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So, in a very roundabout way, we lied on our mortgage application, without lying. When you submit your incomes, they don’t ask you about your future income expectations. So in our case, we submitted an application with two incomes, but we were expecting that any day we would have a baby (or at least, she would – I was starting to expect a coronary at this point) and we would just be on my one income. But, we knew this, which is why we were aiming for a house that was selling at $69,900, and putting over 20% down. Our mortgage would be a couple hundred bucks a month, and we could manage that on my wage job.

So we // lied // omitted two things: We were going on one income once we had the baby, and, well, we were about to have a baby any day.

Nope, the ‘pregnancy’ question never came up on the mortgage application process.

We bought this place just last year, at what I thought was the bottom of the market, though the market still dropped even further. The house was a 1937 construction, 800 original, and cute, square feet, with one bathroom. The house actually measures out to 1200 SF, because of the ‘addition,’ which was put on the back of the house by the world’s least competent do-it-yourself idiot carpenter, using materials such as barn boards. There was also an attempt to make a closed-in, heated breezeway to the one-car garage, which had been left in an odd state: The garage door had been replaced by a wall, and it appeared that people intended to make it a living space.

The house (on Gilford St., Laconia) had been flooded due to burst pipes the previous winter. It was a foreclosure jobby, and had last been purchased for over $160,000, at the height of the absurd real estate market in 2006. We assumed that the purchasers had been swallowed up into the gold rush frenzy of flipping houses, and had gotten the easy financing to increase the SF’tage and market value of the house. (Back then, waaay back six years ago, people thought their houses would always increase in value, and you could just use them as an ATM).

Instead of turning the house into a million-dollar flip, they ended up doing half-ass additions and improvements, then getting forced out in mid-winter. Then HUD ended up owning the house, put in a new furnace, patched things up, and put the place on the market.

But I digress. Fast forward from that time and we put in our application for the house in October, T-minus three months from baby launch. At the time, it was the only place on the market left for us, after we applied for one other house that didn’t last more than one minute on the home inspection. Out of all the places in New Hampshire, this was the only one we could afford if we only had one income. And if we went to one income before we could buy, we wouldn’t even qualify for Gilford Ave. It’d be rent city, no on-site laundry, a walkup with a baby, and the struggle of overcoming rent costs to gain a place. I felt like I was living with the red-digit detonation countdown (from any action movie cliff-hanger with a bomb) permanently stuck in my skull. Beeping.

Then we dealt with TD bank mortgage. Despite putting over 20% down, and having sterling credit, we were applying during a time called ‘the mortgage crisis,’ created by the global real estate fiascos. So now, even a homeowner who was doing it right was too small to succeed. Apparently our mortgage was going to be a ‘secondary mortgage market product,’ which meant our mortgage would be floated out in the banking world as a commodity. Because TD Bank, and others, were under a lot of scrutiny for, oh, I dunno, causing a great depression with their subprime mortgage scandal, they were being very careful about taking on new mortgages. The mortgage office was remote. Every communication with the bank took a day. At first, everything was going good. We got the home inspection, and we were assured the place wouldn’t fall in on itself. We faxed them additional documents. A week went by. They ‘misplaced’ some docs. Sent them. Another week.

Wife’s belly getting bigger. Baby kicking hard.

They need some more time. Two weeks. I drive by the house every day, checking it out. The paint is peeling very badly. The yard looks like it was transplanted from the 9th ward of New Orleans after Katrina. But it’s only one mile from work, and it’s a place that we could move straight into.

The bank needs some more time, then, radio silence. I feel like we’re in a submarine, holding earphones to my head, listening for the slightest ping of activity.

It’s November. T-minus eight weeks to baby launch.

Prayer.

It’s hard to pray for something specific, like a certain house, because you have the fear of praying for something that you won’t acquire. We had been praying for a house for some time by then. Pray for grace. Pray for the humility to accept God’s will. Pray for faith in God’s plan for us. Pray out of gratitude for the things we have. Each other. A warm place to live, even if it was an apartment. Pray for patience.

Meanwhile, the mortgage company’s inspector went to the place, and came up with a $5,000 list of demands for home improvements. This has to go to the bank owning the foreclosure.

T-minus seven weeks. Six.

No word on whether the foreclosure bank will pay for the improvements.

Five.

They pay for the improvements.

Four.

It takes a week to get everything contracted and done. It’s now mid-Decemeber. Fortunately, no snow on the ground.

Improvements done. Foreclosure bank inspector lady signs off on improvements.

Fax a million documents. We’re good to go.

Signing date: December 16th, 2011.

We’re told the key is under the brick by the door. Our realtor, who actually was a great guy, gives us a $200 Loew’s card.

