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How one neighbor’s move helped another’s business dream come true
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In 2012, writer Bonnie Rough and her husband, Dan, bought a craftsman-style home in Ballard, a neighborhood in Seattle, Washington.
“The market was already pretty competitive here in Seattle at that point, post-Great Recession, so we felt really lucky to get in here,” she said. But they felt even luckier when they met the Hudsons, the family next door. “I saw through their kitchen window a sippy cup on the table, and I thought, ‘Yes! Kids!’”
The Roughs’ two children and the Hudsons’ three children soon formed close bonds with each other.
“Sometimes I think that they learned as much from nine years playing together [as] they learned from nine years of school,” Bonnie said.
But in 2021, after almost a decade of play dates, birthday parties and shared childhood memories, the Hudsons decided to sell their Seattle home and move to Alabama, where they have family.
As the kids mapped out how they wanted to spend their last six months living in close proximity, Bonnie and Dan contemplated what their lives might look like with the Hudsons gone.
“We have this communal lawn that both houses sort of open on to it,” she said. “I realized, ‘Wait a minute, sitting right here in front of me is this incredible opportunity for this lark of a dream that I’ve had for a long time.’”
As a writer and an urban farmer, Bonnie said she’s long dreamed of evening out her income by running a guest home.
On their small plot of land, they already grow vegetables, herbs, berries, citrus and almonds. They also have two cats, a sheepdog, bunnies and quails. With more space though, “we could potentially still add goats or who knows what,” Bonnie said.
In 2021, average mortgage rates were significantly lower than they are now. The Roughs were able the leverage the equity they’d earned on their bungalow to make a down payment on the Hudsons’ property.
The deal had advantages for the Hudsons as well — they could bypass real estate agents and the usual tasks required to ready a home for sale.
After agreeing on a price, the Hudsons opened their home to Bonnie and Dan so that they could start readying it to list on short-term rental sites.
“We needed the opportunity to get everything freshened and prepped and staged and photographed so that we could list it as soon as we were the legal owners and try to start getting bookings right away, so we’d be able to cover the mortgage on our first month of ownership,” Bonnie said.
With the Hudsons still occupying the home, the Roughs touched up the paint, updated some of the millwork and flooring and began planting in the garden.
“They were so, so incredibly patient with us,” Bonnie said. “There’s no way we could have done that without trust and friendship.”
Within two days of officially signing on the home sale, the Roughs said a tearful goodbye to the Hudsons and received their first booking on Airbnb.
“I told the kids, and all three of us started to scream,” Bonnie said. “We still get that excited when we get a booking because every single time it still feels like somebody’s saving our lives.”
Though Roughs need bookings to keep paying their expenses, Bonnie said one of the best things about hosting families is the liveliness they bring to their properties.
“To hear kids playing outside, to see a family kicking a soccer ball … just the sounds of life and laughter and play reminds me of the wonderfulness that we had here before,” she said.
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