Friday, October 11, 2013

My Five-Year Struggle to Keep My Home - Part 1

During the summer of 1998, my husband John and I were finally able to go house hunting.  Although apartment living had served us well for the first five years I had lived in the Pacific Northwest, we wanted to experience the American Dream - to own our own home.  John was told he would be receiving an inheritance soon, and we decided immediately to invest the money into real estate.  We contacted a realtor and scheduled four homes to look at that June day.

The first two houses were newly built or under construction, but lacked something we couldn't quite define - maybe charm or character.  We found what we wanted in the third house.  The 1977 Colonial was on a small slope about 200 feet from the street and it the treed setting was almost breathtaking.  I fell in love with the yard first, and said to John, "If the house is half-way decent, we have to buy it; this is the one."

It was my first home, but John's third or fourth.  We were in our fifties and had been together for a decade and half.  We met in the mid-eighties in northern Virginia, where I was born.  He had transferred there from Seattle where he had a job with the federal Civil Service Commission (now Office of Personnel Management) in Washington, D.C.  After 15 years of civil service and issues with his health, he decided to opt for an early retirement and return to the beautiful Pacific Northwest where he was born.

The home buying process was at times nerve wracking: over $300,000 was to be electronically deposited into our bank account on a certain date - July 30, 1998, as I recall.  We weren't sophisticated with regard to money transfers.  What if something went wrong?  While waiting for that important day to arrive, we were asked to pay the seller's agent $3,000 in earnest money.  That was money we didn't  have.  We ended up scrambling to do that, borrowing money from relatives and selling what little jewelry we had.  We looked at each other and asked, How can we be buying a home for $270,000 and have so much trouble coming up with $3,000?  It took us two weeks and a few trips to the pawn shop, but we finally were successful.

We went to closing as scheduled the end of July, and were handed the keys to our new home.  Our plan was to have it paid off in 20 years.  But many obstacles were presented over which we had only partial control.  My intention was to never refinance or borrow on our home.  John had other ideas.


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