Homebuying 101

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A year ago I decided to purchase a house that would also be an income property. By choice, I haven’t owned a home in 17 years, so this is a big deal. I wanted something that could be converted to a duplex; an AirBnB; casita; or garage apartments. This combination would pay my mortgage giving me a break on monthly expenses. The end game was supplementing my retirement fund. Due to two multi-million dollar projected developments, my choice location was Eastside SA. It’s still very economically depressed, yet the City is focused on revitalization. These two developments will definitely supplement their focus. In September St. Phillip’s Community College Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts Department just had their first successful international student exchange program with partner institution Lycee Guillaume Tirel Culinary School in Paris. UIW School of Optometry is also very nearby not far from Biblio Tech East & Menger Creek Linear Park. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention that Ft. Sam Houston Walters Gate is located just across the interstate. Lots of great activity is happening in the neighborhood!

Prior to moving to San Antonio I had a dream of creating affordable housing for single parents. I had every detail perfectly planned out. During my years of being a single parent, housing was the largest expense for me & I understand the benefits of having safe, secure environments for my own children. I realize there are programs that offer subsidies for housing, yet I wanted to be a source from a real estate perspective. Housing subsidies alone won’t make a difference. Housing subsidies coupled with case management; life skill classes; community referrals; access to medical care; & the opportunity to gain an education is the answer. After transferring from Dallas to San Antonio, I’ve had the extreme honor of working with not only amazing Case Management Specialists & Program Supervisors within my own organization, but our local Continuum of Care; the City; County & neighborhood officials who have their fingers on the pulse of at risk homeless & homelessness. It’s stirred my 2006 dream of being a solution. I’ve had opportunities unlike any I’ve ever had before. Maybe it’s because of my laser focus, but I truly believe God guided my steps through every door.

My home buying journey began by rebuilding my credit score. While still living in Dallas I inquired about purchasing an RV. I could park, live & travel while embracing my minimalist lifestyle. The problem was that while I embraced living debt free, other than rental history, I had no credit references. I contacted a Dave Ramsey loan affiliate & he offered advice. At first I was appalled, but after hearing his explanation, it completely made perfect sense. He advised me to establish a credit card. I hadn’t utilized a credit card in over 25 years & of course I balked at his suggestion. He explained when students take a course to learn something new, they’re graded on their participation & then issued a test. Using a credit card was exactly the same logic. I complied & I’m extremely thankful. Of course I pay my credit card balance off each month or even bi-weekly, but it helped me to have substantial credit ratings. To think an RV purchase spurred my course in Credit 101! Whatever it takes right?

Building credit was no easy feat, but with true grit & perseverance, I succeeded. Having to practice short term sacrifice & delayed gratification is something not everyone is willing to do. I know. I lived the opposite of this for most of my life. Now society encourages & promotes a “you only live once” mentality. YOLO is how homeowners get to where they are desolate in need of subsidized housing & other non-cash benefits. During a recent conversation with my very young, very financial savvy home security representative, he could not believe a recent incident where an entire household had a credit score of less than 425, yet are approved & were going to buy a house. The rep was appalled at their financial decisions of $600+/mon. car notes & overindulgent lifestyle choices. Knowing they wouldn’t be able to sustain home ownership, he suggested they continue renting! He & his co-workers experience this situation on a daily basis.

In November, Bexar County has 449 foreclosures hitting auction. The list is published monthly. On average that’s over 5,388 homes per year lost because something else was more important than paying a mortgage or taxes. Only about 8% of those foreclosures were due to non payment of taxes. After going through the extensive process I can’t imagine how the people from the security reps example were approved for a house purchase. After reviewing my Contract Disclosure (CD), I now understand that a lender gains immediate profits from performing the mortgage process, so no big deal if a buyer can’t sustain it. Through foreclosure they’ll get paid quicker than 20-30 years. What a dreadful business practice!! And how sad that trusting people are being set up to fail. Where’s the respect & corporate responsibility? The foreclosure list is only the part that is accurately measured, however you can drive through some neighborhoods & notice homes in drastic disrepair & a plethora of code violations. Trees growing through walls; roofs caving in; porch columns collapsed; trash filled, overgrown yards; horrific foundation issues; & that’s just naming a few. I’m not talking about senior citizens who have to choose between buying their meds & using their HVAC. Home ownership encompasses maintenance. That factor is quickly neglected. Some homes on the foreclosure list or in neighborhoods haven’t had the mortgage paid in 5-10 years. I’ve personally viewed several of these & while they’re sincerely crumbling around the owner, it’s the only thing being neglected. I’m all about living life to the fullest, but I’m also thankful & going to be responsible for what God has blessed & entrusted me with. Whoa!! I didn’t purposely intend to climb on that soapbox, but……. it’s been an integral, very eye opening part of my homebuying journey.

