Here in California, rent is often about the same as (if not more than) a mortgage payment and we knew that for us, if we started renting somewhere it would be really hard for us to put enough money aside each month to come up with a down payment. So we lived at home and saved. Occasionally, the task seemed too daunting - we even started looking around for apartments about a year into it, thinking our goal of homeownership might be too far fetched. But years later, we were finally able to start browsing through some modestly priced SoCal real estate.
Back in March, we found a house in our price range that we loved. A cute, little fixer upper on Strawberry Lane. We got pre-approved for our first loan, excitedly placed our offer… and were quickly outbid by a cash buyer. At the time, we thought it was just a very unlucky St. Patrick's Day but we got our feet wet, learned more about the home buying process, and knew it was time to really get serious about our house hunting.
Throughout the next few months, it seemed that none of the places we were finding could measure up to that house on Strawberry Lane and we started to get discouraged. I checked Redfin obsessively, three times a day. Then, exactly one week after our engagement, we walked into an adorable, two story town home and made an offer as quickly as we could. It was the perfect place for us: quaint but open floor plan with a small stone patio, trees surrounding it, a little fireplace, big windows, and walking distance to my job! Since it was a short sale, it took three months before we heard back from the bank, but we jumped through all the hoops and they finally accepted our offer. We opened escrow while I was in Atlanta for my surgery.
A few days after coming home our realtor called with horrible news. The seller of the home had hidden a $20,000 HOA debt from everyone involved in the selling process and if we wanted to purchase the home, that debt would become our financial responsibility. What?! Of course this wasn't feasible for us so we had to pull our offer after months of patience and hard work and start all over again. It was so discouraging and through many frustrated conversations, Weston tried to remind me of what I'm always saying - God has a plan in all situations and good can always come from difficult things. There had to be something better waiting for us.
As the wedding date got closer and closer, we started to really stress about where we would be living after we got married. We even ended up making an offer on a home that we didn't love, just out of desperation and feeling like we were out of time. When our offer was accepted, we went to see the house for a second time and when we left, I tearfully told Weston I couldn't do it. It just didn't feel right and we had worked too hard and waited too long to settle for a place just because it was livable. We both spent the day brainstorming, trying to come up with new options.
That night, we decided to reapply for a new loan. I had gotten a promotion at work, Weston had started working for another school district… and since this process had taken about 7 months at this point, our down payment had increased too. We ended up getting our budget bumped up and in our new price range quickly found a house on Redfin that I absolutely loved from the pictures. We toured it the next day, made an offer and opened escrow. And thirty days later, the day after my birthday, we officially became the owners!
When we met our realtors at the house on closing day, they had our keys on a pumpkin that had been painted with a warm, "Welcome Home!" We all waited as Weston turned the keys in the lock for the first time and as the door opened I got butterflies in my stomach. I finally understood every twist and turn in our 8 month journey that led us to that moment. When we went into the kitchen and saw the birthday cake and champagne that our realtors had waiting on the counter, I started to cry and so did our realtor, Jeannette. I'm so thankful she and Julio were the ones who were with us throughout our whole process. They worked so hard and made our priority their priority too. Shortly after, our parents came over and we showed them the house and talked about all of the memories that we know we will make in this house. It still feels like a dream, but we did it! We're homeowners!
Slowly the place is becoming our own. We're gradually acquiring furniture, painting over some of the previous owners more adventurous paint choices, and moving things from our homes. On Halloween, I excitedly decorated our little front patio and answered the door for trick-or-treaters.
Tonight, I'm writing this as my first home-cooked meal is in the oven and filling the kitchen with a yummy basil smell. I keep saying out loud "This is my house!" hoping it will feel more real. No luck yet. ;)
There was absolutely no way to prepare for what the home-buying experience had in store for us other than just diving right in but in the end it was worth every struggle, heartache, and sleepless night because now we're exactly where we need to be. God's timing is infinitely more perfect than mine and I'm thankful for it. Can't wait to share more updates with you as we continue to make it our own!