How We Repaired Our Finances And Bought A Home

I can’t believe we just hit our 4 year anniversary from making the huge move from Michigan to Texas.  It was by far one of the biggest decisions we ever had to make.  Let me give you some background on why we moved.  Living in Michigan we were not flourishing we were in mediocre jobs that we didn’t love, we didn’t own our on home, and were living check to check.  We tried to level up but finding better jobs just was not coming easy for us.  
My mom and sister already lived in Texas which we loved every time we visited.  So almost within the same week the thought came into our head, we were coming to the end of our lease, we picked up and left a month later.  Scared and afraid, but trusting in God to lead us through this unknown territory.  Calvin was 6 months and Cameron was going into 2nd grade so we knew if we were going to go this would be the time to do it. We had an SUV that broke down on the way, but by the grace of God we finally made it to Texas and began our new life.
Our lives flourished since moving down here. We have tripled our household income, built businesses, bought a home, and more.  Never in our wildest dreams could we imagine that just by stepping out on faith this would net our outcome. I often get asked but I work at the headquarters of a large smoothie brand. I run their comp, benefits, and payroll. My husband works in finance.
While we trust God every day, we applied action with His directive.  We got to Texas and got to working on accomplishing our goals.  We analyzed the areas of opportunity in our life, and slowly started making moves. We weren’t happy with the income coming in, so we actively worked to level up.
Two years after moving here we bought out first home.  I say all the time my hat goes off to people that buying a home comes easy, and getting that down payment is easy.  Well that was not the case for us.  It came at the price of sacrifice, discipline, and hard work.
Let me be transparent, I didn’t grow up learning the importance of not going in debt and saving money.  Not using that as a crutch, it just was never something I even valued.  It’s not until you want to start making life moves that it came to the forefront.  When we were still in Michigan we started making steps to turn things around, but we were limited with how aggressive we could be due to the income not being there.
I will go off into tangents quickly when talking about this financial journey, so let me stay focused on how it pertains to buying a home. 
If you are like me and you would like to own a home, but not sure how to start or what to do I want to give you some framework to help you.  Of course everyone’s journey will be different, and I am only speaking to my journey and sharing the steps I personally took.  
 
Assess your current financial situation.
Before we even went out and starting looking for homes we sat down many times and assessed our debt, income, and looked up the estimated mortgage.  My husband used to be in the mortgage industry so he gave us every scenario possible.  We honestly did this when we first moved down here, and we quickly realized it wasn’t time to own a home.  And that is ok.  Sometime it is not the time to go, and you have to be patient do work behind the scenes until it is. Also at this time we were living with my sister for the first few months.  This allowed us to pay off debt, figure out the lay of the land, and look for an apartment.  If you ever have the opportunity to do this I would highly recommend this it allowed us to somewhat start over. I know this is not always possible, so when we had the opportunity to do this for 3 months we were extremely grateful.
We continued to assess our financial situation regularly and do check-ins to help make progress with improving our finances.  Please know the end game was to have a better financial situation, not just own a home.  We wanted to have financial freedom. 
I would always recommend to regularly check in on your finances so you are in the know. We kept leveling up with jobs and working behind the scenes until we were comfortable to go buy a home.
Be patient during the repair and restore process, turning your financial situation around does not happen over night you must be patient. It took years for us to fix this, because we didn’t want a band-aid fix. We wanted better money decisions consistently being made, money in the bank, debt paid.  We didn’t want a quick fix, we wanted better money habit. 
 
