Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A House: The Saga, Part 1

When we got married in July of 2010, we came home to our apartment that I'd been living in since that April. At 750 square feet, it was teeny tiny and had a super odd layout, but it was the most space we could find for our budget in our small town. Unfortunately, Will spent that fall semester in Houston working an internship, and a month after he came in December we moved out of our apartment to sublease to some friends who needed a place to stay for a few months. And then last summer we were both in Houston, and when we came back to finish up school in August we went back to his parents' house so we could save money for a down payment on a house when we move down there this summer. So basically, out of the 22 months we've been married, we lived together, alone, in our own place, for about 1.5 months.

Now, I'm not complaining. We chose to do this- we had the option each time (except for during Will's internship and last summer) to get our own place, but we were focused on saving money for a house because we really didn't want to rent once we got to Houston. With real estate prices the way they are right now, we knew there would be no better time than now to get in the market, but that meant saving money. That would be a pretty impossible feat with both of us in school full time and only able to work part time. Will's parent generously offered to let us live with them until we move, and we took them up on it. And really, the last nine months haven't been bad at all. We have our own little "half" of the house, and it hasn't been like "living with our parents" at all. Will and I aren't home a lot of evenings because we're up at the school or with friends, and when we are home we're doing homework in our bedroom. Plus, it's been super nice to rotate cooking meals and cleaning chores. We could not have asked for a better situation when it comes to living with parents.

BUT. I'm not going to lie, it's been hard. I don't think we realized how hard it would be to box up all of our stuff except for clothes and toiletries and stick them in storage for over a year. Though stuff is just stuff, and we shouldn't be materialistic and all that jazz, I am. Our decorations and furniture made us feel comfortable and at home. All my craft supplies was soothing when I needed something to do or had a stroke of creativity. And it was the final thing we needed to really feel like adults- you know, you grow up and leave home to go to college (except we really didn't leave home), we got married but were still in school so it wasn't exactly like a "real grown-up" life yet. Having our stuff that we put on our registry and that we bought with our own money made us feel like real grown ups, and not like college kids who brought stuff from their childhood homes.

Last summer we watched dozens of episodes of House Hunters and Property Virgins, dreaming about the day we would have our own house. I had an epic Pinterest board dedicated to ideas and styles I liked. We would stay up late talking about our dream home and all the personalization we would do to it.

Fast forward to January, when I had an Honor's seminar in Galveston. We decided to drive down several days before it started to have a little mini-vacation and to look at houses. We set up an appointment with a realtor to look at several houses and contacted a mortgage lending agent to get paperwork started.

We looked at about eleven houses that weekend. Most of them were clear-cut  no's. We were looking for a house that needed some work because we really wanted to put our personal stamp on it, but we weren't looking for a hardcore "fixer upper." Some of the houses were okay, but there was one we were sold on. It was built in the 70s, had four large bedrooms plus a dining room, the biggest kitchen out of all the houses we looked, and had really great bones. It was close to Will's work, and we were pretty much sold on it. Though it needed A LOT of updating, everything was still in really nice condition and wouldn't need immediate replacement like almost all the other homes.

We talked to the couple we stayed with last summer, and they mentioned they had a friend who was getting married and selling his house, and it sounded about like what we were looking for. So we stopped by the last day before my seminar started, not expecting to like it that much or at least for it to be so out of our price range that it wouldn't even be a contender. Well, we all know what happened next. We walked in and it was like love at first site. Built in 2000, it was thirty years newer than the other house. It had four bedrooms plus a dining room. Large windows for lots of natural light. A covered patio in the backyard. A beautiful, newer neighborhood. Located just a few blocks away from every store we could possible need (seriously, there's an HEB, Walmart, Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, Kohl's, Michael's, Hobby Lobby, Good Will, Best Buy, AT&T store, and a ton of others just minutes away, and a great mall is only another few exits down). We were sold on the house before we walked farther than the entry way. Did I mention that the owner was willing to do a direct sell, and because a realtor wouldn't be getting a cut they were going to give it to us for only 10k more than the other house we liked. Um, yeah. We would have spent way more than 10k in renovations to that house, and it still would be thirty years older and located in a neighborhood that wasn't ideal for a young family like ours. A mild panic started to settle in because we hadn't been pre-approved for a mortgage, and there was no way we wanted to lose the house.

Before we went home that week after the seminar, we set up a meeting with the owners to talk about business. I think God smiled down on us that day, because they were the kindest people and were willing to work with our situation. They assured us that if we didn't get approved for a mortgage, they would be willing to do some kind of lease-to-own plan with us. With that promise, we went home to start the grueling process of getting approved for a mortgage.

Needless to say, it was ugly. Applying for a mortgage is hard enough when you have a realtor helping you out, I'm sure, but we didn't have one. We worked one-on-one with the agent (who was generally pretty good to work with). Will, bless his heart, took care of just about everything. I think they emailed at least five times a day for a few months. Since we were both still students with no full time "real" jobs, our paperwork was even more complicated. But essentially, we didn't get approved. Frustrating as it was, I can't really blame the lenders for not wanting to give a mortgage to a couple who's average age is 21 and who have never held a job that pays on a salary basis instead of wages.

Thankfully, the owners were true to their word and signed a lease-to-own contract after we made a hefty good-faith payment, and we will try again for a mortgage after Will graduates and begins  his "big boy" job.

The original plan was for us to move all our stuff (that's been in storage since last January) after Will's graduation before he starts work. But due to some other things that came up (friend's wedding, his mom will be out of town, I'll be taking a May Intercession class, etc.), we were able to go ahead and move all our stuff down in March over Spring Break.

Since we were really nervous to leave our new house empty with all our stuff, we asked Will's sister (who was currently in transition with living arrangements) to live there to look after the house and watch the dogs until Will could come down after graduation. Yeah, it was a steep request. She agreed and moved in the day we left Houston to finish out the semester.

As hard as it was not evening have a house to picture in my head when thinking of ideas, I think it's been even harder to actually have that house, yet we've been unable to live there. We had a week to move, get unpacked, paint, and make it as much of a home as we could. We went back the first weekend in April for three days, but it wasn't enough time to do anything except a little yard work since we had other obligations that weekend. That weekend in April was hard, because even though it is my house, my clothes weren't hanging in the closet and my toothbrush wasn't in the drawer. I've been dreaming for so long about a house and now we have one, but I feel like it's still so out of grasp for me. The worst part is that I'll be able to visit for two or three weeks this summer, but I have to work and take a few classes this summer and I won't actually move down there until September. But, now I am complaining when I should be thankful for the amazing opportunity we've been blessed with.

To say I am excited about finally moving into our home and making memories with Will is a bit of an understatement. I cannot wait to be able to tackle weekend projects and do all the awesome things I always wanted to do to our apartment but couldn't. We have been so blessed by all those involved with this process, especially all my in-laws, and we couldn't have done it without every single one of them. Next post will have pictures- this one is too long already!

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