In September, my partner and I closed on a condo as first-time homebuyers.
It was a long journey, and despite not knowing where anything is as I sit among boxes writing this column, it is well worth it.
The journey began sometime mid-2019 when my then-landlord asked if my partner, Tommy, and I would be interested in purchasing his condo where we had been long-term tenants. We had been living there for about five years at the time. Though it wasn’t our “dream home” — the main thing it was missing for me is an in-unit washer and dryer — it was a cozy place with a partial view of Golden’s Lookout Mountain from the balcony.
So we met with a lender who was recommended by our landlord. The lender gave us a list of tasks related to financials, such as building credit and saving for cash to close, and told us to come back in about a year to see where we stand.
Mid-2020 came around, and I contacted the lender to make another appointment, but he never returned calls or emails — still not sure what happened, but perhaps it was due to the pandemic.
From my time covering Golden, I remembered one of the Golden Lions Club members mentioning that she worked as a loan officer. Because I had assumed my role with Life on Capitol Hill and Washington Park Profile by this time — thus, no longer a conflict of interest — I reached out to her.
She ran our numbers and found that we qualified for an FHA loan to purchase the condo, so we proceeded. Tommy and I completed the first-time homebuyer’s class, dropped off the earnest money, had the home inspection. All was going well until our lender called with some bad news: the condo did not qualify for an FHA loan because of stipulations not met by the HOA.
Instead of giving up, however, Tommy and I decided we still wanted to purchase. Our lender introduced us to Sarah, a real estate agent who she had worked with previously.
This was August 2020, when the journey actually begins.
Sarah got us on the MLS search and we started going to showings. I remember the first one we went to — it was a cute little condo in southeast Denver. Ultimately, the place was a bit too small for our needs, but had I known then what I know now, we probably would’ve put an offer in on it.
As you probably know, the housing market went crazy. And our biggest setback was the fact that we could only purchase a condo that met the stipulations for an FHA loan. Still, by summer 2021, Tommy and I had seen countless condos and we put in I-don’t-know-how-many offers. Each one was beat out by investors or higher offers with cash or conventional lending. We were doing everything we could do “sweeten” our offer — waiving inspection except health and safety, offering well over listing, etc.
Still, places were getting snatched up almost as immediately as they were listed. Sometimes we didn’t even get to go to our scheduled showing because an offer had been accepted hours after it had been listed. There were other times that as Sarah was writing up our offer, the listing agent contacted her to let her know that an offer had already been accepted.
By winter 2021-2022, it seemed hopeless. I’ll admit that I lost motivation and began looking into rentals — we were still living in the condo that our landlord wanted to sell.
But then in late August, our soon-to-be future condo was listed. Tommy and I knew it was “the one.”
Sarah put in our offer and the listing agent informed her that there were two other “spoken” offers at the time, but nothing in writing. A day or so later, those other offers did come in, and the listing agent informed Sarah that ours was not the highest offer. So, our lender gets involved — she checked with us to make sure we’d be willing, in her words, to “go all in,” and ran all our numbers again to get us to the highest amount we’d be able to competitively offer.
That did it — after two years of searching and being let down, offer after offer — we finally put in an offer that was accepted. It seems everyone was rooting for us to get the place, even the seller. After our offer was accepted and everything was going smoothly in the process, the listing agent informed Sarah that a fourth offer had come in on the place. It was higher than ours, but the seller chose us because that fourth offer was an investor with conventional lending, and the seller wanted the condo to go to first-time buyers with an FHA loan because that is how they purchased it. And it served them well for a number of years, until they were ready to sell it and purchase a larger place.
I’m not sure if I can call it luck — though certainly it was — or if it was just a case of being the right time, but I am so grateful for the experience. Yes, it was trying. But I had a wonderful team by my side, with Sarah, our lender and even the seller. And now I’m fortunate enough to have 740 square-feet to call my very own, complete with a gorgeous window that my cats can watch the birds from and an in-unit washer and dryer.