Perry had been casually looking at homes for sale over the past several years, but once we decided to seriously consider the idea we very quickly started searching for possibilities on the internet. I knew a larger house would be nice and we really wanted 4 bedrooms, but I really didn’t want a huge house. Just a little more living area so we could entertain large groups indoors when necessary, another bathroom, and another bedroom, right? I told Perry that I thought 2,000-2,400 square feet would be ideal. It would be double the size we had now, and I just couldn’t imagine we needed more than that. Anyway, who wants to pay to heat, cool, and maintain a monster of a house? Perry thought more would be nice, but was willing to look at houses in that range too.
Together we prayed that God would guide us and make His will clear to us, either opening doors wide in front of us or slamming them shut.
We very quickly scheduled 2 showings. We were unsure about the first. With 2,400 square feet, it sounded big and the photos looked spacious, but in real life it didn’t look and feel nearly as big as I expected. The price was right and it was in a very good neighborhood, very close to work and church. But the layout seemed tight and choppy, and 3 of the 4 bedrooms were tiny. There was one huge bedroom – the converted garage – but the rest of the house just didn’t feel like a big family home. Perry thought we should consider it, but I just couldn’t make myself like it. We moved on to the second showing.
This one was not so pretty and polished. It was a grand sort of house on a half acre lot, but it smelled a bit musty. The carpets were old. The countertops were dated. The kitchen had just one small wall oven and no good place to install a full sized range. But as we wandered around, each sure that the other would hate the place, we both fell in love with the split level layout and the multiple living areas, the rural feel of the neighborhood, the 4 bathrooms and the 2,700 square feet. We realized it would have its challenges, but we were ready to take them on. It immediately felt perfect to both of us.
We were sold. We wanted that house. It was just a hair higher than our target price range, but not much of a stretch – and there seemed a good chance that the seller might negotiate a little.
That afternoon we talked to a lender and learned that to qualify for a loan we needed to wait at least 3 years from the date of our short sale. We weren’t sure, but thought it had been about 3 years. A little checking revealed that we were just 5 days shy. The lender told us in no uncertain terms that we should wait to make an offer until we were outside that 3 year window. The house had been on the market for 5 months so we weren’t terribly concerned about the brief wait. Actually, the timing seemed perfect: it would be wise to wait just a bit anyway before jumping into a decision like this. Was God opening a door?
While we waited, we did some calculations and decided that although we could make both payments if necessary, we really hoped to rent our current home. There are some very sticky issues with the property line and the neighbor’s title that would make it difficult to sell, but we’re not too far from paying it off. We knew it was a longshot, but we wondered if my brother and his wife might be interested in renting it. He was living 90 minutes away from us, very close to his employer, but he had expressed interest in the past in living in our neck of the woods, near our other brother and the old family homestead. Was there any chance he would want to live 90 minutes from work? Probably not, but we decided to ask him. I laughingly told Perry we were setting out a fleece to see if God really wanted us to have The House. We didn’t need my brother to rent our house, but it would certainly put our minds at ease.
To our complete and utter surprise, they didn’t just want to consider renting a home 90 minutes from work; they were delighted at the prospect of living out here and wanted to buy it. He told us he had been wracking his brain for a way to move to the area, and this was his idea of perfect. We agreed to give him a heckuva deal and he agreed to work out the problems himself in return. It seemed clear that God was opening a door before us!
Over the next 5 days, we did due diligence: we researched crime rates for the neighborhood (lower than the average for San Antonio) and checked for registered sex offenders in the neighborhood; knocked on the neighbors’ doors to assess neighborhood friendliness; scheduled a second showing to take a closer look and took some of the kids to get their opinion (they absolutely loved it); called the local utility companies to find out what we could expect to pay for water, trash and electricity/natural gas; continued to peruse other listings and drove by dozens of prospective homes with and without our children to see if anything else grabbed us; and even scheduled more showings for those that couldn’t be ruled out by driving by.
Day 5 arrived, and we were still sure we wanted The House. Nonetheless, I spent Day 6 doing more drive-bys. Day 7 was going to be the big day: we scheduled the last round of showings for the homes that still looked like good possibilities, and agreed that we would make an offer on The House when we were done that afternoon.
The realtor greeted us at our first stop with sobering news. The House – the home we had already mentally moved into – had gone under contract just one day ago. My heart hit the floor. Thoroughly deflated, we looked at the houses we had scheduled, but the rest of the day was equally disappointing. Every house felt small and crowded, or the neighborhoods were just wrong. None seemed right for us and our extended family and our Tuesday potluck crowd.