Monday, April 16, 2007

How we found our house.

We are still waiting for keys. I've got all crossable body parts crossed in hopes that we will be able to move this Saturday (April 21). In the meantime, the story of how we found our house.

I (Patricia) have been pining for a house for years. I left Massachusetts, home of the incredibly insane housing prices, and rejoiced when I arrived in Portland in 2001 and found that there were still houses for sale for under $100,000. They weren't pretty, but they were full of potential. I'm all about potential.

Fast forward five years. It's 2006, and though I have finally gotten through graduate school, out of my incredibly underpaid job, and into a job that pays me a very decent wage, the housing market has gotten completely out of control. People are paying $200,000 to 300,000 and up for houses with around 800 square feet. There are no houses for sale for under $150,000--even the junkers are hovering around that price. I ride around town on my bike, and when I encounter a house for sale, I stop, read the flyer, grumble to myself and move on. My dream of owning my own home has receded. Everything is hopeless in the housing market and I am left to hope that all those people with adjustable rate mortgages will start losing their houses in the next few years so prices will come down a bit. (Funnily enough--or not--, this is starting to happen. I heard a story about problems with sub-prime mortgages on NPR last week. I did feel guilty for wishing people ill.)

In January, I found the web site 43 Things. There, I entered about 10 "things," goals I wanted to achieve. The first one was "own my own home." At the time, I thought that there was no way that would happen, but I put it on there just to keep my eyes on the prize. 43 Things recommends you visit the website regularly to update your progress toward your goals and I started to do that. I would visit each Wednesday and report on any progress I made toward those goals. With the house goal, I knew I was still pretty far away from being able to buy a house like a normal person. The market was much too high. So I started thinking about alternate ways I could buy a house. I had heard about the Portland Community Land Trust, and decided to check it out. I went to an orientation on January 18, and learned about their program. Suddenly, home ownership seemed much closer than it ever had.

In early February, Matt and I went to "get on the list," a process of making sure we were income qualified and had the means to purchase a house. We would then be able to say if we were interested in any homes that became available. We met Katie, the Homeownership Program Manager and she showed us varying amounts of loans we could afford with our current income. My plan at that time was to buy a house in the next 6-12 months. I was mostly interested in the grants they had to purchase an existing home, but there was a unique upstairs/downstairs unit of new construction. The lower level had been sold, but the upper unit was still available. I initially wasn't interested because I wanted my own yard, but Katie explained that the shared yard would probably be fenced. We said we were possibly interested and got to work on all the various things we needed to do to be officially "on the list."

By February 22, we had completed our taxes, met with a loan officer, attended an eight-hour home buying workshop and lost out on the upper unit. The person buying the lower unit had decided to purchase the upper and this left the lower unit for sale. Neither one of us was interested in the lower unit, but we had made an appointment to see the upper unit, and so we went by to check out the lower unit, just for "practice" looking at a house.

Both of us really liked it. So, we scrambled to jump through the rest of the hoops and by March 15th, I was standing at the big open house for all the people who worked on the house, being referred to as "the buyer." It was an incredible experience, and reaffirmed why I was happy to buy a land trust house.

I love that we can afford the house we are buying. I love that if we decide to sell, another buyer in our same position will buy our house. I love that Portland YouthBuilders, an organization I admire tremendously, built the house. I loved hearing the Youth who built the house speak about how incredibly proud they were to work on the house. I loved that almost all of them said that they would always point out our house to their friends and family as something that they had built. It is a wonderful feeling.

Both of our families have been very generously helping us out with our first purchase, giving freely of their resources. It has been really wonderful to have that support. Hopefully, in the next few days, we will get our keys to our very first house and we can begin truly settling in.

1 comment:

Shawn and Sara said...

What a great story! I can see why it was discouraging at times! But, how exciting to finally be on this end of the purchasing side of the realty market. -Sara