Long Time Listener, First Time Buyer

Staying on theme with this year, I have found myself pivoting again. Last month I hit a snag with the house buying process. I had heard and read that purchasing a home out-of-state was more difficult than doing so locally, but I wasn’t exactly clear on the details as to why that is.

Now I know.

Here’s my conundrum:

In order to be considered for the loan I’d need to afford a starter home in Oregon, both of my incomes would need to be counted (writing and teaching). That would prove that I make enough to afford the necessary mortgage payments.

Lenders will possibly consider counting a job toward loan qualification if you’ve had it less than two years, but in general two years is the minimum work history they’re looking for. I’ll have had this writing job for two years as of March 2021, so it’s a bit of a gray area. One of the many great aspects of writing is that I have been able to do it remotely since day one. This means that if I am to move out of state this income would be considered sustainable.

Another wonderful aspect of my writing job is the flexibility that it offers me in regard to weekly hours. I’m very lucky to be able to adjust my hours from week to week, if needed. As a caregiver, this is something I value highly, most especially during a pandemic.

In the eyes of a lender though, this isn’t ideal. They’d, understandably, rather have a history of steady, consistent income. When looking at my writing income they took an average of last year’s and this year’s earnings. Last year I hadn’t yet launched the blog and was spending time researching, brainstorming, writing, editing, etc., but a large majority of my income was still coming from my teaching job. This means that although I have dedicated way more time to my writing job this year, when averaged out with last year’s income, it’s a meager total.

My other job as a private swim lesson instructor is not a remote job. So although I have sixteen years of experience and plans to continue teaching, this income is not considered applicable toward what I can afford for a home loan unless I can prove I have a steady teaching job lined up in Oregon.

Basically, lenders are calculating what I can afford for a home loan based off one part time job, not both.

My general plan for the first year or two of living in Oregon has been to spend part of the time back home in California. I don’t know how quickly I’ll gain traction with obtaining new clientele abroad, so I figure it may be a good idea to spend a few months in California and teach the clients I already have. That will also allow me to spend time with friends and family.

Apparently if I split my time between Oregon and California then I would not qualify for a traditional home loan. I would need to apply for a “second home” loan because it wouldn’t be my “primary” residence. This concept also applies to the scenario of me purchasing a home in Oregon now, staying in California until I’m done fixing up and selling Mom’s house/making arrangements/etc, and then physically moving to Oregon.

With a “second home” loan I would be required to put down no less than 20%.

I am the type of person who hates owing money. That’s why I have worked really hard to become debt-free. So when it comes to buying a home I’d like to have a sizable down payment. Depending on the property I may not be able to put down 20%, but I’d like to get as close to that as possible while still leaving enough money for a safety net.

So, I’m in a bit of a pickle for now.

You may be wondering what this means for me. I don’t exactly know yet. Admittedly I was a bit upset about it at first, but I quickly realized that if things aren’t lining up right now then it must be for a reason. I’m not giving up on the plan, but I am comfortable with shifting some of my focus toward other things for the time being.

I’ll still continue saving money, working on Mom’s house, and otherwise preparing for re-trying for a home loan. I may need to find alternative ways to make it happen. I’m not exactly in a rush though. There’s a lot of factors at play here, and who knows how the rest of the pandemic will play out. The area I want to move to is on the rise, so it’s possible that by the time I get everything figured out I may have missed my opportunity to find a property that’s affordable there. I could look for something in the surrounding areas, or somewhere else altogether, or even opt to stay in California for the time being. Once I feel it’s safe to resume respite care, or when I can finalize getting additional, consistent caregivers for her, it may make sense to stay home for awhile longer. Who knows. That’s the beauty of life’s uncertainties. Often the most unexpected changes can lead us to beautiful places and people and opportunities. You just have to be open to it. Rarely do things go exactly as planned. Keep an eye on the prize, but be willing to accept the possibility of detours. Detours can be just that, alternative routes to a final destination.

For now I am content with where I’m at. I no longer feel stressed to be in Mom’s house because it’s looking much better. It feels like home instead of a chaotic, neglected space overruled by dementia absentmindedness. I love putting work into it and making it cozier for Mom and me. I’d be grateful to get the money back that I’ve invested into it, but if after it’s sold Mom needs all of the profits to pay for her care, I’m absolutely okay with not being reimbursed.

Despite the mortgage setback, I am profoundly proud of all that I’ve achieved so far. I have a down payment saved. I have excellent credit. I have learned a lot about what it means to be a homeowner and how to fix/maintain things. I’ve made it through one of the toughest years of my life. I’ve kept Mom healthy and (mostly) content through out these challenges. I’ve learned to communicate better, how to create and enforce boundaries, and when to accept help if it’s genuine. Recently I have been feeling much more well-rounded, like the balance of things has gone from wildly askew to mostly level. I can’t control everything, but I’m going to do my darnedest to nurture this harmony.

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