My pursuit of homeownership started with a casual conversation in my mom’s backyard. I had moved in with her after college, but she knew I couldn’t stay forever. I wanted to be out on my own, but the thought of renting another apartment didn’t seem very appealing. Renting in Richmond can be problematic for one of two reasons: either you have a slumlord that never answers your maintenance requests, or you live in an apartment complex and pay way too much in return for way too little.
I wanted a backyard. I wanted to be able to make my place my own. I wanted to be able to do all of those Pinterest DIY’s I had been saving and not have to worry about an angry landlord or the fact that I was sinking my own time and money into improving someone else’s property! So my mom casually asked, “Why don’t you buy a house?” If I could have a picture of the look on my face after she asked that question, I’m sure it would be priceless. There was no way I could afford to buy a house. Making less than $34,000 a year with student loans and a car payment on a brand new Honda, I hadn’t necessarily been saving much money. Where would the down payment come from? How could I afford a mortgage? She convinced me that people had done way more with way less, and she called up her real estate agent and longtime friend, Stephen.
Stephen was a blessing! As a first time homebuyer, an interior designer, and an indecisive bundle of nerves, I was probably the opposite of an ideal client for a realtor with 20+ years of experience! I had no idea how this process worked, so I asked a million questions, doubted my every move, and nitpicked the hell out of every house I saw. However, Stephen was patient; he gave me advice at every turn, and he dropped everything he was doing multiple times to help me.
It took me an entire year to find a house. We put multiple houses under contract. I spent over $1,000 on home inspections. I bid on foreclosures and short sales. I wasted a lot of my own time and a lot of Stephen’s looking at houses that were not right for a single female making just enough money to support herself. In the beginning, I thought I wanted a “fixer upper”, but after almost buying a few houses with rotting structure or disintegrating plumbing, I not-so-quickly learned otherwise. What I really needed was a house that aesthetically required updating but not a complete overhaul. It just took me a year to figure that out.
During this yearlong search, I felt like I was getting priced out of neighborhoods that I previously could afford. Houses were flying off the market before I could even mention them to Stephen. The economy was on the rise, and I knew I needed to pull the trigger on something realistic. That’s when I found my home. This house checked more boxes on my must-have list than any other house I’d looked at, and I knew I needed to jump on it. Stephen got me into the house as soon as it opened for showing, and his assistant had written up a contract to send to the seller’s agent before I even stepped in the front door.
The house had enough space for two people to live comfortably, a screened porch for my Lily Pulitzer hammock, and a big backyard for a dog and a garden. I was sold! After a year of searching, I thought I had wasted so much time, but actually, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The VHDA had just released a new loan for first-time homebuyers that provided me with almost my entire down payment and some awesome tax benefits that I knew would come in handy. Two months after looking at the house, it was mine! I did it. At twenty-four years old, a single female making less than half the average salary in the US and “drowning” in debt, I bought my first house. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I can’t thank everyone who helped me along the way nearly enough. Their patience, guidance, and support helped me to make the biggest purchase of my life to date with confidence, newfound knowledge, and an experience that would eventually lead me to big career changes.
A week after buying my house, I quit my job… but I’ll share that story later!
If you’re looking for stories of other single, female homebuyers, check out this article by Girl Boss.