You may (or may not) have noticed my blogging absence over the past few weeks. I keep apologizing for it, and yet continue to fall into lapses of bloglessness. A few times, I have hinted to the fact that I've had a lot of stuff happening in my life. This is absolutely true.
Exciting, scary, overwhelming, awesome and vomit-inducing stuff.
Friends, on Wednesday, if all goes well, I will be a first-time homeowner. In a few days, I will cross over yet another threshold into Adulthood: I will own a home. There will be a dwelling that belongs to me. Somewhere, a bank is cackling an evil laugh as it reads over our mortgage papers, reveling in the amount of money we will owe them over the course of 30 years. We won't rent this house. We won't have to give it back in a year. We don't have to be afraid if we put a scratch in the floor or a ding in the wall. In 3 days, those walls and floors will be ours, and we can scratch and ding them as much or as little as we want. And if a major house system rapidly deteriorates, we are now financially responsible to fix it.
We will own a home. And I am scared to death.
If you've read this blog at all, you know that we've been searching for a home for a long time. Probably more than a year or two. Maybe it's coming from a broken home, but I have had an especially deep and burning desire to have a home. That was mine. That was stable. That was forever. Hubby and I have seen a lot of houses. Like over a hundred. And let me tell you, there are some real crazy houses out there. Some day, I might spend some time writing up our home buying experience for you, because we have some real tales to tell. And may the Lord help the people who buy some of the homes we passed up on. Especially the haunted ones.
For days and weeks and months on end, we'd get geared up to meet David, our (awesome, amazing, ninja) Realtor. We'd caravan to a house (or 10), and step through the front entrance. Hubby and David would go from room to room and take in what the house had to offer ("offerings" ranged from nice yards and pretty kitchens to unsafe structures and questionable substances on the touchable surfaces). They'd talk positive attributes and what work would need to be put into the home.
As they made their rounds, I would always take a moment to stop and take in the essence of the house. Not in a new-agey kind of way. Rather, I would stop, listen, smell and feel. Yes, this a house. But could this be a home. Our home? Can I look past poorly chosen paint colors or dilapidated appliances to what the home could be? Can I see myself cooking dinner in the kitchen? Can I see Little Chica playing in the yard? Can I see Hubby and I curled up on the couch after the kids are in bed to watch a movie?
In many ways, this was more important to me than the worth of the house. I understand the necessity of value and investment. But the memories we would make and the lives we would build here within these walls somehow meant more to me than the financial aspect. Even though it shouldn't have been, it was just as much an emotional journey as it was a financial investment.
House after house would get scratched off the list. "Too much work needed," "Poor layout," "Too small," "Too big," and always my favorite, "Definitely haunted." Every few houses, a possibility would arise, one where we could possibly see our family living happily for the next few years. Hubby and I would get excited, and David would write up our offer. And time and time again, we would get rejected. "Offer too low," "Asking for too much seller's assist," and ever my favorite, "You've got to be kidding?!?"
Oh the woes of being first time home buyers! Several times, we came terribly close, going back and forth with negotiations, when ultimately a better suited buyer would swoop in and steal the home we'd already mentally placed our furniture in. It was a heartbreaking process. Especially the one time we'd gotten one seller to actually say yes to us (to US, mind you!), only to have the deal fall through after a horrible septic inspection.
Time ticked away, and the Tax Credit was winding down. Hubby and I came to terms with the fact that we might not find our home, and that it would be okay. Now might not be our time, but the right house was out there. Some where. In some time or place in the future. So, when our ninja-Realtor David called one Sunday morning telling us that we just HAD to see this house in a town just over from our current residence, we told him we would go. David had gone to hell and back for us during this ridiculously long season of house hunting, so I felt like we owed it to him. And he promised to buy us lunch. Deep down, though, I knew it was futile: Hubby and I had every intention of buying a house in our hometown. We both grew up here, Hubby worked here, and our family and friends were here. Why would we move?
But, we humored David, and took the 20 minute drive to the nearby town to check out this "must see" house. I grumbled the whole way there, asking my Hubby what the point was in going: we had no intention of even considering a house in this town. Hubby reminded me to have an open mind; David has really listened to us during this process. He knows what we want, and seemed to want us to find a house as much as we wanted to find a house. So I stopped my complaining as we pulled up to the address David has shared with us.
David was there waiting, giddy and anxious for us to do the walk through. I looked up and down the street before walking in. This is a cute neighborhood, even if it is in the wrong town, I thought to myself. The house itself was surprisingly decent. More bedrooms than we could ever have hoped for, a great level yard, and a nice price tag. But, the gloomy thought of "right house, wrong town" kept running a script through my mind. I told David that the house was nice, but not enough to push me over the edge. David smiled, and with his never-fading enthusiasm, said, Ok! Well, we'll just keep looking! Oh, and here is some info on a few other houses for sale in town, while handing me a pile of current listings.
I could feel the smirk and hope in this voice.
When we got home that day, I put the listings on the table and went about my business. Over time, curiosity got the best of me, and I thumbed through them. Some of them caught my eye, and I went online to do some more research. The internet yielded even more houses that weren't in the pile. Soon, a quiet conversation began bouncing around in my head: Some of these houses are kind of nice. Bigger than you could buy here. What would you do with that many bedrooms? Wow, what a nice yard! You could walk to town from this one. This house would cost twice as much where you live now!
Despite being the wrong town, it was hard to deny that some of these houses could be really great homes. I began weighing the pros and cons: proximity to Hubby's job, proximity to friends, proximity to everything I know. Proximity. I soon began to realize that the only thing really holding me back was my own comfort zone. From an outsiders perspective, my hesitation was humorous: I was scared to live in a town 25 minutes from "home." 25 minutes. In the scheme of life, it was nothing. But to me it was everything. I was a true Hometown Girl, and it was really hard to shake.
