Meetings, delays and details, oh my!

Hey there, everyone!

I feel like it has been ages since I blogged, but it has only been a week.

A crazy, busy, fun, intense week!

The number of things that have to get sorted out to take advantage of my international assignment is sizable.

  • Immigration applications
  • Tax implications in Ireland
  • Tax implications in the US
  • Housing in Ireland
  • Coverage for my work in the US
  • The scope of my Ireland work.
  • How to enroll in virtual education in the US while living abroad.  (Turns out, this is not going to happen.  The boys will be coming back to Jacksonville at the start of the school year, so that we don’t lose their spots at their school.  They’ll be traveling with me only for the first month.)

We now know that we are going to be living in Dublin 8, near St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  The apartment is a 20 minute commute (against traffic) to my office, and near a ton of stores, restaurants and pubs.

We had an amazing friend offer to take the dog for the month we are all gone (How amazing is that?!?), and my mom is going to take the fish tanks.  Josh’s dad is noodling coming for a visit while we are there and I hope we can make it happen.

As for Dorothy…

  • I’d hoped to have pictures of our new roof, but the rain has kept the roofers away.
  • I had hoped to have pictures of the newly framed rooms, but we have had delays in getting the space laid out.
  • I had hoped to see the front of the house ripped off, but we haven’t got the permit approved.

Dorothy is a bit lighter, as we removed damaged wood, old insulation in the attic and any remaining ceilings in the house.  The dumpster has been delivered and we are ready to start putting her back together, at least on the inside.

I have picked most of the finishes for the house, including oil-rubbed bronze faucets and white subway tile for the baths, as well as white quartz counters and gray cabinets for the kitchen. (Still no decision on exterior paint colors, though.)

We met Jim and George, the two guys who bought the 1900’s Greek Revival house next to ours.  It has not been occupied in 20 years!  They just drove cross-country from Seattle to take on their complete renovation. We are going to head over the house on Sunday to hopefully take pictures of the new framing and meet our new neighbors.  What a difference it will be to our little part of Springfield in the coming months!

There is so much to look forward to in the next few weeks.  (I haven’t even begun to consider the quick trips to Raleigh, Austin and Dallas/Ft. Worth that all take place before we leave in July.)  From getting rain gear to setting up my international cell phone plan, the list of details keeps getting longer, but it will be SO worth it.

Thanks for reading.

~Jennifer

 

 

 

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Houston, we have a neighborhood.

The search for our next home continues!

In the last few months, we have considered housing options near downtown Jacksonville including San Marco, Brooklyn, Riverside/Avondale, and St. Nicholas, but one neighborhood has kept us coming back again and again, even after touring houses that were not a fit for our needs.

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Springfield.

Springfield is nearly 150 years old.  The area exploded after the Great Fire of 1901, when many of Jacksonville’s affluent families built new Victorian and Craftsman style homes there.

Springfield is a historic neighborhood of Jacksonville, Florida, United States, located to the north of downtown.  The Springfield Historic District is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and contains some of the city’s best examples of 19th and early 20th century architecture.

The January 2010 issue of Southern Living magazine spotlights Springfield as the #1 “comeback” neighborhood in the South, noting significant improvement over the past decade.[4] The December 2010 issue of Florida Trend Magazine also featured the Springfield Historic District in an article titled “A Life of Its Own”. The piece detailed how, despite the down housing market, the neighborhood has continued to thrive.

Springfield is pretty easy to get around.  The numbered streets run east/west and go from 1st to 12th. The named streets run north/south and start at Boulevard to the west and end at Ionia to the east.  There is a set of railroad tracks that form a sort of north and east border.  In addition, there are a series of parks that cut across the southwest corner, complete with Hogan’s Creek that eventually meets up with the St. Johns River.

The area is definitely in transition.  In the 20 or so times we have been there since our search started, we have found it both incredibly charming and occasionally unnerving.  If you are looking for cookie-cutter suburbia, Springfield is not it.  There are still a fair number of single family houses and multi-family residences that are in rough shape and some of the homes have been converted into half-way houses, which might make some people nervous. However, many more homes are in the process of being refurbished or have already been restored, and there are dozens of newer homes that have been built in the last 10 years.  Combine all that with another dozen new houses that are under contract to come out of the ground this summer, and you have a mini real estate boom.

We love that there is a strong neighborhood vibe here led by SPAR, the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council.  In addition, there is a mommies group, SAMBA, a business merchant association and even a sustainability group, all of which are very active.

The neighborhood recently got a nod from the Jacksonville Business Journal to boot.

Retail finally appears to be following the recently renovated residential rooftops in historic Springfield as Main Street is in the midst of a commercial boom.

Several craft breweries and restaurants are taking a  leap to be a part of the area.  In future posts, I hope to share firsthand info about all of them as we try them out.

