How setting priorities helped us find a home we love

setting priorities helped us find a house we love

There is nothing like selling your house and moving into an apartment to make you grateful for home ownership:

The tiny freezer that didn’t allow us take advantage of sales.

Laundry that cost $1.25 for each small load to wash and then dry.

Car headlights that shone into the bedroom windows of our basement level apartment.

Let’s just say that as young lovebirds, living in our first apartment was so romantic.

I would say not so much this time, thirty-one years later. :-)


To catch up my new readers—welcome to the Too Darn Happy Cafe!—my hubbie and I finally pulled the trigger on moving from New England to Tennessee about seven months ago.

We agreed that we would become apartment dwellers so we could become acquainted with the area before buying a home.

We knew that sleuthing out a deal would take time, especially since we had set a low budget but hoped to buy a lot of house, and were determined to stay completely debt free: no mortgage, student or other loans, credit card debt, etc.

I thought it would be helpful to share how setting priorities helped us find a home we love.


Setting our priorities

Since this was our fifth time buying a house, we were taking all of the stupid things we’d done of the lessons we had learned and were going to apply them.

Here are the highlights based on those lessons and the life we wanted to live:

  • Since we now love budgets, we set an absolute top dollar for purchase and/or renovations to make the property move-in ready.
  • We wanted a welcoming space for our family and friends to visit.
  • We wanted a home that would be easy and relatively inexpensive to heat, cool, and maintain, and that would hold or rise in value.
  • We were excited about living in a neighborhood, but wanted at least 1/2 or 3/4 acre plot.
  • The surrounding streets needed to be safe and enjoyable for walking.
  • We wanted to move out of our apartment at the end of our six month lease.
  • Most importantly, we agreed we would NOT become emotionally attached to house prior to purchase: We would keep our Walk Away Shoes on throughout.


The search begins

We arrived in Knoxville at the end of August, and within two weeks I started our search.

I devoured every article I could locate on buying wisely, frugally and well.

At the same time, I also ramped up my knowledge of the area and about how properties were different here than in the northeast.

I immersed myself in thrift store shopping for homes, otherwise known as the foreclosure market.

Just FYI: Be forewarned if you are shopping for a house and are considering foreclosures, understand that they are a completely different breed from standard homes.

You need to really educate yourself and have a realtor/broker who knows their way around foreclosures.


Within a couple of weeks we found a possibility: a foreclosure in excellent condition, priced $25,000 below market value. Yippee!

We looked at the house, and the next morning we requested a second showing.

But, the house had sold overnight, which was just as well, because it was on a very, very, busy road.

We had ignored one of our lessons already in our pursuit of a low price. 


The search continues

I discovered there is a wealth of information available on neighborhoods and individual properties if you know where and how to look.

When I found a house that appeared promising, I would run it to ground, as we said.

For instance, we liked a house that backed up to a large wooded lot—privacy, yay!

Then I discovered the owner of said lot also owned a large apartment complex of questionable character that adjoined the wooded lot, that appeared perfectly sized for an additional strip of apartment buildings.

We didn’t bother with that property.


We found another foreclosure, though, and fell in love.

Through the mess we could see a real gem.

We drew up a new kitchen, designed a beautiful screened-in porch, and worked on other plans.

It went off the market before we could even bid, and then came back on.


We made a low offer, which was accepted, and we moved on to the home inspection.

Mentally, we had already moved in and were enjoying sweet tea on that delightful porch.

However, the inspector found a structural issue that was a deal-breaker, and we let the house go.

It was a real struggle to come to that decision.

We fell in love with the house before purchase, which made it very difficult to make the right decision to walk away.


We grow impatient and proud

We became frustrated with the search, and our pride started to rear its ugly head.

While properties are less expensive here than in New England, our budget was still smaller than the house we wanted.

When we’d find a home that was a bargain, we’d get substantially outbid by someone else.

We started to talk about borrowing just a bit, to take us up that extra notch to where we could be the top bidder on a nice home.

But when we took the long view and leaned on our Why Power, too, we held the line.

Because of impatience and pride, we considered breaking our “unbreakable” rule of never taking on debt again.


Reality slams into decision-making

Because we were paying for an apartment, every month that passed beyond our original lease meant money was spent that could be used instead towards something else.

We decided it was less painful to change some of our criteria rather than staying in the apartment for an additional six months or more.

After going back over our list, we dialed down both the size of the house and acreage to something we could be comfortable with while still holding the line on our budget.

