Ah, my first blog entry. This will be the lifeblood of Desiato Homes. This will be where I wear my heart on my sleeve and let you peek inside my world. Hopefully you will subscribe and enjoy my occasionally insightful musings, but mostly my opinionated ramblings.
Ok, so here goes…
BLOG ENTRY #1
I decided to let you in on a little secret. Something I shouldn’t tell you as someone who makes a living helping people buy/sell houses.
MOVING IS THE WORST!
My family and I just moved this past weekend. So what? Big Deal. Everybody moves. New Beginnings. New Seasons. Blah blah blah old cliche after old cliche. But the truth is, Moving sucks. Especially when your move is not YOUR move. What do I mean by that? I mean, when it is ultimately brought on by circumstances beyond your control. Moving has always been hard but typically the emotional and psychological pain is dulled by the excitement of moving on to bigger and better things.
This move has had a profound effect on me. It has caused me to really take a hard look at my life and career. I keep seeing the faces of people who have no choice but to move. Maybe they are getting older and can’t maintain the large home they’ve lived in for decades, or maybe they’ve fallen on hard times and cannot financially afford to stay in their home. Whatever the case may be, I’m sure this hits “home” for a lot of people. Thankfully, neither of these are necessarily the case for our move.
HERE’S THE BACK STORY:
My wife and I were married in 2005. We happily rented a 2 BR apartment for dirt cheap, but it was far away from family so we decided to move. For years we both had heard about how renting was essentially “throwing your money away.” So being young and naive, with no kids, we decided to wade into the uncharted waters of home-ownership. It was the American dream! We bought a small condo (748 sq ft) in December 2006, at what was, unbeknownst to us, the height of the Real Estate market. We loved our new place and best of all we had ourselves a good ole’ fashioned “investment.” We brought our first son home from the hospital in February 2008. Then comes the Great Recession, when the Real Estate bubble burst, and home values plummeted. Again, unbeknownst to us, our condo association had had some issues (lawsuits, etc.) which caused them to lose their FHA certification.
A brief Real Estate lesson –
FHA stands for Federal Housing Authority. It is a mortgage product that is backed by the government which allows first-time home buyers with little savings to buy a home with only 3.5% down at the time of purchase. Condos are very attractive for first-time home buyers, as well as folks who are looking to downsize as they get older. This means that many condos are purchased using either (1) the FHA loan for young buyers with little savings, or (2) with cash proceeds from the sale of a larger home. In the case of cash purchases, oftentimes people will sell their homes for less since they are getting cash, which does not really help in driving up home values. Take away the ability to obtain FHA financing and you basically cripple any condo owners from being able to sell their condo at a fair value. Not to mention that people had been approved for mortgages for years with very little regulation, which led to a ton of foreclosures. Foreclosures, No FHA, and cash-only purchases left people in dire straights and unable to sell their condos.
And now back to our regularly-scheduled programming…
That is exactly what happened to us. Our home value fell by more than 20%! Coupled with the fact that we financed 96.5% of it, meant we were under water. Fast forward to 2010, we now had two small boys in our little condo and felt trapped. We attempted to sell it in 2011, which in hindsight was a complete waste of time. I don’t even remember if we had a single showing. In 2012, thanks to the advice of a very helpful realtor, we were able to refinance using the HARP program, which saved us on our monthly mortgage payment. We decided to rent out our condo and then try and rent a larger home as our primary dwelling. We soon realized that the difference in rent costs when moving from a 2BR to a 3BR was nearly 50%!
Miraculously, we found this cool, almost abandoned farmhouse in Lansdale that was being rented for less than our mortgage payment and condo fees and we fell in love. Sure, the roof leaked, the floors had holes, and it was incredibly inefficient as far as utilities were concerned, but we were getting a home that we would never be able to afford otherwise. So we quickly signed a lease and prayed fervently that God would find us a tenant for our condo. Being a landlord is one of the other worst things in the world (maybe I’ll write a post on that another time), but it was almost worth it to have a backyard and an old fashioned country home (almost) all to ourselves.
We knew that one of the reasons the home was so cheap was because the landlords were going to eventually develop the land and put new homes on the property, but that always seemed to be years away and we didn’t pay much attention to it.
That brings us to this year.
We heard rumblings that the township approval process was moving more quickly than anticipated, and the likelihood that development could begin sooner than later was increasing. I also had been given the opportunity to audition for a professional theater company in the Lancaster area called Sight & Sound, which, if I had been selected, would mean that we would need to move closer towards the Lancaster area by the New Year. This put me and my wife in a bit of a holding pattern. A time of severe uncertainty. Our thought process was, “Well, we need to give 90 days notice when we do decide to move, plus they may ask us to move out in 2016 and there may be not be something suitable available at that time.” Plus we did not want to go through another winter in our home if we were not going to be there long-term (though we loved our house, the pipes had frozen every winter and the previous winter we went without hot water for two weeks). We decided that we needed to give our notice so that we could be partially in control of our moving time-frame. So on July 31st, 2015, we gave our 90 day notice. Unfortunately, I did not get hired at Sight & Sound, so one could say that we didn’t need to initiate our move, but if you were in our shoes you would see how scary it is when you are facing the unknown and need to make a decision that is going to be good for your family in the long run. Had we done nothing, we would have gone through another tough winter and possibly been asked to move in 2016 without having our choice as to where and when we moved.
So we began looking for our next home and thankfully, we found another great deal. The problem was that it was in a neighboring town that we were unfamiliar with and was about half the size of our farmhouse. But it was exactly what we needed for this next season of life.
We lived in our condo for 5 1/2 years and in our farmhouse for nearly 3 1/2 and right now, this move seems much harder. Why is that?
I think it is because the farmhouse was in a strange way the fulfillment to a dream we thought would not come true. The ability to have a home where we could entertain (though we didn’t end up doing too much of that as time went on). A place where our kids could run around outside and enjoy the fresh air. A place where some of our sweetest memories were made.
I will always remember how beautiful the home looked when my wife would decorate for fall and for the Christmas season.
I will always cherish the cups of coffee that Jamie and I shared on the back porch swing at dusk.
I will have fond memories writing and recording music with my brothers into the wee hours of the morning.
I will never forget watching my boys jumping into their play pool in the backyard and laughing uncontrollably.
I will always laugh when I remember all of the ridiculous things that we put up with for 3 1/2 years simply because we just loved that house so much.
We tried to make a list of all the things we wouldn’t miss (believe me, there were a ton of things – see below), but the things we will miss are just too weighty to ignore.
Did we want to move? NO! Our hand was forced. And for now, the wounds are fresh.
This is why I have been reevaluating my life and career. This experience has been nothing short of a trauma and I can’t help but wonder what it must be like for others who are forced to move when it is not their decision.
What about the foster child who finally settles in, only to be told that it’s time to move on?
What about the elderly couple who spends decades raising their children and grandchildren, only to have Father Time take away their dream home and replace it with a small condo?
What about people who fall on hard times and can only stand back and watch as the bank forecloses on their home?
With everything positive that comes with moving, I never want to forget just how emotionally and physically draining it can be. Especially, for the people who have no other choice.
That’s why I am challenging folks to look out for others who maybe don’t have the home they always dreamed of having. I truly believe that we can do our part to ensure that people have a safe place where new memories can be made. A true place they can call HOME.
Thanks for reading and Godspeed,