There I was, standing in the airport terminal introducing my father to my new academic advisor, and wondering what this strange new city would bring. Tallahassee is the forgotten capital of Florida boasting no more than 200,000 people. I had flown down from Boston in order to meet with Stukel and to see first-hand what the area and university had to offer, and to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into.

My father had come along after asking my permission, he was always attuned to matters of decorum, so that he could come explore, research and get to know my new setting with me. In particular he wanted to spend our short weekend there checking out the real-estate market and the neighborhoods of Tallahassee.

I remember that weekend in November as being fun, but short, and we both flew back to Boston with a much-improved mental picture of Tallahassee and the people yet with nothing concrete on the housing side of things.

So three weeks later my dad and I flew back down, this time for an entire week. Unlke the first time, we came armed with three weeks of Zillow research into homes, property prices and neighborhoods. As we found out within the first 5 minutes in a real-estate agent’s office, Zillow was not quite the silver bullet we had hoped for. All but a couple of the listings we had brought with us were already sold and off the market. But, at least they did provide a convenient go-to set of examples to show the agent when discussing possible properties.

The agent we randomly discovered was fantatstic, hands down, since he was more than willing to spend the entire day with us going into so many houses that by the end of the day we could hardly keep count of the all (and this is why you ALWAYS bring a camera).

But after striking out two days in a row, and our time in Tallahassee drawing to a close, our agent didn’t answer our call on the third day. Strange, he had been so helpful…

But my dad was not deterred and figured it would be a good opportunity to do some scouting ourselves. We spend the next 4 hours driving aimlessly around the neighborhoods of Tallahassee with no particular goal in mind. Then we came to it, 3125 Huttersfield Cir.

From the outside it was a pretty typical, unadorned house sitting quietly on a small patch of property. The yard itself was equally unremarkable with the need for some grass seed and a garden bed or two. Moving indoors it was obvious that some quickly applied cosmetic work had gone into it. New paint everywhere, an off-white wall-to-wall carpet, and new “builder special” appliances made for a clean–if wanting–interior.

As someone with a background in home renovation and “projects” of all shapes and sizes, the entire house felt like one large blank canvas. And the price was right as well: 78,000 USD for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath starter home.

My dad was grinning ear to ear as we walked around assessing the property since he too saw how well this place aligned to who I was. It was priced right, ready and eager for projects, had a quiet neighborhood, and was perfectly located for my daily commute. What luck we had!

After having lived in the house for over 2 years—coming up on 3, I am still floored by the good fortune we had that day. And while my dad will never get to see the transformation of that blank canvas into the place I call home, I know that he would expect nothing less of his miraculous find!