Everything from November-February was kind of a blur in our lives, and I’ve recently realized that I never wrote out the story of how we found our house.
I bring this up now because I find myself so grateful for God’s providence in this area. I told Jesse the other night that if I’ve ever had a “Gideon and the wet fleece” testing moment with God, it was this past year. At one point, I actually told God in no uncertain terms that He had abandoned us, and there was no hope, despite how hard we had worked to follow His direction.
I’ll get to all that in a moment. I documented a few of our housing ventures (here, here and here at the beginning of this year, including our desire to wait until summer 2013 (now) to start house hunting again, after our first escrow in April 2012 fell through, just DAYS before Anthony was born.
All that resolve to “wait” changed when we met Caitlin and we decided to become her parents. Legally, we were not allowed to be her guardians if she had to share a bedroom with the boys in our 2 bedroom townhouse (which we loved so much! Only $1100/month, most utilities included, walking distance to work! Talk about a money saver!).
So we jumped the house hunt into high gear. That’s when all the devastation started. Every offer we made was rejected. And housing prices started to rise– FAST. I felt like we were on the Titanic, watching the water rise around us, unable to do anything about it.
We had our offer finally accepted on the “Bedbug House”, as we affectionally started calling it. As problem after problem started to surface with that house (it was even involved in a lawsuit, which meant that no escrow company would even secure the title! Talk about sketchy/scary!), we made some drastic changes in our approach. We were tired of living in Limbo, tired of trying to parent a very troubled teen from afar, while living mostly at my parents’ house once again (even though we were still paying rent at our place).
That’s when Caitlin’s old foster mom of 7 years, also a realtor, offered to start bidding on homes for us ALL CASH (she’s quite wealthy). The plan was that she would pay all cash for a bank owned property (90% of the market here were short sales or foreclosures), and then we would buy it from her. This plan gave us a few huge benefits:
1., With an all cash transaction, the process is quite fast, usually 7-14 days. Our situation with Caitlin was becoming SO volatile (more on that someday), that this became a priority.
2. Banks love all-cash offers over FHA or even conventional.
So we started bidding. There were 2 houses in particular that we tried really hard to get. Reasonably, we should’ve gotten them. On one, we bid ALL CASH, no contingencies, $30k over the asking price! But there were 14 other bids in just 3 days, and we lost. How’s that for a crazy housing market???
Nothing. Things fell through time and time again. We were now well into November, 3 months into the process. We were starting to get desperate. We even started putting in bids on homes we hadn’t even SEEN.
Then we found what we thought would be the PERFECT situation for us. A short sale in Paso Robles, built in 2006, around 2200 sq. ft. Due to extreme circumstances, the house was only 2 weeks away from foreclosure. If you know anything about how short sales work, this was BAD NEWS for the seller. All conventional loans take at least 30 days to go through, meaning that the only way to save the house from foreclosure was to pay ALL cash.
Enter us, right???
It looked as though the bank was going to accept our offer. There was nothing else on the table, they started asking for extra paperwork that showed they were serious. Our realtor was 99.9% confident that we were going to get the house and be able to move in 2 weeks.
So, we put in our 30 day notice on our apartment. Only 6 months after moving in, we were packing up again, just a week before Christmas and RIGHT during Finals week at school. We were more stressed than we’ve ever been in our lives.
The bank shut down our offer. Told us they wanted $25k more than we had agreed on or they were going to auction it off.
We were devastated. The house was already at the top of what we were comfortable paying. $25k more was just not doable. We knew it. We had a sleepless night or two, making the final decision, but we knew we had to walk away.
There were so many tears over packing up our apartment, homeless once again, nowhere to move but back once again to living with my parents (who were complete troopers about the whole thing!).
Merry Christmas, right?
That week, we started looking for house rentals. Our hearts were broken over losing yet another house, one that we thought was so perfect. We had even showed it to Caitlin, something that we had refrained from doing since we knew how hard all this was on her. It had always been our dream to own a home, but we were now realizing that we couldn’t ignore the obvious– NOTHING was working. In the light of this issue, I feel it is necessary that we raise awareness about the “section 8 houses for rent” services for people who are financially weak to afford the luxury of a private home ownership.
And then we got rejected for rental after rental. Someone always beat our deposit by a few HOURS.
This was when I had my “Gideon Moment”. I cried out to God, asking Him how on EARTH this could be happening! “We were willing to wait for a house, for the right time”, I would say. “But You told us to adopt! To take this hurting teenage girl! How are we supposed to do that, without a roof to put over her head?”
I’ve never been in so much despair. I mean that, in all seriousness. I will look upon those 2 weeks as the hardest to date (and if you know anything about how hard things got with our foster care situation, you know that this is a serious claim!).
Christmas Eve, I spent most of the day in tears and despair. In an absent minded attempt to distract myself, I start browsing Craigslist (hey, it usually makes me feel better!).
On a whim, I decided to check the real estate page. I hadn’t done this in months, because I figured that anything worth seeing would pop up on the MLS page sent to my inbox.
I’ll never forget this moment. I ran across a hastily written ad for a house that was in the middle of renovation. There were only 4 pictures, mostly of the outside.
And then I saw the price. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Why on Earth is it so low, I thought to myself. It was just a tad more than most of the “fixit uppers” we had bid on, only the ad stated that the kitchen and bathroom would be renovated by the end of the month.
I RAN outside to Jesse and showed him the ad. I could see how excited he was.
“Call the guy right now” he said.
“But it’s Christmas Eve!”
I called Ken, which was his name. He talked with me for a while, heard our situation, and offered to leave his family gathering and meet us at the house in 30 minutes.
Excitedly, we packed up the family and went to see the house, which, as you may have guessed, is our current house. Jesse and fell in love immediately. The entire walk-through, we kept turning to each other when Ken wasn’t looking and making shocked faces.
We told Ken that he would be seeing an offer from us within days. 2 days after Christmas, we sat down with him and drew up an offer with the escrow office. All parties involved decided that we would do the transaction withOUT a realtor in order to save even more on the price. It was a risky move, but we got advice along the way (for the record, I wouldn’t recommend this route for a first time homebuyer. We had been through so many offers and escrows that we knew the process inside and out).
Ken was so great to us throughout the process. For example, the pantry that he installed didn’t come with doors. I told him that with 2 toddlers, the pantry was virtually useless to me without doors. In exchange for us doing the wood staining, he went back to the cabinet maker and had him custom-make some!
Another deal we made: since moving in was our first priority, he let us move in a full 40 days before the escrow was finalized. In exchange for our “rent”, we bought our stove and fridge (we paid around $500 for each of them, so it was a GREAT deal for us!).
And, despite all the hiccups in the escrow process, Ken stuck with us. A fellow scholar (he studied Latin and Greek at UCSB!), he wanted US to have the house, and stopped answering calls from other people who were offering to buy it.
In the end, we got a house for $30k UNDER the market value from the outset. We locked in a great rate, around 3.7%. We moved in middle of February and didn’t pay anything until May, enabling us to do lots of home renovations and projects.
I especially wanted to document this journey because it is such a testimony to me of God’s faithfulness. We ended up with a home that was a million times better than ANY of the ones we bid on. Right after we bought, the market rose 25%, meaning that if we had waited until this summer (OUR man made plan), we would be looking at small condos due to the price change. Also, in the middle of June the feds raised the mortgage rates up to nearly 5%. While that may not seem like much, it would’ve added $100/month onto our payment!
I hope I always remember that despite how hopeless and abandoned we felt, God was right there creating a better plan than we could ever have hoped for.
A Home Is Not A Home
Our “Maybe” House