I'd wanted to move forever. Or at least it SEEMED like forever. While our house was "sufficient," I had dreams of moving to something a little larger with more storage space, more land, and more privacy. My sons dreamed of a house in a nice neighborhood where they would feel comfortable inviting their friends--and yet nothing seemed to ever work out.
It wasn't like I hadn't tried to buy other houses, but each time there was some obstacle. Sometimes it was due to the seller wanting far more than I could reasonably afford (after all, I'm a single mom and a teacher!) And sometimes it was due to someone else making a higher offer. Other times it was because I couldn't get my house to sell when someone actually accepted a contract with my purchase of their house being contingent upon the sale of mine. For whatever the reason, years crept into years and we were still in the same house.
Thinking of the adage "If you always do what you always did, then you'll always get what you always got," I began exploring other possibilities. While it wasn't an ideal option, my parents and I talked about our building a house on one end of their narrow acre of land, as their house is at the far back of the property. This would save considerable money since the land would be a gift from them, and I rationalized that as they grew older we'd be more accessible to help them out as needed.
It was certainly a possibility, but I had some serious misgivings. I didn't mind the idea of being that close to my parents, but I wondered what would happen if I ever wanted to move during my parents' lifetime. What would happen, for example, if a career change took me out of the area (unlikely) or if I remarried (even more unlikely)? While there would still be a good deal of space between the two houses, it just didn't seem fair that they might someday have "strangers" living in their front yard, and I knew I would feel trapped into staying there.
But we continued to talk about it, and I eventually ordered a variety of house plans from a company and met with a builder. Even the cost of building on "free" land was going to be pushing my financial limit (I'd already had to go with plans for a smaller house), and I still had the feeling that despite the practicalities, it wasn't the way to go. I didn't stop thinking about it, but I didn't rush to start the building process, either.
One Saturday evening a week or so after I'd talked with the builder, my youngest son returned from walking the dog around our neighborhood, and he commented that the house directly behind ours was for sale. I was surprised, as these neighbors had been there for less than a year. I knew that houses on the street behind ours sold for considerably more money that the ones on my street, but being curious (as usual), the next morning I went to one of the online realtor sites to see if I could find the listing. I did, and I was amazed at the exorbitant asking price. While I wasn't interested in the house, I felt a wave of familiar frustration wash over me, realizing that EVERYTHING seemed to be so much more than I could afford....
It had been a month or so since I'd browsed the property listings, so I idly clicked through the offerings, just to see what was out there. I paused on one which had no picture, but seemed sort of interesting. And the price seemed...reasonable. Maybe it was worth a look, just for curiosity's sake?
My son came into the room at that point, and I asked if he'd like to drive by a house that was listed. He said okay (without much enthusiasm--we'd done this so many times before), and so we got in the car and started driving. It was about 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.
As we approached the house and took in the surroundings, my son and I both said "Whoa....." It was big, beautiful, and very private. I wondered if the price had been listed incorrectly on the website--this much house and land simply HAD to sell for more than what they were asking for it!
We turned around and immediately drove to my parents' house, a couple of miles away. We told them (and my uncle, who was there) about this amazing house that we'd just seen and asked if they wanted to drive by it with us. My mom declined the offer, but my dad and uncle got in the car and we retraced our route.
As expected, their reaction was the same as mine--it was an incredible house, and my dad said that I should call the realtor immediately. I agreed. So I took them home, came back to my house, and left a message on the realtor's voice mail.
By that time my older son was awake and we told him about the house that we'd just seen. "Yeah," he said, "I've heard that before--and it never works out. Why bother looking?"
I could understand his cynicism--he'd had a LOT of difficult disappointments in his life, and we really HAD looked at a lot of houses over the years. Each time we'd get excited about them, only to be let down. He decided to remain completely neutral about this one in order to avoid the inevitable disappointment.
The realtor returned my call about an hour later, and we made an appointment for 4:00 p.m. that afternoon. I asked about the price and more details about the house, and everything that he told me made it even more desirable. Unlike my son, I was VERY excited about this one and again thought "If you always do what you've always done..."
This time, I decided, if I liked it after seeing inside, I was going to go for it. I wasn't going to worry about selling my house or trying to set up any contingency regarding its sale. I wasn't going to worry about how I could finance it. I was simply going to go for it, based on Goethe's line: "Boldness has power, magic and genius in it."
