Wow. It’s been awhile since I’ve sat down to write a post like this. I promised my Patrons forever ago to write about how we bought our home during the Corona Virus pandemic, and things have finally calmed down enough for me to talk about it. This was one crazy ride y’all. I’ll do my best to break it down, because this tale is full of setbacks, small wins, and more setbacks. No worries though; we are in our new home and making things work while the pandemic continues. So grab a snack and settle in for my tale of how my partner and I bought our first house and the silly stories that come with what should have been a pretty straight forward (but exciting) time in our lives.
Finding “the One”
Every “How to Buy Your First Home” guide tells you to find your budget, figure out your must haves, find a realtor, get approved for your home loan, etc. Some guides might even warn you that you’ll have to compromise or make sacrifices to find a home that you’ll love. What it doesn’t prepare you for is shopping for a house in a pandemic.
Housing prices crept up and up, even though we had thought they would surely fall based on the job loss and state of the economy in the US. Houses were not staying on the market longer than a day or two. Bidding wars were becoming normal. In fact, the first house that we decided to put an offer on had over 25 other offers. We went $20,000 over asking price and still walked away without a house.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. Let’s start with what our wish list consisted of for our first home. This list was based off our experiences in the rental home we had been in for the past three years that was three small bedrooms with one bath (and my year or so of living in an apartment complex in a two bedroom, one bath with the crappiest neighbors known to man) and where we saw/see ourselves in the next 5 to 7 years. Then, I’ll break down what our first home actually had.
- Max price of $165,000
- 2+ bedrooms
- 1.5+ bathrooms
- Garage or carport
- Large kitchen
- Open floor plan
- Within 15 minutes of stores, groceries, restaurants, etc.
- Updated or newer build
- Two story
- 2 car garage
- 2 full bathrooms
- Soaker tub
- Fenced-in yard
- 30 minutes to work or less
What We Got:
- Built in 2000
- 2 bedrooms
- 1.5 baths
- Two story
- Within 15 minutes of stores, groceries, restaurants, etc.
- 20 minutes to work
It took us about 3 or 4 months to find the right home. It sounds like a rather short amount of time, but with houses getting offers the same day they go up for sale, and a leased rental house still under our belts with a quickly approaching move out date, we had to play the game quickly and smartly. I can’t tell you how many homes we saw in person or toured virtually, but it was a lot. And the house we chose didn’t meet all of our “must haves,” but the price was right and it met a lot of our criteria anyway. Sure, there were things that I didn’t like, like the fact that there isn’t a carport (or an option to put one in because of condo policies) which I felt was a must have with the ice and snow that we get here in Missouri. And while I felt a large kitchen was needed with the amount of cooking and meal prep I do, my partner and I talked it over and made plans to make the current tiny kitchen work for now with plans to remodel later.
How the Pandemic Affected the Process
As I said before, the pandemic has greatly affected the whole process of buying a home (at least in our area). It was simple enough to get a realtor and the loan approval letter from the bank. The complications started when we began looking at houses. Because of the Corona Virus, you absolutely had to see a home by appointment with as small a group as possible (we’re talking max two people plus the realtor). We were rarely going to open houses, and when we did, we had to wear masks and maintain social distancing. One good thing that I felt came out of the situation was the surge of virtual home tours. We should have been doing this all long for those who can’t tour a home in person whether that’s due to a disability, a long distance move, etc. Seeing virtual home tours was something I could do from home safely and I could look at several at a time.
Once we found a house we liked, we had to immediately get with our realtor to set up an appointment to view the home in person. And if we liked the house, we had to decide in the same day if we wanted to put in an offer. If we waited too long, it would more than likely get multiple offers or just go under contract in the blink of an eye. This was extremely hard for someone like with me with anxiety. I wanted to think about the home really hard before putting in an offer, but there just wasn’t time. The first home we put an offer on met almost all of our must have criteria with a few wants and was under budget. We knew this home would get multiple offers so with our realtor’s help, we found the best offer that we could submit and threw our hat in the ring. Unfortunately, even with an offer $20,000 over asking, we didn’t get the house. This would become a trend for us as our hunt continued.
