They had me at “Ikea”

September 13, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

It’s looking more and more likely James will be getting that GS15 position (he heard they’re doing interviews in the next couple of weeks, and the managers are quibbling over who gets to work with James), so after doing some research on schools and housing prices, we decided to drive down to Stafford, VA, to check it out. There are two stops on the VRE (Virginia’s commuter train) that are 15 minutes away, the housing prices are more akin to Midwestern prices ($280K – 330K for a 4-bedroom, 3 bath house), and both high schools were highly ranked. Stafford is just south of Quantico, FBI headquarters, and the area is quite woodsy and hilly. The Potomac flows by just to the East, so the town has a marina feel to it. We saw a trailer selling fresh Blue Crab by the bushel along the main street. Unlike Point of Rocks, Stafford is much more populated with box stores and restaurants, and the area is much more developed. Plus, on our way down I-95, we spied an Ikea! Only 15 minutes away. Score!!

The houses near the business district seemed the newest and nicest, and with all of the power outages we’ve had this year, we happily noted that the power lines were buried. There also seemed to be a fair number of houses for sale, and there were several subdivisions to choose from. So I think we may have found the sweet spot – an area close enough for James to commute by train (albeit, a little over an hour. But he assures me he doesn’t mind), in a good school district with houses well within our price range.

Now here’s the big question, when should we move? Housing prices are at an all-time low, but I don’t think the market will be recovering very quickly. So I think we’ve got some time to save our money up and get our affairs in order. The main driving force for the move is the schools, and Liam won’t be entering kindergarten until the fall of 2014. Another consideration is the eventual second baby we’ll be having sometime in the next couple of years, if all goes to plan. I’ve been pulling in a decent monthly wage working during Liam’s naps and in the evenings, but you can bet when we add a newborn to the mix, I won’t be working for awhile. On the one hand I’d like to stay in this area because I like my doctor and we’re near the hospital. But the mortgage payment on a $280K house would be far less than our current rent, and if the landlord keeps jacking up the price every year, we may be tempted to move before we have our second kid. So, I guess we’ll have to see what happens with that. But I’m feeling better about the whole thing now that we’ve found an area that we like.

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  1. You do know there is an Ikea 15 minutes away from silver spring right? ; D

    Glad you liked Stafford! I at least know where that is! Christine actually lived there for a short time with a boyfriend. She ‘slugged’ to work.

    I hate to be ‘debbie downer’ I prefer the ‘voice of reason’. I hope you think a bit before just casually walking into an hour commute because “James doesn’t mind”. For a week or so do some imagining. Imagine James leaves an hour before he actually does, and then imagine him not returning for another 11+ hours. What does he miss? Does he miss time with Liam, you, both? Will you need his help after 10+ hours home alone with Liam (+ another???) 5 days a week? Of course this 11 hours is just assuming he only works 8 hours a day, and never misses his train.

    A lot of my colleagues do this type of commuting and I see the stress it puts on families, wives, the employee…and my people get to work from home 2 days a week. Can James do that?

    Buying a house is a serious topic. Adding over 10 hours of time to James’ time away from home during waking hours M-F is also another serious topic (to me)…but I’m home alone a lot and I barely hang on by a thread after 3 nights of ‘single mommy’ so maybe I’m just a nut-bag.

    • Definitely worth some thought. When we lived in NY we both had 1+ hour commutes, and while I was about to shoot myself, James seemed to love it. Course, that was before kids, so things will be different this time around. Exploring work from home options is definitely an option, and something his department has talked about offering. I think James is more cavelier about the idea because many of his colleagues commute that far or further. A lot can happen between now and 2014, or whenever we decide to actually buy a home, so who knows what will actually happen. Thanks for your insights, Julie!

      • I probably wouldn’t mind it if I was James either! I would get to read, listen to my Ipod, maybe doze a bit…actually it sounds fantastic. I could use 2+ hours a day to do those things…would probably be more enjoyable if it wasn’t on a train though. : D Bottom line, It’s not James I’m worried about, it’s you, Liam and your un-born children. One of my good friends who has a 4-year old commutes to the FDA from Frederick (over an hour each way) in a car-pool. She does OK but she also gets to work at 6:30 AM (which means she wakes at 4 AM) so she can be home to spend time with her son by 5 PM. So it can be done but sleep gets sacrificed.

        Royce also thought of another good point. Moving out that far will also probably curtail your visits into the city. Maybe you don’t use ‘the city’ as often as we do but I would miss the museums, zoo, and restaurants that are so accessible to us since we just live a little ways out.

        Food for thought…and it sounds like you have some time to think!

  2. Oh, I agree with Julie now that that’s what Jonathan is doing. Course, his is driving so it’s much more straining than just hopping on a train. He’s been keeping his eye out for jobs in KC. You mention high schools! Are you guys going to stay put once you get a house?! Could that even be?! 🙂

    Also, does that budget include having money for a vacation? I know you guys like to travel. You should watch HGTV, especially House Hunters.

    • Well, high school rankings are a good indicator of a school district in general, so that’s what we’ve been looking at. Once we buy a house, we’d like to stay for at least 5 years before considering a move to the Midwest. But we want to live somewhere with a good school system just in case. You never know, we might just love it there! Plus, once Liam enters middle school, we’ve agreed we’re going to stay put until the kids have graduated. James went to three high schools, and it was really tough for him. So we do intend to “settle down” someday. Really, we do!

      • I’m glad to hear those words: settle down! And having been through several moves myself as a youngster, it’s very tramatizing. If only we could all make friends as easily as you do! I guess that area is a whole other ball game considering there’s not much ranking going on in the midwest. LOL!

  3. Okay, the commute. Until I moved to Lexington, I always had at least an hour commute. Hard, but can be done. Sometimes we have to sacrifice some things to get the kids in good schools, etc. You have a lot to think about. As far as the City, museums, etc. Once Liam gets in school, you will be extremely busy with school functions, sports, maybe music lessons or karate and won’t have time to do the City things as much. Like I said, lots to think about. And, I hope James gets the GS15. Brother Michael says that NO ONE as young as James gets to be a GS15. And, they are still trying to talk Michael into re-enlisting and going to Quantico. I don’t particularly want him to re-enlist, but it’s his decision.

    You have soooooo much to think about!!!!!

    • Indeed I do. Living close to town, and close to a Metro, definitely has its perks. I think I’m going to enjoy it while I can, and keep doing some research. This balance between quality of life, quality of education, and quality of housing is a tricky one.

  4. I thought you’d wait until you were 7 months pg to move. It worked twice for me & you’ve already done that once yourself. Hope I get to see you in LS. Ruthanne & I’d love to meet you at the park!


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