One of our big intentions for the year 2020 was to buy our first house. The lease to our apartment was supposed to end in October 2020, so I knew we had a little time to “shop around”. Even though we didn’t start actively looking at houses on realtor.com and zillow.com until the first of the year, I consider our house hunting journey to have started during the summer of 2019.
That summer Brendan and I would ride around town looking at houses that were on the market while Ellis napped in the car. It was a simple little thing, but I came to really enjoy Sunday drives looking at houses and dreaming of what our future home might look like.
Making a List
In October 2019, I felt pulled to sit down and write out a list of what I wanted in a house. I was very adamant about the qualities I was looking for, but I wanted to see God’s will manifested into our lives and I knew I couldn’t cling too tightly to the house I had dreamed up in my mind.
So, at the top of my list I wrote Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (ESV). I prayed over that list for three months and I was blown away by how God provided.
On my list was written “What I Want in a House…”
- Enough yard to be able to sit outside and read, have space for Ellis to play, and to have a small garden.
- Privacy — not too close to other houses, a fence, or trees and bushes.
- Away from the road.
- Well water.
- Either a finished basement or no basement at all.
- Hardwood floors.
- Lots of natural light.
The Hunt Begins
By mid-January we had started actively looking at houses that were on the market. Our hope was that we could get out of our apartment lease early if we found a house that we liked and wanted to make an offer on it. During this time both Brendan and I were on a social media fast that our church was participating in, and so we had more time and attention to focus on house hunting and really praying about the whole process.
Brendan’s parents’ came to us and wanted to gift us some of their stock money to put towards a down payment on a house. We were so grateful! That allowed us to put in an offer sooner if the right house did come along.
On Sunday January 19th, we went to our first open house. It was an older home that had been slightly updated, but I knew it wasn’t the house for us. Our realtor was the one showing that house and that was the first time that I got to meet him. We talked to him a little bit about what qualities we were looking for in a house and he said he would keep us updated if he found any houses he thought we might like.
The First House
The very next day (January 20th), Brendan met our realtor and they went to go see two different houses that afternoon. One of the houses was an older brick house that Brendan and I had both looked at online. It was pretty nice, had the character and amount of bedrooms we were looking for, and had a fenced in backyard. The kitchen on the other hand was not to my liking at all.
Brendan tried to convince me that since the house was a bit cheaper than our budget we could afford to remodel the kitchen. I knew that I had to see the house in person myself, so that evening I bundled Ellis up and drove out to see the house.
I’m a pretty intuitive person and I’ve always felt that I would know which house was the right house for us when I walked into it.
As I walked into the house, I tried to open my mind’s eye and imagine what living in the house would look and feel like — I could see us making the front living room cozy with curtains, a big comfy couch, and our tv mounted on the wall. I could see pretty fairy lights strung in the back yard, a little garden patch near the wooden fence, and Ellis running around playing as I tended to the vegetables and herbs. But that was about as far as I got. It felt hazy, like I could see us potentially living there, but it felt forced.
As we walked through the house I started to realize that the remodel and updates would be a bit more than I was hoping for. There were enough bedrooms upstairs, but the second bathroom we hoped to have for when Brendan’s family visits was downstairs, and there was only a toilet, no shower. The main bathroom upstairs felt very open, but there was a tub in one corner of the room, the toilet in the corner next to it, and then the shower was a step up and incased in the wall.
The attic wasn’t my favorite place, but I knew it would be nice to have that extra storage place. And then there was the basement. I’ve always strongly disliked basements —- the house I grew up in didn’t have one and they’ve always creeped me out a little bit. Well, this one topped all of the creepy basements I’ve seen in my life.
It’s been a while so my mind is a bit foggy on just exactly what it looked like down there, but I know that the stairs were dusty and narrow, it was so dimly lit that I couldn’t see a whole lot, and it was unfinished. I didn’t walk very far down there because it was absolutely filthy and just felt dark and dank. There was also a very disgusting urinal in the corner that just added to the strangeness of the area. Our realtor pointed out where we would hook up a washer and dryer, and that about sealed the deal for me right there. There was no way I could see myself coming down in that basement to do laundry by myself, much less with Ellis in tow throughout the day. We talked about possibly moving the laundry upstairs, but doing that and remodeling the kitchen probably couldn’t have been done with the money we had.
Brendan thought we could make it work, I knew we could too. But I just didn’t like the feeling of not being comfortable in my own house and being creeped out by an eery basement that we might not be able to finish for years to come. And then, there was the fact that someone had already put an offer on the house and our realtor said that if we were going to make a move it would have to be that night.
My head was reeling. We told our realtor we would take a couple hours to think about it and get back to him. We grabbed a bite to eat, we prayed about it, and then we talked it over with Brendan’s parents. And by the time we had talked, his family was saying what I already knew, we had made up our minds to pass on it.
It was a little sad to pass up on it because we did like the character of it. But I let the house go and told Brendan that if the house was meant for us then maybe the other person’s offer would fall through. And so we were back to the hunt.
Found on a Whim
If I remember correctly, Brendan looked at a couple of other houses with our realtor that week. I kept searching online and sending Brendan links to any and every house that I liked that was at least somewhat within our budget.
And then I found this beautiful old brick house that stood out from all of the other houses. To me it looked like a house out of a fairytale. It had character, charm, and a bit of whimsy that I hadn’t seen yet. I was instantly drawn to this house. The inside was charming and dripping with character too, and as I flipped through the photos online I knew that this was the type of house I had been dreaming of.
