I have a nice list of complaints about my house. I'm sure they are not much different than the complaints a lot of people have about their own houses. The features of my house which irk me include a small eating area, not enough countertop space, no entry area (the front door dumps you right into the living room), a living room which can barely contain a full sized sofa, most of the rooms are glorified hallways, narrow bedrooms upstairs while the master is down, and lamentably nowhere to put a piano.
We decided to move back to Middle Tennessee after I graduated with my MS because we wanted to be closer to family. Both sets of parents lived in the Greater Nashville area and the two and a half hour drive back over the plateau was getting old fast. The reality was that even though the timing in our personal life couldn't have been better, the timing in the overall housing market was terrible. The housing bubble was fully inflated with just the first cracks in the market beginning to show. We had a down payment saved, but between a teacher's salary and graduate school, it wasn't as large as we would have liked. We also had a problem.
Since we were moving to be closer to our parents, we wanted to live in a location where we were close enough to actually see them. It seemed pointless to move and end up living in an area where we would still be over an hour driving to visit. We wanted to be within an easy distance from at least one set of parents, but they both lived in fairly upper middle class areas. Areas in which we could not afford to live. It was a real problem.
We looked and looked through the real estate listings and even the smallest, oldest, most broken down houses in these areas were well above our price cap of 150K. It was upsetting. What was especially upsetting was the lack of understanding from many sources about our predicament. Family members who did not understand why we were not looking closer or did not believe the houses just weren't there. Coworkers who did not understand why we didn't just live in town or move to the other side of town which would be a couple of hours away from at least one set of parents. The bottom line was money, the lack of it, and the absurd prices of the housing market.
After looking for several months, we found a house in foreclosure about five minutes from Dave's parents. The lot was more than I ever thought we would have at over an acre. Dave loved the yard. The house was not my dream house. The eating area was small. There was not enough countertop space in the kitchen. The living room, which the front door opened right into, was small where it would be hard to arrange furniture. The bedrooms were split on different levels. There was a lot of cosmetic work to be done. It had previously been a rental and looked it. I guess the previous owners got tired of being landlords and just let it go back to the bank. There was dog mess on the floor. The paint was horrifically bad. But the price! The price was within our budget. Here was a house we could fix up a little, live five minutes away from one set of grandparents and an easy hour from the other, and we could afford it. We stretched as far as we could and still stayed under our cap. It seemed so unlikely for this house to be in this location and sell for this price. It came with the serious trade off of the commute, but truthfully the commute was going to be part of my life no matter where we lived. We could not afford to live closer to town and still be on the same side of the city as our parents.
Several months after we bought our house, the housing market collapsed. People panicked, but since we had just bought our house out of foreclosure, the market value of our house never dipped below what we paid for it. I was always grateful for that mercy. After we lived in our house for a few years, Dave's father was diagnosed
with cancer and died with a year. Dave was so grateful to have had
those years with his father so close. The strain of having a mortgage payment at the top of what we could afford eased first with a refinancing and then with my eventual raise.
We have lived comfortably in this house.
What brings this topic to the forefront of my mind is Dave's recent access to the backend of the MLS. In our town, there are zero houses listed for what we could have afforded when we bought our house. Zero. In the current market, there are few houses we could afford even now, measured by the handful. It is so unlikely that we live where we do, but we do live here. It is our own small measure of divine intervention, our own divine house.