I was scrolling Trulia on the couch with wine, and it turned into a 1,000-mile move to a place I'd never lived. I'm thrilled.
- Texas resident Vanessa Chaverri-Gratz was casually perusing real estate with her husband on a date.
- When sending listings back and forth, a 1920s Michigan home seeking over $500,000 caught their eye.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Vanessa Chaverri-Gratz, 33, about finding and buying a home 1,000 miles away on a whim. She has documented designing her new home for over 34,000 followers on Instagram. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I'm an optometrist recruiter, and my husband works for a tech company based in California.
We had moved around a bunch because of his job. We were living in the Sacramento area for about five years and were in contract to buy a house there, and we got a call from his boss saying, we need you back in Dallas in two weeks. That was in June of 2020.
We bought a house in Plano, Texas, in about four days, sight unseen. We planned to be there as long as the job needed us.
Then my husband landed a dream job in a different market, but it was fully remote. I also work fully remote, so for the first time since we've been together and in our careers, we were actually in full control of where we got to live.
We didn't plan to move right away, we said, "Let's just look at real estate, because that's really fun."
We always looked in California and all over Texas. We looked in Tennessee, Utah, and Colorado. We looked everywhere that we thought might be a fun place to live. Michigan was never a high priority for us, but that's where my husband's family was, so we always kept it in mind, just in case.
We found the home on a casual Friday night listings search
It was a Friday night and we were drinking wine on the sofa, scrolling on our individual phones just sending each other listings. We love to scroll Trulia and just kind of dream.
We happened upon this house in a town called Grosse Ile, Michigan. It's kind of in the Detroit metro area, but it's a very unique place. It's an island in the middle of the Detroit River that borders Michigan and Canada.
It was a 1926 registered historic Tudor, which was a dream of mine. We were like, "Wow, this is beautiful." Scrolling through pictures, watching the virtual tour. It was stunning.
We had friends that were getting married in Michigan that following weekend.
We talked about it all Saturday and Sunday, and then on Monday we thought, we're going to be in Michigan this coming Thursday, why don't we just go look at it? No harm, no foul.
I reached out via Trulia to connect with a real-estate agency and I booked a showing for an hour after we landed to get it out of the way.
We told ourselves before we walked in the door that we're not going to romanticize this. We're not going to try to make it something it's not — let's be very realistic. If we don't get the immediate, "This is for us" feeling, then we're going to walk out and move on.
We opened the door and they were playing jazz throughout the house — and that's one of our favorite things to play throughout our house. The minute I heard it I said, "Oh, no."
We both got the feeling and we were wowed with every step we took.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't have my hopes up the minute I walked out of that house for the first time.
We weren't going to force it — everything had to be right
We flew out that Monday, and went back to the house on the way to the airport just to make sure it wasn't a fluke. We wanted to see it one more time to see if the feeling was still there.
Before we got on the plane, I called our real-estate agent in Texas and said, "We're in Michigan, and we're likely going to buy a house here. I need you to come to our house tomorrow and get us prepared to sell."
Because it was such a wildly unplanned scenario, we definitely didn't want to force anything. We were not going to offer over asking, and we weren't going to put ourselves in a bad situation with selling our home.
We walked through the pricing and all the things that we would need to do in order to effectively sell our house.
Our agent felt really good that we could put it on the market as-is and essentially double what we paid for it.
We agreed that unless everything literally fell into perfect place, it wasn't going to happen — and a lot of things needed to fall into place.
We submitted a low offer on Wednesday that first week and their agent said they were ready to talk. Our formal offer was submitted on Friday, less than a week after we saw the house.
We ended up paying $500,000 flat. It's 3,400 square feet not including the basement. There are four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and I have a full sunroom. It's a great size home for us and our dog.
The house is on almost an acre of land, and it has clearly been well taken care of and well loved. It has big beautiful trees, lush gardens, and hedges. It was landscaped beautifully. And for me, one of my non-negotiables when thinking about moving to a new home is mature trees.
It was a steal. If this house was in Dallas, it would be triple the price.
It would've been easier to not love the house, for it not to work out for us, and to continue on the path we were on because it was so out of the blue.
It was done on a whim and with little forethought, but we were so enamored with the home and so impressed with it that it had to be ours.
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