The (Long) Story of a Home

Friday, April 18, 2014


A lengthy explanation for my MIA status over the last several weeks. 

Last May (2013) Ken and I first met our realtor, Anna. She'd come recommended from a couple of friends and we thought that was a good starting point. At our first meeting with her we had a lot of questions. It must have been obvious how green we were, first time home buyers and all. (Honestly, I wonder if we even knew what we were getting into.)Yet at the same time it was exciting, we were going to be homeowners!

And then I lost my job.

It was almost like The Universe unilaterally stepped in to tell us our timing was off. But we didn't listen. Instead we started to look at a few homes here and there; pumped up on the energy of making a major decision together. As summer turned to fall and fewer houses came on the market it was obvious we weren't going to be moving before the lease on our apartment was up, so we sort of shelved the idea for a few months.

Then, at the start of 2014, we reignited our motivation and made things official by writing our goal of homeownership on a Post-it note. This was happening.

Initially our parameters for the home had to fit three requirements: 1. It had to be in a certain geographic boundary, 2. It had to have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and 3. It had to be in our price range. In my mind, these were all reasonable requests. But as we started to look in earnest it soon became apparent that the market had shifted considerably in just a few short months. Demand was up and supply was down.

Even so, each week I made an effort to look at two to three homes. Even the really crappy ones. And finally, at the beginning of March I felt like I'd found our home. A mid-century rambler that had all the charm of grandma's house with the possibility of some modern updates and a huge yard. In fact, I remember feeling the stories of the people who had lived there previously. It had been on the market for a few months and it just felt like a good fit. But before Ken could even see the property (the next day) it had gone under contract.

How could that be? 

After that first defeat I felt a greater urgency to find something and find it fast, hoping to find something before our lease expired at the end of June and before we added to our growing family. Initially, Ken and I decided that I would look at homes by myself and anything I really liked he would look at after. (This gave me the chance to view properties during daylight hours and weed out the really horrible ones.) Dozens of homes later I started to feel deflated. What happened to a buyers' market? Then, finally, a home came on the market that seemed just about perfect. A finished basement, three bedrooms with two baths, a gorgeous updated gourmet kitchen, and a chicken coop in the backyard. But it was out of our budget. Still we ended up going to the Sunday open house along with about 30 other families. The small space was packed and we knew that if we were really serious about the home we would need to put an offer in that very day. Which is exactly what we did. We decided we could somehow manage the extra $5,000 over our budget so we offered the asking price with closing cost back. Needless to say our offer wasn't accepted. In fact, the owners got six offers on the same day. Six.

It was so disappointing.

By that time the entire process was starting to take an emotional toll on me and I began to tailspin into worst-case scenarios. We're going to have a baby in this tiny apartment and I'm going to have to haul baby, groceries, stroller, diaper bag, etc. up and down 15 steps EVERY SINGLE TIME I want to go anywhere. My life is over!

After losing out on our first offer I took a little break from house hunting. Truthfully, I was falling into a depression and feeling entirely hopeless about our prospects. Every so often we would return to our three requirement and see if there was any wiggle room. We thought about expanding our geographic boundaries, but that never felt right. Whenever we talked about moving our budget up we knew that it wasn't a prudent idea considering we were/are a one income family. That left only one thing to adjust: how many rooms and bathrooms we actually needed?

So it was back to the drawing board.

Every day I scoured listings. Trying desperately to keep my hopes up. After changing search parameters to two bedrooms and one bath I ended up finding a house that was listed as such but looked sizable enough that it just might work. The Eulalie house had been on the market for over four months but had recently had a significant price reduction, so I called Anna and we made an appointment to see the home. I remember liking it immediately—especially the hardwood floors, natural light, fireplace, entertaining space, big bedrooms, location, and unfinished (with great potential) basement. Since Ken was working from home that day I had him come right over to see the home and we both agreed THIS was the home for us. That night I wrote a letter to the seller and we put in our offer above the asking price.

The next morning I awoke with a peaceful heart after having had a dream that the seller had accepted our offer. I felt confident and secure, knowing that this was in fact our home.

But then our realtor started to send us strange text messages. Asking if we would negotiate on really small things like move-in date and home warranty. As the day wore on I started to feel like something was wrong. It turned out the seller had received two nearly identical offers on the same day. Two days later our realtor told us that the seller had decided to go with the other buyer. I was devastated. How could this be? THAT WAS OUR HOME!

Heartbroken I cried and cried over another lost home. What made it even more difficult was processing the disconnect between my confirmation and the subsequent outcome. In my despair I decided I simply didn't have the mental stamina to keep looking for a home.

Over the next several days Ken and I prayed a lot. We prayed for the seller of the Eulalie home. That she would realize she'd made the wrong decision and that we would have another chance to buy her house. We prayed for the other buyer, that he would decide that it wasn't the home for him. We prayed for the house itself. We prayed that the home we needed would be available to us when it was suppose to be. Adding that we hoped that was sooner rather than later. But mainly we prayed that everything would work out alright in the end and that we would be comforted during the process.

I know every home buying article ever written cautions against getting too attached to a home. Save yourself some grief, they all warn, don't get attached. Don't start planning renovations in your mind or picking out paint colors or envisioning backyard bbq parties, because that's just setting yourself up for disappointment. Right? But here's the thing, after looking at 30+ homes it's impossible not to find one or two that you become really attached to. And isn't that the point? Don't you want to find something that resonates with you? Something that feels like home and whispers of endless possibilities? Call me crazy, but I think it's really important to sense that a home is right for you. That it fits and that you belong together.

Two weeks later I managed to scrape my dignity together to look at a few more homes (none of which I was excited about). While we were out with Anna she mentioned the Eulalie house—saying something about how both parties were looking at signing a mutual release document. What? Our eyes widened, thinking it sounded too good to be true.

A couple days later we received our first bit of good news. Both parties had indeed signed a mutual release agreement and the house was going back on the market. From that moment we went into overdrive. Putting all of our energy into making the Eulalie house ours. We wrote another offer and I dashed off another letter to the seller (explaining our convictions and prayers over the circumstances). After what seemed like an eternity, but was really less than 24 hours, we found out that our offer had been accepted!

From our nearly year-long search for a home I can honestly say that home buying has been one of the most exhausting and frustrating experiences of my entire life. Worse than dating. While I know that most things work out in the end, sometimes when you are mired in the thick of a difficult situation it is nearly impossible to keep that in perspective. Tears are shed, emotions run high, and a happy ending seems just out of reach. Of course I'm beyond grateful for the way things have turned out and it's amazing to think that after 17 years as a renter, I'm going to live in a place that is my/our very own. Today we finished our inspections and are moving forward to close in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I can't wait to start decorating and creating a warm and welcoming space for our family and friends.

Thanks for listening and sticking with me during the radio silence.

2 comments:

  1. Congrats! That is so exciting! (and stressful...moving on top of baby, you are wonderwoman!) I'm so glad you found something you love and can already call home. Can't wait to see pictures :)

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  2. Congrats! Thanks for sharing. We're going through the same thing right now.

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