Buying your first home is a monumental step, and one that brings a roller coaster of emotions along with it. Except the roller coaster is dangling over a cliff that's been snatched up by a tornado that's been lit on fire and you can't get off for 30 years.
After years of scrimping, saving and paying down debt, you wake up one day to find that your adulting has finally paid off: You're ready to buy your very first home.
"Can I help you?" the greeter at the bank asks. To which you blurt: "One house, please. It's OK, I'm allowed," in your best impression of a grown human, all the while hoping that no one realizes that you still like smiley fries and cartoons.
Eventually, all of your finances are going to be sifted through, and every penny of debt, every credit point, every vital record you own will be scrutinized, authenticated and assessed. You know you're fine, but you still feel like you need to justify the line items on your bank statements and defend your financial honor. Plus, sometime into the second hour of pre-approval you'll convince yourself that someone stole your identity and your credit score is probably, like, 14, which you know is impossible but these things always happen to you. You have the worst luck.
Except, everything checks out, and you've been approved, and here's an actual number for you to work with, and it's actually a lot of dollars!
All the way home, you begin to fantasize about your impending home that will be all yours with walls you can stick things into. Maybe it's a sleek condo with smart features with a view of downtown. Or, oooh, a beautiful two-story Cape Cod with a gourmet kitchen, a solar and a huge backyard with towering shade trees. Yes, that. It's probably that.
Then you get home, and you hit all of the real estate sites, and you learn that those homes are just for the Monopoly man and Kardashians and people who made better life choices than you. Then you go to see the houses, and somehow, it's even worse. That dated ranch home you thought you could tolerate until you hit the lottery is right next to the sewage processing facility.
Eventually you hit a groove, though, and you might even start to find homes you like. That's when the novelty of home buying begins to wear off. Soon you just start expecting the worst. No, of course there's a foundation issue. Why wouldn't there be a bidding war? It's not like you have a job you have to be at ever.
Then, out of nowhere, you find it! The One. Sure, it's a little small, a little dated and needs a fresh coat of everything. But all of the important stuff is there: the location, the closets, a good school zone if you care about that kind of thing, and by the time you leave with your realtor you're already thinking of it as your house. So you put the offer in, and there's no other competition, and oh my god this is happening.
Oh, my god. This is happening. What have you done? That's the initial panic. Then there's the waiting for the counteroffer, and later, the inspection. You just know it — it probably has lead paint. And lead pipes. Lead everything. You just put an offer down on a lead house that's insulated with asbestos and held together with toothpaste.
If it turns out that the house is indeed not a poisonous death cottage, you move to closing, where you experience the nagging feeling that you've made a terrible, terrible decision. There's paperwork the thickness of an encyclopedia with numbers much too high for you to fathom and legalese that says — and you can't be for certain but you're pretty sure here — that this has all been a very big ruse and the seller reserves the right to take all of your money, light the house on fire and laugh at you while they drive away.
Turns out, that's not what that says at all! Then, suddenly, you're looking at a mortgage payment that you can swing and a line for you to write your name on and doing so magically makes the house yours. Yours! Your house! For you to live in! There is much Facebooking and humblebragging and Champagne-toasting in the days that follow. You tell everyone you see that you just bought a house, and tell your landlord to kick rocks. Some of them ask you to please stop.
So, you did buy a house, but sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that while you wait out the time period that you and the previous resident agreed upon or while a closing condition is met. Other tenants in your apartment building say things like, "Hey didn't you buy a house?" Which causes you to say ill-conceived things back, like "Hey, didn't you buy some MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS, HELEN!"
Finally, you move in. When you aren't busy learning quirks of your house that are probably huge issues that you, the real estate agent and the inspector missed, (the closet light won't turn on, so probably all of the wiring is faulty and this is a death house after all) you're doing things like Googling "debtor's prison" and calculating how old you'll be in 30 years.
One day, without any noticeable change in routine, you'll wake up and realize that you've been in the house — your house — for almost a year and nothing bad has happened. Your neighbors are mostly nice and you have your address memorized, and you feel like a gold-star adult.
Because you are.
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