icon: "confused (photo of a purple diamond-shaped sign with a line leading to four arrows all curving and pointing in different directions)"
For most of my life, owning a home was so far outside my realm of possibility that I never even thought about whether or not I wanted to.
When I went to college I did so because I wanted to learn, and I had resigned myself to always being poor and barely scraping by with retail and service jobs.
Then I lucked into my current job, which is in a specialized field -- while money is often still tight, I have enough to cover basic expenses like food, utilities, and health insurance. Still not enough to save up for something like a down payment, though.
This May, my partner of seven years was looking for a new place as their apartment was unlivable, and asked if I would want to buy a house together. I thought about it and said well, yes but I have no money saved, so it's probably out of the question. They then found out that they can borrow from their retirement savings without penalty since it will be their first home. I was going to put my retirement towards it too, but mine was much smaller and I couldn't withdraw without huge penalties, so we just left it.
We decided that they would borrow from their retirement for the down payment, and then I would pay them back for my half over the next two years (as well as paying my half of the mortgage of course). And we started looking for a house.
My partner's mom is in real estate, so we gave her a list of things that were musts and things that were daydreams -- and she found us a perfect house. She was scouring the listings and when she saw this one come up, she and my partner went and saw it and my partner told me about it over the phone. My partner told me they were certain it was what I wanted and since I know they know me and they wouldn't say that unless it was true, I agreed that we should put in a bid.
We signed electronically that night and within 24 hours of the house being posted, we had it under contract. It is amazingly lucky that we did, because they started getting offers over the asking price immediately after, and we couldn't have afforded any higher of a price. My partner's mom even got them to pay closing costs by putting it in that initial contract, which is just mind-boggling. And because of her relationship with the mortgage brokers we used, we got an amazing rate on that as well.
My partner was absolutely right that I wanted this house and that it was perfect. Here were my criteria:
Must: lots of windows in my bedroom (ALL the bedrooms!)
Must: lots of windows in living room or kitchen (both!)
Important: large living room (two of them!)
Important: large, private backyard w flat sunny space
Important: high ceilings or large bedrooms (high ceilings)
Important: 2 toilets (THREE full bathrooms! though one needs repair)
Important: space for washer/dryer (plus cabinets above them!)
Important: no HOA (SO HAPPY)
Big bonus: big old trees nearby (1/2 mile or less, or in yard)
Big bonus: fenced yard
Bonus: 4 bedrooms
Bonus: U-shaped or 2-lane driveway (2 lanes, plus carport!)
Bonus: ceiling fans in 2 bedrooms (three bedrooms!)
I also wanted it to have no stairs and be close to public transit, but at least it is a split level (fewer stairs) and a very short drive to a transit hub that runs until midnight. Honestly that doesn't bother me because on everything else we got so outrageously lucky. So many things I didn't even think to daydream about!
First, the layout is almost identical to the place my partner used to rent, which we both had strong nostalgia love about because it was where we first spent lots of time together. Also, there are two entirely separate living spaces, which allows for me to have my cat there and my partner to still have space beyond their bedroom to play or socialize. This is important not just for allergy reasons but because we are very independent people and we need to feel like we can exist in the house separately anytime we want.
The house is south-facing, which is my favorite orientation for a house because it allows for strong yet mostly indirect light. Light is so important to me. Also, there is a SKYLIGHT in the KITCHEN!!! Natural light is necessary for me to feel like spending any time in a room, so this means I might actually start baking again! And almost all of the rooms have enough windows to be bright, even the ones in the lowest level.
There are ceiling fans in the bedrooms and in the kitchen! Also, the way the patio outside the kitchen is structured means the windchimes catch the air even when it is not very windy.
Oh my Godde the backyard. It is mostly a gentle slope of grass, which at first I was a little sad about because the previous owner had cut down some amazing, beautiful trees. But then I realized that this means more room for planting fruit trees and having vegetable gardens, and then I just felt lucky. On all three sides of our backyard are yards with huge, amazing trees that are far enough away that we still get lots of sunlight.
So my partner and I got busy planting immediately, and we already have a peach, a four-variety grafted pear, an Asian pear, and a persimmon tree! Two were clearance and two were gifts. The peach is trying to make babies right now which is adorable if misguided. Also, at the side of our house there is a white mulberry tree which is already well-established! We will have to prune it heavily but hopefully it will give us fruit next year.
If you had asked me in April when I might buy a house, I would have laughed and said "never! Or maybe in 10 years" but now I own one. It is a hard mental transition to make, because I assumed I would be renting for the rest of my life.
Part of me keeps expecting that someone is going to show up and make demands about my space. I have always had to live in fear of being kicked out due to a rent spike, the owners wanting to sell or move in, or just sheer pettiness (when I rented from family). I am still in disbelief that this place is mine, that I can invest in it and love it without fearing it being taken away. (there is still the fear of losing it for lack of money, but that was always there when I rented too)
I've moved in with my body but now I'm waiting for my mind to catch up. I can't wait for it to really sink in that I am now living rent-free. I'm not borrowing and it's not temporary: this is actually my home.