This story really begins in May 2010.
We got married in April. Then we honeymooned, Paul graduated med school and after what felt like forever, we found a condo to rent in Little Italy near downtown San Diego. And then, quickly, we fell in love. Not with each other (that occurred before we said "I do"), but with this city. San Diego had been the dream for us for a really long time and now that we were here we realized it was exceeding our expectations.
May 2010 is also when I closed my bank accounts and we pooled our money into one checking and one savings account. We combined our nest eggs with no real plan for them other than it felt like a good idea to have savings. We were incredibly blessed to have no debt from undergradate education and because Paul completed his med school through the Navy, he did not owe financially for his schooling (nothing is free - he obviously owes years and years of his time to the Navy now) and so we were able to really save in the years since we graduated college.
But I say our story begins here because 33 months ago is when the theory that we might actually buy a house in San Diego was planted.
We loved the area. LOVED. This was going to be our forever town. When Paul's military commitment was over and we finally had a chance to spin a globe and make our own decisions about where to live, we were going to choose San Diego. Of course, in the middle, we'd bounce around, but now we felt like we had a home base and a place to return to. (And our savings account and being careful with money would help make that happen.)
Fast-forward to July 2011, Paul started his two year GMO (General Medical Officer) tour and while he was deployed, I moved us to Oxnard in December 2011.
Fast-forward to September 2012. We drove down to San Diego for Paul to interview for his four year residency. The interview went well. Our seed of hope that we'd get to come home sprouted a few leaves and this idea really started to take shape.
Fast-forward to late October 2012. We found out I was pregnant! Hooray! A baby was on the way! We already planned on getting a three bedroom place, but now it felt more important if possible.
Fast-forward to mid December 2012. Paul got the call that he had been accepted to the residency program in San Diego. Like magic (except not really because it took years and insanely hard work) we were going to be moving home. I called a realtor that very day and the next night got an email with listings of three bedroom houses for sale in the area we were looking in (which at the time was very close to Balboa Park).
I feel like this is the point where people might wonder why we decided to buy a house and not just rent something. After-all, we only know for sure that we are going to be here through when Paul finishes his residency in summer 2017 (though there is a chance we'll get to stay another three years after that).
The answer is much more complex and private than I am willing to share here. But basically, we knew how much money we had saved for a down-payment. We knew how much money we could expect to bring in over the next four years. We knew how much we were comfortable paying a month. Everyone knows how low the interest rates currently are. And anyone can look up how much it costs to rent a nice three bedroom condo or house in San Diego (much, much more than our monthly mortgage + insurance + property taxes).
So based on all that, we were pretty excited & comfortable with at least looking for houses to purchase. We set a wide range of prices we were comfortable with (and ended up buying at the exact middle of that range) and made the decision that if it didn't feel right, we'd table it.
In mid-January, we drove down to San Diego and toured 14 houses with our realtor. These were places that based on our online listing results were the right size and price that we were looking for. We came back from that trip more defeated than inspired I would say. So many of the houses were just okay. So many needed a decent amount of work to make them fit our style. There was a house that was rad and we put a low offer on it, but it was countered higher than we wanted to pay and further research proved the area was completely lacking.
I had a mild panic attack one night that week. Suddenly, the whole process seemed completely ridiculous. In the past, when we had rented, we had always had a gut feeling about the places and went with that. With these houses, I had no good feelings. In fact, my gut felt like it would be easier to just stay in Oxnard where at least we knew what we were dealing with and have Paul commute to San Diego.
So, we decided two things. First, that Paul would do more research on the areas and send specific zip codes to the realtor so we could see places that first were in the best area possible (further out from Balboa Park but close to the freeways and with great schools). And second, that the pressure was off completely. We gave ourselves permission to put the move on hold until Paul was home from deployment. Yes, the baby would be here. Yes, it would be CRAZY trying to buy a house with Paul already having started residency. Yes, we'd probably end up renting at least for a little while. But the plus side would be we knew we were not rushing into something too early.
