Buying a home can be challenging, but there’s one lesson real estate agents often stress over and over. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Sometimes you fall in love with the home you least expect! That’s exactly what happened for homebuyers Jodi and Adam Harold, who were on the hunt for a home for sale in Peabody, MA. It turns out, the perfect house was one they’d already lived in.
The temporary option
For a growing family, the best-laid plans often have to shift — sometimes in the best possible way. The Harolds welcomed their first child while Adam was in nursing school. It was a challenging situation, but the couple made it work with one income and some help from family. But they realized they could move from their city apartment to Jodi’s parents’ house in the suburbs. And what they saved on rent could set them up to buy a house in six months rather than a year.
Just before Thanksgiving, they packed up the baby and settled into the four-bedroom ranch that Jodi had grown up in. By spring, the couple were ready to look for their own place. But the competitive market was challenging, especially for first-time homebuyers. The Harolds submitted a few offers with the help of their real estate agent, but none were accepted.
Parents know best
Then an opportunity popped up. Jodi’s parents asked her if she and Adam would like to buy the house from them. They wanted to move to the 55-plus community nearby. They loved the facilities and camaraderie of the community. And moving into a home that needed less upkeep appealed to them.
“They actually have more square footage, I think,” Jodi says. “But they were having someone come in to clean the house, someone to clear the snow, and paying people to help them with all the maintenance of owning a home. It was too much responsibility.”
Still, Jodi immediately shut down the idea. “When Adam came home later, I told him what they’d proposed,” she says. “At the same time that I was like, ‘No way, right?’ He was saying, ‘Absolutely.’”
Wait, what? Jodi rattled off her reasons for saying no to the house she grew up in. But her husband came up with a thoughtful way to help her imagine what it could be like.
The opportunity becomes obvious
“He pointed out that if we had come here for an open house, we’d love it,” says Jodi. “It’s a good size with four bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms, on a corner lot with a great yard, a recently renovated kitchen, and a very well-maintained house.” She began to realize that he was right. Her childhood home had everything they wanted. Bonus: It was within their budget.
Best of all, Jodi’s parents had done a great job maintaining and updating the space. They had knocked down walls and created an open floor plan. “The bathrooms could use updating, but they’re more than functional,” she says.
Updates for the next generation
Once Jodi’s parents moved out, the Harolds set to making the home their own with easy, inexpensive upgrades. They moved in their own furniture, painted the interiors, and replaced some light fixtures. To further reinvent the space, they replaced the doorknobs and hinges on all the doors. “My parents had these weird, brasslike knobs and hinges from the ’80s,” she says. “I don’t know why, but that simple change made it feel really different to me.”
It’s a rare, lucky buyer who can reach out to the previous owners for insights — beyond the required seller’s disclosure — about caring for their new home. But that’s one of the advantages to buying from the people you turn to for help. When they had a few washing machine issues, Jodi called her mom to ask about its history. Her dad gave her a tip about preserving the life of their hot water heater.
But even without her parents’ expert advice, being back in the house feels really special to Jodi. “We got one of those backyard sprinklers, and a bunch of the kids were running around in diapers. I had such a flashback,” she says. “That was us, and now I’m here watching my kids make the same memories.”
Lessons from the Harolds
Of course, most homeowners don’t buy property from their parents. That makes it even more important to have the home inspected before you head to the closing table. At an open house or showing, look for the signs of consistent maintenance, such as thorough home repair records. And don’t forget the things sellers try to hide.
The best takeaway from the Harolds’ experience: consider every home purchase in terms of your future. Once Jodi started to see her childhood home as a space that would work for her growing family, it felt like a better fit. Then, the Harolds found simple ways to make it work for their family now.
Jodi laughs about how much she loves living in her former home — and how much she opposed the plan from the start. She’s not the only one pleased with the outcome. In the four years since the Harolds moved in, extended family and childhood friends have enjoyed returning to a place that holds so many memories.