Friday, November 8, 2013

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Student Loans vs. Home Ownership: (How I became a home owner through the help of my wife) Part III


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 If you have not read Student Loans vs. Home Ownership: (How I became a home owner through the help of my wife) Part I, you can do so by clicking here. You can read part II by clicking here.

Over the next several months, we saved money wherever we could. We held onto our tax refund. When I was off for the summer, I picked up extra classes. We fought over me sneaking away to spend money on McDonalds, Taco Bell, and soda, and over her spending money on plants for our deck or new outfits. Some of these fights got really heated. And sadly they were always over less than $25.
Although I have to admit that I had much less restraint than she did. I seemed to constantly be getting texts at work reading, “Did you spend $8 at Burger King?” Or “Why do I give you a spending budget? You always over spend it. Do I get to over spend my spending budget? No. Really angry right now!!!!!” 


And I recall longing for my envelope budgeting system that was not so easily tracked with a computer.
One of us seemed to always be throwing their hands in the air and saying, “Do you want to get into a house or not?”
We were constantly asking each other, “Do we really need that?”
And the answer was always, “No.”
But in the long run, it was an accountability program that worked. Come September we had almost $9,000 saved. I was really frugal as a single man, probably because I didn’t date much, and I recall looking at the money in our account and realizing that I hadn’t had that kind of money in the bank since before I got married.
“Shit yeah!” I said.
Mel and I shared a high five. 
High Five!

After a little haggling with Fed Loan Servicing, I was able to get them to recertify my loans a month early. Although it took nearly a year, we finally had two of the elements the mortgage broker needed: a bigger down payment and over a year of projected payments on my loans. I chatted with Jason over the phone and he said, “I think I can do it.”
So Mel and I went house shopping. But we learned a lot during our year of being frugal, and we decided that we didn’t want to spend much more per month on a mortgage than we do on rent. This really limited our housing options. We were looking for an affordable home. And as we searched listings, I started to realize that “affordable home” translated to dilapidated shit hole.
Many of the houses we looked at were foreclosures. One home in particular was only about three years old and in a really nice part of town, but once the previous owners discovered that the bank was taking the house, they started wreaking havoc. They ripped out the cabinets, tore up the tile, and slashed at the carpet. The bedrooms smelled musty, like there was water damage, and the living room smelled like someone had taken a dump next to the fireplace. Perhaps a handier man would have taken on the challenge, but that man was not I. We went through a few houses with similar problems, and I started to feel like things were hopeless again.
But then we found a place that happened to be in the same small town as Tristan’s and Norah’s charter school. It was a small house, only about 1,100 square feet of living space. 1,500 square feet with the garage. Three bedrooms and two bathrooms. But it was newer (built in 2003). The previous owner had really done a lot of work in the yard: fruit trees, flower beds, and patio blocks. The inside was clean and smelled like scented candles. However, I’d heard a lot of mixed reviews about the town. Everything from, “it’s an up and coming town. They are putting in a medical school. Your land value should go up,” to “I hope your kids don’t start inbreeding.” But once there, in the neighborhood, it felt normal. Just right. People were doing yard work, and kids were playing ball and riding bikes in the street.
After all the negotiations, the back and forth, the fear that our loan would not actually go through, we bought the place.
It actually happened. 

Our house

I visited the house the day after it closed. I was alone, dropping off a few boxes. Once my truck was unloaded, I sprawled out on the living room floor, looked up at the celling, and felt a huge sense of pride, probably something similar to what Mormon pioneer men felt when they brought home a deer to feed the family. But then I thought about the struggle Mel and I shared in getting a home.
Yes, I went to work each day, but that was such a small amount of what got us into a house. I couldn’t have managed the money on my own. I didn’t have the self-control needed to save up such a large down payment. Hell, if it weren’t for Mel, I’d have given up after my first chat with mortgage broker. What ever happened in our lives, I knew that our marriage was about more than gender roles. Once Mel finished school, she would have the same earning potential that I did. I was nothing special. Our relationship was about more than who brought in what. It was about more than who cared for the kids, the house, the finances, and so on. It was about teamwork. It was about accountability. It was about love and sincerity. Compromise. Together, we’d bought a house. And to me, this was a great accomplishment that I couldn’t have done alone.

You would also enjoy, Another one… (Why do discussions about having babies make my husband nauseous?) Part I


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Clint Edwards is a tutor coordinator at Oregon State University. He is also the former co-host of the Weekly Reader on KMSU and a graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University. His writing has been listed as notable by Best American Essays, and has been published in The Baltimore Review, and through The University of North Dakota, Boston College, Emerson College, The University of South Carolina, and Minnesota State University. 

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