Sometimes I think the most inspiring thing about buying your first home is reading about other people's experiences. So I thought I would share Janet's story about her first time home buying experience.
I was a brand new real estate agent, and must have looked pretty ridiculous in my miniskirt, long blond ponytail, driving an over-sized and totally inappropriate white Chevrolet Impala (which was dubbed the "tuna boat" by my husband).
But hey, it was the seventies, the real estate market was rotten, and I was more than a little clueless. It is truly amazing what enthusiasm can overcome when you are a complete green pea.
The very last thing on my mind that balmy Sunday afternoon was BUYING a house. My entire focus was on SELLING a house (to some of my first clients).
When the little red cottage came into view, it was absolute love at first sight.
Not for my clients. For me. Completely and utterly head over heels, madly, can't think straight, crazy in love. You know what I mean if you have ever felt this way.
The red cottage was invisible from the street, in an older area near downtown that had been all but forgotten. The rage then was all those brand new suburban homes being built much further out, treeless, near "good schools" with avocado green dishwashers, and beige stucco siding.
The cottage had been built in the 1930's, most probably as someone's summer home. It was surrounded by ancient trees. A winding path lined on each side with bright yellow daffodils led right to the front door.
In an era of gold shag carpeting and rustic brick fireplaces, it stood in stark contrast with wide plank polished hardwood floors, simple white wool berber carpets cut to fit each room, and a flagstone fireplace.
In an era of narrow walk though kitchens, it had a big square country kitchen, attached to a genuine old fashioned dining room. Not just the dining "L" that was popular in that era.
And in the backyard, was a Japanese style fish pond, with pink waterlilies floating on top of the water. Huge gold and black spotted koi begged to be fed. The resident bullfrog provided the background music for this scene, and a tiny little dock hung out over the water among the reeds.
Weeping cherry trees hung over the pond. All this, and it was long before the word "ZEN" came into being.
Completely enchanted, I couldn't get rid of my clients fast enough.
You do crazy things when you are crazy in love, and within a day, and without any idea how to come up with a 10% down payment or closing costs, I bought the little red cottage.
I didn't know much, but I knew how to write a contract. Even with my parents and my husband in the background begging me to "calm down" and "think it over".
We were too proud to ask our parents for any help. So we sold our car, emptied every bank account we owned, and got my real estate company to apply the entire 3% commission to the down payment.
We were certain we would never be able to buy groceries again, certain we would never be able to afford the payment, certain we were destined to be poor for the rest of our lives.
But heart overruled head, as it often does when you are young and madly in love. We succumbed to the romance of the red cottage. The early years of our married life were spent gazing at the fish, falling asleep to the chorus of frogs in the pond, and hosting some parties that (to this day) remain legends among our friends.
The payments? A little bit of a struggle. The experience? Priceless.
We have these memories to cherish forever.
This many years later, you would never know the red cottage existed. As the downtown gentrified, the cottages disappeared, and one by one, they morphed into McMansion style homes more befitting of their prestigious addresses.
As I watch my first time buyers struggle with financing issues, sometimes overcome with the stress of making 15 offers before they win a foreclosed house in a multiple offer situation, I wonder if something very special has disappeared.
Along with the red cottage.
What was your first home buying experience like? Care to share?
Written by Janet Guilbault, Mortgage Lending Specialist Based Out of the San Francisco Bay Area