In May of 2010, I signed the paperwork to purchase a townhouse in Ramsey, MN. Other than my moped that I bought with cash in high school, this was the largest purchase of my life. Years of renting in college and months of living with my sister, along with an incentive of the new homeowners tax credit available, I contacted the only realtor I knew in the Twin Cities area and started my search. I really had no idea where I wanted to live, other than by myself.
I had recently obtained my first job out of college as a dental hygienist. After temping for an agency through the winter, I had a full time job as a dental hygienist secured and I was eager to start the next season of my life – as an adult. Why rent when you can buy? Well, I didn’t think that one through, like maybe rent because you are not completely sure you want to live in this area. Or maybe, rent because you are not positive this job is the right place for you to be. Or maybe, just maybe, rent because you could meet the man you are going to marry the week after you close on this townhouse and then need to sell it the following year. Spoiler alert: all three of those options took place. (And in retrospect, renting sure would have been a lot easier and economical).
But like any strong-willed, naive, and ambitious 23 year old, I did not think past the here and now – and I really could not fathom that I’d make a mistake. I mean, I navigated through my education with a few bumps and bruises but overall the theme would read “success” in most of my endeavors- and I was going to rock the socks off being an adult. So buying a place of my home was the first step in proving (to myself) that “I got this.”
I found it- the cute little place that I would paint with bright, fresh colors and make my own. It was four miles to my work- perfect for biking to. Running trails around it were the cherry on top. SOLD. A few gallons of paint later and #targetruns galore it was mine! When I was not at the dental office or at the gym, I quickly found out living by myself was what people told me it would be like: lonely. I had gone from a plethora of roommates and one big sister to living alone in a new town. The only people I knew were my coworkers and they had their own families to attend to once work was done.
In the evenings, alone in my adorable townhouse, I would log onto facebook and chat with friends from college – my closest pals had spread out over the metro area and although we still called the Twin Cities our home- our new jobs had taken us to faraway suburbs that felt like countries away. And I had some good friends that were literally countries away from my time studying abroad in Norway. The good old world wide web is what connected us to each other while we took our first baby steps in life after college. One particular person I would chat with was a guy from my hometown who had become a teacher in north central MN. A few nights of chatting online, a phone call, and some texts and BOOM- first date was on the books. But I cancelled it because I had somehow forgotten I was buying a townhouse that weekend! How could I be so silly? Easy, it’s me.
First date was rescheduled to the following weekend, from there it was a long-distance relationship of skype phone calls, texts, seeing each other over weekends, and trying to not think about the future too much because it gave me chest pain to think about what to do with fact that both of us owned homes. Jake had bought his house as a short sale during the new homeowners tax incentive as well- his story will come in the future- so here we were – 9 months after our first date planning our wedding and making a plan for me to move and sell. Ugh. I mean, yay I am so excited to get married. But ugh.
I’ll tell ya what breaks down a person- losing it all. I didn’t lose it all- I still had my youth, my health, my education, and I gained a spouse. But I lost it all- I spent my entire savings account writing out a check as I sold the townhouse. Yes, I could have kept it and hired a rental agency to rent it out. (And looking back, I sure wish I would have) but at that moment in my life, I just wanted to move on. I wanted a clean start as I moved two hours north, I did not want the burden of owning and paying for another property to have a perpetual rain cloud over being a newlywed. So it just so happens I had just enough money (my entire life’s savings) to sell. I bought my wedding dress with cashed in bonds from winning a scholarship pageant in high school and between Jake and I, we barely had enough in our checking account to cover the cost of wine for our wedding. But we were married and I was a homeowner once a again, this time in a bachelor’s house with “fudge pop” painted walls and a picture of the Gustavus football team over my bed. There was work to be done.
My story will continue on. And grieving the loss of a substantial amount of money continues as well. The change from a single person to a married adult in itself is challenging. The change of going from having a hefty savings account of security to zero is blindsiding. The transition to a new job, a new address, a new last name, a new town, and a new roommate as a spouse- whoa. That will straight up turn your world upside down. Six years later, I think about that cute townhouse once in a while and I think about the money lost – but the knowledge gained too. Experiencing the ups of buying at a great time and the downs of selling at a horrible time have left their mark on me. Empathy, understanding, hope in the future – I bring these all into my career as a realtor. I’ve been there, from signing the purchase agreement with shrieks of excitement – to wiping tears away as a bank teller cleans out your savings to bring to the table at closing. This is just a chapter in the longer story of home ownership, but boy, it was a hard one.