“OUR” First House

At the age of 29 my life was upside down. I was suddenly a self-employed widow raising two very small children in a very bad economy. At the age of 30 I married a man who also had two very small children and we blended.

I owned a cavernous home built in 1906. I rented the basement to college students and my close friend lived with me and ran a daycare home out of the house. This was a great situation for me – but not so great for a family that just doubled in size and a newlywed couple. The house needed tons of work and neither of us brought any money to the marriage. My new hubby was a “car guy”; but this house only had an old freezing cold carriage house garage with doors that didn’t close right and a dirt floor. When it became obvious that the roof of the old house had to be replaced we got a bid: $6000. It might as well have been a million… no way we had the money or the borrowing power. It was time to go.

He owned his own home too – we had it rented out for $200 month less than his payment (I’m telling you – the economy – especially real estate – SUCKED!). While his home was newer and in good repair, it was in no way big enough for all 6 of us and frankly, I kinda hated it. Very cookie cutter.

So we bought “our” house. How? Back in the olden days there were these things called non qualifying assumable mortgages. This is how it worked: someone had an FHA or VA loan and wanted to get rid of their house. You could buy the house and take over their mortgage. The banks didn’t care if you could afford it or not (that’s the no-qualify part). They just wanted their payments. The trick was to find a mortgage that was close to the full value of the house so you didn’t have to come up with a lot of down payment.

I scoured the MLS and found a (somewhat) suitable property. It was on about ¾ of an acre with fruit trees, garden area, and a well insulated 3 car garage. The house had good 1940’s bones: arched doorways, coved ceilings, hardwood floors and a pretty fireplace. The owner wanted $46,000 and owed $40,000. So there was a $6000 gap. But this owner had already moved out of state and was desperate to sell. So we agreed to give him a very small amount of cash and made him payments on the difference in addition to taking over his loan.

There was one rather large problem with this house however; it only had two bedrooms and one bathroom. We had 4 kids and almost no spare cash. By this time I had sold my business and was receiving payments from the new owners of about $1100 per quarter. So, $1000 at a time, we made the house ours and learned rehab in the process. There was an unfinished basement. Over time we created two more bedrooms and a small play area. It wasn’t until we had a major plumbing issue in the kitchen that required digging up the sewer line that we bit the bullet and put in the second bathroom. I still recall (not fondly) my hubby mixing concrete in the driveway while I hauled the 5 gallon buckets of sloppy cement through the house and down the stairs to pour the new bathroom floor. Hubby and I are empty nesters now and must have two bathrooms. How we ever lived with 4 kids and one bath mystifies me – but somehow we made it work till we could afford otherwise.

Meanwhile the tenants in hubby’s house gave their notice. We had been making up that $200 per month shortfall for over a year and the house had lost all its equity in the economic crash. It was time for this house to go too. Hubby also had a non-qualifying mortgage. We found a friend who would take over the payments. He only had to pay $12 on closing day. We had to pay title insurance, taxes and other closing fees out of pocket. Hubby (a professional mechanic) paid the realtor in free labor on his car. The $17,000 he had put down when he purchased it was gone forever. But we did get to write it off on our taxes for a number of years. At the time it felt like a loss; but now I consider it a win.

Copyright November 2018

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