Tuesday, July 31, 2018

American Dream

Our Connecticut house.It’s time to finally post an update and a reason for the long silence on the blog. It took us months and months of sweat, stress and hard work, but we have realized a long standing dream of ours — we have bought and moved into our very own house!

Now, in more details. We started seriously thinking about doing this at the end of last summer. We had many reasons why we wanted to change our living situation. We were really running out of space in our smallish junior 41, single bathroom apartment.

Our neighborhood started to go down in quality. Playgrounds were very overcrowded and dirty. Some of the new population was very rude in the best case scenario and down right dangerous in others — getting profanities yelled at women and children and getting water balloons thrown in your face was getting out of hand.

Also one of the very main reasons was the quality of schools. While our kids have both passed tests and have gotten into Gifted and Talented program ran by New York City the process was very stressful for them. While our Anna was getting ready for a test she has actually developed an eye tick — luckily it went away soon after the test.

We do not want to put our kids through this kind of stress again when it’s time to move to the next school. Our current school has gone down in rating from 6 to 5. Our district middle school has a rating of 3. So we had to solve this issue sooner or later. Otherwise it meant more stressful tests for them in the future.

Originally we started looking at places in Rockland County of New York — western side of Hudson at the very south of the border and Bergen County of New Jersey — northernmost part of the state. And nothing really felt right. Schools were mostly decent, except for middle schools. All schools were in 7-8 range.

And then we read about budget problems of those counties — Rockland especially. Then there is a situation in Ramapo and how it affected public schools. And a resulting property taxes that were through the roof — where $14,000 was actually a decent find. Nothing just felt right.

Overall we had a very hard time letting go of all the things that we loved about Brooklyn. Having lived there for 23 years — not a short time. All the good things about our neighborhood, the abundance of amazing restaurants of all cuisines of the world, all the friends.

But the best thing that we had was living in the same building with parents. And moving away further away from them was the hardest thing, even though we weren’t going all that far.

And then the school year started. We thought it makes no sense to yank the kids out of the school mid-year, especially considering that NYC has free full day Pre-K which most other places lack.

And getting adapted to school for Anna was a much better option in Brooklyn than anywhere else — teachers know how to work with kids who had little English exposure before starting school. A very common situation in our neighborhood at least. In fact, in Anna’s class which had 17 kids 7(!!!) different languages were spoken.

So by winter time we were kind of giving up. And yet we felt that we needed to do something and yet we couldn’t find a place that would work for us. With my work in Norwalk, CT most of New Jersey wasn’t really an option. Westchester and Connecticut is really unaffordable. And then I found a town way north of Norwalk that had good prices and decent schools.

The town was called New Fairfield. And I asked about it at work and was told that it really is too far. Why not look at Ridgеfield? Because we can’t afford it I thought. And then I looked and to my big surprise I actually thought that we could find something in our price range.

I heard of Ridgеfield many times, I had friends who lived there and loved it. I just never thought that an affluent Connecticut town was anywhere in the list of our options. So I never even checked.

Sometime in February we picked out a couple of open houses in Ridgеfield, Redding and New Fairfield and went out to check them out. New Fairfield indeed ended up too far and we didn’t like it very much. Redding felt very rural, but it was right next to Ridgеfield and we were completely open to it.

And we ended up actually seeing a house in Redding that we could see ourselves living in. It meant that there are actual options if we found something that we liked on the first try. We called that house a brown house — because it was indeed brown — and even though we ended up passing on it, it is the house that made us put things in motion.

And then there was an open house in our building on an apartment that was a mirror version of ours. We went to check it out. The asking price was insane. It was WAY higher than what we bought ours for 11 years prior. And we thought those people were crazy. Then another neighbor told us about yet another similar apartment that actually sold for pretty much the same price.

Soon after the one that we saw an open house for also closed. It really put some wind in our sails realizing that we could potentially sell our apartment for a lot more than we originally thought. It turned out to be a very good investment.

We called a Brooklyn real-estate agent that was highly recommended to us. We wanted to find out how much of renovation we had to do — 11 years and 2 kids does wonders to an apartment. But the agent said that it makes no sense to fix anything — our kitchen, floors and bathroom were in a very good condition and it’s just the wall that had to be repainted, which people usually do anyhow and pick their own colors, so we shouldn’t do it ourselves.

I was terrified of a thought of actually moving all our furniture in order to get to the walls. Seemed like an insurmountable task. Instead we ended up listing the apartment the same day. And people started showing up on the same day. And there were a lot of them. In a matter of a week we had 5(!!!) offers. We didn’t get our asking price, but we got something that we were happy with.

And that fact put me into a complete panic mode. We barely looked at any houses and our apartment pretty much had a buyer. So we accepted the offer and signed a contract on March 18th.

I also struggled with finding a good agent in Ridgеfield-Redding area. Nobody had any recommendations and I ended up scouring through Zillow and Realtor. And did we luck out or what. The agent that we picked was amazing. I really can’t say enough good things about how great she turned out to be. So if anybody needs a recommendation for that area, do ask. Can’t make a better choice. You really really want Laura on your side.

So we met with her on March 18th for the first time and looked at five houses. We had our kids with us, because parents were on vacation. And kids jump-tested every house we visited — I guess we told them too many times — can’t jump in an apartment. If it was our own house on the other hand…

To be continued.

  1. A two bedroom apartment where one of the bedroom is very small. []

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