Anyway…… my home search has been extremely interesting to say the least. Aside from dilapidated, crumbling, hoarded, urine soaked, scary properties, I’ve met interesting sellers. In one contract, two weeks before closing, the seller refused my offer over having to pay for 1/2 of the foundation repair prior to closing. Two weeks after terminating the contract they contacted my realtor apologizing for rejecting it. They realized it was the best offer they had received & it was a terrible mistake to not accept it. They sold the house for $21,000 less than I wanted to pay & because of that sale, housing comps in the area quickly reduced. This made it difficult for other sellers who were willing to negotiate. And……worse than that……the new buyer didn’t repair the grossly damaged foundation, but converted it into rental property. That was in July & it’s still not rented. I’m waiting to see it collapse! Or… since it’s now less valuable, maybe I should offer to buy it? Hmmmmmm!

Then I met a seller that refused me access during our option period. That’s the 10 day period a buyer has to schedule the appraisal & inspections to determine lender required repairs for further contract negotiations. Except for the electrician, I couldn’t do any of that. And she wanted to rent the workshop back from me to store her things because she wasn’t going to be packed within the 30 days of our contract. Contracts are costly & except for earnest money, other funds are non-refundable. Home inspections are $495-$545 depending on square footage. Termite inspections are $95-$125. Appraisals are $500. When a contract was terminated, all my expenditures were flushed down the toilet, so to speak. However… terminating this contract was a blessing. Since then I’ve learned a few tricks to saving money while determining how motivated a seller truly is. I’ve walked away from several who weren’t. It’s definitely a gamble.

Back to my lovely finds…..those pesky knob & tube electrical issues. Mortgage lenders won’t accept this & it has to be replaced before closing. What about renovating the house from top to bottom without doing foundation repair? The obviously disguised repairs show a tell tale sign within a couple of weeks, so please fix the foundation. At least change out a fuse box? Most insurance companies won’t issue coverage on homes with fuse boxes. Please replace with a breaker box!! My favorite, of course, other than the extremely creative ways to vent a water heater, is popcorn ceilings. Reading listings on how everything was replaced & is 100% updated cracks me up when the first thing I see is popcorn ceilings. There’s a kazillion ways to reno them without scraping!! Please update into the 21st century if you’re going to show pride in your work!! The list goes on. Oh…..I forgot the color coordination or bathrooms off the kitchen. What??

My greatest pet peeve is hearing, “it’s just an old house & it’s going to have problems.” That may be fine for your dollar, but not mine. When I hear that, I automatically begin factoring in my repair costs over the next few years. No thanks!! I’ll pass!!

So many tiny details fell into place during this contract. At one point it looked very bleak & uncertain the seller would continue in the process. Then….. within a couple of hours after coming to terms with walking away from yet another property, the seller actually contacted my realtor & told her she really wanted to sell me her house. She complained that her agent wasn’t aggressively negotiating on her behalf & she wanted to assure us that she was on board. Literally a couple of hours.

Then….. the alley. My alley is a crime. I park under a carport off the alley & for 3 years I’ve contacted everyone possible to fix what happened during a gas line maintenance project that left craters. No one would assume responsibility. Within weeks of moving I notice a road grader & some backhoes in my alley. At first I almost panicked, but then I got excited! Then someone shared the flyer they received stating the project would take 9 mos. What? I’ve seen stretches of highways completed in 9 mos. & this is just a short 1 block alley. Also…..during this time we’ve had a rainy monsoon season. Picture my normal mud pit after treacherous rain & a road grader. The reason this is disconcerting to me is the alley is the best place to position a U-Haul. Now it was virtually impossible. But……. I spoke to the contractor & he informed me they were only grading & applying base. No asphalt or concrete & they’d be done in 3 more days. Happy dance!! And…. one evening after a very long arduous day at work, I pulled in my alley to find an enormous pile of base right in front of my parking spot. Instead of me having to park in the front on the street, the construction owner motioned for me to wait. He himself literally jumped on the backhoe & moved enough base for me to park. Now I have a smooth, fully driveable alley perfect for the U-Haul. So many tiny miracles. Extreme Godly favor.

