Buying My Home: Top Advice, 7 Things I Would Tell Myself First

Gone Country

It took us about three weeks to find our first home. We saw a dozen or more homes, rode in our realtor’s car (because we only had three kids at the time, Brody was about 3 months old and had thrush, lovely) and our only criteria was cost. We drove about 1 hr outside of Washington DC to where the homes were cheaper, wrote one offer, for the asking price, it was accepted and we moved in 30 days later. Easiest clients ever, though we literally learned nothing about anything in the process.

Buying my home

We then sold it in August 2000, after Dan’s 3 year campaign to convince me to move to CO was successful, without a realtor or seller’s agent, via an assumable mortgage. We literally gave our first house away because Dan couldn’t risk me changing my mind and deciding to stay in Northern Virginia. Thirty days later and we had packed everything we could fit into a UHaul and our Suburban (everything else we left for the new owner) and drove across country, sight unseen to Western Colorado, 5 kids in tow. We pulled up to our rental home and the wind blew out of our sails. The home backed up to a rocky mountainside, had a shared driveway and was tucked in amongst 4 other cluster homes. It was fine.

Predatory Lending

Mountain Home

But then when 9/11 hit, Dan lost a plethora of clients and our income significantly dropped. We were talking to our landlord, via their agent, hoping to be let out of the lease because we flat out couldn’t afford it, and were planning on leaving the area. Then somehow we met a realtor, who eventually became a friend, and he showed us houses and we bought our second home via a predatory lender. We weren’t stupid, but got uber conned. In the beginning stages, when you place an offer on a home, you must offer a certain amount of cash up front, called earnest money. We did, if I recall it was $15,000. We went through a lender and he quoted us a great interest rate. But after our earnest money deadline passed, the rate skyrocketed. and we ended up with a double mortgage. After 5 years the second mortgage interest rate fhit 14.9%. We died. But honestly we died before that, becuase we couldn’t really afford the house, and then the interest rate was another huge hit.

We stuck with that home for almost 21 years, miraculously. We were so financially destitute that we almost lost everything, barely hanging on for about 10 of those 21 years. About 12 years in, we jumped in the RV and traveled to literally get away from the heaps of stress the house, the neighbors, the cops, finances, etc loaded on us. It was great.

Selling & Buying My Home

Sold My Home, Now I'm Houseless

Fast forward to 2021. We sold that house, for an inflated, absurd amount of money because of its location (though if you knew our neighbors, you’d know the location was compromised). We spent about 4 months flipping the heck out of it and then sold it FAST for one heckuva profit! We lived for about 5.5 months in our RV until we found our dream home, dream location and dream land, though at the time, I didn’t realize it was a dream fulfiller. Many a days of fighting with Dan ensued, but in the end he was absolutely 100% on the money with this property!!

During that 5.5 month time frame, we were in turmoil and simultaneously living our best life. We were beat out of about several (I lost count) houses that we put offers on. I was scouring the country looking for fixer-uppers, though knowing full well I wasn’t leaving Colorado. Not for all the money in the world I wasn’t leaving Colorado!

This time, buying a home carried the weight of the world. We were looking for something very specific, whereas all the other times we were just looking for something that would house our growing family. We needed land, first and foremost. It was preferable that the land have a home. And along with that home, a shop, running water like a creek or even better, a river. An HOA was completely out of the question, nearby neighbors were as well. We were adamant that we be able to breathe on our property.

The Reality of Buying My Home

The homebuying process wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. I pictured us spending our days looking at homes, kayaking, climbing, hiking, rafting, etc. But reality is never flawless and never how we envision it. Dan and I fought, a lot. Fear was an underlying emotion. Did we do the wrong thing? Were there any properties that would suit our family’s needs? Would we ever find something that all of us could embrace? The summer of 2021 was a testing ground of patience, hope, faith and overcoming that fear. It was also a year of grace. As Fox Business’, American Dream Home, followed our quest to find the perfect home, in hindsight it’s easy to see that there were really no contenders until we actually saw the right one.

Now, the market seems to be quieting down. In 2021 it was a seller’s market and buyers were at the mercy of an insane market. We really weren’t in control, offers were made and declined in favor of buyers willing to bid higher than asking (something we weren’t keen on doing). Today, though, housing,  a key segment of the national economy, looks extraordinarily weak, this according to a recent report by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Apparently, home builders have been warning of a housing recession and as those dire forecasts seem to be hitting now, home buyers are finally gaining bargaining power even in the hottest markets whilst sellers are making big concessions.

It’s Worth the Struggle

I don’t want to paint an entirely negative picture for first-time home buyers, there was excitement and fun and, in all honesty most of you won’t take the huge risk we did of moving without a clue as to where, choosing (but not really) to live in our RV, and carrying the baggage of extreme worry re: choices made. Even with all this, at the end of the day, we did end up in the perfect place for us.

