Starting Over in Southwest

Selling and buying stress proves worth the hassles as one family finds the perfect fit.

Walking through the home while it was under construction.

Josh and Katie Hoffman lived in the South Burlingame neighborhood in southwest Portland for 11 years, in a house at the bottom of a steep hill with few other families nearby.

But by 2013, with one young son and a baby due in early 2014, Katie found herself growing tired of driving to playdates. It was time to search for a new location and new floor plan. Tops on their list was a street where the boys could grow up playing with other children. The option for each kid to have their own room would be a bonus.

“But it was a tough time to move,” says Katie. They decided to get past the stress of the newborn stage and by spring of 2015, when their boys, Eli and Emery, were 1 and 5, they were finally on the hunt.

Tempted by lower prices per square foot and closer proximity to family, they initially included Cedar Mill and Bonny Slope in their search, but decided the commute would be too long. Katie went to parks, drove around neighborhoods and talked to families before narrowing their search to Maplewood and Hayhurst.

The newly renovated bathroom, ready for a close-up.

With homes moving fast, they worried no one would accept a contingent offer, but their worries were short-lived. They had a buyer for their home in just one week and negotiated a one-month rent-back agreement. They didn’t find their new home for nearly three weeks.

“Sometimes it felt agonizing, that we sold our house,” without having somewhere else to go, says Katie.

On one of her drives, she saw a for sale sign on a house that was not yet listed. The owner of 25 years was in the yard and was willing to talk.

“It was absolutely not what we wanted,” says Katie.

At 1,000 square feet with three bedrooms, the rooms were tiny. It hadn’t been updated since the 1950s. But it was in a prime location, on a great lot that would allow for expansion.

“We knew from constantly searching that we would need to pay significantly more for something that was updated with the type of open floor plan we were looking for,” Katie said.

As a family, they decided they were comfortable investing the time and money for a remodel to secure the location.

But the owner wanted to give the home a chance on the market before considering their full-price offer.

“That was what was so scary,” says Katie. The house, in Hayhurst, was well-priced for the area, and while most buyers wouldn’t consider it move-in ready, it was prime for flipping. Would a full-price offer be enough?

Along with their offer, on tight deadline, they included a letter to jog the seller’s memory about their conversation.

The post-renovation kitchen.

Once their offer was accepted, an agonizing day after their deadline, the Hoffmans spent almost a month in the permitting process — three weeks longer than they expected. Their anticipated six- to seven-week remodel extended to nearly four months, during which time they were grateful to stay with family 45 minutes away.

The distance, and the fact that her husband took on much of the remodeling work, left Katie feeling a bit like a single mom during the transition.

In the end, it was worth it.

“We adore our street,” Katie says. Boys close in age to her oldest son are right next door, and a move-in gift from one of the neighbors was a map of area streets labeled with the names of residents, including families with kids, their names and ages – and even the names of their pets. The park is just a four-minute walk from their house, and there are always other kids to play with when they go.

And in the midst of it all, the Hoffmans learned that baby number three was on her way. Sorry boys. You may have to share a room after all.

Heather Lee Leap
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