After relocating from Georgia, a family works together to find a just-right house.
Keisha and Andy Campbell were hoping to reduce their commute, spend more time with their children and live closer to nature when they applied for jobs in Portland. And they didn’t mind moving a few (thousand) miles to do it.
In December of 2014, the Campbells arranged a two-week house swap with friends, left their Atlanta home and explored Portland with their three children, with some time set aside for job interviews. Visiting the city as a family and staying in a house in Garden Home let them shed the sense of being tourists and instead feel like they already lived in Stumptown.
By January 2015, they both had job offers, and in February they began their home search online, planning an August move.
“Searching online felt chaotic, and we couldn’t get organized,” says Keisha Campbell. Home prices in the Portland market were changing so quickly that by March the Campbells decided to look at rentals so they could take their time exploring the city. Their plan was to rent for a year.
When they arrived in July, their daughter Morgan, 12, and sons Alex, 10, and Carson, 8, began to get comfortable with their new city. They joined in the house-hunting adventure, starting near their rental home in Laurelhurst.
“It didn’t take long to figure out Laurelhurst was out of our under-$400,000 budget.” says Keisha Campbell. The family went to open houses together, rode bikes around different neighborhoods and stopped for lunch in different parts of town. Morgan began researching middle schools to help narrow their search while Alex became master of a realtor app on their iPad, setting parameters and reporting on potential properties as they came on the market.
The Campbells included the kids in discussions about their budget, always keeping in mind that the key reason they moved was to have more time as a family. A short commute was a priority, so they set limits: Their new home would need to be less than two miles from public transportation, and they didn’t want to have to take more than one bus to get to work. And they discussed trade-offs — a larger and more expensive home might limit their ability to travel, for example.
And in early March 2016, nearly a month earlier than expected, the Campbells closed on a 1945 Cape Cod in West Linn, a house they had initially ruled out because the yard seemed small for a family with three young kids and a schnoodle. But on a second look, it had all the other things on their list, including easy access to transportation, great schools and shops in walking distance, and a nearby hiking trail. And coming from gridlocked Atlanta, living outside of Portland was no big deal.
“West Linn, to us, is not a suburb,” says Keisha Campbell. “The suburbs in Atlanta aren’t connected to the city. We lived 12 and 19 miles from work and our commutes were one to one-and-a-half hours long on eight lanes. We had to have a nanny after school to help pick up the kids. Here we have a totally different quality of life.”