All the work (and heartache) that went into house hunting, making offers and getting our finances into shape, and actually finding financing was entirely worth every argument we had. So, to those thinking about buying your first home or second home, or even your dream home, this little diddy is for you. These are all the things we’ve learned in our somewhat seasoned lifetime re: home buying in a crazy market. Disclaimer: I’m not writing in a legal sense or in any other sense other than to say, hey, think about this …
Without further ado:

Fall In Love (but guard your heart)

Not my dream home

This sounds so contradictory, doesn’t it? I mean, you gotta fall in love with your home. You have to love it to fight for it. The first home we put an offer on I couldn’t stand, so when the seller came back with a counter offer, I wasn’t budging. But then, I also didn’t budge when I found a home in Mancos, CO that I really really loved. It was a fixer upper, that had tons of potential! I loved everything about it, except the location, but when the seller decided to take it off the market after we offered asking price, I declined our realtors advice to offer more to entice the seller. I foresaw too many problems in our future fighting someone who really didn’t want to sell. So, fall in love, but be smart. Bring your emotions, but also bring along your brain, and your intuition. Another house we hemmed and hawed on and when we decided to, reluctantly, put an offer on it, it was too late!

Trust Your Partner

210 acres for sale

Dan will laugh at this one, because the fury I felt when he made an offer on a house I alleged to despise, made me batshit crazy. I was furious, felt disregarded, overlooked. But in reality he was thinking of me and legit saw our family living and loving this property.

Backstory is we found a slice of heaven in a town just west of where we settled. It was a 210 acre property with a 500 sq ft barn already on it. I had visions of us living in this barn whilst we designed and built our own home. We made an offer, it was rejected. As we planned our counter to their counter we saw our ranch property. Dan made an offer to “hold’ it as it had just gone back on the market due to a financial hiccup in the wanna-be buyers world. As we researched the 210 acres, I realized no well could be built, the landscape was too rocky, we’d have to haul our water. Meanwhile, the sellers accepted our offer on the ranch property we ultimately bought. As I realized the water situation, I came around, and have profusely voiced my appreciation for Dan’s strength and foresight. Trust your partner. And, as a sidenote, the offer we made is $100k over asking price today!

Don’t Settle for Anything Less Than Perfect

Don't rush the process of home buying

I know this is an obvious one, but obviously I didn’t resonate with this. I wanted a house, I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t just make the biggest blunder of my life by subjecting my kids to years of homelessness. I was going to live in a 500 sq ft barn, people!

The first offer we made was a home in Howard, CO. It had pretty views, but that’s it. I look back and literally thank God that the seller rejected our first offer. Another home we made an offer on had stunning views, the home was ok, but the land was awful.  I knew these weren’t right, but we were feeling the pressure. I began to understand that I wasn’t in the driver’s seat, God was, and we just needed to proceed, with vigor and caution!

Can't have your cake and eat it too

It took me decades to understand this, because I always thought, “what’s the point of having cake if you can’t eat it”. But what it means is that when you prioritize your wants and needs, some things of lesser importance have to be dropped in favor of what is most important. In our case, top priority was land. Second was a home to fit us all. Third was no HOA. We got all these. Fourth was no neighbors. We have some neighbors we can see, but they all mind their own business. Fifth was close to snowboarding and kayaking. We got close to kayaking, but are now a little over 1 hour to a ski resort.

Unless we had billions of dollars, we weren’t going to find everything on our list. But the list kept us accountable to our hopes and dreams, and kept us from being too willing to sacrifice.

Find a Realtor You Trust

This is a biggie. We loved the guy who helped us sell our house out here. He came over, told us what needed fixing, what colors to paint the walls, helped us navigate everything and had our back in every tussle that came along. He had our trust. Everyone else, as we searched throughout the state was held up against his standards, and no lie, no-one else compared. Turns out we returned to the Valley and he helped us find this ranch property. We trusted him. He knew us, knew what we wanted, knew our kids. He was golden. Incidentally, he also saw what this property offered and was behind Dan every step of the way.

Be Kind & Have Wine

Buzz Jogging

House hunting is emotional, it’s stressful, and sometimes it can make you feel as if you and your spouse are pitted against each other. But that’s a fallacy, really you are in a battle with your own hopes and dreams. Be nice, be forgiving. Finding the right home is only the first step, keep in mind that there is so much that comes after that is weighty in an emotional sense.

I remember this time last year, I picked up a new sport. Buzzed jogging. Way more fun than you could ever imagine. I’d have a glass of wine (or two) and take off on a run, listening to the saddest music imaginable. It’s incredible how much further you can run with some liquid courage. And talk about soul cleansing! I highly recommend it. 🙂

Also, while this may come as a surprise to those who know me best, but I’m a pleaser. I wanted everyone to be happy. A large amount of the stress that I placed on myself was in the idea that all of us had to love every bit of whatever it was that we bought. Buying a house is monumental in and of itself, adding 14 other people into the equation was detrimental to my health.  Again, though, in the end, everyone was happy, because we found that property that was tailor made for us.

Peace, It All Works Out

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