Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Saga of Buying a Home

As I mentioned on Twitter and Facebook earlier, we closed on our new condo today. For the first few hours after signing the papers, I was still in a bit of shock. I've mentioned here and there some of the struggles we had with the process this time around, and there were moments when I was ready to end the process and lose the place, but Da Man was determined to make it happen for us. And it did!

We had our list of what we wanted in a new home, and we knew we'd look at the start of the summer. We looked at a few places on our first trip out, but this one was third on our list. The more we thought about it, though, the more we thought this place might be the best for us. It has a two-car attached garage and enough rooms for us each to have our own office and a guest room. It has a formal dining room, which we wanted, but also a sun room off the kitchen. The kitchen is fully updated, and there's new, plush carpet throughout the place. It's 2140 square feet; the one we have now is about 1400.

And the economy means it's a buyers market. We got it at a good price, and the mortgage came with a great rate. The problem was always with the down payment. See, in the past, it was much easier to use the equity in the home you own toward a new one, but the economy really screwed that up. We assumed that we would get a bridge loan from the equity on this place. The problem? A lot of banks don't give them anymore, and none we could find would give them on condos. Too many people bought condos as investment properties and defaulted on the mortgages.

What upset me so much this summer is that everyone kept telling us that we were doing everything right, but the programs just didn't exist anymore. What I learned from this process is how all-or-nothing banks have been these last few years in playing with people's lives. For a while there, banks gave everyone money in ways that made it difficult to pay back--variable-rate mortgages and balloon payments and all that. Then, after getting burned, they started holding money back from everyone. It became impossible to get money even after years of doing everything right. And please let me be clear that I'm blaming the banking industry and not individual people trying to build homes for themselves and their families. I've had friends who got into trouble when they got involved in mortgage programs that were designed to make money for bankers rather than help people survive.

The bank that gave us our mortgage did pull some strings for us and helped us with the down payment. Once they realized we were going to have to drop out completely and withdraw from the mortgage, they started working with us. In the end, it was just harder to get the down payment for our third place than it was for the first place. And we weren't expecting that. We've heard stories since then from other people who encountered similar problems. Of course, when we sell this place, all of this will probably be moot, but the market is a bit saturated right now. We do have the cheapest condo in our entire complex, so if anyone want's a little place in Connecticut, check us out!

It is a bit strange to buy the place that we intend to be the final one for each of us. I just turned forty, and I could be here for the next thirty or forty years. As Da Man has said more than once, "I'm not leaving this place unless it's in a box." This is the first place we've bought out of choice The first we bought because we felt it was time to move from renting to owning. The second one was because I got a job here. This one? We could stay where we are now for the rest of our lives. Or we could move to a bigger place that has more features. We had no intention of buying until we found exactly what we wanted, and that's what we did.

I did get a bit shaken earlier, though, when I realized that this is a place that will have no connection at all to my mother. Though she never visited where we live now, she knew about it. She saw pictures and mailed things here. And it was in this place that I heard she'd died. This new place? It's completely disconnected from her, and that felt like a little kick in the stomach.

But she would love this place. She's be so happy to see all the space and the nice kitchen and my office and the sun room and back patio. It won't be long before the house becomes a home for us. That's for sure.


  1. I hope you and Da Man will have many happy years in your new place!

  2. Nels, moving into our current house (not as spaciously accommodating as your condo! Envy!), I also wrestled with the sadness that my mother, who passed away in 2003, would know nothing of this home we purchased in 2007. I content myself with the knowledge that I have her artwork in many rooms of the house and that, as with your mother, I know this home would make her happy!

    Congratulations on making it through that torturous process of home-buying in these post-bubble days!

  3. I think big changes like that always come with anxiety. But how wonderful it will be once you're all settled into your new home!

  4. Nels, the new place sounds fantastic! We had challenges with our mortgage a year ago when buying our place, finding, as you did, that it was much harder than getting our first mortgage even though we had clearly been responsible home owners, had a higher income now, etc. In some ways I've treasured our house all the more because of that temporary fear we had about not getting it at all.

    Wishing you many happy years in your home!