A dream deferred: it took me ten years to get the “cottage” of my dreams. I didn’t plan it that way of course. But I must admit that every moment was worth the wait because it exceeded my expectations in every area.
I’ve always been a woman with a vision. I begin at the end of what I want or where I want to be and work my way back to the beginning. So when I first imagined a “cottage” I knew I wanted it to have a French Country feel. So before I ever looked at a piece of real estate, I of course started buying furniture and accessories! LOL. That meant that my current bedrooms, basement, garage and mom’s living room were holding extra dressers and nightstands and sofas and a dining room table that I knew would be great for “the cottage.” It also meant that everything that is now in my “cottage” is there because I love it!
I always knew I needed to take this process in Pink Elephant small bites. I’ve never understood why people move into a space and then leave the majority of the rooms empty for years to come. So I didn’t think twice about collecting things along the way, rather than find myself at the doorsteps of a cavernous empty space that needed filling. As I took my trips around the world over that ten year period, I was always thinking of my “cottage.” My favorite phrase became, “OMG that would be great for the cottage!” My son, who was 10 when we started this, would roll his eyes at me and say in exasperation, “Mom, we don’t HAVE a cottage!” (He had no vision, y’all!). In LA, as I made a wild U-turn in the middle of the street when I saw a quaint French day bed in an antique shop’s window, squealing, while I made the turn on two wheels, about how perfect it would be, he was yelling back as he held on, “but we don’t HAVE a cottage!” But I’m gonna tell you that I found my flatware in Dubai, a stunning candelabra at a flea market in Spain, and a super cute cork French-looking cork board on a road trip to Amish town. (Yes, Amish town!) In fact, it was this trip that convinced me that Al was the guy for me. We stopped at a Cracker Barrel restaurant right outside of Amish town on one of our first dates, and he held up the cork board and said, “This would be great for the cottage!” #Love #Vision
Now, we know that getting a second home, or even your first home, isn’t about dressers and cork boards. It is about responsibility, m-o-n-e-y. And credit. And timing. And patience!
So to break it into small bites for you, here are some things to help you get your ducks in a row so that you can buy your dream home:
- Do you have the money to spend? This is more than just having the money for a house. Tons of fees can add up really quickly when you start this process, and don’t forget about taxes! Another money grabber falls under even the smallest of renovations, improvements and repairs. Some inspector always says something has to be replaced. There’s paint that you’ll want to change. “The cottage” only needed to be repainted on the inside because I didn’t like the beige color the previous owners had used. This ended up being a $10,000 improvement. Your hands will itch to renovate. Do your homework and get a really good ballpark figure for the money you will need.
- Do you have money in the bank? You need to have adequate funding in your bank for up to three months prior to signing on any of the dotted lines, because lenders generally want to see at least three months of bank statements. (This tripped up a friend, so I’m telling you!) This is something to think about for those borrowing money or moving money around or liquidating assets. Get that money in the bank a minimum of three months before you approach a lender and keep it there.
- Is your credit up to par? We talked about that FICO score business. Know your score, and if it’s low, don’t beat yourself up. Pick yourself up and start cleaning it up. Usually your credit score is expected to be a bit higher when you’re buying a second home than needed when you are buying your first home. Using a reputable service who can help you with this is worth the expense in my opinion. Or you can do it yourself. Regardless, you should factor in at least three months or longer to get you in shape. So start with the date you want to be in the house, and work backwards. If your score is great, bravo! Get moving on your next steps.
- Do you have time to home shop? Someone once asked me, after I had been moaning about how I simply hadn’t found a vacation home because I was always working: “if you don’t have time to go look for a vacation house, how will you have time to spend at a vacation house?” It was a legitimate question. But I swatted it away with the flick of my hand because I knew that if I wanted to drive down to the house at 2:00 a.m. on a Friday for my vacation time, I could! Not so much with a realtor. So one of my small bites became making time to identify realtors, despite my jacked up schedule! And then being very intentional about looking every weekend for two months straight. This part was hard, guys.
Getting my dream “cottage ” became our dream “cottage” because by the time I found it, Al and I were married. And I use the word “cottage” loosely, because my friends tell me it is anything but that. My vision of a small, quaint, three-bedroom, two baths in reality is a six-bedroom lake house, and totally exemplifies the beauty of eating Pink Elephants. I had to trust in the process and in myself, and take it step by step. I set a move-in date for myself of July 4, 2017, and I worked backwards from there. We closed on June 23rd. If owning a dream home is something that YOU want, I’m here to tell you that it can happen, and it will happen if you tackle it in small, manageable, yummy bites.