Wednesday, May 12

GodSTOP: the saga of buying the casa

the process of buying the casa was anything but normal, & the tale is filled with glimpses of God's provision.

it all started just over a year ago. we came to lafayette in early april on a house buying trip. we had worked with gail [our realtor] for a few weeks to narrow down a list of 20 or so houses we wanted to see based on our criteria. we were looking for a home hopefully close to purdue & church, with 3-4 bedrooms, a decent-sized lot [1/3 acre or more], plus a fireplace & a garage. as i've said before, we were looking for a house well below our affordability in hopes of instead saving money to design & build a home in the county with more land.  

on tuesday, we looked at over 20 houses from 9am to 4pm! we would spend 15 minutes in each house, just to get a feel for whether to put it on "the short list." the next day, we visited the 4-5 homes on the short list for longer periods of 30-45 minutes. we loved this method of house shopping & now would never do it any other way! we saw a few houses that made the short list, but none that we loved. they were all just "doable" for a few years. right before lunch, we saw potomac, and as i wrote before, it was love at first sight. we had no intentions of buying it - we just visited it for "kicks"! and we decided to put it on the short list so we could have longer to wander & enjoy all the great woodwork & unique details. but after seeing it, we just couldn't get it out of our heads as we visited & discussed all the other houses.

it met & exceeded every criteria: it was ten minutes from purdue & six from church. it had three bedrooms upstairs with an extra room downstairs that could function as an office. it had 3/4 acre lot! it had TWO fireplaces & a two-car garage. PLUS, it had an extra room on the back of the garage for our shop, a basement [which i didn't think i wanted then but couldn't imagine life without it now!], a dining room definitely big enough for my table [actually, it dwarfs my table!], & so much character in every room. 

there were significant problems with potomac though. it was a much older home [built in 1964], so it was in need of more maintenance than the others. we were concerned about the heating & cooling bills being so much higher because it was older & bigger than the other houses we had seen. it was quite a bit higher than the price we had set, which meant we would not be reselling in a few years to build out in the county. the bathrooms need to be renovated, especially the master bathroom since the shower has a lowered ceiling, & shaun can't stand up straight in it! and most concerning of all, it was a "short sale"...

we didn't know what a short sale was at the time, & we thought from the deceptive name that this was fabulous! actually, it means that the current owner is listing their house for sale for less money than they owe to the bank for it. it usually means they're close to foreclosure, so they are trying to quickly sell the house, & they're willing to take a loss to do it. problem is, they don't usually have the money to make up the loss [hence, they're close to foreclosure], so it's up to their bank to approve the sale since the bank will be taking the hit. it's not short in time at all. it can take 6 months to a year for a short sale to complete...

we put a bid on the house mid-april. shaun moved to lafayette in late april, & he had a friend to rent a room from. i was slated to move at the end of june or beginning of july, after school ended. so, we had two to three months to get this thing done. i can't remember now how many times we extended our offer, but it was easily in the double digits. and one glitch in the process was that the then-owner's lender got bought out by another bank which put everything on hold for a full month. all along, our goal was to keep trusting in God.

the first time we tried to buy a house was three to four years prior in raleigh. "our house on shenandoah" - as we still call it - seemed plopped in our laps, a gift from God. but tragically, another couple slipped a bid in right before us, & we lost out. at the time, we didn't understand why we didn't get that house when it was so perfect for us & we had prayed so hard. last spring, as we were preparing to move, we repeatedly talked about how we were SOOOO thankful we weren't also trying to sell a house... especially in that housing market! that experience helped us trust God in this one. we knew if we didn't get potomac, there was a really good reason for it.

but we were still going to pursue it till we got a flat-out closed door! as our moving date approached, set for july 3rd, we sent a message to the owner [knowing the house was vacant] asking if they would mind us moving in prior to closing & paying rent to them. the owner was more than compliant! they knew we were likely their last shot of selling this house without foreclosing, so they were ready to accommodate us in any way. they even offered the house to us rent-free! wow.  so, we signed a pre-closing occupancy agreement, which basically means we were acting-owners, responsible for everything pertaining to the house without actually owning it.

we moved in on july 4th, knowing it still wasn't "ours" & knowing we might have to move out if the bank didn't accept our offer. but at least for a time, it would be ours. it was touch & go for a while, but the bank finally said they would agree to a price a tiny bit higher than our offer. we - slightly miffed - agreed, & fortunately the appraisal for our bank loan was a tiny bit higher than the agreed price. we were approved! we had a loan! we had a CLOSING DATE!

on october 22, 2009, we went downtown & signed the papers. we were now officially homeowners, & potomac was now the casteel casa!

throughout the entire situation, we could see God at work. when we were inclined to worry, we prayed, & He gave us His promised peace. He gave us a wonderful, well-built home with personality. He blessed us with a home that met both my wants [being in the city] & shaun's wants [having some land]. the short sale did take six months, but we were still able to move at the appointed time. plus, God provided us with nearly five months of rent-free, mortgage-free living! even some of the "problems" with potomac ended up no big deal. like the heating & cooling bills are about the same as our house in raleigh, which was half the size! each & every step, He was there.

i believe there is great joy gleaned from God's provision, but i am truly convicted that the greatest joy of all is found simply in His PRESENCE. whether we got potomac in the end or not, God was with us.  gloriously with us. and that, my friends, is what a "GodSTOP" is all about. this is a phrase i've nicked off of beth moore, & STOP stands for "savoring the observable Presence."  a GodSTOP is simply any time you notice God in your life - a beautiful sunset, an answered prayer, an inexplicable peace, a good friend, a blessing of any kind.  God is working in our lives, & our greatest joy will always come from noticing Him & being with Him. actually, that is my favorite of all names for Jesus - Emmanuel, God WITH US!

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