Posted by: eliperrin | January 22, 2010

The Poor Bride’s Rocky Road to Homeownership


When I started this blog, I mentioned I was at the crossroads of two major life experiences, marriage and homeownership, and I promised  I would blog about both. As you can see, I’ve mentioned pretty much nil about the later. This didn’t happen because I became lazy or too busy, but because the experience was just too heart wrenching and raw for me to want to talk about in the  moment. But now that I have purchased a home and lived in it long enough to realize it does actually belong to me,  I’ll probably be writing about the experience  more often.

Before I tell our story, I want to say that buying your first home is not going to be easy. In this market, the first thing people say when you mention your desire to purchase a home is (in an extremely gushy voice) “Oh, that’s just wonderful! This is the best time to do it. It’s a buyers’ market!” Anyone who says this to you is either a liar or does not know what he is talking about. Well, it is a buyers’  market if you have millions of dollars to throw down and are simply buying an investment property. But, if like my fiance and I, you  are on a limited budget and have been pinching every extra penny for the past several years to put towards a down payment, you are in for a bumpy ride my friend. I would not recommend buying a home to anyone in our financial situation who has a heart condition, limited patience or anger management issues. But don’t let my dreary tone make you give up. If you have patience and a strong will, buying a home is doable and can be an extremely transformative and rewarding experience.  I imagine in some ways it may be similar to childbirth, agonizingly painful, but you come out of the experience as a different, stronger person.

As for Luke and I, we have wanted to own a home for many years and have tucked away all extra cash towards this goal, and I mean all extra cash.  We don’t buy new clothes, we rarely eat out, and we only see movies at the dollar theater…I can’t even remember the last time I actually had a professional haircut, and this is a huge thing for a girl to give up. I know you are probably wondering why this is so important to us. We are young and have our whole lives ahead of us. But for Luke and I, this is something we truly needed. We probably aren’t going to be world travelers; we aren’t into the club scene–we are what I would lovingly describe as creative homebodies. We enjoy staying at home and working on projects together, such as building, painting and working outside. So paying rent on property we can’t do anything to really wasn’t our style. We needed something we could make our own.

Needless to say, when we had enough saved up to start the home-buying process, we threw ourselves in head first. We read all the books, watched all the shows,  interviewed lenders and made a list of all our “must haves” for a home. Luckily, we already had a personal relationship with an amazing realtor, Rebecca Dehmer

As soon as we had a pre-approval, we went out to look at homes. In our first weekend of searching, we probably looked at 20 plus properties and fell in love with and made offers on several of them. For a first weekend, things were rolling along great!

But then Monday hit, and our lender called to tell us we were actually only qualified for $50,ooo less than originally quoted. This news came as quite a blow since we were already looking in an extremely limited price range, especially for California. We had to take all of our offers back , and we could no longer afford a single-family home (the first bullet on our “must-have” list). We had to start over from scratch and look at condos.

At least, I thought, we would be able to afford a nice condo…think again. During the next weeks and months to follow, Luke and I had to cross pretty much all of our “must haves” off, one by one…garage…second bedroom…backyard…laundry room. And even when we found something we could live with, we were competing against hundreds of other buyers out there who were also taking advantage of this “buyers’ market,” and many of these buyers were either paying cash, non-FHA or had a huge down, which immediately threw us out of the running.  It took three months before we finally had an offer accepted on a condo that had none of our original requirements. Take it from me, do not make a “must have” list unless you enjoy crying .

But we were happy to finally have an offer accepted and hoped the process would be over soon…it would not. We still had numerous financial hoops to jump through that I am not even going to go into here and as the property we offered on was a short sale, we had to wait for the bank to also approve our offer.  We made the offer in August and were still waiting to hear back from the bank in November.

The best recommendation I can make from our experience is to find a good realtor. Your realtor becomes one of your closest friends and personal cheerleader for when things get tough, and they will. You need to feel comfortable with your realtor, so take your time in finding someone who suites your personality and is good at her job. If you live in Southern California, I highly recommend contacting our realtor, Rebecca Dehmer. She has the biggest heart of almost anyone I have ever met and worked tirelessly to find us a good home. When we wanted to throw in the towel, she kept our spirits up. When we were competing against many buyers, she came up with strategies to make our offer stand out.  I honestly don’t think we would own a home if it were not for her.  There are no words to truly express our gratitude.

In the end, it was our realtor’s creative strategizing that got us our home. When we still hadn’t heard back from the bank, Becky decided it was time for us to start looking again. And she found a condo that had almost all of the requirements on our original “must have” list. When we saw it, we knew this home was the one.  She had us make an offer on its first day on the market, and she made our offer competitive enough that we were in contract the next day. A few nail-biting financial hoops and hundreds of signatures later, the condo was ours, and we were able to move in one week before Christmas.

I’ve come to the conclusion there’s a reason buying your first home is so hard. It’s a rite of passage where you have to earn the responsibility of homeownership. If you can make it through all the many disappointments and give up some of the unrealistic expectations you held coming into the process, you are probably ready to own a home. There’s a reason we didn’t get any of those homes we thought were “perfect.” They weren’t our home. And we had to go through the hardships to actually recognize our home when it found us.

If you live in southern California and would like more information on Rebecca Dehmer please visit her site: http://www.rebeccadehmer.com/yourhome.htm

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Responses

  1. Liz, I love you girl. You and Luke are amazing. Your descriptions about the things you’ve given up have given me new resolve. Brandon and I are usually that way, but we’ve been lax for about 3 months now. It stresses me out more to know I’m being looser with my budget than I should be than the luxuries that I get with the money in the first place. Thanks for the inspiration, and great post!


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