News & Politics

I Had a Redfin Obsession. My Three-Year-Old Helped Put It Into Perspective.

The author with her sons. Photograph of Mary Clare Glover

My husband and I sometimes joke that we bought a front porch. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a lovely front porch, with a swing plus room for a couch and two chairs and hanging flower baskets. I remember standing in that spot the day of the open house, calling my dad to ask if he had time to come give his opinion. We’d been looking a few months and had lost out on a couple of places.

The price on this one was right and the location great—less than a mile to the Metro, between downtown Silver Spring and Takoma Park. Built in 1926, it was well cared for, with hardwood floors, high ceilings, original transom windows, glass doorknobs, old-school black-and-white bathroom tile. And of course, that front porch.

What worried us was the size. We had a ten-month-old son and knew we wanted another baby one day. The layout meant any kids would have to share a small bedroom, and both we and they would be sharing the only bathroom upstairs.

My father is one of seven children. When he arrived at the open house, he did a quick walk-through and said, “I shared a room until I went to college. This house is definitely big enough for a family.” We put in an offer and have now been there six years. Today that ten-month-old is a kindergartner with a three-year-old brother.

The house has worked well. There’s a back yard for the boys and space in the basement for their toys. My husband and I have short-for-Washington commutes, and we found a nurturing neighborhood preschool. But as our sons grow, the house feels smaller. Not infrequently during the morning rush, three or four of us will be jammed into the upstairs bathroom—I’m drying my hair while someone brushes his teeth and someone else plays Legos on the floor.

These moments inevitably lead me to the same place: Redfin. I’ve become obsessed with tracking listings and researching neighborhoods. I scroll through virtual tours on my phone, looking at master baths (two sinks!) and open kitchens (the boys could have breakfast at the island!).

Although following real estate and occasionally visiting open houses have become a hobby I enjoy, they can spiral in the wrong direction. The more time you spend looking at houses bigger than yours, or more expensive than you can afford, the more self-doubt and jealousy can fester. This is particularly true in Washington, where inventory is very low and bidding wars are common. Prices keep going up, yet there seems to be an endless supply of buyers.

This spring, I went to an open house in Takoma Park. It had many of the features we’d want in our next home, including three bedrooms upstairs and a dining room big enough to host family for holiday dinners. But only one full bathroom—a deal-breaker. I kept an eye on the house after it went under contract, and it sold for more than $100,000 over list. In other words, nearly $1 million for a home with one full bath.

It was my three-year-old, Freddy, who unwittingly helped put this all into perspective.

Every night when I tuck him in, we say a quick prayer, taking turns thanking God for a few things we’re grateful for that day. Like most kids, Freddy craves routine, and he can’t go to sleep without this little ritual. The object of his gratitude is always slightly different and includes things you might expect. “Thank you for ice cream,” “Thank you for my friends,” “Thank you for my all my toys.”

But without fail, he ends the same way: “Thank you for our big house.”

This article appears in the July 2019 issue of Washingtonian.