We walk into the house. It’s now ours. There’s a huge green shag carpet cover the entire first floor. The ceiling has been destroyed by the repairs conducted to fix burst pipes. The place smells like it’s been flooded. But, hey, the furnace is new. The sub pump is kicking. There is no actual proper front door – the door from the kitchen to the outside breezeway is an interior door. The basement door that vents to the outside is also an interior door. The furnace runs almost constantly to keep the place at 58 degrees.

The first thing we did was rip of the carpet. Well, whaddaya know, there’s actually original oak flooring. That first afternoon, I tear it out of the living room. Then, we go back to our apartment. From then on, for the next two weeks, I go to our new place on Gilford Ave. every night after work. Fortunately, I have just finished my night school finals, so I’m on winter break. I call my wife and tell her I’ll be home at 9:00. We have to take down the seven layers of wallpaper, because the stuff that’s up looks like crap. We have to put up a wall to replace the wall taken down between two rooms on the second floor. We have to redo the bathroom floor, because of water damage. I have to replace the toilet, because it’s cracked due to water freezing in the bowl. The linoleum in the kitchen is actually moldy in places from the flood damage.

I tell my wife I’ll be home at 9:00 the first night. Barely anything gets done. A single trip to Loew’s takes an hour – minimum. Next night, I’ll be home at 10:00. The place is hardly touched. Third night, I’ll be home at 11:00. I get home at midnight.

My buddy Dave comes over, because I was whining to him at work about how long everything was taking. We have to take up the linoleum in the kitchen – two layers of the stuff, plus the lucite. The first thing Dave does is gives me a beer. “Here,” he said. “When you have to rip up your house, this helps you get into the mood. It’s like a Xanax, for men.”

He’s actually right. It’s much easier to tear into the flooring of my house with a cat’s paw and a hammer after a little mental lubrication.

That Saturday, we have some people over to help scrape the infite wallpaper layers. I take up the carpet on the stairs. I remove around 8,000,000 carpet and lucite tacks from the floor. The bathroom is stipped. The kitchen is empty. It’s T-minus three baby weeks. My wife (ok, Courtney) tires out fast, and gets the 1,000-yard stare. Something about being eight months pregnant…

We still take Sunday off for worship. And to recover.

The second week, I’m not sure what happened. A lot of people volunteered. I repaired the bathroom floor. Hasty tile job, but waterproof. New toilet. My friend Tom used his plumbing skills to fix the leak in the kitchen sink water supply, as well as install a new sink and vanity in the bathroom. We got the walls scraped, and I drywalled them smooth. I got the floors free of nails and tacks, then hand sanded and varnished them. Then, we had a second Saturday. This time, the whole family came in. Fifteen people. The first floor ceiling got texture paint. People cleaned up a decade’s worth of dead leaves. My father-in-law reframed a couple interior doors. The kitchen got painted. A bunch of happy things took place. I can’t really remember what I did that day.

I don’t even know what happened the following week, but I know I took time off work. Everything that looks like it will happen in an hour takes three hours. The biggest lies in the retail marketing world is at a home improvement store, where you see happy models painlessly painting their house, or replacing a toilet. I worked like crazy all week, and so did Courtney, who packed out apartment. Still, on Friday night before moving in, I was just putting in the toilet. And the kitchen cabinets and sink. And the vanity wasn’t hooked up correctly. Courtney kind of had a breakdown. She really wanted everything to be perfect, so that we didn’t have to do anything while we were in the house. I was just glad the toilet would flush without flooding the first floor.

And, the oil tank was full.

We moved in in one day. A 16-foot Uhaul truck, along with a couple cars, took everything in one shot. Unfotunately, our deck table didn’t make it. I thought it would survive a 20′ drop from out porch if I dropped it straight down, so that the air would brake its fall, and the impact would be taken across the face of the plastic table. My brothers in law, both college men, felt it would, too. But it blew up into a million pieces that ended up in the enormous construction debris scrape heap growing behind our new house.

We moved in in one shot, bought all our volunteers pizza, and then sometime around two in the afternoon, I lay on my couch and fell asleep. I felt pretty bad about this because Tom was still there, trying to fix a pinhole leak in some pipe. But I was just toast. Church members had made us a bunch of food, and we ate that until the Sears guys came and delivered the appliances I had bought on Black Friday. We got a new washer and dryer in the basement, and a new, glass-top stove. Unfortunately, we were going to find out that glass-top stoves are the most overrated home appliance ever, but more on that some other time.

Two weeks after we moved in, we had a baby.

That actually went a lot smoother than homebuying. But, kind of like a woman forgets how hard it was to have a baby, and agrees to have another one, I would definitely buy a house again.

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