My piece of Paradise

Poets from the North State (and even one from Nevada!) have flooded the in-box with entries for our new writing contest. We’ll judge them and announce the winners Nov. 15. Then come see and hear the spoken-word competition at our Poetry Slam at The Crux Artist Collective on Dec. 1.

“Gimme land, lots of land, under starry skies above …”

This week, for the 218th time, I walked over to my apartment manager’s office with a rent check. I figure I’ve paid around $150,000 to house myself since college, with no equity to show for it. When you’re 40, married and in a buyer’s market for real estate, that monthly reminder can get you moving.

And, for me, it has. The November rent envelope also included a 30-day notice. Knock on hardwood, Amy and I will take possession of our first house the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

We found a three-bedroom, one-story with a big back yard—ample area to raise a family. Our eventual brood will enjoy shade, stars and as little ambient noise as possible in a neighborhood within biking distance of boulevard shopping.

That neighborhood, as you’ve probably guessed, is in Paradise. Our decision to buy on the Ridge took a lot of thought. We weighed convenience vs. commuting, sustainability vs. forestry, city vs. town. Ultimately, the choice came down to a chip of Chico vs. a parcel of Paradise.

Our agent (Andy Hanawalt, Amy’s childhood friend) took us to see about 30 properties. Our price range, needs and wishes limited the search to Lower Paradise, West Chico, the Avenues, and blocks around Bidwell Park, Lindo Channel and Eaton Road.

We liked several places in Chico, all in developments, so we felt no rush to make offers. If we missed one, its twin would come available soon enough.

The house we really liked was older, yet distinctive, with architecture reminiscent of a hunting lodge and a huge redwood deck overlooking the treeline of a small Paradise canyon. We’d just need to do some interior remodeling to make it “us.” Our loan broker (Ari Gagne, Andy’s childhood friend) said that was doable.

We made an offer. The long-since-moved owners made a counteroffer. We counter-countered; they counter-counter-countered. We could have countered4, but at just $5,000 apart, it made sense either to hold firm or agree.

After spending about two hours in the house that Friday night, vacillating, we asked Andy to take us to see a few more houses the next day, to crystallize our thinking. That fateful request brought us to the house we’re buying. It was the first we toured that day, and we loved it. Andy called it “turnkey”—we could move in without needing to change a thing.

We went back to the first house, then back to the second, then signed an offer Sunday. Friday, we came to terms.

Belatedly, House One’s owners reconsidered our first counteroffer. Their place remains for sale, three months and counting, price now reduced. Meanwhile, the other sold in 12 days, and even without working the market, we got a good deal anyway (so sayeth the appraiser).

Our piece of Paradise is three-quarters of an acre. Most every property we checked in Chico would fit in our yard with room to spare. We’ve made a trade-off, certainly, but it’s hard to deny this ol’ pearl of wisdom:

“Buy land; they’re not making it anymore.”