Once we finally got an accepted offer for what would be our new home, a majority of documents that we signed were online with e-signatures. It honestly made the process relatively easy. What wasn’t as easy was the home inspection and signing the final paperwork with the mortgage company. The home inspection was a bit difficult as we all had to maintain social distancing while the professionals tried to do the inspection and show me issues or what could lead to future problems.
We did find some issues that we weren’t comfortable with so we requested the seller fix them. Unfortunately, during our finally walk through the day before we were meant to close, we discovered the work had not been done despite receiving an email from the seller that it had been completed. We had to quickly push the closing date back and work with the seller for a solution which ended up being that the seller picked a contractor and prepaid for the work to be done after we moved in. Once we negotiated with the seller, and it was time to close by signing the final documents with the mortgage company, it was more evident than ever that the pandemic was greatly affecting the home buying process.
We were so excited that morning to head over to the mortgage company and sign our names on the paperwork that would give us our new home. The magic of closing on the house was basically sucked out of the trip once we arrived and were asked to stay in the car, masks on, while the paperwork was brought out to us. Signing loads and loads of papers in my little Prius wasn’t how I imagined getting the keys to our house. Once the paperwork was done, we had to call the office who sent out a notary. She took the paperwork back in for copies and returned with a giant folder. We had to go back to our rental house and wait for our realtor to bring us the keys to the new house. As a side note, we weren’t even given the keys that we needed. We were missing the key to the front door and the mailbox! But we did get them a few days after moving in thankfully.
Moving Always Sucks
On the subject of moving, it sucks. It doesn’t matter when or where or how; moving always sucks. This moving experience was particularly difficult, more difficult than when I moved to Missouri from Alabama (and that was a ten hour drive). This time was obviously different since we were moving into a place that was going to be “ours.” So we took that opportunity to paint the living room and main bedroom the day after we got the keys. What I had hoped would take a day or two to paint, took about four days from start to finish. I felt like it was a bit of a setback in the moving process but we did get it done thanks to a couple of self-isolating, masked friends lending a hand, and it looks great.
We spent the better part of a month packing while we went through the final steps of the house buying process and the week after we got the keys to the house, I went over every afternoon to bring a carload of boxes. During our moving process, we had a friend staying with us who helped us tremendously in getting things we didn’t plan on bringing to the new house to Goodwill. I also did my best to sell what I could on Facebook Marketplace and give away things to friends so I knew it wouldn’t wind up in a landfill. That weekend, we hired three movers from a company that employees veterans, and they helped us get our large furniture into the new house.
We still had to deal with the old house for a couple more weeks after moving all of our stuff out. We spent one week cleaning and making any repairs as needed before we turned in the keys. It was quite the undertaking, and my partner was able to do most of the work without me. He was able to take some time off of work to get it done while I stayed at the new house to work at my job from home and do some unpacking. After we did the final tour with our landlord and turned in the keys, I felt like we could breathe for a minute…
No move is without its drama, and ours was not the exception to the rule. The first night after we had moved all of the big furniture into the house, our gas was shut off. We were told by the seller that our oven, dryer, water heater, and central heater were all gas. So we definitely had zero hot water and no heat (which wasn’t a big deal since it was still hot outside). Because we were under the impression that the dryer was gas, we had left our electric dryer at the rental house while we waited for someone to purchase it from Facebook Marketplace and were waiting for a new gas dryer to be delivered anyway. And we were also under the impression that the oven was gas as well. These last two appliances were in fact not gas.
I called the emergency phone number to report that we didn’t have gas. It had to have been a mistake or an outage because I had already switched everything to my name the day we closed on the house which was about two weeks before at this time. I was told by the representative that someone has turned it off. I asked who, because it’s in my name. And it turns out that because the seller and I share a first name, the gas company didn’t bother to check who was who and turned it off. You’d think that they would wonder why I’d turn it on and then turn it off two weeks later but apparently that didn’t raise any red flags. Regardless, the representative couldn’t help me and we’d have to wait until Monday. Monday was a holiday so the gas company was closed. I called as soon as they opened on Tuesday and was told no one could come out until Wednesday afternoon.
