Once upon a time, there was a girl who really needed a real estate agent, and her name was me.
I downloaded the realtor.com app and perused it endlessly, dreaming of my perfect new life in many different houses I could not afford. My dream house had space for books and enough backyard to keep chickens. Never ever in any of my dreams did the house stand on the side of a mountain. Driving up mountains scares me to death. Zoloft helps with my general driving anxiety, but it doesn’t help with driving up mountains. Nothing helps with mountains.
My husband Jonathan and I transplanted last year from the rolling green fields of Pennsylvania to the gorgeous mountainsides of WNC. We came because we needed a bigger sky — a place that held more opportunity and hope for artistic souls like ourselves.
We knew we had found the right spot on our first trip to the Skyland Library. Jonathan and I work for a news magazine, and our team at the Asheville office had been covering the then-recent public attack of author Salman Rushdie. When Jonathan picked up a Rushdie book at the library book sale, a lady nearby asked, “Do you know how he’s doing?” Much good happened in our former home in Amish country, but strangers asking us about the health of Salman Rushdie was not one of them.
Still — can I have the big sky, please, without driving straight into it?
After moving, we paid through the nose for rent in Arden for nine months. At night while my daughters were falling asleep, my eyeballs devoured three-bedroom-two-bath houses by the pageful. Realtor.com, I hate to admit, had become my false god. The pretty pictures promise you a lot. They do not usually tell you whether the houses are situated on a cliffside.
And that’s why you need Ginny.
More than one local friend referred me to Ginny and Matt Barker at Nest Realty, and soon Ginny had supplanted my realtor app. She became my real estate mom. If you’re looking for a house in the Asheville area, you need not just a Realtor but a real estate mom. Someone to guide you through without giving up. Someone who’ll work up contracts for you day or night. Someone who will lament with you when your offers get rejected but then help you try again. Someone on your side through the good, bad, ugly, and also the very steep.
Jonathan and I approached our first showing with leaden hearts. We feared finding a house would be impossible. The kids were crying for Happy Meals in the backseat, which didn't help.
As we wound far along a back road in search of a listing, I realized with horror that the first lovely house lay on a forbidding knoll, a road positively vertical. We were about to drive straight into the sky.
I covered my eyes. "I hope one day to go to heaven," my racing heart cried, "but I don't want to drive there in a Kia Sorento at a 90-degree angle." I feared the car would flip backward. The true mountain folk are laughing at me, I know. But I’m bad at mountains in the same way I’m bad at math: congenitally, hopelessly.
At the top of the hill I got out, blanched. Ginny looked at me and said, “That tells me what I need to know.” No more mountain houses. Not for me. Ginny doesn't mind driving up anything or turning around in a weird place. But I do, and that's OK.
The next house we saw had no room for a kitchen table. A definite no. The third evinced true promise: three bedrooms, a yard with a fence tall enough for our dog not to jump over. Eleven minutes from the office. But — Ginny and Matt pointed out without judging our ignorance — the house had no insulation.
We made an offer on the following house, though, a perfect quaint cottage with chickens in the yard. We didn’t get it. Then we offered on a townhouse with a mortgage we could manage, and didn’t get that either. Other houses we perused: one perched in a pestilential swamp, one with a severe cliff drop-off in the backyard. These dangerous domiciles, though at the bottom of the current market, rested a little above the apex of our budget. Ginny humored us and took us to them all and even wriggled into their dubious and filthy crawlspaces.
A real estate mother is like a fairy godmother. She makes stories end happily. In time, Ginny found us our perfect house in Old Fort. This morning as I write, the school bus fords our modest hill. Dew drenches my backyard zinnias. The hens cluck in their little white coop. Thanks, real estate mom.
Chelsea Boes lives in Arden and works as a writer for WorldKids Magazine in Biltmore Village.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Boes: Finding the perfect house with help from my real estate mom