About a year ago, my then 3-year-old daughter became fascinated by the “Wizard of Oz.”
Clad in a Dorothy-inspired dress and a pair of miniature ruby red slippers and accompanied by her trusty sidekick Tin Man (her baby sister, dressed in a bargain bin silver costume), she’d saunter through our Houston home quoting the movie.
I soon knew every word by heart and found myself having trouble getting one of the most famous lines out of my head: “There’s no place like home.”
Even though we had lived in Houston for eight years, I desperately missed my hometown of Austin. Every time we came back to visit friends and family, we found it more and more difficult to leave.
Last September, we finally made the move, and my husband and I immediately set our sights on finding the perfect home. We had a few criteria: great schools, at least three bedrooms and (fingers crossed) no barking dogs next door.
We also wanted to be in Southwest Austin, where I grew up and where my parents still live, so we focused on the 78739 and 78749 ZIP codes.
Heading south on MoPac Boulevard toward Slaughter Lane, the office parks and exit signs gave way to white wisps of clouds across the clear blue sky. It would have been easy to believe we were striking out on some grand adventure in the Hill Country instead of simply going to look at houses.
In many ways, Southwest Austin is microcosm of all the things we love about the city: beautiful scenery, loads of local flavor and a feeling that you’re among kindred spirits.
“We get out of the car and we can see stars,” said Adam Frishman, a Circle C resident who owns dance studio Dance Xplosion with his wife, Amber. “It’s quiet and it’s beautiful down here.”
On any given evening, you can watch a stream of aspiring ballerinas and tap dancers flow in and out of Dance Xplosion, which opened in 2008 in Escarpment Village, a shopping center home to local institutions such as H-E-B and Waterloo Ice House. In 2010, the Frishmans opened a second location with additional studios and a full retail store in the same shopping center.
“One of the things that Amber and I wanted to do with the studio was to try to help build a sense of community down here,” Frishman said. “I’ve had kids that I can remember when they were born and now they’re in dance class. This area was built for families. It’s a part of town that’s growing. This is a place people want to be.”
The more we researched, the more we homed in on Circle C specifically. We had visions of taking our daughters on wobbly first bike rides on the Veloway, teaching them the difference between bluebonnets and Black-eyed Susans at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and maybe catching a sing-a-long or two at the Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane.
We met Realtor Alex Morris at 10 a.m. on a rainy Sunday, just hours after the Circle C home we were about to see had come on the market. By the time we finished our walkthrough, another couple and their realtor were waiting out front. By the end of the day, there were numerous offers on the house.
We loved Circle C, but so did everyone else. Searching for houses practically became a second job.
“It’s always a learning experience,” Morris said. “You have to be flexible and ready. You have to tell your employer, ‘I’m looking for a house and I’m probably going to need to jet out of here for 30 or 45 minutes with no notice to go look at a new listing because I have to get there first.’ Go hard or go home, basically.”
Not only were houses going fast, but most received several offers, typically above asking price. If we were going to make this happen, we were going to have to be smart.
Thankfully, Morris, with Blackburn Properties, was an apt guide, with more than eight years under his belt in the Austin market. We were in touch with him on a regular basis, asking questions, scrolling through photos of new listings and meeting for walkthroughs.
He encouraged us to be realistic about what we wanted and what we could afford but to be ready to act if we thought we had found “the one.” After a roller coaster ride that included being outbid on two houses we liked, we went under contract on a home in Circle C that we loved.
“It’s a business transaction in essence – a buyer paying money to a seller to purchase a home – but in truth that takes a backseat to emotion,” Morris said. “For most of us, we’re buying the most expensive thing we’ll ever purchase. It’s exciting. At the end of the day, it feels like Christmas morning when you walk into a house that you love.”
We moved into our house a week before Christmas and have been working hard to enjoy all that it has to offer. Whether we’re chasing the Tin Man up the stairs or teaching Dorothy about the stars in the backyard, we’re certain we made the right move.
After all, there’s no place like home.