I have been sharing some family updates on my Instagram about selling our home in Pasadena in February then purchasing our house in Topanga recently. Someone on Instagram asked how we were able to actually buy a house during this insanely heated housing market where houses are sold within a matter of a few weeks with offers showering like a bucket of rain. So how were we able to get the house without going through all the drama? After all, we have only been looking for three months, we most certainly did not have an indefinite amount of budget, and Topanga house was one of the very first serious offers we put on the table.
Well, let me back up a little. When we decided to sell our home in Pasadena, we intended to move to a neighborhood with these five criteria.
- Close enough for Frido to commute to Pasadena at least once a week.
- Close to nature and away from the noise of the cities.
- Closer to the beach than how it was in Pasadena
- A creative and family-friendly community where we can grow our roots as we journey through our life as a family.
- The energy that feels right
We looked all over the greater Los Angeles region, but only a few places felt that it met our criteria. One was Ojai, and another was Topanga. We quickly realized that most houses available in Topanga were outside of our budget so we mainly focused on the Ojai real estate market. We connected with a lovely agent local to Ojai and planned to make many trips to Ojai to see the houses that were available in the market.
The only miscalculation was that there were so few houses to see once we sold our house and started looking for the next place. The housing market has been so dry everywhere in the LA area, so there were absolutely no inventories, at least for our price point. If there was a house that felt attractive, it sold within a few weeks. So it was a very stressful time to be a home buyer. We learned quickly that we needed to stretch our patience.
Back in February, when we started our home search, Frido was also anticipating a family trip between April to May during his three weeks spring break. We usually visit Japan during the spring break but international travel has been not possible, so he pushed for Hawaii as the next best thing. It sounded magical to spend a few weeks in Hawaii, but something in me kept saying that it didn’t feel right. I listed all the reasons why we shouldn’t plan a trip (like the unpredictable Covid situation at the time) and added at the very end of the sentence, “look. I bet we need to be here during your break because we are going to meet the perfect house”. Even though those words came out of my mouth, it was hard to believe that I just said that. We both looked at each other, rolled our eyes, and told ourselves sarcastically, “we will see.”
Between February to the end of April, our agent in Ojai pointed us to a few houses as potentials. Frido and I excitedly browsed Redfin, the real estate app, but ended up saying that they just didn't feel right. We were not super picky about the nitty-gritty of how the house looked because we knew we could renovate, and we were looking for very modest square footage (just over 1000 sq. ft for four of us). What we wanted was a tiny house on a nice size lot that came with good energy and bones. Nothing pretentious. Nothing big (especially since we let go of so many personal belongings). But day after day, week after week, nothing came even remotely close to what we were looking for. At some point in April, it hit me that I might had been approaching this process entirely backwards. Perhaps right house wasn’t showing up because I wasn’t ready to move on from the current situation of living with my mom, just yet.
I had an insightful and empowering experience doing an inner work in the past few years so I felt urged to look even deeper and further. And honestly, it was the strangest thing. The moment I started to dive into my inner work, things started to unfold as if it were a sign that I was on the right path. One of the incidents was witnessing mom/baby ducks crossing our backyard. A flock of chickens is our normal view but the wild ducks were new to us and somehow it made me feel closer to my dream of living closer to nature.
Around the same time, at the beginning of Frido’s three weeks break, the house in Topanga popped up on Redfin. Frido saw it, I saw it, and we both knew we needed to view the house immediately. We didn’t have an agent in the area so we called our real estate agent, who was our agent to purchase our Pasadena house 11 years ago, and guided us to successfully sell the same house a few months before. He was on board right away and the house viewing was set. I remember I had a distinct feeling that things felt easy, like we did not have to push hard.
As soon as we scheduled the house viewing, I looked at Frido and told him, “remember back in February when you wanted to plan a trip to Hawaii? I mentioned to us that I didn’t want to book the trip because we were going to meet a house during the time? Imagine if it really happened with this house?”
House viewing was only 15 minutes but it took all of our breath away as we walked through the property inside and out. There were a few mature oak trees growing on the property. During the 15 minutes, I sneaked some alone time to hug one of the oak trees and said my gratitude, thanking the land for letting us be there. The offer was due in three days. We quickly did our math. How much we could afford and what our strategy was going to be if it became a bidding war. We had a very clear and straight forward budget so it helped us stay focused on what was possible and what was not. Meanwhile, I kept pushing through the inner work, acknowledging my triggers, and trying to understand things through guided hypnosis and journaling. The word “inner work” sounds so beautiful and serene but I find the actual work neither glorious nor easy. Of course, it’s expected but it’s challenging to become more aware of what triggers one and why. It was when I was telling Frido about how the intense session I just experienced in the same morning helped me synthesize the connection of the past and how empowered I felt that I was possibly rewiring my subconscious memory through the work, we received a phone call from our agent. He started the conversation with, “Well, you guys just bought a house. No counter offer needed.” Our girls, Frido, and I looked at each other and we almost lost it in disbelief. The entirety of the timing and how unusual it was to go through the home buying process without being countered by the owner made me feel that the universe was telling me that I was getting through the work I needed in the transitory space of living with mom and it was time for us to move onto more permanent home.
So today, we are knee-deep into the renovation of the Topanga house. We call it with so much love "our 100 years old Totoro-inspired treehouse". We started some demolition on our own; fumigation is happening; plumbing has been inspected, and our contractor will start his part in a week. Our almost 100 years old house is as quirky as our family is. It is absolutely perfectly imperfect. It was built in 1925 when there was only a trail that was leading up to our house. It went through layers of addition and renovation. The previous owners lived there for 37 years and raised two boys. Our street address ends with "trail" instead of avenue, lane, street, and boulevard. That alone makes my heart skip:) My friend asked me, “so Wakako. What do you like about the house?” The only thing I could say to answer her question was, “the house is so magical. Thinking about it makes me want to cry.”
So this is my story of how we came to become a homeowner again to our beloved Topanga house. If you ask Frido, I am sure he will add more details and unique perspectives to the process.
Our agent told us that the right house had always come to every client he worked with before. It might not be this house nor that house, but eventually, it always worked out… and I do think it’s true.
“Trust the Process” is what we always say about everything we do here at BK and today I would also like to add “Trust the Inner Process”. Because I believe the inner process plays just as much as the role in what is happening externally that might not be always within our control. But inner work is something we can always access when we are ready.