We have big news in the “Beach” Family this week… We’re building a house! (It’s not actually a beach house… I wish!) In Beach Girl’s 3 year old birthday interview, she said her favorite activity is to drive around and look for houses to buy. We’ve been doing plenty of that lately and we’re glad to say we’ve finally figured everything out and it’s really happening. We are super excited and feel incredibly blessed!
We’ve looked at buying a house a couple times before and as we started to walk through the process each time, it became very clear that we should not do it. Looking back, we’re incredibly grateful that neither time worked out. Before we got married, we planned to buy simply because that’s “what you do,” right? Well, if we had bought then – early 2007 – we probably would have gotten the loan thanks to bad lending practices, even though we couldn’t have afforded it in any way, shape, or form. And, we would have lost a lot of value when the housing market crashed.
We had terrible luck renting. Thanks to bad landlords and one of the nastiest carpets ever to exist (that’s a story for another day), when I was pregnant with Beach Girl and we knew we’d have to move again, we were itching to buy a house rather than to rent our fourth place in 2 1/2 years.
So, we looked at buying again. We found the house we wanted, sought counsel, and even talked to lenders. It was clear, once again, that this would not be a good time. 5 months later, Beach Dad lost his job and we would have been stuck with a house we could barely afford in a town where we couldn’t find jobs and had no church to go to.
As we have not bought houses these past few years, God has been good to us!
Once we moved to the DC area, we figured we’d never be able to buy a house because the housing is so crazy expensive there. But, when we moved to Charleston, we hoped we’d be able to buy at some point. Houses here are about 1/3 the price of equivalent houses in the DC area.
We’ve spent countless hours driving around nearly every affordable neighborhood (and a few super fancy ones… I love doing that!) within a 20 mile radius of Charleston. And, I know realtor.com like the back of my hand. Have a question about Charleston real estate within our price range? I’ve got you covered.
Last week, Beach Girl told us: “Sometimes, people buy houses and then move into them. We don’t buy houses. We just talk about buying them.” Ha! That’s sure how it’s felt!
As we searched, we knew exactly what we wanted in a house. 6 rentals in even fewer years has taught us a lot about what we like in a house and what we don’t like. We knew we wanted a fairly new house (as in, built within the last 10 years) and had certain specifications in mind for our layout, size, kitchen, and bathrooms.
Commute time, price, potential for community, and the house itself were our most important considerations, in that order.
Finally, we found the neighborhood we wanted. It’s close to church, Beach Dad’s office, and nearly every part of our lives. And, we already know people who live in the neighborhood. We started to look around, but didn’t find exactly the house we wanted. It’s a fairly new development, though, so there was a chance to build our own place, which is what we ultimately decided to do.
Throughout the process, we’ve been praying that God would guide us and close doors if we shouldn’t be going through with this. He has been so gracious in protecting us from buying houses at bad times in the past and we’ve been praying He would continue to do that. As sad as it seemed to walk away from the house, especially once we got far into designing it, we prayed that God would close doors and help us to walk away at any point up until signing the papers.
The past couple months, I’ve researched as much as possible and talked to anyone I could about buying/building a house. We’ve gone back and forth… and then back and forth some more, trying to figure out how to match what we wanted in the house with our real budget. It’s felt like we were “dating” the idea of the house, constantly asking ourselves “Is this the one? Are we ready to commit this time?”
Oh, and there was that time when we tried to negotiate with the builder about price right before signing the contract and they wouldn’t negotiate. We took that as a closed door, so we stepped back, reevaluated our budget yet again, and then knocked $50,000 off the price of the house. Bet they wish they’d negotiated the $2,000 off we were asking for!
We had been stretching to get the house we really wanted, thinking it would be our “forever” house. It was easy for us to go way beyond the budget we’d started with initially, because each $1,000 more only adds about $10 to the monthly mortgage payment amount. Plus, everyone “helping” us is working on commission, so the more we buy, the more they profit… and, they often reminded us that “it only adds like $10 a month. Might as well so you don’t have to do it later.”
As we looked at it again and sought counsel from our families, we realized we needed to buy the house we could comfortably afford now and potentially move to a bigger house once we had more/older kids and actually needed the extra space.
So, we knocked ourselves down to a smaller house with a lot fewer options. At first we felt bummed, but we took a step back and realized – This is amazing. Never in a million years would we have thought we could get half this house – even the “downgraded” version – until about a year ago. If we had stayed outside DC, we could have bought a one bedroom condo for the same price we’re paying for this house. Literally.
And, that condo would have allowed Beach Dad “only” an hour long commute by metro instead of an 8 minute commute by car or the potential to ride his bike to work. (You can read more about how we decided to move away from Northern Virginia here.)
We are so incredibly grateful that we get to do this. God has been so good to us in guiding us to not buy houses in the past, by teaching us to be frugal when we had no choice but to be frugal or drown in debt, and by helping us to find this neighborhood and house. We pray that our house will be a blessing to our children and their friends and to the many people we hope to host there!
And now we get to wait. I guess we’ve moved beyond dating the house and are engaged to it. We’ve shown our intentions and handed over some money to show we’re serious, but we’re not legitimate yet and have nothing real to show for it.
We hope to move in sometime in the late Spring. In the meantime, I’ll share some more of what our experience has looked like and what we’ve learned along the way. And, I’ll share some of what I hope to do in our house someday. I’ve been having fun on Pinterest lately!
Do you have any questions for me? Any tips for us as we secure our mortgage in a few months? I’d love to hear them!