My priority was having a couple of extra bedrooms. I knew we'd need one for the baby and I wanted a guest room, so bedrooms were on my list. Also, being in a good school zone. Resale value would be important down the road, and having a good school nearby is always one of the best ways to sell your home quickly.We had a realtor that Brian had met through work, and about twice a week we'd hop in his car and drive around to look at homes in the neighborhood. Sometimes I drove around looking for the signs in the yard at night after work. Eventually, after getting our hopes up and figuring out exactly what wouldn't work, we found a few houses that we liked. After a lot of hashing and rehashing and teeth gnashing, along with investigating recent comps, we made our first offer on one house that we loved. It was nerve-wracking since the backyard was fantastic, but behind their fence was a giant cleared area where they were about to build a dozen new homes. Did we want all that construction behind us? What if those new houses didn't sell? We thought this all factored into making a lower offer than their asking price. The next day we could hear them laughing at us from our apartment across town. We thought they were crazy for not taking it and sticking to their ridiculously higher number. But we discovered quickly that the market was a lot higher for our neighborhood than even our realtor expected. And suddenly that spring, houses landed on the market and sold in less than a week. So the realtor started emailing me every day with the brand-new listings and prepared us for the possibility of paying asking price.Ah, to be back in the good old economy of 2005! Positively crazy, giddy days, weren't they?With only a couple of months to go before my due date, a house was listed with the right square footage at the right price. I remember it was a Thursday when I got the email. We made an appointment that evening to look at it, which was kind of special and rushed because they were having an open house on Sunday. We checked it out and liked it, and while sitting in the living room petting their giant orange tabby cat, we discussed next moves. We came back for the open house without our realtor that weekend. By that evening, we were mentally ready to make an offer and make it ours. After some quick haggling over the carpet allowance, and sadly crossing off the orange tabby cat from the written contract, our offer was accepted.Fast forward almost 5 years. A rainy weekend was forecast for the area, and possible strong storms with tornadoes were likely. We spent Saturday miserable, stuck inside with 3 kids and a hard rain falling outside in buckets. Sunday morning the lights flickered a lot and then went out around 9 am. Without power, our router didn't work, so we had no internet. We had no television. Cell service was spotty, even if I stood in the middle of the living room and held my arms out and chanted prayers to the rain gods. I barely got one bar that day, and about 99% of the calls I attempted to make didn't go through. The rain never let up all day, and fell especially hard after lunch for 2 hours straight. Finally about 4 pm the sun came out, and helicopters started buzzing overhead. About every 20 minutes one passed over our house. Without any power or news or cell phone or internet all day, the helicopters were my first sign that something might be seriously wrong with our town.Brian went out to take pictures.All of this water was sitting about 6 houses away from ours. This is a large ravine next to our neighborhood pool, which is behind the playground. About 4 houses sit off to the left, out of the frame. We know one of the couples that live in the house closest to the pool, and they got water inside their home.This is across the street from the playground/pool area. Same kind of ravine. You can see the water is at their back door.
Folks, that is a 4-foot high fence underwater, and that fence surrounds a phone box. That box sits about 100 yards away from our home, as the crow flies, in a large ditch. The house to the left had about 2 feet of water in it. The ground rises up to the main road off to the right. You can see in the background where water covered the main road. Traffic was moving very slowly through the water. There are houses across the road that were also flooded by that water.Head on up the hill toward the west, and as you top the hill, you see a giant valley spread out on your left with a shopping center. That is my favorite Publix, as well as the home of a Marble Slab Creamery shop that makes ice cream I crave hourly. Head left down the hill past the shopping center and parking lot, where there was more water flooding a major 2-lane highway. About 6 miles down that highway to the east is where Helen & Alice go to daycare. Water covered the highway at that intersection, at least 4 feet deep, so driving further down that road was not an option.Head back from the shopping center toward our house, past that phone box underwater, and about half a mile east down an incline, you will find a large flat field on either side of the road. To the left is a large neighborhood with hundreds of houses. To the right is a driving range, as well as a small par-3 golf course. On the other side of the golf course is the Harpeth River. I do not have any pictures of that area because the road was blocked off.The Harpeth River normally runs between 2 and 3 feet deep through our part of town. It crested at over 27 feet that weekend. The previous 2-day rain record for the city was almost 7 inches, set over 30 years ago. It rained over 13 inches on Saturday and Sunday. Officials are calling it a 500-year flood, or possibly a 1000-year flood. The Harpeth River overflowed its banks and flooded the golf course and two neighborhoods east of us. There are hundreds of houses in those neighborhoods. Our neighborhood sits on a ridge to the west, slightly above theirs. All of that water was right there next to us. There are people who lost their lives trying to escape the water, and others who are still rebuilding their homes today. But we sat on a ridge, so our home escaped the rising water.We made offers on two other houses that also escaped the water (both were further up the ridge) but it was all a matter of timing. We certainly looked at several houses during our search 5 years ago, that ended up under water last month. We could have waited and made an offer on a cheaper house in another neighborhood, or closer to the pool. We could be dealing with ripping out drywall and insulation and throwing out furniture and killing mold spores and not enough FEMA money to fix it all. But we're not. We have a house that stayed high and dry with an enormous amount of water headed our way. We are really, really fortunate.
Five years ago this month, we closed on our first home. Brian & I had diligently searched the suburbs for a good deal on a place with a garage. That was Brian's priority, anyway. You do enough car work in your life, you understand that a garage is where you store tools. Not a kitchen table.