Over the next week or two, I thought I would share with you in a mini-series how we came across a great property for homesteading at a great price tag. It took years of saving, searching, hoping, and disappointments before we finally found the place we settled into. Today is the first of the series, telling of our delusions and daydreams about becoming homeowners.
In the first year of our marriage, we lived in a tiny one-bedroom basement apartment for a very low monthly price tag. It was dark, occasionally dank, and a bit cramped with all of our instruments in the house. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was cozy and met our needs sufficiently.
(Prepping food together in that good old apartment.)
You can see that we didn’t really have modern cabinets, appliances, or a whole lot of counter space. But we didn’t mind at all. It wasn’t lack of amenities that led us to want to buy a home- it was more that we wanted to invest in our futures and be working towards owning something instead of seeing money go down the drain month after month.
We were pretty frugal and felt that we could afford a house payment, especially when we compared a modest home to the cost of most rentals in our area. We were convinced that we could make it work! We have several thousand saved from our wedding money. We can scrimp and save. We will be those super savers who can afford a home on practically nothing!
Young and clueless as we were, however, we didn’t really know what went into buying a home at the time. We began searching sites like Realtor.com and daydreaming about setting up our own space. We got brave, and made a few calls to real-life realtors. We were ready to go shopping!
At this point, we were so interested in just getting into a place that we weren’t really too picky about what type of house we bought. We saw mostly duplexes and city homes because they provided more options within our budget. Some of them were real doozies that would require a lot of fixing, but we were willing to put work into something if it was ours. (We didn’t realize exactly how much time and money some of these homes required!)
After seeing several homes, our realtor asked us if we had been pre-approved for a mortgage yet. Oh yeah, that step. I forgot about that. We went ahead and put in an application.
Surprise! We were flat-out denied. It was 2009, just after the housing market had crashed, and tight restrictions made it impossible for us to obtain a conventional mortgage. We had to put our plans on hold and settle in renting for a while.
Fast forward two years. We had the unique opportunity for free housing through my husband’s job. He was the on-site “grower” for a hydroponic greenhouse, and the boss wanted someone around for nighttime emergencies, so free rent came with the job description. (We still paid utilities.) We both worked a lot at the time- my husband worked full time at the farm plus odd jobs at night, and I juggled three part time jobs totaling about 60 hours a week until I was about 8 months pregnant with J.
(Hanging at the greenhouse at the farm!)
Our income was still relatively low-middle class, but it seemed like a lot to us without rent expenses. During that time, we chose to live like paupers and completely pay off our school debt instead of buying more with our extra money. We also managed to significantly add to our savings for a down payment. We are so grateful for the rare opportunity that allowed us to do this!
Eventually, however, our time at the farm came to an end because of a teaching opportunity for my husband. When his job changed, it meant our housing situation also had to change. Back to house-hunting we went, calling up our old realtor to re-introduce us to the market.
Little did we know, however, that it would we have to return to renting first. And we didn’t expect to put offers on several homes, only to have the deal fall through time after time. In fact, it would still be over a year before we were settled into our own home. We became very familiar with the great anticipation and subsequent disappointment that so many house-hunters have to deal with as they watch home after home slip away. But that’s a post for another day. Come back to read more about our house-hunting journey in Part Two!