A very wise icon once said, “there’s no place like home!” -And I say no lies told there …
The Webster's American English Dictionary defines the word home as: 1: residence. 2:congenial environment 3: place of origin or refuge.
I can attest that the aforementioned definition truly encompasses what it means to own a home.
Now let me break down that definition:
residence=where someone lives
refuge=sanctuary; a safe shelter
Therefore one can assume that "home" refers to a pleasant place you live in that is a safe sanctuary- what a perfect explanation, if I do say so myself.
My journey to homeownership was far from typical. And it was truly a long, road home.
Now to rewind back about 5 years ago , I inquired about purchasing a home because a realtor I knew at the time talked me into it, otherwise it had not really crossed my mind because I did not think someone like me, with terrible credit and huge amounts of debt, could actually be a homeowner. Now me being a numbers person I did not just up and start looking at homes, I immediately spoke to a mortgage lender, basically a loan company, over the phone. They looked into my credit, debt, and income, the loan officer immediately told me that with the amount of student loan debt I had, that I would “never be approved for a home loan”. After hearing that, I’ll be honest it completely discouraged me, but thinking back I don’t even think he actually ran the numbers he just went based off of how much student loan debt I have, which is a lot!
Fast forward to just last April, when I did my finance blogs. After conducting various research and interviews on budgeting, credit, and investing, I decided to take my own advice and start fixing my credit. After I posted about my journey to start working on my credit, a Facebook friend of mine messaged me about how he can help. Now of course this Facebook friend is a real estate agent AND would later become my agent, but back to that later.
He reached out to me to assist in getting my credit cleaned up. We met on a Zoom conference call where he instructed me on a few simple ways to increase my credit score: wipe off and/or pay off old debt, get a secured credit card, take out a small personal loan. There are a few others, but those are the most impactful, and I am far from an expert.
However here’s a few credit and finance resources.
Now I am unsure, even to this day, if it at the time my realtor was helping me fix my credit so that I could buy a home soon or not, however, I am happy that I was able to fix my credit! To be transparent, my credit score when we started in early May of 2021 was around 550, by the time June came it had increased to around 680. I feel no shame in sharing this because I know everything that lead to that low score, but also I am beyond proud of the diligence and hard work I put in to increase the score. Now fast forward to around September/October of 2021, I knew that my lease would be up in January at my apartment, I knew that I did not want to renew it and I also knew that I did not want to live in another apartment. I just simply have too much stuff!
So I began looking on our fave site, Zillow, for possible home rentals and rent to own programs. But was not finding much luck. One day a realtor from Zillow reached out to me about purchasing and again I was like, "Me? Buy a house? No it's not for me." She explained I should at least speak to a lender, though my last experience discouraged me, I thought well it's been 5 years since I spoke to one, why not. But instead of continuing with the realtor from Zillow I did follow back of with my facebook friend, Remi because if anyone was going to be my realtor, I knew it would be him. Not only did my score increase from his help, but my approval rating got better and my relationship with money got even better! Also Remi, who honestly had been following up with me every other month to monitor my credit and progression and to see when or if I was ready to buy a home, was the perfect choice.
An untraditional journey.
Once I reached out to Remi about his mortgage lender, things started moving very fast... On October 27th I attended a first time home buying workshop hosted by that lender, October 29th I met with the mortgage company's VP, one on one, to go over my options to see what I qualify for and to apply. By November 2nd, I had a pre-approval and was ready to look at houses in real life! Between November 4th and November 18th, Remi and I looked at about 15-16 houses in person. Keep in mind during this time I was working two jobs and in school so when I wasn't occupied with that I was looking at houses online, houses in person, and getting documents over to the loan company.
My goal was to find a home by my birthday, November 15th, and I wound up doing just that! My home had literally just been listed on November 12th, I found it on November 14th, and went to see it in person on November 19th. We put in the contract that night and had the contract accepted/ratified less than 24 hours later. Now from what most people have told me this is far from traditional, so I honestly consider myself to be blessed beyond measure.
Things with the lender were moving along as well and my projected closing date was December 20th or the 29th. That was until around mid-December, things started to take a turn when the mortgage lender began having issues with my 2019 income, the year I was self-employed and a few Affirm and AfterPay accounts in my banking history, and then they asked for my rental history, which I will honest, I had some late payments over the past few years. To this moment I am not sure why these items were not things they asked for or needed verification of prior to approving me because I would not have started this process had I known at all that I would not be able to finish it. So just days before I was supposed to be closing on my home, the mortgage company reported to me that they could not further proceed with my loan. When I say devastated, I was beyond depressed-like could not eat, sleep, nothing, I just felt defeated and embarrassed.
A Christmas miracle.
Fast forward to a few days later, my realtor sent me a message saying, "We are not done, let's look at other options, it will take a miracle, but it's worth it." So literally Christmas Eve, we sent my files and application over to a new mortgage lender and they were able to approve me through the entire process, and my closing was on January 13th. When I say it was by pure miracle, it was definitely a miracle!
This entire process, though rewarding, was filled with peaks and valleys. It is something that can be mentally and even physically draining. If you are considering purchasing a home, definitely cling fast to your faith, family, and support system because you will need it! I am much more at peace than I have ever been at my home and I can not wait to share all the decorating and renovating I will be doing, so stay tuned for that!!
Here's 5 things I wish I knew before I started this journey.
That I was actually going to buy a home!
That my year of self-employment would be an issue.
That you can look at several lenders.
That things like AfterPay and Klarna can impact you.
That you should start saving as much as you can. (However you do not need $1million to buy a home)
Here's a few tokens of advice I have for anyone looking to purchase a home:
-Remember that everyone's experience is different and is theirs.(Do not allow anyone who is or is not a homeowner(especially if they are not) tell you what you should want/need)
-Make a list of your preferred zip codes, your must haves, and non-negotiables-and stick to it.
-Do not post publicly about you experience until it is completed.(In my opinion it is best to experience this off line, with your family and closest friends, it is imperative to be focused and quiet the noise of social media and comparison during this time)
Stay tuned this Friday at 7:00pm where my realtor Remi and I will be going Live on Instagram to share more about my journey, debunk some myths, answer questions about the homebuying process, and more!