The circumstances of the first year after our move didn't reassure me. When we initially moved back, I unsuccessfully tried to sell our townhouse myself, and then handed it over to an agent. She quickly found a buyer willing to pay near our asking price, but the transaction dragged out and finally fell apart at the very last minute in March of 2008. We put the townhouse back on the market but nobody was biting; the housing market in Portland was following the rest of the country off of a cliff. We resigned ourselves to renting out our former home.
At first we lived in Dawn's aunt's basement, a less than ideal situation necessitated by paying the mortgage on our empty townhouse while I took a 50% paycut. Eventually we rented a two-bedroom apartment in trendy Uptown Minneapolis, at first with a roommate and later on our own. We sold our Blazer and I took public transit to work and walked everywhere else. After I upgraded, we were able to aggressively pay down the townhouse and then sock money way for the place of our own that we yearned for. The timing was never right, though. The housing market was still in freefall, the RedCo-Widget merger was casting serious doubt on my future employment, and the commitment of our townhouse mortgage hung over us. We ended up staying at our cozy little apartment for three years, the longest we've lived anywhere in our nomadic life together.
This last spring, we started seriously looking into buying a place in the Twin Cities. In May, we put in a decidedly lowball offer on a short sale in Waconia, a small town about 30 miles west of Minneapolis. Two months went by before the bank accepted our offer as written. After that, things dragged out painfully slow. Bank of America, the mortgage holder, was impossible to deal with. They raised the price once on us after we supposedly had a purchase agreement, failed to tell us the house was about to go to a Sheriff's sale, and then raised the price again in late October. We'd had enough; we told them to drop dead. Our summer had been consumed by dealing with house purchase matters, all for naught.
Only a week or two later, a listing caught my eye and I asked our agent to arrange a showing. From the moment I set foot in the front door, I knew this was our new home. Dawn saw it a few days later, loved it as much as I knew she would, and wrote up an offer which was accepted within a day. The purchase process went smoothly and we closed in mid-December, rented back to the sellers over the holidays, and moved in last month.
Our new house sits high on a ridge overlooking the Minnesota River valley, with a backyard that slopes down to rolling forestland. There's a huge deck out back, and a stone patio out front. There's a three car garage with a workshop that is perfect for working on my motorcycles. The kitchen is shockingly big and useful after three years of trying to cook in a narrow galley kitchen with no counterspace. The house is truthfully too big for two people, but we'll be able to fill it with visiting friends for now - and eventually, we hope, a family. We've only been living here a few weeks, and it already feels like home. I hope we live here a long, long time.
Minnesota, too, finally feels like home to me again. This winter has been as cold and snowy as any, but it hasn't really bothered me. We're looking forward to another full season of cheering on the Twins in their beautiful new ballpark, and rediscovering our state from the unique perspective of a small plane lazing along at 1000 feet above the trees and lakes. Lately, Minnesotans have even discovered the virtues of good beer: I've been able to find Franziskaner, Moose Drool, and Black Butte Porter on local shelves and taps. Really, though, all these are just reasons to like Minnesota. The surest measure of home, for me, is the warm feeling in my chest that I get when I touch down in MSP on the last leg of a 4-day trip. Wherever I've been, there's no doubting that I'm truly home.