At 4:00 p.m. my parents, kids and I all converged on the house, where the realtor was waiting for us. On the drive over, I told my sons I had a strong feeling that this was THE ONE, and I also told them about my decision to be "bold," if we liked what we saw inside. My older son simply shrugged.
As soon as I walked in the front door, a feeling of "rightness" was powerfully present. This was IT. Looking around wasn't really necessary, though I did a quick walk-through as I watched another realtor with a client pull into the driveway, waiting for us to leave.
Standing in the living room, I looked at the realtor and told him that I wanted the house--and I asked him to make it happen. He seemed a little surprised--we'd been there less than ten minutes!--and he said that he would return that evening with the paperwork, as he had another appointment that afternoon. We looked around a few more minutes, then left, as the other realtor and client came in.
We went back to my parents' where we all talked and compared notes about what we'd seen and liked. We also expressed our amazement at how "coincidentally" I'd become aware of this house, and how it had everything (and then some!) that I'd hoped to find, including a screened back porch!
The realtor met us there a little later, and I filled out mountains of paperwork. He was able to put me in touch with a mortgage broker (at home, on a Sunday night) who was able to prequalify me for a loan after I'd given him all of the pertinent information. After I'd finished signing all of the papers, the realtor took the contract over to the sellers. Approximately forty-five minutes later, he called to say that I'd bought a house!
To say that my head was spinning was a bit of an understatement. I hadn't even KNOWN about this house just eight hours before, and now the process of buying it had begun. What a twist THIS day had taken!
Then the concern crept in about selling mine.... Had I been TOO bold? My house had once been on the market for three months without a single contract and with very little interest--and that time it had caused us to lose the house we were trying to buy. I knew that I was committed to buying the new one (and I was incredibly excited about that), but I also knew that I couldn't handle two house payments for very long. I had, indeed, been very, very bold--but I still felt that this was the right house for us, and I began affirming that my current house would sell quickly.
It took two weeks to get my house ready to put on the market. After 19 years of living there, there was a lot of fixing up and clearing out that needed to be done. But finally we were ready, and I called the realtor to let him know that he could list it that day.
He came out late that afternoon and had me fill out a few more papers, and stuck the "For Sale" sign in the front yard at 5:30 p.m. I was outside mowing the lawn around 7:00 p.m. when a car pulled into my driveway and a woman got out. I turned off the mower and went over to see what she wanted.
Excitedly, she said that someone had just called to tell her that my house was for sale, and that she'd been looking for a house in that neighborhood for six months in order to be closer to her elderly mother who lived nearby. She said that she was very, very interested and would call her realtor to make an appointment to see it the next day. I was surprised, and yet hopeful. Maybe our house was the answer to her prayers?
Sure enough, the next morning I got a call from the woman's realtor, asking if she could show it that afternoon. I said, "Of course." Almost immediately the phone rang again and another realtor made an appointment! I straightened up a bit, then took the dogs with me to my parents' for the afternoon so that the house could be shown more easily and without interruption. And I continued to affirm that it would sell quickly....
And it did! Less than twenty-four hours after going on the market, I had a contract for the purchase of my house from the woman who'd pulled into my driveway the night before. Transactions on all sides went smoothly, and before I knew it, we were moving into our new home.
As I reflect on this whole situation--often while sitting on my back porch with my dogs and cats, watching the birds, squirrels and other wildlife--the more I marvel at the wonderful "rightness" of it all. Had I NOT lived in the other house for so many years (and through so many disappointments), I wouldn't have had as much equity built up. And it was the equity from that house that allowed me to make a sizeable down payment. The down payment--combined with the interest rates which were particularly low at the time--enabled me to secure a mortgage with monthly payments that I could afford. The timing--God's timing--was simply perfect.
Life, I know, is a multi-layered experience, and in each situation there are lessons to be learned. As many people have concluded after hearing this story, it was just "meant to be." Perhaps so. But wouldn't it be nice to KNOW what was "meant to be" and what wasn't as we enter into jobs, relationships, and all of the other things that we humans do during the course of a lifetime? Or more importantly, wouldn't it be nice to have the type of faith that would allow us to peacefully and joyously accept whatever our life-path offers, even when it appears that we will never attain the things that we think we want and need?
I still don't see the "elephant" clearly enough to have that type of faith, and I still cry and rage against the universe when dreams seemingly shatter into dust. But with the purchase of this house, I've learned that some dreams really can come true--when the time is right.