That same Tuesday, the gas dryer arrived. The delivery driver came in to assess where it was going and then politely informed me that we didn’t have a gas connection. I wanted to cry at this point. He told me I could just refuse the delivery and he’d take it back and I’d be issued a refund. Seemed good enough to me so that’s what I did. I then had to call a close friend to help us get the old dryer from the rental house and get it into the new house’s basement. The trip there and back was pretty quick but once we got it into the basement, we realized that we had a three prong connector and a four prong outlet… So a trip to the hardware store later, we finally had a working dryer.
Once the worker from the gas company came out on Wednesday and turned it back on, he explained to me that we in fact did not have a gas oven. We had been eating crockpot meals or fast food for all of that week so I felt sick knowing we could have been eating home cooked meals for the last 5 days. But, at least we could finally take hot showers and cook something homemade! It was a good day.
In summary, we were without hot water and an (electric as it turns out) oven for 5 days. We were without a dryer for two weeks, but were able to grab our original dryer from the old house without needing to buy a new one. I wouldn’t wish a cold shower on my worst enemy which shows how privileged I am. Even taking a sponge bath in cold water was a hard limit for me. Thankfully we could afford to have some meals out and already owned a crockpot for one pot meals. We also already had a clotheshorse to hang dry clothes… but crunchy jeans suck haha! One day we’ll look back at this experience and laugh, I know. And I promise that this is not to complain; I’m extremely thankful that we have our house now and that everything has worked itself out so far. I just wanted to explain the aftermath of buying our first home in the middle of a pandemic – drama, setbacks, and all.
Making Home in a Pandemic
So where does that leave us now? Well, we’ve got about half of our things unpacked. Many boxes are still in the basement while we wait for furniture to be delivered. The pandemic has greatly affected shipping to stores and therefore our homes. A trip to IKEA ended with disappointment as we slowly realized that the things on our list were missing parts or were unavailable until further notice. We ordered a couch from a local furniture store back in September and we still don’t have a set delivery date. They are projecting Christmas Eve right now for a possible delivery. It’s been very difficult to replace the furniture I sold or gave away. We never anticipated that we would be without a couch or bed frame for this long or that we wouldn’t be able to simply take a trip to IKEA to grab some odds and ends while we figure out how we want our new space to work for us. We’re still living in organized chaos as we wait for things to come back in stock.
I mentioned earlier that our final walk through before closing on the house didn’t go as planned. We ended up accepting a credit towards the work that would need to be done so we could close the following day. The consequence to that was trying to schedule the contractor to come do the work. It took well over a month and a half to get the contractor to actually come out. About ten minutes after arriving, he informed me that the work was much more in depth that previously estimated thanks to the “work” the seller tried to originally pass off to us. The shoddy workmanship of the previous handyman has irreparably damaged our back door, a door which was machine made as one piece which means the entire thing will have to be replaced. If the contractor were to make the repairs that the seller paid for, the issue would arise again by spring if we didn’t address the door. He left without touching anything and promised a quote of the full scope of work. We are now sitting at two weeks later without any communication from the contractor despite my multiple attempts to reach out and get information. Sigh.
We did have some good things happen too though! Our neighbors are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Everyone in the neighborhood is friendly. I feel safe walking Padme down the sidewalks and get lots of waves and “hello’s” each time we venture out. One neighbor even gave us a cute housewarming gift, and it just made this experience feel worth it. We didn’t have to spend a load of money on a new dryer since we got to keep our original one, so we saved some money. We are also in the position to possibly add to our family sooner than expected. We are looking to add a puppy to our family. We’re still some time away from adding a human baby to our family, but my partner and I have both wanted to get another dog for awhile now. We think it’d be a good test of co-parenting, but we’d also be giving a shelter pup a good home.
Despite the complaints I’ve written out here, I am happy with our house. This place can be our home, and we’re going to make it our home despite the pandemic standing in the way and the setbacks we’ve experienced. I have no doubt that when it’s time to move on from this little house, that we’ll look back at these memories fondly, hopefully with humor. This was a learning experience that took place during a really hard time around the world, but we made it out in one piece together, and now we have a home that is ours.
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