Thursday, August 18, 2016

Our Home Buying Journey

My wife and I did something really exciting this year; we bought our first house!

Honestly, it was one of those things we weren't sure would ever happen for us. The two of us have been together since 2008. Like many Americans, saving money had always been a challenge for us. Neither of us had ever bought a new car and therefore a lot of our savings had gone into repairing our used vehicles. Also like most people, we've had medical issues that required care. Saving money for down payments and closing costs really is challenging!

But at the start of the year we decided it was time to begin trying. Despite having lived in Austin, Texas for 6 years, we knew we wanted to live in the northeast. We wanted to be closer to my family, and to be closer to real mountains, bodies of water, and the ocean. It just made the most sense for us.

In preparation for our move, we sold, trashed, and gave away a third of our possessions. You see, I am one of those "tiny house" people. If we weren't able to find a home we liked and could afford, my goal was to perhaps rent or purchase a condo while we bought a piece of land and then built a tiny house from scratch. That would still be fun, I think, but not a priority of mine right now!

So, we whittled away most of our nonessential things and items of clothing we didn't really wear. We had three coffee makers, for instance. We attempted to pack up our things sensibly to ensure we had everything we really needed while living with family- most of our possessions were kept in storage during this transition. And I started to think about what I could possibly do for work once we arrived.

We packed a 12 foot Budget truck full. Literally every inch of space was filled with something. There were some more things we had to throw out because they just wouldn't fit. It seemed like more and more things just appeared while we were moving out! In the end, we left half a day later than expected, which set the tone for the entire trip. We spent the next four days driving all day, showering, eating dinner, and sleeping. We were both exhausted, extremely stressed, freezing, and starving by the time we crossed the Massachusetts state line and into New Hampshire. Please keep in mind that four days earlier we had been enjoying 80 degree whether and now we were driving in the snow with windshield washer fluid frozen in moving truck...

Our ultimate destination happened to be my parents' house; a 2 bedroom apartment in a multi-family home. This is where we stayed for 3 months, inside of a 10 by 10 room, 2 adults, 2 cats, and 1 dog, a queen sized mattress, a dresser, litter box, dog kennel, and a few boxes. Oh, we also each brought 1 laundry basket filled with clothes per person which would serve as our wardrobe for the duration of our time there.

The next couple of weeks were spent adjusting to our new lives. We had some family engagements to attend as well. But my concern for the first month was finding a job. It ended up being a lot harder than I thought. I wasn't employed until the last half of May. And all I could find was a part time job with potential full time hours. Chris, meanwhile, set up an office at my mom's furniture store and began working for her company remotely.

We spent June feeling a bit claustrophobic. Time moved incredibly slowly. We made a point to go out as much as possible, but this ended up being a challenge because we were supposed to be saving money at the same time. Also, because of my job, I had to work at least one weekend day per week which meant that Chris and I were only able to spend one day off together doing things that were fun.

Perhaps had the room we were staying in been larger and we had brought more of our possessions it wouldn't have felt like we were living on a desert island. If you're considering a similar situation yourself, I really recommend that you're prepared more than we were. Bring a lot of things to entertain you. We read, went hiking, played video games, and I started my hobby of taking surveys for $.50 a pop.

The very first house we visited I found online. It was a New Englander on over half an acre. Two bedrooms, a dining room, and two living areas. I really liked it, but we started shopping too early and we weren't pre-qualified or even financially ready to put in an offer. Actually, I think this was even before I had a job! I loved that house, though. I even made plans for painting each room a different color.

On our next house hunting trip, our realtor did an excellent job finding move in ready homes that we could have afforded. One of them was absolutely perfect! It had a nice sized yard, formal dining room with fancy paneling, a living room with built in surround sound, and an amazing kitchen. It was on the higher end of our budget and the taxes were really high.

That house pretty much broke our hearts. It was perfect. Could we pay for it? Probably. Would we have had any money for anything else? No. So we tried to imagine that we never went and started looking for something better suited for our finances.

Chris went house hunting with our realtor without me one day while I was at work. She saw a few homes but wasn't terribly impressed with any of them at first. But after a day or so, she brought my attention to one of them. We made arrangements to visit it, and also a fixer upper I found, too.

First, the fixer upper. It was a very retro house on over half an acre. Very spacious, but in need of a lot of work. I loved the bones but anticipated a lot of issues in renovating it. So we moved on to the little one Chris wanted me to see.

I recalled seeing the listing online. Everything looked in good shape, but it was just TINY. How you would fit 2 bedrooms in an 800 square foot house was beyond me. As we drove up, I admired the little plot. It had a number of decidious trees. Very nice. Fully fenced in. Hooray! The blue color was nice. So far so good.

As we went inside I appreciated that the kitchen seemed to be in perfectly good shape. Dishwasher, oven, range, microwave. Good. Lots of cabinets. Not so much room for a table. Hmm. Oh, hey, a basement! Bonus.

Sure enough, even though the house was the same size as the apartment we lived in just three months ago, it seemed so much more spacious and appealing. Puzzling as it was, I really liked it. Was it perfect? No. It needed some fixing up, but absolutely nothing dire. Nothing really horrible. I distinctly recall grinning like a fool. And if memory serves, I even said, "I think this might be it."

After making a pros and cons list we decided to try and make it ours. A lot of paperwork and even more waiting passed and sure enough, here we are. We don't really know what we're doing, but we're doing a good job at it so far!


  1. Damn right, you are! And more power to you for surviving the stress of that move and temporary living space!

    1. Thanks, Hon! Congrats on your own new home again. So happy for you!

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  3. Congratulations on moving to the Northeast; it's quite a change from Huston that's for sure! I enjoyed reading about your home buying journey, it is wonderful that you were able to find a house that you really liked and within your budget. I'm currently looking in the area as well and your story has given me encouragement to keep looking.