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From Homeless to Homeowners
The damage was unlike anything we had ever seen before. Entire mobile home communities were wiped out by the almost 200 MPH gusts that came through. It destroyed the home her sister and boyfriend were renting, rendering them homeless for a bit. My best friend Scooter also lives down there and was hit almost as hard except he owned his home and was forced to stay and endure the damage. Witnessing what that hurricane was doing to people’s lives made us feel very lucky and the same time very apprehensive as we worried what we would do if something like that ever happened to us.
In just around a months time we found out first hand what it was like. Hurricane Ivan came ashore packing 150 MPH sustained winds and lashed at the little house Sharon had been renting. It removed most of the shingles making the house unlivable as rain leaked in everywhere. My house I had been renting on the beach was even worse. We had somewhere to go. No family or friend’s places to stay for any extended period of time. We were essentially homeless. We had lost most of everything we owned as far as furniture and housewares were concerned. Fortunately the important items such as computer, camera, artwork and a good amount of clothes made it through and neither of us or Sharon’s dog were injured.
We packed up and went to Tampa to stay with a friend for a week while we got our heads around a solution. We picked a solution, which at the time seemed crazy, that would change the path of lives forever. We chose to buy a motorhome and live in it for a while and travel as there was no place in Pensacola to go back to and there were no rentals available at all. We knew we didn’t want to move anywhere permanently so this option turned out to be a great choice, well, except financially.
It put a huge financially strain on us. We struggled to get by, hitting bottom a few times. Times which we actually laugh about, but still bring back waves of stress. We clawed our way out of the situation and moved back to Pensacola and rented a very small, yet charming, historical home near downtown.
We fell in love with the neighborhood and neighbors. At one point we dreamed of what it would be like to own that home and customize it to our needs. It was at that home that we found out we were pregnant with Noah. And it was in that house that Noah’s spirit left us. It was very hard to remain in that house and plus we wanted more space so we found another house to rent nearby.
The house originally was not for rent. It had a for sale sign on it and had been for sale for quite some time. We passed by it a lot when we walked the neighborhood and were always intrigued by it. Once we saw it, we knew we wanted to be in it. We wanted to purchase it but knew we were about a year from a point that we could pull off getting a mortgage. Or so we thought.
I talked the owner into doing a lease-buy option on the home. That home served us well and we really enjoyed living there. There were a few things about that house that we didn’t like and were going to be expensive to fix so it wasn’t perfect. It was only 4 blocks from Baptist Hospital which made it very convenient with Nora’s pregnancy and birth, as Sharon’s O.B. worked and delivered from there. Nora spent almost her first year being raised there so the house will always be a happy place for us. It just wasn’t meant to be ours for long.
When the time came to try and get a loan, we were turned down several times. We hoped the owner would give us more time, but he needed to sell. He sold it a few weeks after putting it on the market. We were in a panic and scrambling to find a place to live. We were on our way to being homeless again and it did not feel good at all.
That is when we had to leave the neighborhood to find a home to rent as nothing we wanted was there. However we didn’t need to look far. In another historic neighborhood nearby we found an old home that have been refurbished available for rent. Before we were even able to see inside the place we knew we wanted it! I could see in the kitchen and it looked beautiful, as did one of the bathrooms. I could also see a spiral staircase in one of the rooms, I knew I just had to have the place as I always wanted a spiral staircase.
When we called the owner said someone else was already wanted to rent it, but when he found out we were a family he gave us first shot if we could give a deposit that day. Which we were able to scrape together enough to do so. We were in, and we loved the place.
It had large rooms with 12′ foot ceilings. Exposed brick in the kitchen, a loft upstairs, and even better was that it was commercially zoned as well. I could put my sign out front and use it as an official office! As much as we loved it though, it was out of our price range to purchase so we knew it was another temporary situation. Or so we thought.
One day the owner had come by to fix something and asked if we would be interested in buying the house. I told him I didn’t think we could afford it. He then looked at me and told me his asking price and I was taken back. I immediately told him I would start trying to get the loan for it.
The first try did not work, I didn’t show enough income on my taxes because being self-employed I have a lot of deductions that dwindle my income lower on paper. I had a good year though, but no longer could we do stated income so we had to wait until January when I filed taxes to once again try to get a loan. But that was almost 6 months from then and the owner was antsy to sell the place.
January came and I filed my taxes. We submitted to a lender and were turned down yet again. They said that I used the house too much for business. I had claimed to much of a percentage of the home used for business on my taxes :( Good thing I never actually filed and just sent them the preliminary printout from TurboTax! I modified my return and tried again with a different lender. They kept asking for different documents. Financial statements, tax returns, letters of explanation…just a ton of stuff that I hate to deal with as an artist. The process was excruciating, demeaning and demoralizing. It is never fun to be judged and deemed whether or not you are worthy of something. We jumped through hoop after hoop. Finally we got the answer we wanted to hear. Approved!!!!
Come to find out though, we were only conditionally approved, meaning we still had to meet a bunch of conditions, financially and inspection wise. First we miraculously got the money they wanted to see in the bank. Then came the inspection and repairs to the house. We submitted all the paperwork but it got lost in transit I guess, as it took almost a month to hear back that we had more things to do. The day before closing we found out we needed a new survey which delayed the process for a another week. Then the day of closing the next time we needed a termite inspection. The next closing day we need to get re-inspected to verify we fixed the damage reported on the termite inspection. It was causing us so much stress and anxiety that Sharon and I were snapping at each other and causing unneeded tension. I felt like a dancing monkey. “Dance monkey, dance!” We just wanted to get the deal done!
That day finally came just yesterday. We got approval to proceed with closing. It was actually quite anti-climatic. Just a lot of signing document after document. There was no fan-fare, no fireworks, but I felt the weight of the world lifted off. I could breathe more freely than I had in a long time. A dream of ours had just come true. We celebrated by going out to Rooms To Go and purchasing new living room furniture that we so desperately needed. It felt so good to return back to our house, knowing it was now ours, and we alone control our destiny on whether or not we stay here.
We have so many cool projects to do for improving the place, to make it officially our place. I cannot wait, I was so sick of improving on places only to just have them taken away. We know have a place we can really call our home.
While we endured a lot over the past 8 years as most of you know. I wouldn’t change a thing because what happened to us brought us to this place in our lives that we wouldn’t trade for the world.
When I really think about that it blows my mind. Had Hurricane Ivan not knocks us onto this life path, we most likely would not have Nora blessing our lives each and every day. Weird how, what you thought at he time, was the worst thing to ever happen to you, would turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.