Friday, August 29, 2014


The very long post in which I give the details on how we happened upon a magical home-owning opportunity that appeared out of thin air.

When I told Kam I was going to be blogging tonight, he said, "Tell everyone we just paid off our car. And that we're awesome!" And I laughed, because I'd thought of how much I wanted to tell everyone that, too! But then I thought, we also just bought a house. That's probably a lot more interesting.

But there is a reason us paying off our car is pretty awesome. First of all, it's the first long-ish term goal we've achieved as a married couple. We bought that car about 11 months ago, and we planned to have it paid off within a year. And we did it! I'm not a huge goal setting person. I mean, I have a general idea of what I want and what it takes to get there, but I generally don't have exact timelines like this. So to be able to finish a goal on time, just the way we planned it, especially when it comes to financial things--that's a really reassuring feeling with all of this new big stuff we're getting ourselves into now.

The other reason it's a big deal is because it actually has a lot to do with how we got our house! Kam and I knew we wanted to take out a loan to buy a car shortly after we got married, partly because it would make my commute to work more convenient, but largely because we wanted to build up our credit so that someday (imagine me with dreamy starry eye) we could buy a house. I had no idea that would happen so quickly. But since I had absolutely no credit when we got married, and Kam had had his identity stolen back on 2008, we knew we needed to get our ducks in a row early. So, with the help of a car loan (that Kam was responsible for paying off), and a Costco credit card (that, again, Kam was responsible for paying off), my credit score improved until it was in the excellent range! Yay! Unfortunately, some of that identity fraud came back from the dead and bit Kam's credit score in the butt. It all worked out though, since my credit score and income got us through the application process. It's really just not fair since Kam is the only reason I have good credit (I'm too scatterbrained and emotional to handle our finances). That's what marriage is good for though, right? Behind every successful woman is a successful man managing everything at home so she can pretend to be organized at work... or maybe that's just me.

Anyway, because of Kam's magical bill paying skills, we were able to conjure up a house out of thin air! Ta-da! But really. This whole house buying process has been ridiculous. Pull up a seat and I'll start from the beginning.

It began in Wymount, a magical place where all of the people are incredible, friendly, and all around fantastic, and the homes are reminiscent of... well, white boxes. Kam and I were very happy there. But then one day "The Man" decided to tear down our castle of... white boxes. (And by "The Man" I really mean the people who are in charge of expanding the missionary training center, and I'm definitely not bitter at all because I totally support missionary work because this gospel is the best. No, I'm serious. About everything except the "not bitter at all" part. But the gospel is great.) So, being the worrier that I am, I decided to start looking for apartments ASAP. After about 3 months, we found what we thought was the perfect apartment. We moved in a month later, and were completely enamored with it. (So much so, that I told everyone on my blog about how perfect it was and then never posted any pictures (or new blog posts) until I announced that we were moving out of it...) We figured we could live her for the next 2.5 years while Kam finished school and be completely happy. It had a dishwasher, and even a washer and dryer inside the apartment! And that's all you need, right?

A few months later we realize we don't know if we love the neighborhood. It just doesn't feel like we belong there. And we begin to have maintenance issues. Nothing big, but enough to get on our nerves. Maintenance always handled things well, but it was frustrating to us to have it all out of our hands--especially when we had a hard time getting a hold of the rental agency. We also learned that we really like to decorate and fix things... which was not in our contract. Kam and I started saying to each other in passing, "We should probably move..." But every time I actually started looking at apartments again, I felt super anxious. Almost sick. I just did not want to move into another apartment. But I didn't really want to stay there either. Part of me thought, if this was the "perfect apartment" when we chose it just a few months ago, what makes me think we're going to be able to find anything better now? So we stuck around for a couple more months until I could tell Kam had really had it, and I really wasn't happy either, and I thought, "Well, I guess I'll start looking at apartments again..." (because although Kam handles the bills, I handle most things that have to do with KSL. Basically, he pays for things and I buy them. Ok, that's not true.) That night I stayed up late in bed on my phone worrying and searching through ads. By the next morning, I knew I just didn't want to do that anymore. I didn't know why, but it just felt awful. And then somewhere, out of the blue, I thought maybe we should start looking into buying a house again. We had talked about it vaguely about a year before when we had some friends who had done it, but we never really pursued it because we didn't have enough money for a down payment. And neither of us were very disappointed about that. We didn't expect to be in a house yet. It made sense that we couldn't afford it. But by now I'd been working at my new job for over a year, and most of my coworkers had houses. And I thought, maybe I'll just see what it would take to buy a house, figure out how they're doing it.

So that same morning I mentioned this idea to Kam. I said that I thought we should meet with a real estate agent, "just to see" what it would take to buy a house. It would be good to know for the future anyway, even if it doesn't work out now. I think Kam thought I was crazy, but he couldn't argue with that logic, so we called some friends to ask for referrals. Later that week we were meeting with a real estate agent, and he was showing us houses that look like the ones our parents live in, and scheduling us to go see them that Saturday, and giving us the number for a lender, and it was all just hitting us in a rush of exciting terrifying home buying goodness. And then we got back to our apartment. And we kind of rubbed our heads and said to each other, "How much were those houses we were looking at? We'd better call him back tomorrow and tell him we don't want to go look at them on Saturday after all."

Word to the wise, do not contact a real estate agent if you're not prepared to look at houses. And if you can't say no. You'd better be able to say no.

So, the next day we talked to our lender. And he told us about a magical program we'd qualify for that would allow us to buy a house without a down payment. Which seems almost like a trap, right? So we asked a million questions and it sounded legit. And on top of that, we didn't have to pay mortgage insurance. So now we're in a real pickle, because we actually can buy a house, and we're scheduled to see a bunch of gorgeous homes on Saturday, and we were supposed to be "just checking it out to see if it would work." So we did a bunch of budgeting and tried to work out how much we wanted to spend on a house. And it was a lot less than the houses we were supposed to be seeing on Saturday. So we called our real estate agent and told him we wanted to reduce our price range by--ahem--a lot. And he wasn't super thrilled, partly because the new price range we had in mind was kind of, "I'd like to buy a junker" price range. But we didn't want to buy a junker.

So he sent us a list of new houses, some in our original price range and some just a little bit higher. And then we realized we were asking for dump houses, and kind of said, "Yeah, ok... You're right." But we were still super hesitant to jump on board with this whole home buying business so fast, so we kind of set it aside for a little while. Until Saturday morning actually, when I got a text from my real estate agent who asked if we'd looked through that list of homes. And we hadn't really. So I said I would, and kind of begrudgingly opened my laptop to scroll through houses while Kam got ready for the day. And I kind of almost hoped I wouldn't see any I liked so I could say that I had looked at them and we were going to pass on looking at houses in person this weekend. It's stressful business, you know. And we weren't exactly planning to be in the market.

But what do you know, I stumble upon this darling house in Provo that seems to be priced really really well. And then I think, "Shoot. Now I have to do something about that." So I get Kam to sit down and look through the pictures with me, and we decide there are 3 we could see in person. But I'm already starting to hold my breath for that one green house. So I text our real estate agent back, and by now I'm really hoping he'll say we can go see that green house in person--today. And that's exactly what he had in mind.

An hour and a half later we're driving to our first house, and it's just not right.

And then the second house is the green house, and I love it from the start. Hesitantly. It's really a problem when you love something when you weren't ready for it. It looks cute and well-kept, and it's just got this good vibe. Like it's a house that's going to take care of you. And I know it's bad to get emotionally attached to houses... but I don't see why. I'm an emotional person. I want to live somewhere I have good emotions about. And logically, it was the best priced of all the houses we were seeing, and the rooms just seemed to go on and on. So you couldn't really argue with that, either.

And then we see the third house, and it doesn't even come close.

You know, it's kind of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Only, I liked the second thing I saw, not the last thing. Which kind of makes sense to me because Mama Bear had the sweetest porridge and the softest bed, right? Why wouldn't you want that?

So, I love the house. Kam likes the house, but doesn't want to be hasty. And I get that. There's only one problem. Two other couples were also looking at the house the same day we were, and the house had just gone on the market the day before. And like I said, it was well-priced. That evening Kam and I ran the numbers again to make sure we could afford it. And we could. And then we talked about whether we wanted to take the risk and buy the second house we had even seen. And we thought about that for a little while. We were about to pass it up, but it just felt so good. Kam said he could see himself pacing back and forth in that cool basement, and I could see it, too. I had already decided where I wanted my home office to be, and Kam knew what he wanted to do with the back yard. We were smitten.

Here's the thing about me and good things. When really great things happen to me, they seem to come out of the blue. I don't ask for them, I don't deserve them, they're just thrown in my face like a challenge and then I have to suddenly, riskily, decide whether I want to take them up or let them pass me by. The first one of these things was Kam. And after deciding to take the risk on him and seeing how well that turned out, maybe I've just gotten cocky about my luck. But how can you have something that good happen to you out of nowhere and not think that someone's looking out for you? The second big case was with my job. I wasn't looking for a job; I was looking for an internship for the summer before I graduated the next spring. But instead I landed a job and quickly got all my affairs together to graduate right away so that I could take it up. And it's been a huge blessing of a job. And even some smaller things like the opportunity to live in Wymount. That came on the absolute last day that it possibly could and still worked out for Kam and I. And because it did, he and I made some fantastic friends. I had to make the decision about what apartment I would first live in when I came to BYU while sitting in my uncle's house in Mexico, because my family was on vacation for a wedding and that apartment only gave me a small window of time to register. I made my decision in a hurry, and roomed with 5 strangers, all of which became good friends, and 3 of which became my bridesmaids.

I hate making rushed decisions. Usually I deliberate on my future for a very long time--in fact, every day--and ultimately decide exactly what I want to have happen. And I work very hard to make that happen. And sometimes it does. But if I had always had my way up to this point, I wouldn't be nearly as happy as I am now. Each of these good things that have come to me was absolutely terrifying at the time. But at the exact same time it felt really good. And I couldn't explain why. And that's what drew me to each of them. I know it has to be God blessing me. That's the only way I'd be able to tell whether I'm making good risks or not. I just don't know why he blesses me so much. But I would never complain about that.

The decision Kam and I came to that weekend, was that we were going to make an offer on Monday. But we wanted to make sure we liked the neighborhood and see if there was anything we could learn about the house before we made the offer, so we decided to visit that neighborhood's LDS church services that Sunday. I remember saying to myself, "If you can tell the people there love each other, then you'll know for sure that this is the right place to be." And boy, did they. We happened to visit on the last weekend before they were splitting the congregation into two new smaller groups. Everyone seemed so close, and while they didn't want to see anyone go, you could also tell these were strong, faithful people who weren't worried about what the ward would be like afterwards. The women in the ward were very helpful when they found out why I was visiting. The person who would become my next door neighbor made sure I met her after the service so she could tell me everything she knew about the property. To top it all off, I know we sang "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go" exactly twice in church meetings between the time when I decided to move out of our apartment and the time that we moved into our house. That pretty much sealed the deal.

The next morning we called our real estate agent to make an offer. He found out for us that as of 9 am that morning 7 offers had already been made. And they would only be accepting offers until 5 pm. I spent almost all day at work getting that paperwork ready knowing the whole time that there was a very good chance that we wouldn't get the house because we wouldn't offer enough for it. Kam and I did more calculations to determine exactly how much we were willing to pay for the house, and decided to offer exactly that. We only barely had enough cash on hand to put up earnest money. We even thought about a back up plan if we miscalculated things and wouldn't be able to get by without that money for the rest of the month. (The back up plan was the Costco credit card or our parents...) I remember praying that if we weren't meant to be in that house, or if we were making a mistake by offering more than we could afford, or anything like that, that we would please, please, please not have our offer chosen. But if we were supposed to be there, like we thought we were, could we please, please, please get the house? That evening at about 9 pm we got a call from our real estate agent with a happy voice, and we weren't ready to believe it. He told us that we had offered the most for the house by less than five hundred dollars. When you hear something like that happen, that's when you know it was meant to be.

So we went through the next four stressful weeks of paperwork and inspections and meth tests and home-buying classes and boring things that aren't worth mentioning in a blog post. I may have (definitely) broken down once or twice, but Kam was strong for me. My family came out to visit and help us move, which was a tremendous help. And now we're nearly unpacked, with just some random knick knacks and books left in boxes. Once all of that is unpacked I may even get some more pictures on this blog.

Until then, Kam and I feel incredibly blessed. The only thing that feels like it's missing is our pictures on the walls reminding us that this is in fact our house. Every once in a while I remember that this is really ours and I get completely giddy. Like when I'm blogging at the kitchen table with a nearly empty tub of ice cream at my side while Kam is playing video games in the basement, and all I can hear is the whirring of the dishwasher (that I actually loaded this time because the novelty hasn't worn off yet). Or when I'm working from home at my desk by the window watching birds and cute pregnant moms jogging through our neighborhood (but not watching in a creepy way...) I hope Kam and I have the opportunity to bless some other lives while we're blessed with living in this house. I'm sure we'll have plenty of time. I used to count down to the day I would leave Provo, but now I don't want to go. And there's a good chance we won't be going anywhere anytime soon. But who knows. We'll take whatever's thrown our way.