About a week and half later, we sat down at the computer to look through the 90 or so listings that had now popped up with our new zip codes. It was a Thursday night and we were more interested in passing time than actually finding a dream home. And then, the first house on the list was this house (the one I am sitting in now typing this story). It had just gone on the market about an hour earlier. It wasn't even listed on zillow as for sale yet. But the photos were insane. The area was good. The schools were fantastic. There was a park and small shopping center in walking distance.
And we wanted it. OH MAN, did we want it.
We played pretend and looked through almost all the other 90 houses and added some to our maybe list. But the whole time we kept going back to this house. We'd see photos of another great house and then compare again to make sure this house stood up. It always did. Nothing could compare.
I sent an email to our realtor that night and told her we wanted to put in an offer right away. I got a call at 9am the next morning that they wouldn't take an offer until they'd had an open house. So Saturday morning, our realtor went and took a video for us. We watched a ten minute tour on youtube and immediately signed offer paperwork for a bit below their asking price and crossed our fingers.
For 36 hours we waited. We knew there were multiple offers. We knew there would be a counter. We talked hypothetically about how high we'd go and what we'd do for the house. And then Monday, the counter came back at the asking price, but because it was a flip and the seller was anxious to sell quickly, there were all sorts of stipulations about timing, how much we had to put down and the lender we could use. We quickly talked it over, signed the counter and then I started the hoop jumping process to get everything in order as quickly as possible.
Then, on that Tuesday with the magic sky, we got two pieces of great news. Most importantly, after a Level II ultrasound, we learned that our baby girl was okay and we got a call that the house was going to be ours.
So if you're keeping track : I was about 20 weeks pregnant, Paul was about to deploy, we'd just bought a house we hadn't seen in real life and we had a super quick timeline to close Escrow and get into it. I know. That's crazy. But we are crazy. The whole time we were going through this I kept saying to Paul, "Babe, this mess is so us." Our "normal" is abnormal and I love it that way. We dive in whole-heartedly when it feels right.
Paul got a special Power of Attorney written up so I could buy the property in both of our names and I wired our opening payment into Escrow on Wednesday. Then on Sunday, I kissed Paul good-bye for four and a half months and Monday morning I drove to San Diego and picked up my dad at the airport to go meet the inspector and see the place. I (obviously) drove up with butterflies in my stomach.
And it was amazing. Better than the photos. Better than the video. This was our house. This was exactly where we were meant to be. I walked around a bit in a stupor while the inspector did his thing and my dad (who works in property insurance) did his too. From that day on, I never had a sense of panic about the decision we had made. Even the day I wired a very decent chunk of our nest egg into Escrow, I felt great. This was meant to be. This was the feeling I had been searching for.
I dropped my dad off at LAX and then drove the rest of the way home to Oxnard where I sat at my computer and wrote Paul the longest email on record about the biggest purchase we had ever made and how I wanted it to be our forever home. (And yes, I talked about the not great stuff too about how we needed a pipe inspection, the backyard needed better drainage and how some of the outlets needed to be grounded.)
And then, now that we'd seen it and were fully committed (you have a chance to get out of Escrow for any reason for a set number of days), I began the process of getting out of our current place and securing our loan for the new place. My desk was paperwork central for about four weeks.
The closing process was made much more complicated with Paul being overseas, but I did it. It worked. I lost my patience about 100 times, but deep breaths and staying focused on the Big Picture (we were all healthy & baby girl was still kicking) helped keep me stable.
February was insane. By far the craziest 28 days of my life, but also the most worth it. We're here. Well, I am here. Baby girl is half here. Paul will be here.
Our adventure is just beginning and our story continues.
p.s. I went back through the May and June blog archives to find some photos for this post and OMG - we were babies. I cannot get over how much we've grown up in the past almost three years. I guess deployments, marriage, moves, new careers & becoming a family really do change you in BIG, BIG ways. ;)