Last September, we found a new house. I know, whhhha?
I didn’t know when, or even if, I would be able to talk about everything that has been going on behind the scenes in our life. It makes me feel like a bit of a fool, to keep such a huge topic hushed, especially when I’m operating a home improvement and lifestyle blog, but we approached it like people approach pregnancy–we didn’t want to talk about it too early, even with our friends, just in case something were to fall apart. The process has taken a lot longer than we expected, and keeping silent about everything we’ve been dealing with has been a real challenge. It has obviously affected the projects we wanted to do on our home this winter; it’s affected the blog, my willingness to spend money on our home, and our day-to-day morale.
I kept a digital journal of short posts to remember all everything that we were dealing with, and this week I’m sharing it with you. Enjoy, I hope some of you can relate to and learn from our experience.
Friday, September 28, 2012
Pete found the house tonight while we were working late. He browses for homes regularly (I blame Zillow although blame is the wrong word, I love Zillow) because the Zillow iPad app is so damn easy to navigate. We’re not ready to buy, but it’s fun to see what type of home we can afford in a new dual-income scenario, and what’s on the market. We’ve found a bunch of new neighborhoods to look at. The house we just came across looks pretty great in the photos, so we’re going to do a drive-by on our way to Lowe’s tomorrow.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
The house was vacant. The neighborhood was better than we ever expected it to be, a total gem, we had no idea it existed. Because the house was empty, we poked around the property and looked in windows. It’s hard to tell what it’s actually like in there (it looks like rainwater must be pouring into the basement based on the condition of one corner of the house) but it looks amazing, and right along the lines of the type of home we would love to be living in. It’s a huge California ranch, brick, with giant picture windows, an in-ground pool, and super wooded and private lot.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Our realtor/friend toured us through the property today. It was completely ransacked but expansive, the main level of the house exceeded 2,700 sq. ft. (and the basement was just as big, the same exact footprint). It’s just about as awesome of a house as we can imagine, and we don’t even mind that it needs a bit of work. There are numerous broken windows. BB gun bullets were definitely shot inside. We found condoms and a sneaker, and the copper was removed in every place trespassers could reach. We wonder how much that would cost to repair, or if we can sweat it ourselves easily. There is a LOT of mold in the basement, and even though someone tried to finish it off with vinyl tiles and paneling, it probably needs to be fully gutted. Sitting at home hours later I have dry mouth and a runny nose from breathing the gross, stagnant basement air. Other than that’s an insta-dream house.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
We decided we want it. We began the mortgage pre-qualification process with renovation loan mortgage specialist , because we’ll probably need a renovation loan to make this place livable. We shipped bank statements, tax returns, everything to the bank. We’re more than a little skeptical though, when I got my mortgage in 2009, it was hard, but getting a mortgage now might not even be possible for a few reasons:
- Neither of us have been self-employed full-time for 2-years. I’ve been solo since May 2011, and Pete since August 2011. We technically need to prove our stability with two years of tax returns, and we won’t have a second year until our taxes are filed in early 2013. I don’t know if you know this, but a bank will have no interest in you if you can’t meet this first qualification. Good for them for being stringent on who they loan money too, bad for us.
- As full-time contractors and freelancers, our income month to month ebbs and flows. No month is exactly the same as another month, as income is received from many different sources. Again, smart banks, bad for us.
- We don’t have direct deposits. This makes me furious. We independently deposit large checks into our accounts monthly, but no sign of corporate direct deposits (let alone the fact that the large checks weren’t consistently from the same companies) comes across as a red flag. Like, they see it as instead of earning an honest living without The Man, we’re dealing drugs. It’s insulting.
Friday, October 5, 2012
This is kind of amazing, but the bank found a loophole to getting us pre-approved!! Pete has been doing freelance work for small clients in the same field that he currently works (web design) for many years (even though our employer at our last full-time job made it seem like the act of taking on side clients was disloyal and unforgivable, even if they were completely non-compete, still curious to me). While he worked at his full-time 9-5 job, he did freelance projects at night, and the projects were sizable enough to be reported it on his tax returns. This means that full-time employment aside, as far as taxes are concerned, he has proved himself as an “independent freelancer” capable of sustaining freelance income for more than 2 years (even if it only looks like he was making a wee bit of money compared to what he made at the 9-5). I couldn’t be happier for us, this is a lucky, unexpected break. I’m cursing with enthusiasm. I’ve been cursing a lot lately.
We celebrated this GREAT news by taking Julia to the house after school. No cursing. It was her first time peeking into the windows, seeing the pool, seeing the ravine. She was excited. We hope she understands that it’s not a sure thing; we spoke very openly about how much we liked it and oversimplified the mortgage process for her 6-year old brain. If you’re in a similar situation with your own young kids, here’s how we’ve been explaining it:
- We like the house so we came here with our realtor; there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms and see that window? That’s the kitchen window!
- We have to ask the bank for money. When people want to buy a house, they have to get permission from the bank.
- We have to tell the family selling the house that we want to buy it, offer them money, and see if they will sell it to us.
- The family can sell it to anyone they want, and they might not choose us. Imagine it just like how you sold toys at the garage sale over the summer, you want to sell it to the person who is going to give you the most money in exchange.
- If they say yes, and the bank says yes, then we can live here. And fix the pool so we can swim in it next summer. We just have to be nice and hope for the best.
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Our loan paperwork came through today. It was a surprise, this means we’re one step closer to getting a formal bank approval for our mortgage. We spent the day signing papers and getting details organized. I’ve never scanned so many documents in my life on our lame little scanner.
As of tonight, everything is signed and back with the bank. It could take over a week to hear back anything official. We can’t make an offer until we have this crucial documentation, and at this point we’re trying to remind ourselves constantly that we might not get the bank’s approval… our financial situation is borderline. If we can’t get it now, maybe we can re-try after our taxes are filed early next year. It’s really hard not to get our hopes up.
Monday, October 8, 2012 (my birthday)
It was a majorly emotional day waiting for details to come through from realtor. The house has been vacant for 3+ years. The owner is overseas somewhere. The bank that owns the house is unresponsive, making it hard for the listing agent to get our realtor any information. I find it hard to believe that a bank would be sitting on an abandoned house and carrying its mortgage and taxes and not responding quickly to people that want to buy it, but we’re learning that big banks (this is Chase) have a way of moving pretty slowly through these matters. Smaller local banks, we’re also learning, are more on top things. I wish we were dealing with a small bank.
We’re asking “hard” questions. Like, we want to know when it was last assessed by the bank; was the missing copper and broken glass taken into account during their last home inspection or is that new? Was anyone else looking at the property?
A lot more has happened since. I’ll share more tomorrow. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this whole experience has been a crazy roller coaster, and I hope documenting it also helps readers who are in similar situations.
Read the next installment of our story right here.