When we recognized that what we were doing wasn’t getting us where we wanted to be, we changed what we were doing.


Prayers get answered

We started praying for our new home in Tennessee more than a year and a half before we arrived in the state, and continued to do so throughout the search.

I’m embarrassed to say we got impatient and weren’t trusting that we would find a house we loved within the boundaries we set, which was when we would fall into the let’s just take on a small mortgage trap.

Then we’d take a deep breath, remind ourselves of how much freedom there is being debt-free, and continue to do the hard work of searching.


One afternoon, we drove back through a neighborhood we really liked to check out a house.

As we stood on the edge of the lawn admiring the home, I noticed a neighbor in a nearby yard.

He waved, and I waved back.

Of course, I went down to say hi and to see what he had to share about the neighborhood. :-)


Larry was a sweetheart and was full of great information.

He pointed to the next house below him and asked if we had looked at it.

“The owners took real good care of that one. It’s a nice house.”


He was indicating a house we had written off previously because the lot was too small.

That was before our re-adjustment of priorities, though!

We ended up looking at the house the next afternoon, and put an offer on it shortly thereafter.

While we didn’t get the bargain of a lifetime, we got a house we love for a good price.

God answered our prayers in ways we couldn’t even foresee.


We can watch the sunrise over the Smoky Mountains from our front porch.

The neighborhood is a nice loop almost a mile around, and there is a nearby walking trail almost three miles long.

Although we’ve only been here a few weeks, and still aren’t completely unpacked, we’ve had friends and family over, and met some of the nice folks  in the neighborhood.

Life is good.


We had never made a plan, worked our plan, and stayed true to our plan like we did this time.

Setting priorities helped us find a home we love and can live with, and it can help you, too!


Question: What advice would you offer about setting priorities for buying a home you love? 

Sharing at Let’s Get Real,

Photo credit: Louise Docker

Did you enjoy this article?
Sign up for updates and get my FREE ebook: Practicing Gratitude and Discovering Joy
Just imagine. . .Responding with gratitude rather than grumbling, and enjoying more happiness and contentment. And rest assured I won't share your address!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. This is our 3rd home and we’ve completely remodeled it. I think the first thing I’d tell someone in the market for a home is to find peace with how many “almosts” there are. The homes that were almost perfect. The ones that were almost in the budget. The ones that we bid on and almost got. The ones that almost passed inspection. Knowing up front that “almost” is a normal part of the experience makes a huge difference.
    susan recently posted…Five Minute Friday – CrowdMy Profile

    • I love that point, Susan! There are so many “almosts” that it’s helpful to know they are part of the experience.
      Thanks for coming over and sharing your thoughts! Love your name, btw. Always good to meet another happy mom! :-)

  2. I can’t believe you were right in New England like me. Like cold me.
    And in San Francisco, our first place together, we were a middle apartment. Above us – loud. Below us – loud. All around us – sketchy.
    And now we live in a clearing in the woods, which is just as it should be!
    Tamara recently posted…I Had No Idea How Much I’d Need Her.My Profile

    • Yes, just a hop, skip and a jump, actually…about 2.5 hours. :-)
      Sketchy apartments-ugh!
      It sounds like you love where you are. That’s terrific!

  3. Popped over from Modern Mrs. Darcy…..thanks for sharing your insights on moving/home buying. I hope you are enjoying your new house. I will remember lessons learned even more vividly after reading your post. Thanks. :)

    • Hi Anne and thanks! Love your site, btw. Your family and readers are blessed by your wisdom and common sense, especially about money. Learning and applying the insights you share, like you are doing for your home, are priceless!

  4. Hi Kim! Congratulations on finding the home of your dreams. I so agree with you making a plan and sticking to it through it. My husband and I did something similar and we call the process “right-sizing.” The most important part of that was going mortgage free just like you. Amazing isn’t it? The freedom that comes from having a home free and clear difficult to explain. I just found your website and look forward to reading more about your new home and the joy it brings you.
    Kathy recently posted…Promotion or Prevention? What’s Your Focus And Why It MattersMy Profile

    • Thanks, Kathy, and welcome to my happy place!
      I love the term “right-sizing”. That fits so perfectly, no pun intended. :-)
      We never understood about debt freedom until we found and applied the lessons from Financial Peace. That had to be one of the biggest blessings in our lives! Yes, it is hard to describe the freedom of having no debt at all, but I keep at it because I want to help others get to that place of peace.