Know what is going on with your credit
If you are not looking at your credit report, you need to start. Once Credit Karma came out that was the site I used of choice.  It doesn’t matter which one just start looking.  We started doing this while in Michigan.  For us it wasn’t any major dollar items for our debt.  Just small silly things that should have never been on our credit report.  
We made a spreadsheet of all our debt smallest to largest (learned this from Dave Ramsey), its the snow ball effect. And each pay period started paying off debt. 
Go through your credit report and ensure the accuracy.  We had to dispute items that were way past the 7 year mark. Something to note about disputes, this held up our underwriting.  I had a dispute that was hanging out there and hadn’t been cleared.  I had to work to get that dispute cleared up before we could get the final approval.  So I would recommend making sure all disputes are settled before starting the process.
Any extra money we had was going towards debt and saving.
There are sacrifices to be made
We made many sacrifices when turning around our finances.  The major one is we opted to get a two bedroom apartment in our to decrease our output.  Yes we were a family of 4, and we decided it was best for us to not throw any extra money to something that we did not own.  Many people do this with their children, but for us this was a sacrifice.  Our boys are 5 years apart, so this is the last thing Cameron wanted to do.  However, we had to sit him down and explain why we’re doing this. I didn’t buy any extravagant furniture.  I got the most basic furniture I could buy, because I knew I didn’t know what our future home would need.  Before we moved I sold every piece of furniture in the home accept for our TV stand and TV.
If you are needing to turn around your finances sometimes you have to sacrifice something to get where you want to be.  We stay in our apartment from 2015-2017 and then moved into our home.  It was the best decision we could have ever done. 
Oh and if you are wondering if I was sad that I could shop…well yes I was.  I completely cut back on anything extra during those 2 years. 
Make a game plan 
Once we were comfortable had money in the bank, debt paid, THEN we finally made a game plan for owning a home.  We went out and started looking for homes.  We took everything we learned from looking at the homes in various nearby cities and built an action plan on which direction to go.
With each scenario we mapped out what that would mean to our finances, because we didn’t want to be house poor. With laying that out it was clear which direction was the best.
Take action
We found a realtor and a mortgage broker that was pretty amazing! We didn’t opt to build a home, because we didn’t want to wait the timeline for a house to be built. 
Our realtor found a home for us pretty quickly.  We got under contract for a home that was built in 2008, and we great. Once under contract we had our inspector look at it and they found some pretty serious foundation and roof issues.  Thank goodness for the option period because we got out of our home, and within a day our realtor found our home. It was a new home that was just a month from being completed.  
It was everything we wanted.  Yes there were some thing I would do different if I had built it myself, but all in all it was a great first home for us. We got under contract and start going through underwriting.
Be patient with underwriting
Underwriting is intense, especially if you are coming from a repair credit status.  While we still had good credit underwriting just reminds you of your past poor financial decisions. They bring everything back from the past! So be prepared for that.  
Thankfully, with my husband being in the mortgage industry previously he prepared me for this.  And through the process of paying off debt we always kept receipts! So if there was anything in question we could easily show verification on the improvement. 
The day we got cleared to close after a grueling 24 day underwriting we were in tears.  All the years and the hard work.
That down payment though!
We have never wrote a check that big in our life. Goodness gracious! At one point in my life I had the thought even if we had good credit how could we ever do such a hefty down payment. It always used to seem like so much.  It’s crazy things that used to seem so hard, then starts to be something your doing! Look at God! 
Let’s talk about the prep for the down payment.  This is not something that was overnight.  When we knew we wanted to own our home.  We also started putting away money for a down payment. If we got a bonus we put it away. As soon as you start having the thought you want to own your home that is when I would suggest you start saving for the down payment.  If you do a FHA mortgage I believe it is 3.5% of the home,  but Conventional is 5%.  I would always suggest that you do above the minimum if at all possible.  You want to try and make that mortgage payment as low as possible. 
Don’t go back in debt
Yes owning a home is debt, BUT I mean don’t feel pressured to throw everything back on a card. We came from a 2 bedroom 2 bath apartment to a 5 bedroom 4 bath home.  It’s easy to want to just go in debt for all the item you need to furnish.  But DON’T.  Who are you in a rush for? Take your time and furnish your home when the money is there.  I am still completing areas even a year later. 
This isn’t just about turning your finances around to buy a home, this is about having better money habits.  This about not just short term, you want to be thinking about your long term financial goals.  How are you setting yourself up for retirement, are you saving for your children’s college.  So yes it was an amazing accomplishment to be able to own our first home, but what we are most happy about is how are smart financial decision has set us up for a better future.
Misc. thoughts
Often in the past money would be the dispute.  While we will still have discussions once we got out of living check to check, and making poor decisions. We didn’t argue as much over money.  When we talk it is planned financial business meetings where we are checking in on where we are at and setting goals for the future. 
Use resources.  If you are not good with money and it’s just not your thing I would recommend working with a person that can help you reach your financial goals.  Definitely get someone that will hold your accountable. 
I can’t stress enough for us it wasn’t just about the home.  We were tired of living check to check, we wanted to be comfortable, and set ourselves up for our financial future.  Owning a home just was such sweet outcome of making better financial decisions.  

Remember be patient, trust the process, and be disciplined.

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