While this is all good news, it doesn’t stop me from worrying a little bit about how we’ll adjust, moving from an upscale apartment community to a grittier part of town.  I am excited about making new friends and being part of this vibrant and dynamic neighborhood, but I know that there are going to be times where I’ll be out of comfort zone.  Transients, homeless and folks living with mental illness and addiction are part of Springfield, as much as middle class families like ours.  From what we have garnered from friends, everyone co-exits quite well, but it will be different for sure.

And different is what we want.  Springfield is where we are going to find our next home.

Want to check it out for yourself?

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Get your tickets for the SPAR Historic Springfield 39th Annual Tour of Homes held on May 20th and 21st.  For $15, you’ll be able to tour seven homes – and kids 12 and under are free!

We’ll be there and hope to see you there too.

Jennifer

 

Shopping for a new house.

Now that we have narrowed the geographic search for our next home, we have turned our attention to the house itself.  Like most shoppers, we have the typical set of criteria.

  • Number of bedrooms – 4 bedrooms – one for each of the boys and a master bedroom
  • Number of bathrooms – at least 2, but we’d prefer an additional half bath or 3rd bath if possible
  • Square footage: between 1,800 and 2,300 SF.  We want a house that is large enough to have friends and family over in comfort, but not so large it would take a full day to clean it every weekend
  • The price: Our budget is actually smaller than we spent on our last house, even if you take into account the market correction.  Our goal was to have a mortgage, including any homeowner’s association fees, taxes and insurance, that we could realistically pay off in 15 years or less, so that we could have it off our plate well before retirement age.

But that’s just the beginning.

With our last home, we made decisions based on resale value. While some of our choices were personal, the vast majority were “safe.”   By contrast, this next house will be a personal reflection of us.  We are looking for a house that will create the backdrop for the next stage in our lives.   It would be more than a place to call home at the end of the day.  It had to be a place we can really LIVE.

1.) The location of the master bedroom:  For the last 10 years, our master bedroom has been 10 feet from the nearest kid’s bedroom.  That was…ahem….too close.  We want our next home to have a first floor master or a split floor plan so that we have some privacy. Also, we intend to keep this house for a LONG time.  We want to be able to stay here into our old age, which means having a single story house, or at the very least, a first floor master suite.

2.)  A bathtub the master bath: During our #yearofresortliving in the apartment, I have indulged in baths on a regular basis.  They are a highlight in my day and I am bent on finding a home with a tub in the master.  It doesn’t have to be jet-powered or even that large, but it has to be mine, free of kids’ toys or left-over kid sand or soccer-funk.

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3.) A garage:  Josh’s business has been in high gear in the last year and the number of tools we now own is considerable.  While we don’t feel the need to pull a car into a garage nightly, we do need a place for him to work.   Plus, our boys’ toys have shifted from big wheels to scooters and will soon be followed by mopeds and mountain bikes.  We need a place to park all of it.

4.) High ceilings and lots of light in the common areas:  I don’t mind old houses, but I don’t want to ever have low ceilings again.  The kitchen in our last house had 7’6″ ceilings before our renovation and it felt like we were cooking in a cellar.  I want windows and French doors and rooms that, even if they are not huge, have vertical heft.  I want to want to cook and be with people, and having an open inviting space is key to that.

Surprisingly, here are things we either didn’t consider or would simply be a nice to have, but are not deal-breakers.

An office or 5th bedroom: As Leslie commented in my last post, our kids will be gone in less than a decade.  While I would love to have a dedicated office, it is not a deal-breaker.  We can always convert one of their bedrooms to an office after they leave.  In the meantime, it would also be another space to furnish…and clean.  If needed, I can work at the kitchen table, and we can sort out what to do with the rare overnight guest when they are here.

Lots of closet space: Don’t get me wrong….we still have too much stuff.  But the lessons of the last year, where we voluntarily shrunk our living space by nearly half, are clear.  Less is more and we need to keep our things in check. That starts with not packing super deep closets with boxes and bags of stuff we never use.

A community pool: We LOVE having access to a neighborhood pool, but as families go, the Chapmans are a bit crazy.  I have stopped trying to deny it, or even explain it.  The boys run, wrestle and cannon-ball ALL. DAY. LONG. We know that we can be annoying to others who are there.   In our next home, we’d like to have a pool in the backyard so that we can let the boys be.    If the pool is not already in the backyard, we’d like the room to install one ourselves.  A community pool is a bonus.

A formal living or dining room: We try to eat dinner as a family most week nights, but we are not formal people. While a large-enough dining space is important, we don’t need two areas for dining, one for formal meals and a second for casual.   Similarly, I don’t own any furniture that would even belong in a formal living room.

With this list in mind, we have been scouring Zillow and Redfin, and touring homes, hoping to find the one for us.   The search has lead us to an expected find and I cannot wait to tell you more about it.

What are your must haves for your next home?

Jennifer