However, the listed price was over our budget. My heart sank a little, but I still decided to send the link to Brendan. I told him that even though the asking price was more than we had talked about spending, I still wanted a chance to walk through the house during the open house that coming Sunday.
Open House, Open Heart
As we pulled up to the old brick house on that sunny winter afternoon, my heart skipped a bit. It was just as charming in person as it was in the photos online.
There were quite a lot of people moving about from room-to-room inside when we got there, so we didn’t get to take as much time to really look at the house as I would have liked to. But I loved everything I saw about that house — sure it was a bit older, but the character of the house had been pretty well preserved and there were also a few updated features that were nice. As we walked through the house, I started to get a glimpse of what it would be like to live in this house and raise our family here.
This house had what I was looking for — lots of windows and natural light in every room, hardwood floors, character, the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, a finished basement, and a huge fenced in backyard. I loved it!
I told Brendan, and he said “then lets make an offer on it.”. I knew it was over our budget and I saw all of the families that were looking at the house that I assumed made a lot more money than we did. I was torn and knew we needed to think about it.
After walking through the entire house we talked to the realtor that was showing the house; she gave us the specs and she and I bonded over our dislike of creepy basements. We commented on the number of people coming through to see the house, and she told us that a lot of them had been people that lived in the neighborhood, just curious to walk through and see the house. That gave me the tiniest glimmer of hope that maybe, possibly, if everything lined up just right, this could be the house for us.
We saw one more house that afternoon, but it was so small, dark, and boxy (and there was a creepy unfinished basement) that it’s not even worth going into detail.
The Next Day
After we saw the house we sent the Zillow listing to our parents and contacted our realtor. We arranged to meet our realtor at the house the next day to do a walk through and get a better look at it and see what he had to say.
What I remember about the walk through that day is the way the house looked even prettier to me than the day before, the way Ellis ran around and around and around shrieking happily, and our realtor saying “Lets do it!” in response to the idea of us putting an offer on the house that day.
So, we put in the offer and our realtor asked to have an answer from the seller that night. I was so giddy that whole day and tried not to dwell on it too much.
That night Brendan and I stayed up late watching HGTV and dreaming about owning our own home while we waited to hear back from our realtor. At 11:45p.m. Brendan got the text from our realtor congratulating us saying that the seller accepted our offer!
From Offer to Close
From there things got moving quickly! Our accepted offer contract had us set up for closing in 30 days, and there was a lot that needed to get done within that time frame. We scheduled our house inspection for later that week (January 30th). Brendan was there for the entirety of the inspection so he could get an idea of what we were dealing with as far as what needed to be addressed and repaired before we closed. Ellis and I stopped by for a little while and met the inspector and spent more time day dreaming of making this house our home.
Overall the inspection went well. There were a lot of small things that the inspector noted, but the only things that really needed attention right away were a faulty compressor for one of the A/C units, and the hot water heater not being turned on during the time of the inspection. Neither of these were really an issue though. There were a few other little things that we would have liked the sellers to fix before we moved in, but we decided to accept a repair credit that helped us pay for the repairs ourselves after move in.
Everything seemed to be going along smoothly. I had heard horror stories of the closing process when buying a house, so it almost seemed too good to be true that we were still right on schedule for sealing the deal and getting those house keys.
And then there was the issue of the buried heating oil tank. After Brendan noticed the oil tank during the inspection he did some research to figure out how much of a risk it was to buy a house with an oil tank like this that was no longer in use. After his research, Brendan requested that the seller have the soil tested to see if the tank was leaking oil, because the cost of removing the tank and addressing any contaminated soil could be quite costly.
The soil tests came back positive and things weren’t looking so good. Brendan was concerned about this issue and started talking about the possibility of passing on this house. I was devastated at the thought of losing this house and I was angry at the thought of letting something like an oil tank get in the way of this dream house.
After talking it over with my family with clenched teeth, I knew that I was becoming too attached to this house already and that I was holding on too tightly. Instead of being upset at Brendan for possibly wanting to pass on the house, I decided to loosen my grip and place the whole situation back in God’s hands. I was trusting that if we made it past this obstacle, then that was God telling us to move forward with buying the house. I felt a bit anxious, but a lot calmer and more at peace with whatever happened.
And then we found out that the State of Virginia would pay for most, if not all, of the tank removal. For peace of mind though, the seller also offered to pay up to $2,000 towards whatever the state did not cover. This was a huge relief, as we felt that the tank was the last obstacle we had work around in order to feel comfortable purchasing the house. I could see God’s hand at work throughout this whole process.
Brendan worked with a local mortgage broker and our banks’ national mortgage division to get all of the financing figured out. The last little hiccup we faced in the purchasing process was with the bank, as the underwriting ended up not being complete in time for us to close at the end of February. This actually worked to our benefit as it delayed when our first mortgage payment was due, and since we had to exit our lease early as a result of the purchase, that was a blessing for us financially. Again, we could see God’s hand at work!
So, after some back and forth between the bank, Brendan, and our realtor, the closing documents got finalized over the weekend and we were able to reschedule our close for March 3. The actual day of closing was a breeze! We had our keys and we were ready to pack up our apartment and move in a couple weeks.
I’ll never forget the week we moved. The world started shutting down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and people were being advised to shelter in place. While the rest of the world seemed to be in chaos, I was happy that we had a new house to keep us busy. With the help of my family, we moved in on March 19, 2020, the most beautiful sunny first day of spring!