As the pandemic waned, Selene Carter and Steven Hendren came to a crossroads. The couple, who married in 2015, had been renting a cramped house near downtown Bloomington, Ind., for years. It was within walking distance of their jobs at Indiana University Bloomington, and they had raised their blended family of three children there. But as the children grew to be college age, empty-nest syndrome set in.
The couple, both in their 50s, liked living close to coffee shops and appreciated the progressive ethos of Bloomington, a college town nestled in wooded hills about an hour south of Indianapolis. But now, renting near campus made them feel almost as if they were back in graduate school.
Working from home during Covid had been a clear sign that it was time to move. “He had his computer in the living room, and we didn’t have a dining room — we had no counter space,” said Ms. Carter, an associate professor of dance, who struggled to lead Zoom classes that required moving around. “For being in our 50s, it just didn’t fit our lifestyle.”
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They entered a competitive housing market last year with high hopes, but limited funds for a down payment. The goal was a house on the outskirts of Bloomington with enough space for both of them to work from home, but not too far from campus. They wanted extra bedrooms for visitors, and more than two bathrooms. Ms. Carter, who enjoys cooking, wanted a bigger kitchen and enough space to have Thanksgiving dinners and Passover Seders. Mr. Hendren, who works in the university’s library department, hoped to find some space for woodworking projects.
Their broker, John Saunders, said there were options in the couple’s price range, which initially went up to about $310,000. But they were unable to put much down, making them less attractive to some sellers in a frenzied market where cash buyers were winning bidding wars.
“That was a super-tough market to be in,” said Mr. Saunders, the owner of Saunders & Associates, in Bloomington. “Stuff that was coming through was cash, 50 percent down, 30 percent down. And we were looking at 3 percent down.”
Among the properties they considered:
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