Here’s what we learned about how to buy a home out of state. Our friends thought we were nuts when we told them, “We bought a house on FaceTime and are moving to Seattle.”
In 2020, the wildfires started in the Bay Area around Sean’s birthday in August–and by October, we were so done with the endless smoke and ash. The truth is that the infamous orange sky day broke us–it was pitch dark ALL DAY. The street lights never turned off. We did our Zoom calls with the pitch-black sky tinged with orange looming out our windows. Everyone was acting like it was a normal day. It was not normal, and it was a turning point for us.
It’s time to move
That day, we looked at each other and said, “We have to move.” Both of us had been in the Bay Area for 15 years and had a deep love for the bay. But four years of wildfires were ruining the best time of year to enjoy it. We were trapped inside our tiny rental house coughing from smoke.
During this time, we also started putting offers on houses in the East Bay, and it was utterly depressing! Houses right near the highway going for $200k over asking–houses that also needed new foundations and tons of expensive renovation. The kicker was when we put an offer on a house in El Sobrante and we called our friend who is an insurance agent and she said, “You can’t buy this house, it’s in a red fire area and is basically uninsurable.”
We called our insurance company who confirmed that this zip code–and every other zip code we were considering–was in a red fire zone and they would not insure the house. Only one company would insure houses in that zip code, and with the increased fire danger each year, how much longer would that company insure that area?
After the orange sky day, we had to get out of the Bay Area and took a road trip to Arizona to visit my family and Colorado to visit Sean’s family. It wasn’t until Palm Springs that we could finally see blue sky and breathe easily…so much smoke across California. We took these two weeks to figure out where we were going to move. In the end, we decided to stay in the Bay Area for our careers and returned to blue skies at home.
But just one day after we returned, the Glass Fire in Napa erupted and we were engulfed in smoke again. Sean turned to me in the living room and said, “Let’s move to Seattle.” And, I said, “Done. There’s a house that I keep looking at and can’t stop thinking about.” Our tradition was to have our morning coffee and stream Zillow to the TV and talk through houses together. I showed Sean the weird 80’s house in Seattle that enamored me and he said, “Let’s go for it.”
Buy a home out of state
We had no idea how to buy a home out of state, but we were going to figure it out! We called our Seattle real estate agent and did a FaceTime tour, my cousin checked out the neighborhood for us, we had a house inspection (it passed with flying colors!), and my clairvoyant friend checked for bad spirits (none!). By Halloween we had our offer accepted and we were moving!
Thanks to the pandemic, we could both keep our jobs and work remotely–so we packed up our house and moved two states away. We arrived in Covid winter, but who cares, it was a fun, fresh start!
There were some surprises when we arrived, like the main bedroom and bathroom smelling like cigarette smoke, leaky aluminum windows, and finding out that we live on a steep slope ECA that can be complicated with permits…but it was ours.
Finally, after so many awful landlords, overpriced shitty rentals, and moving 7 times over 12 years (yup), we finally had our home. Now the adventure begins by adding our #SpeakeasyStyle and making this house worthy of awesome parties!