Thank you, friends, for all your remarks. I was very comfortable with our agent, who was referred to us by the rabbi of the local synagogue. He was honest and straight-forward, conscientious and industrious, sorting through all the listings, picking those in neighborhoods, as he put it, that he'd feel comfortable living in himself. He's spent his whole life in the area.
To clarify, the area comprises two small cities, about 10 miles distant from each other. The synagogue is located in the larger and more progressive of the two (which in general has a better economy, and thus commands about a 15% premium in housing). A) & B) were located in the smaller (slightly less desirable) of the two, C) a foreclosure in a nice part of the larger. We had also been considering other communities within a 1-2 hour radius of there, but after our first day of looking (and after the Home Shabbat, establishing rapport with the re@ltor, and making new friends) we decided to stick with these two cities.
To answer then the questions I had raised in Community vs. Home, which were recalled in comments, we were not forced to make the choice, in part because we were willing and able to raise our target home price. We bid on B). Their asking price was the price they paid for it two years ago. We bid about 10% below that; They countered with a 5% price reduction. Considering how much the renovations and such would likely have cost in A) or C), we figured it was pretty much a wash. We accepted. Now it's just a matter of getting the financing all wrapped up, arranging for our move, and heading off (at the end of March!). HR at Rocket Central will be sending a letter confirming Rocket's non-leave employment and salary, which should be enough to satisfy certification for financing (let's hope!).
While there is great appeal to being able to design a kitchen to my liking, there is also something to be said for turnkey condition. I might like to put in new counters in this one down the road, maybe even a center island, but everything is clean, and in great condition. It's a nice size at 10 x 13. The cabinetry has been updated in the past few years.
We'll still have some work to do (by choice not necessity), we'll be able to move in right away and get settled. Near-term projects will include finishing off the basement (making ourselves an entertainment/play room), and likely building a greenhouse in the backyard.
The next few weeks will be a whirlwind, I'm sure. Now it's purging and packing, tying up loose ends, preparing for the changes.