Like many people, I am a big fan of HGTV and their programs about home buyers. I love to watch Househunters, My First Place, and Property Virgins. I was enamored watching these people view a couple of homes, pick their favorite, and have their keys in hand, all neatly packed into a half-hour episode. It looked so easy!
My house-buying story began in April 2009. I was renting a place in a town I like to describe as urban country. It is a quaint farming town about a half-hour south of Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, my town also had a gang problem and many of the problems associated with inner cities. In the two years I had lived in that town there was a shooting at a fast-food restaurant just behind my house, another shooting one block from the police station and another shooting only a half mile from my house. Then, in April of ’09, there was a random stabbing just behind my home, occurring only two hours after I had been walking in the area. At this point, I’d had enough! I was ready to leave. I decided I was going to be like those people on HGTV and purchase my own home.
Purchasing my own home was a lofty aspiration, though. I was a first-time home buyer in the middle of a divorce, with poor credit and only $600 in savings. I began to fill out mortgage applications online to see if I could get anywhere. I was hopeful at first. But, there were no replies to my inquiries. I really shouldn’t have been surprised at this, we were in the middle of the recession, banks were tightening their purse strings and the subprime lenders were gone. Still hopeful, I began saving money were I could, cutting household spending and saving my tax return, opting for payout instead of vacation time, and putting away bonuses and completing my divorce.
Six months later I had gotten a lead on a lender who worked with low scores. I was ecstatic to be back in the game! This lender counseled me on improving my credit and I was able to bring my score high enough to qualify for a government loan.
The government loan was really my golden ticket to homeownership. The FHA (Federal Housing Administration) only requires 3.5 percent down, instead of the 20 percent required for a conventional loan. And, they are more forgiving of past credit problems than the conventional banks.
Armed with my FHA preapproval, I began gleefully shopping around for my first home. I was a little disheartened to find that the area I wanted to move to was now out of my reach with low inventory, rising prices, and multiple offer situations that I wanted no part of. I decided (again, full of gleeful hope) that I was going to move farther away, to California’s Central Valley. Oh, the abundance of homes in my price range was staggering! I found my dream home, a 1900-square-foot ranch on an acre in the country. I could afford an acre! I made an offer on this home, naively overlooking the unfinished bath, stained carpet, dated kitchen, and the dry rot in the subflooring. I was ready to repair it all. I couldn’t wait to get started. As I waited for word from the seller regarding my offer, I prayed so hard I think God began tuning me out. Then, a week after my offer was submitted, I received word from my agent. The seller’s agent smelled mold in the home. I was willing to tackle the other projects but I was afraid that mold would be too much for me to handle. With a heavy heart, I withdrew my offer.
The next weekend, with renewed energy, I began looking for another dream home. I had grand visions of two stories, lots of square footage, and an in-ground pool. For the next several weeks my agent patiently trekked me through many homes, writing offers and fielding my calls and emails as offer after offer was ignored by the sellers, all banks holding these foreclosed properties. Now, I was getting desperate. I so badly wanted to find my new home that I was willing to settle for just about anything. We began putting offers on multiple homes at the same time.
Then, there it was. I knew when I saw it that this was my new home. It was three bedrooms, 1300 square feet, no pool, and only one bath, not the large soaking tub I had in envisioned. But, it did have a finished backyard, roses in the front, and a hot tub (score!). This home was being sold by motivated owners, not by the bank (double score!). My agent and I wrote a full price offer the same evening and two days later we were in contract.
I had a thirty-day close and we scrambled to get the financing and inspections all taken care of. I was so stressed I was making myself sick, and I’m sure that God had taken to tuning out all of my constant prayers. After such a long, difficult road, I couldn’t allow myself to believe that this was really happening. On May 29, 2010, thirteen months after hatching this crazy plan to buy a house, I was holding my keys to my new home.
I learned many things on this road. I learned that you cannot fall in love with every house you put an offer on unless you can handle constant disappointment. Even though this wasn’t a neat, thirty-minute process, it was worth every minute I put into it. Although I didn’t end up purchasing the “the house of my dreams,” my dreams came true with this place, my beautiful home.