Sunday, October 10, 2010
All About Snake Hill
Five days ago we received the keys to our new home! (yes, there are snakes there!)
We bought our first house, a little 900-sq-ft number, in 2002 (Cole was almost a year old) and sold it in 2004, when Cole was 3 and Reese was 6 months. We were quickly outgrowing it and wanted to take advantage of the fabulous market. It wasn't a great time to buy, though, as houses were getting caught in bidding wars and going for top dollar in our area, so we decided to rent a house "for a year" while we caught our breath and decided what to do next...
That was over six years ago. For six years, we have searched out multiple houses, properties, loan packages, mortgage brokers, and have continually asked God to show us what he had for us. For six years, there have been dead-ends and closed doors.
At the beginning of this year, we spoke with a realtor who encouraged us to apply for a particular program that is designed for low-income families (he figured that we would qualify because of the number of children we had; he was right). We decided to look into the program, and because it looked promising, we applied.
The application process was extremely tedious and time-consuming because of all of the extra verifications that were needed. We found out in early April that we qualified, and we foolishly hoped that we would be able to purchase a house before the end of the month, so that we could also qualify for the extended tax credit, but we had no idea how long the process would really be. We first began looking at houses with our realtor in March, but because of the specific strict regulations of the program, we struggled to find a house that would meet program guidelines and also suit our growing family. We could have easily settled quickly into a big, nice house in a suburban area, but we knew that the best solution for us would be to sacrifice the big, beautiful house for a smaller, older house on a larger piece of land.
For months and months we spent every single day researching the listings, without fail. I can't even guess how many miles the boys and I put on the car driving all over the county driving past potential houses. There were so many things we were willing to concede on, and we tried so hard to be flexible and to look at each property with eyes open to possibilities, but we just found NOTHING that would work for us. Every night we prayed as a family that God would just show us clearly what we were to do. We didn't ask for a house, and we didn't ask to stay in our rental; all we prayed for was clarity--that whatever the answer, we would never doubt it because we would be so sure of his leading.
Months passed, and our time was running out--the program's qualification expires after a certain number of weeks. The boys began asking us if God was really saying No to a house; we told him we couldn't be sure. We encouraged them and continued to pray with them, and told them that we would obey whatever we were asked to do in this situation.
So much time passed that I began expanding my searches. I looked for houses out of our price range, anticipating possible drops in the market. We abandoned our hopes of living close to our current community and began looking at listings farther and farther away. Still, there was nothing....
In July I stumbled across yet another listing that piqued my interest (as so many did at first)--but this one had major problems right up front. It was $60K out of our price range, it was twice as much land as we were allowed to buy, and it had certain outbuildings that disqualified it from the program (yes, the rules were that specific!). It seemed so obviously wrong for us, but we were willing to go down every path until a door was closed. I asked my realtor to ask the listing realtor if the seller was willing to consider any variations of offers on what was actually for sale. Surprisingly enough, the answer was yes, so we made an appointment to see the property--just to verify that it really was out of reach--to get it out of our minds!
Upon seeing the house & property, Justin and I shook our heads at how perfect it seemed for our family. But there were still so, so many obstacles. The first one we had to conquer was the problem of the outbuildings. We photographed them and sent pictures to our lender--again, just so we could get the big "NO" once and for all....and she okayed the buildings (subject to physical inspection) within a matter of minutes. Stunned, we considered what our next move was: the price, and the size of the property. Justin met with the listing agent the next day, explained our unique circumstances (and limitations), and the listing agent gave him a scenario that he knew his seller would approve: Split the property the way his client would prefer, and make an offer. After discussing it, we realized that his scenario would STILL keep us outside the confines of our loan regulations, so we went back to him apologetically and told him: thank you, but that doesn't work for us. Shocking us again, he immediately abandoned his request, and told us to just write an offer for exactly what part of the land we wanted. He even told us how much to offer--and it was tens of thousands less than we planned to spend.
At this point, we were beginning to feel that God was going before us and making a way where there had been none. We still moved cautiously, but we felt that we were seeing a miracle play out, and that possibly our dreams were coming true in a very memorable way. But there were still so, so many obstacles. The main things we worried about were 1)building inspections (we didn't know the condition of the house and whether or not it would be approved by the lender) and our lender's specialized inspection (which we assumed would shut down the project, as we still didn't think the outbuildings would qualify). The only thing we didn't question was the funding, because our lender had assured us that was the only certain thing about the whole process.
Our building inspection came back with flying colors. The inspector could find nothing wrong other than broken lights, a broken door, some missing outlet covers...all elementary findings. So then we called to schedule our lender's inspection, still fervently praying...and were told that they were "temporarily waiving all rights to a physical inspection". They told us that as long as we completed our basic inspection (which we already had)--those results would suffice.
At this point in the process even my children were wide-eyed, convinced that they were seeing their God at work. Cole knew enough about the process that he could not BELIEVE our lender's inspection was being waived, and refused to believe it was anything less than the work of God. There were still obstacles at this point--funny little regulations we had to meet all through the purchase process--but they were seemingly becoming fewer and far between. We actively began sorting through our things and preparing to move into our new home.
And then, two weeks ago, out of the blue, as we were preparing the final closing documents, we received an email from the lender saying that she was very sorry, but the funding had run out for the program, and our loan would not be written. We were completely blindsided. We knew that the house had not been delivered into our hands yet, but we no longer had a guess as to what God was doing. All of these months of expended energy--for nothing. While we had been waiting for closing, our original application had expired--so if our loan fell through, we knew we would be back at square one. We could stay where we were at, or we could begin the application process all over again. We weren't sure that we had the energy to start all over.
Unsure of our next step and with extremely heavy hearts, I asked our lender if we could have a little bit of time before calling our realtor and the listing agent. We knew the purchase & sale would need to be dissolved, but we needed a few days to breathe, and she graciously told us that was just fine. She told us that if were able to get an extension granted, that she could possibly fund the loan next year...but there was a slight possibility of that, as the seller had already been lenient with us on several other details and may not have agreed to one more thing.
We went to bed that night with heavy burdens, continuing to petition God for wisdom and clarity. By the next morning, we could still not speak of it to each other, and had not told our children--but when I turned on my computer and checked my messages, there was an immediate email (again) from the lender, saying: Never mind, someone else's loan fell through and their money has just come available, and your paperwork is next in line---closing will be in a matter of days, get ready!
It has been such a roller coaster. The house closed on Tuesday, and by Monday evening, we still could not be sure it would even go through. Tuesday morning, I was sitting at the table doing school with the boys when I heard the phone ring; not picking it up (because we were at our studies) I heard my machine come on and the clerk from the title company tell us that everything had closed beautifully with no complications and I immediately burst into tears, unable to believe what God had done...
Here are a few pictures of our new home. That building that Reuben is climbing on is our root cellar, and that field (with woods behind) is our new backyard!