Hubby was the deciding factor. Ever adventurous and a pioneer in his own contemporary right, he looked at some of the listings, and said we should schedule a time to see a few. So we did. One fateful Wednesday afternoon, my in-laws graciously watched Little Chica, and we once again met David outside of a new and unsuspecting abode.
The first house we viewed was okay, but didn't live up to the online pictures (do they ever?). We quickly locked up and drove over to one of my online finds. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was going to like this next house. Anxiety filled my heart: what if I really did love it? And it was the absolutely right house in the absolutely wrong town?
We pulled up to the picturesque split level just down the road from the first house David took us to see just days before. I looked up and down the street, appraising the still-desirable neighborhood. David unlocked the front door. I took a deep breath and walked through the entryway.
Never in my time of house hunting had I ever immediately felt at home in a house. But upon stepping foot into this dwelling, the essence screamed "home...HOME...HOME!" to me. A newly renovated kitchen where I almost tangibly saw myself cooking dinner over the stove. A well-suited family room perfect for cuddling on the couch to watch a movie. 4 bedrooms to fill with our family and loved ones who visited. And a lovely, level fenced in yard to grow flowers, tend a vegetable garden, and for our kids to run around in and catch lightning bugs on glowing summer nights.
My heart seized as I struggled to admit to myself I had met my match: My Dream Home. In the Wrong Town. And yet, as I walked around, marveling at every detail, it slowly didn't matter to me that I was 25 minutes away from my hometown. It mattered less and less to me that this town, while amazingly up-and-coming, was frighteningly unfamiliar to me.
I was home.
One look at Hubby, and I knew his heart resounded with mine. We would make this work. Unfortunately, the story does not end here, although every home buyer wishes it did: finding the dream house, and riding off into the sunset on a white stallion. Er, white moving truck. Quite the opposite, there is a flurry of offers, negotiations, rejections and mounting blood pressure to be had. And believe me, it did not come easy. In my mind, when one finds their dream home, it should come with an easy package: an easy "yes," a perfect inspection, and a smooth mortgage agreement. Not so. Hubby and I have found that even in dreams you have to fight for what you want until you either hit a wall or find the open door.
This time, we found the open door. After much back and forth, the sellers said yes. Yes. To us. Finances and appraisals proved to be a roller coaster ride of acceptance and rejection. At more than one point, Hubby and I needed to accept we would actually not get this house. And after a few times of this, I almost didn't want it. I was surprised to find I was relieved when we were told the appraisal came in too low. Here was our out. The deal was becoming too hard, too scary, and I was quickly becoming daunted by the monthly amount of money we'd be shelling out to a bank I'd never heard of. I resorted back to the comfort zone of "hometown" and "easy finances." I wanted to give up on this dream home. I wanted it easy.
So you can imagine my surprise, after coming to terms and finding comfort in letting the house go, David calling to tell us that the sellers came up with enough money to negate the low appraisal. We were now under contract, and we would be buying a house.
I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't cry. I cried. A lot. I bawled. I stubbornly hung onto my Comfort Zone dream of easy living in my hometown at my mom's house forever. I didn't want to do this. I wanted to back out, no matter how much money it would cost me. I didn't want to own a house. Becoming an adult is surely overrated.
David, ever gracious and full of patience, asked us to meet so we could talk. Over coffee at Starbucks, Hubby and I shared our thoughts and feelings on this new development. I shared my fears, and I stubbornly wanted to know every way out. David was understanding yet steadfast. And though I didn't want to admit it to myself, I knew that we would buy this house. Even though the deal did not play out the way I wanted to, even though it was the absolute wrong town, even though it was terribly uncomfortable, it was right. This house, for however long we'd own it, would be our home.
And now, 3 days out from closing, I am starting to come to peace with this whole experience. For whatever reason, we are meant to buy this house. For whatever reason, we are meant to live in this town. For whatever reason, life happened in such a way that we were supposed to go through this. This experience will forever be a part of who I am and who I will become. I've learned a lot. I've grown. And there is an inkling in my heart that this experience was meant to teach me more than facts about home buying. It is meant to teach me about myself.
Being a Hometown Girl from a broken home, I crave consistency and stability. I hate change. And I've always wanted a home, in both the physical and emotional sense of the word. In some twisted distortion of truth, I have created the idea that home had everything to do with hometown. More so, I had somehow wrapped up part of my identity in my immediate surroundings, because it was familiar and comfortable. Having lived here my whole life, it was one of the constants in a life of variables. I could always count on my hometown to always be there. Unlike family and friends, it was literally rooted to the earth, and while it evolved, it would not leave.
When our offer was accepted on Dream Home, the tension that resided in my heart was less about our finances or even the extended commute time for Hubby. It was the fear that by moving away from my hometown, I was somehow going to lose a part of who I was. How can I be me here? I don't like change! I don't like things that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable!
And it dawned on me that, for me, there was a challenge set before me: not finding a new grocery store in which to shop, not driving a little longer to meet up with friends, not packing my stuff and moving it 25 minutes away. No, the challenge will lay in learning to be me, to live a new chapter of my life, in a new place. To break free of emotional strongholds and life baggage. Learning to trust and accept provision. To build a family with my wonderful husband and beautiful daughter. To finally start the home my heart has yearned for since it was broken so many years ago.
And I am up for the challenge.
So, on Wednesday, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I am buying a house. A home. And I am scared. But I have increasing comfort and peace in knowing that this is where I am supposed to be.