I feel just that way, completely overwhelmed with joy at owning a house again, and yet totally undeserving of this particular one. It makes me wonder what works-based gospel I've been buying all these years. I've been given salvation, new life, the holy spirit, and so many material things despite my inability to do anything to earn them. Do I really still think, even in the tiniest way, that God only gives us things that we deserve?
Not a chance. No way. Every day I think about it and am in awe all over again.
The first thing God gave us was a new job and a moving contract, complete with a small allowance for a house hunting trip. We still planned to find a rental and live in the area for a while so we would know where we wanted to live. That's when a few close family members stepped in and gave us some very good advice. Craig's sister, especially, encouraged us to be open to looking to buy right away. Having made a cross-country move with small children, a rental nightmare, and then another move right away, she was in a position to understand just how hard it is to bring kids through all that upheaval.
We decided to start looking, which for us meant evenings after the kids were in bed on realtor.com searching through listings. One particular one caught Craig's eye: an empty foreclosure on two acres in the Fair Hill area of Maryland. What he did see, he liked. Loved, really. The large upstairs space. The simple and stately outdoor landscaping. It was hard to tell just what it was like. There were ten pictures, most featuring a white wall and a window. Nothing of kitchen, bathrooms, or other features usually photographed. Ever my realistic self, I told Craig that the kitchen was probably a burned-out hole with cement poured in the pipes and to not get his hopes up.
So we did just that, making our top-ten list and writing this listing into the margins as "not enough info". Our #1 pick was a house in Pennsylvania that looked promising. It was also on two acres, but the house was smaller and seemed more manageable. On our first afternoon in the area, we drove past the first few houses on our list and were dismayed that nothing seemed to be a good option. #1 was on a steep hill with a road at the bottom, making the yard unusable. #2 was made of stucco, which has problems in the area. #3 was just plain expensive.
Crestfallen, we were on our way back to the hotel when Craig recognized the turnoff to the foreclosure from his time looking longingly at it on GoogleEarth. We decided to drive by. As we entered the secluded little court of twelve houses, we couldn't help but notice that it was flat, peaceful, and so beautiful. We parked in front and stared at the brick house and the pie-shaped lot. It looked amazing.
"The kitchen is probably a burned out hole," I reminded Craig. Then I noticed a neighbor out in his yard. On a whim, I approached and was given a friendly greeting and a ton of information on the house, the neighborhood, and the situation. It had been a sore spot in the neighborhood for a while, standing empty after a messy divorce and both spouses moving out of state. Despite the neglect, it was thought to be in pretty good condition with new paint, new carpet, and a full tank of propane.
The kitchen was NOT a burned out hole. The bathrooms were dated and dirty, but we could both see the potential. Fixed up, this would be a really cool house.
Getting it "fixed up" would also be a chore. We'd have to inspect it rigorously and then buy as-is, doing the repairs ourselves after we moved in. The state of the toilets, clogged and stained with red iron deposits, revealed that the house had been winterized, the water supply needed reconditioning, and there were water leaks to fix. Taking on the job would be a leap of faith for us.
It is also interesting to note that by this point Craig was already supposed to have lost his job at USDA. Due to a paperwork mixup, he was not informed of this for another month, until we were well into escrow and the decision had already been made. I think this, too, is so cool: if we had known that there would be a between-job hiatus, we probably would've been scared off any house purchase whatsoever. Thank you, God, for the federal government!!!
The loan process was, unfortunately, very long and hard. The lending climate has changed a lot since the last time we waved our W2's in the general direction of the bank and got our last mortgage. Renting for a few years and being debt free moved us into the murky realm of "insufficient credit history", meaning they needed miles of paper trail to establish our identities as people who pay bills.
It's a luxury we enjoy after the kids go to bed, as the glass gets really hot.