Perseverance of a chasing a dream has become a reality. My realtor is probably ecstatic! I stated for quite some time leading up to this journey that before I begin this process I should probably go across the border & purchase Xanax & Valium in bulk quantities for my realtor or any contractor that works with me. I know properties. I know building & renovating. I know development & property values. Over the past 3 years I’ve learned from my amazingly brilliant neighbors about navigating around San Antonio development. I’m an extremely opinionated choleric who just happens to be a perfectionist. All those qualities are detrimental to any relationship, but especially when coupled with the stress of home buying. I am soooooo not the drama mama & up to just days before my closing the drama was ridiculous. We were working out finite details literally within a couple of hours of closing. If my dream weren’t so big & my emotional intelligence wasn’t rooted in the peace of God, I would’ve already walked away; settled for a tiny condo with a pool & forgotten about it all. However…….texts like this that my BBVA Compass Bank mortgage lender sent me as we were tying up some last minute loose ends make it all worthwhile,

“You have been the best customer/friend I have ever worked with … let me know how I can help. Have a happy Sunday.”

My journey has carried me from the Eastside to the Westside & all points in between. Where is my beauty?? Denver Heights. Exactly where I wanted to be in the first place. She’s in between both of the multi-million dollar developments! Who knew?? She’s a 1940’s cottage that was moved from Austin over 20 yrs ago by the city of San Antonio to my street. Being located on a quarter acre allows ample room for expansion & is currently being operated as an AirBnB. What? The seller’s favorite memory of Europe is Lake Geneva in Switzerland. She’s completely remodeled with only a few tweaks (for now) that was lender required. Of course exterior was a lipstick reno, but nothing new siding won’t fix. They just re-leveled the foundation; roof is new; HVAC is new; are replacing beams affected by termite damage; of course treating for termites; & conceding cash for the rest of the few problems. When any of my friends saw pics of it, their first words were, “It totally looks like you!”

You know it’s the right house when you pull up to meet the notary to sign closing paperwork & the owner tells you she’s been walking inside the house & around the yard praying blessings over it & you. Then… you hug each other to say thank you & good bye only to have the seller pray the most heartfelt prayers of blessings over you & allows you to pray for her. I honestly believe that moment was more poignant than signing my documents. God is truly in the details, has walked each step before/beside me & I can’t thank Him enough. I’m also incredibly beyond grateful for my family; work family & dearest friends who have prayed for me along the journey. So much so that one of my work family members texted me during the middle of my closing. God connects us by His Holy Spirit & it’s been so prevalent. Then the notary texts that she was praying for me & the house because I couldn’t get the heat to come on. Again….. very grateful.

She’s my first, but most assuredly won’t be my last. And…… I’m buying an RV or creating a container home to park in the back of the lot for me to live in. Full circle!

Let me introduce you to #ClarkCottage! My AirBnB that will also double as student housing!

Blessings,

g

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

#Clark Cottage

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

front fence

The front fence. My across the street neighbor built this & also builds covered carports. I pulled up Pinterest pics of goat panel fencing & he assured me he can do that too! #score

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

Living room. I’ll add an infrared fauxplace where the TV is currently situated. TV will be wall mounted.

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

Dining room looking into living room. The light is pretty, but doesn’t match my decor, so I’ll change it out.

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

Kitchen looking into dining

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

Love the floor & really old glass cabinet doors.

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

Master looking into the dressing / flex area

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

Flex or dressing area looking into Master. Double doors are beautiful, but not conducive to my needs. I’ll remove the right door to allow a daybed along the wall. This adds a corner sleeping area tucked away without impeding traffic to Master or bathroom.

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

Master bath

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

2nd. Bedroom. I’ll utilize 2 twin beds or if room size permits, 2 full beds to provide additional sleeping space.  

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

2nd bath

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

.26 acre space & many of my favorite plants/trees. The back fence separates my property from a church driveway. This is translated to rear access! #score   I’ll develop a 3-4 car parking space just off the porch to reduce street parking. The yard will be divided in half to add more rental or container homes.

 

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