowing garden (including a palm tree!) planted by a former botanist owner.
After the dreamy viewing, though, it was time for a reality check: "We agonized over how much money to offer over the asking price and watched as a parade of cars drove down the street and hoards of people flowed in and out of the house," Kate said.
Alison advised Kate and Sara to err on the side of caution with their bid, because the appraisal value was unknown. She also suggested the couple write a letter to the owners introducing themselves. Kate and Sara took Alison's advice and waited nervously for the owners to make a decision. The verdict? Alison was right on both counts.
The next morning, Alison called Kate and Sara to report that the owners liked their offer. While it wasn't the highest, the sellers liked the letter, and their agent had a feeling that Alison would be a pleasure to work with (which, of course, she was!). "Our real estate agent was absolutely key in the process of getting our dream house," Kate said.
Next, Alison facilitated inspections and negotiations with an expert hand, calling on her team of skilled and reliable contractors and negotiating structural repairs and a new HVAC system into the final contract. Alison made the process so seamless for Kate and Sara that the couple has continued to work with her contractors as they settle into their dream home.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our style: I (Kate) tend toward the colorful, love old things with character, and a cozy, comfortable environment. Sara is more minimalist and modern (apart from her bike collection). So, we have found a happy medium that might be called "organic eclectic modern." We're currently playing around with fitting the objects that we've collected over the years into our house, without spending a ton of money on new things (which can be tempting, but unnecessary).
Inspiration: Frequently Apartment Therapy. And Pinterest for gardening and craftsman design ideas.
Favorite Element: The huge windows and light, the garden, the front porch.
Biggest challenge: Patience. Sometimes, we want it all to be perfect and done right now. But then I remind myself that we have a 30-year mortgage and therefore we have some time to let it evolve slowly.
What Friends Say: That it is cozy, warm, welcoming, and happy.
Biggest Indulgence: A new zoned HVAC system. That is no joke! With a 20+ year old HVAC that was on its last legs, we needed to do it and Alison helped us get it by negotiating the new system into our contract.
Best Advice: Above all, patience. It will seem like the right house will never come along, but it will. And it might be different that you were imagining. Try to be clear on what you're looking for but retain some flexibility. Be ready to act quickly when you find a house you love. And work with someone you trust who will spend time getting to know you and what you want so that they can best shepherd you through the process.
Dream Sources: I think my dream source only exists in my imagination: an immense hybrid market and antique fair full of affordable vintage finds and global goods that is just frenetic enough to give a rush when you find the perfect thing you didn't know you were looking for, but you find it every time you go. (I'm pretty sure my dream source is Sara's nightmare.) In reality, our house is made up of items collected through travels, passed down from family, found on Seattle's Craigslist and Goodwill, and purchased from Ikea, World Market, Overstock, Wayfair, and other less magical places.
Thanks, Kate and Sara!
Tour more houses and learn how their owners averted crises in buying them in the House Hustle.
This post is sponsored by the National Association of REALTORS® and was created by Apartment Therapy's Creative Studio. Realtors® are members of the National Association of REALTORS®.
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