      • So true Kim. I think it is VERY important to keep sharing the story of debt freedom. I’m sure that your story is similar to mine in that everyone keeps telling you how important it is to GO BIG and you can always write of the interest on your income taxes! I think we need to continue to tell those who will listen that there are FAR MORE advantages to going debt free!
        Kathy recently posted…10 Commandments For A SMART & Simple LifeMy Profile

        • Oh, yes, Grrrrr! That myth is right up there with the one my daughter and her new hubbie used to hear: “Why are you still renting? It’s cheaper to just buy a house!”

  5. It sounds like a great place and you’ve given some good advice. My husband and I would like to downsize, not too far off in the future…I am going to try to remember your lessons. Actually I am going to pin them…because then I will be able to find them easily!
    Michelle recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: DoorsMy Profile

  6. Changing our perspective on money, home ownership and stuff has been so powerful, Michelle. It was not always an easy path, as I noted in my post. Such struggles with pride-ugh! I think you’ll love the benefits of downsizing, or as Kathy calls it above, “right-sizing”. There is truly a burden lifted when your home and stuff fit your life. If you need any moral support or help in the process, please give me a holler! Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy has a terrific post about this same topic. Be sure to go read it: Buying a House vs Buying a Life

  7. Thank you for visiting my site! I’m so glad I came over here to see who you were (smile)! I loved this post because we moved about 4 years ago (in July) and faced the same issues. We looked for a year and began compromising when things got tough (i.e., price) and almost ignoring that we were trusting God to lead us to THE exact right place. After having our hearts broken a few times (like you said, falling in love and mentally remodeling before you even own it), we stopped everything, sat down and said, “If God can’t bring it to us, we quit this wild hunting trip we’re on.” A few days later THE house landed in his email box and we drove to see it. It was exactly right (like Goldilocks). We knew we could remodel or fix anything necessary and everything wrong with the other houses were right with this – price and our details list – no chicken houses nearby, no neighbors in your face, etc. My only advice is to trust that God knows exactly what you need and want and will bring it – if you have the patience to wait!!
    nan recently posted…The Forgotten Art of Being a Lady, A RantMy Profile

    • Yes, yes, yes, Nan! I love your story! God does provide, and He answers in ways you can’t begin to imagine and helps get you to where you need to be.
      “No chicken houses nearby”. Heh. I hear you on that one! Our neighborhood covenants are pretty short, simple, and commonsense, and one is that you can’t run a farm or have farm animals. I thought that was funny for a subdivision, but it’s good to know there won’t be chickens here. :-)
      Thanks so much for coming over!

  8. (Melinda} This is great advice for homebuyers, but as I’m reading this, I was thinking about how this can be applied to other areas as well. Writing down goals and sticking to a plan really helps keep us from being swayed by emotions.

  9. So happy to know that you finally found a house. We’ve been in our first home for 14 years. If and when we ever move again, I’ve learned a lot of lessons to take on the next journey. One important lesson that we’ve learned is before we buy, we will drive to our “potential” home after work when we’re tired to make sure that the distance from work to home is suitable for us….. (so important!)
    Sharon recently posted…Neat Way to Remove Lotion Remaining at Bottom of ContainersMy Profile

    • That is a terrific suggestion, Sharon. Doing the actual drive after work, especially when you are tired, will tell you so much! The traffic level might be very different at that time as opposed to a Saturday morning. I would think your view might be more realistic, too! Thanks for adding to the discussion!

  10. Hi Kim – This is such a great post. I really enjoyed reading about the process you and your hubby went through, the ebb and flow of it, getting off track and then back on. It reminds me of something I have been thinking about this week, which is to wait for the “timing” of things to be right. I often try to “force” things that just aren’t meant happen yet. Thanks so much for sharing with the Let’s Get Real party.
    Gaye recently posted…This Week, Do One Thing to Invest in Your MarriageMy Profile

    • Glad you enjoyed our journey, Gaye. :-)
      Yes, timing is such a big thing with us. Like you, I try to force things along only to discover later that I just needed to be patient. *sigh*


  1. […] You may have read about us recently moving to Tennessee and finally, finally, buying a house. […]

  2. […] We moved to Tennessee last summer and recently purchased a home we love. […]

  3. […] on our most recent adventure—our fifth time around—my husband and I had difficulty keeping our priorities in the […]

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge