Saturday, January 14, 2017
A New House
Hi there. I'm back! It's been a long time. It's too overwhelming to go back and catch up, so I'll just fill in the blanks. We still live in New Mexico. Sean is still working at ProBuild. He is the Young Men's president. We added another little one to the family, Kamryn Bella. The kids have grown and are now going to a charter school, Estancia Valley Classical Academy, which we have been very happy with. We have another dog, Molly, and a different cat, Ebony....and we bought a house. We moved about 5 miles north of where we had been renting for the past 6 years. This is actually a pretty good story, so I wanted to record it for our family record. When we renewed our lease in November of 2015 the owner told us that we could do one more year lease and then he wanted to put the house on the market. He told us if we were interested in buying it he would be willing to give us a good deal - just to get rid of it. Anyway, we knew we had the better part of a year to figure things out: buy that house, find another house to buy, rent a different house, build ourselves, etc. Well, I just like to look around online here and to see what houses are going for in our area. In December I was just glancing around and noticed a house that seemed much cheaper than other houses similar in size. I was curious but didn't think too much about it. Thirty days later in January I noticed that the price had dropped $70 thousand in one fell swoop. I was looking at a 4,300 square foot house on 9 acres with a barn now listed at $290,000. We weren't even considering moving forward with anything yet, but after a few days this house would not leave my mind. I called Sean up and told him I was too curious and I called the realtor just to go look at it. Now, this was a foreclosure, so it wasn't clean, there was super shabby carpet, there were parts of the hard floor missing, there were some worn down adobe walls and there was an indoor pool room that was a third filled with dirt and serious project all on it's own. But there was some charm to the place, and a great layout and awesome property. I told Sean about it and the next day we sneaked over (without a realtor) to check it out. He had the same first impression as I did. We didn't want to jump into anything necessarily but there was something that kept pulling us to this house. About a week later we called the realtor and both went and saw it again together (officially, this time). We asked if there was a lot of traffic on the house, and he said there hadn't been much at all until the price dropped. We weren't even sure if we would qualify for lending and we knew that we wouldn't have a down payment or anything until Sean got him bonus in March, but after some more thought we decided to make an offer (this was in February). We low balled them at $240,000 knowing there would be some negotiations. They rejected the offer. So we offered $260,000. They counter offered at $275,000, which we agreed to. In the meantime we got in touch with a contact Sean got connected with and applied for financing. We were approved for this amount with a relatively low down payment. Since literally every single communication with the bank selling the house took at least a week, this whole process took almost a month. Once we agreed we were about to go into escrow. At the beginning of this process the bank has to divulge any known problems with the house. They gave us documents telling us the septic system had been redone just a few months prior (totally redone - which was great). They also gave us documents of a roof inspection and a roof bid. The whole roof needed to be redone (which we wondered about from the beginning) and the bid they had gotten came in at $25,000. Yikes! With the type of loan we were getting we knew they would require the roof to be in decent condition, which means we either would have to fork out $25,000 to get it fixed or they wouldn't lend to us at all. Neither option was great, so we went back to the bank and told them we couldn't go through with the offer. We had gone into this whole thing with the idea that if things work out, then things are supposed to work out, and if not then there is another plan for us. We prayed about it everyday and continued with this thought in mind. So after we pulled out of our offer there was a part of us that thought that was it. Everyday I drove near the house to take Austin to preschool and could see it on the hill, and each time I looked at it a little bit of disappointment filled my heart. A few weeks went by and Sean and I talked again and after looking into some other financing (similar to the other but specifically for fixer-uppers, which meant you could put up to $35,000 of repairs into your loan as long as it would appraise at the higher value) we got in touch with the realtor again and decided to put in an offer again. We low balled them at our same initial price as before. They counter offered this time at $254,000. We took it and this time signed into escrow and began the next stage. We were keeping this whole thing to ourselves too - we didn't tell anyone (not even our families) because there were still so many ways this could go south. It took the bank 6 weeks to get a broken water line fixed (and we couldn't get the house inspection done without the water). When we finally got the inspection done it came back even better than we hoped. The roof did need to be totally redone, and there was a small rodent situation (the house had been vacant for over a year in the East Mountains - we were surprised about that) and they noted some things that needed to be addressed but nothing that would prevent us from getting the lending. We looked into roof bids and were pretty disappointed when the first few came back well over $50,000. We finally got an old faithful tar and gravel bid right where we needed it. He said "I've seen all sorts of flat roof types come and go, but tar and gravel has been here through it all." We would have rather gone with a more updated type, but tar and gravel fit the bill. Things seemed to be going in the right direction. We had to extend the closing 3 different times (after the second time they started charging us a fee of $50/day) which was pretty annoying because their delay in the water pipe at the very beginning was what made us have to extend in the first place (the lending process can't fully go through until inspections are done), but when you're dealing with a bank you pretty much do what they want. Two weeks before closing (after the termite inspection) they came back requiring us to fix some outside beams that had dry rot (they did this on the word of the termite guy - Eesh). Because Sean had gotten to know the guy that was going to do our roof he was able to get that tacked onto the roof bid (which saved us from having to file new paperwork for a new company). Then just days before closing they came back again and said that the stucco had been marked "fair" on the inspection and the bank won't lend with that rating. We were at our wits end, and now after all these months (and now several hundreds of dollars) and our hearts now set on the house we knew we had to try anything we could do. We were discouraged because we didn't think we could add any more work to our improvement bid (it wasn't in the budget and it was close to the cap anyway). Sean called the inspector to ask what exactly needed to be done to the stucco to get it to the next rating. His first contact with the inspector did not leave him very hopeful - he was short and a little rude on the phone. He called back that afternoon and he and Sean struck up a conversation about the house, what we done so far, what our plans for it were, etc. In the end he said, "You know some of these ratings are more a matter of opinion, and it was getting dark when I was there. You know, I'll just change the rating." Sean and I were floored - we couldn't believe that was even possible. Our knees had become ragged from praying so much. And I also have to make a side note. During the past few months we had fallen a little behind in our tithing - not intentionally at all, but we went from paying with a check to the Bishop to doing it online earlier that year. And we had just forgotten a couple times because we were doing it different that we had been doing it for all the rest of our married life. We considered getting caught up all at once but we wanted to keep as much money in our account through this process as possible and so we made a plan to add a little bit to each of our future tithing payments until we caught up (just a couple months). And by the way, I actually don't think there is anything wrong with this - we weren't trying to wiggle out of paying it by any means (we both have strong testimonies of tithing). During the beam and then stucco fiasco I told Sean, "You know, let's just pay it all. Let's just get caught up." I had been praying and trying to think if there was anything in my power that we hadn't done that we could be doing and that thought came to me. The thought came to me to show the Lord where our priorities lie and that we would do all we could do and then if things didn't work out we would know it was because the Lord had a different plan for our family. Sean paid our tithing online. The next day was the day he spoke to the stucco guy. He changed the stucco rating on the inspection and loan process continued on. Now, we would have paid our tithing anyway, we would have caught up and continued to be full tithe payers, but in same way I believe that mattered. The windows of heaven were opened. We got our closing documents within the week. And now came the most stressful night of the entire last six months. We got the documents that showed an increase in the mortgage payments of $200/month plus the closing costs were about $9,000 more than we anticipated. We looked at those papers and started to pencil things out (most of that $9,000 was going to go into fixing up the house and we wondered if we would have funds to fix things up with that gone and with our monthly expenses getting much tighter). We didn't want to be house poor - have a big house but not be able to afford anything else. We worried and talked and cried and Sean finally called our realtor and left a message telling him we just didn't know if we were going to be able to make this work. Here we were 2 days before closing and thinking this was the end of the line. We were literally sick to our stomachs. We prayed and took a walk and talked things out. Brandon, our realtor, called back and talked things through with Sean. The next day we prayed some more and penciled things out again (we realized $3,000 of those closing costs could be reimbursed to us if they were for house repairs, we could also contest the property taxes because they were calculated for a house price twice as high as what we were paying, some of our other debts we knew we could pay when Sean got his bonus next year, and because we were going into this with a decent amount of equity from the get-go we knew we could refinance at a lower interest rate (although ours was already a great rate) and also get rid of PMI within a year). Our nerves had calmed, our emotions had gone down a notch and we realized that yes, we could do this. It might be tight for 6 months but we could make this work. And even if we decided it was too tight, we knew we could do the handful of repairs already budgeted and turn around and sell the house for a decent amount more that we paid. It was an investment worth taking. And we relied on our prayers from the get go - if it's supposed to work out, it will work out. We realized that didn't mean it wouldn't take a lot of work on our part and some sacrifice, but ultimately it worked out. We closed a few days later. And here we are 7 months later still making things work financially and SO, SO happy with the blessing of our new home. We closed July 29th and moved in the end of September. The move-in date was another blessing. We had our rental contract through October. We told the owner that we would be willing to be out earlier as long as we didn't have to pay the penalties for getting out of our lease early. Otherwise we would just take our time and slowly move at our own pace. Well, he originally told us to plan on staying through October, but then the first week in September he sent us an email that said if we still wanted to be out early we could and he wouldn't charge us for October. And, even though this pushed things up a bit, we were more than happy to save $1500 and get out early. So we now own a 4,300 square foot home on 9+ acres with 5 bedrooms and an office, 3 bathrooms, a laundry room, 2 living spaces, an newly remodeled kitchen (with 2 ovens and 2 stovetops), 3 kiva fireplaces, a regular fireplace, a giant wood stove and a pellet stove. The property has a barn with 2 enclosed stalls, 2 more open stalls and a tack room, a fenced horse field, a circle horse training center, a fire pit, a small fenced back yard, 2 patios, fully fenced property, lots of trees as well as a big open area. We live on a quiet, gated road. We love it. We have already done a bunch of projects (and there are plenty more to keep us busy for months to come). We have: *Laid tile in the master bathroom and closet *Laid saltillo tile in the guest bathroom and entry to the family room *Replaced a 50 square foot section of brick floor in the living room *Put down linoleum in the upstairs bathroom *Painted the ENTIRE inside of the house *Painted wood trim in the back of the house *Replaced the sliding glass door in the family room *Had new carpet put in in 5 rooms (paid someone to do this) *Replaced beams on one of the patios (paid someone to do this - we will do it ourselves on the other patio) *Stained the beams *Stained most of the dark wood trim in the house *Re-plastered an entire wall in the living room (paid someone to do this) *Replaced the roof and put in roof drains (paid someone to do this) *Filled in the pool with dirt *Re-plastered an entire wall and sections of 2 other walls in the pool room *Painted 3 walls in the pool room *Replaced the garbage disposal *Cleaned up and fixed a couple of the railroad tie walls in the fire pit area *Plus lots of handyman projects here and there We have been busy, busy, busy. We are trying to finish up the pool room so we can use that as a big game room. And then we want to tackle the outside stucco and then we will feel pretty content for a while.