The (Housing) Odyssey

Since finishing college in 2008, I have moved 21 times across 4 states (including 3 cross-county moves) and 10 cities. Part of what I’m seeking in buying land and building a house and community center on it is stability – stability for me and Elbow and the cats, but also a definite place that artists and community members can come to again and again to explore, express, and interact.

We have to move again, for the 5th time in 15 months. Frankly, I’ve had enough. I got taken with the idea of buying land NOW and building NOW, so that we could have a good place to live FOREVER, even though it’s much sooner than I had planned on and I don’t have the skills or the means to do that yet.

But, it’s America – when you don’t have money for what you want, you just borrow it, right? Interest rates are at an all-time low! Money is practically free right now! Well. It turns out that mortgages are a lot harder to get than student loans (since 2008, anyway). And my $214,000 of student loan debt + my checkered credit history + my working multiple under the table jobs for the last year = no mortgage.

This actually all started when I thought “instead of waiting to build a tiny home on wheels, let’s just buy one so we have a place to live now.” We found one in Utah that looked beautiful, and then scrambled to find someone who would lend us $50,000 to buy it. That was a stressful Friday night, just getting rejection after rejection from lenders with an online application process, or offers with exorbitant interest rates for much less money than we needed. [It turns out, most places won’t finance a tiny home on wheels, because it isn’t considered property. The best you can hope for is an RV loan, but even then your THOW will have to be certified as an RV, which most aren’t.]

Then, in researching through my financial despair, I discovered USDA Section 502 loans – specifically for low income people, in rural areas, to buy property and/or buy/build/fix up a house. Finally! I thought. An opportunity for me, one financial institution that won’t punish me for being broke.

And yet! The couple of mortgage brokers I’ve found who will originate the type of loan that I want require things that I don’t currently have – official paystubs, for example. A 2 year part-time work history with 6 months of full-time, W-2 verifiable employment. Woof! But instead of crumbling and dodging my financial situation, as has become my norm, I decided “Ok. If this is what I need to do to get money to build my dream, then goddammit that’s what I’m going to do.” I wrote out a list of all my monthly expenses, including all the expenses that I haven’t been able to afford in the last couple of years – saving every month, paying on all of my debts, paying for health insurance, contributing to my IRA, etc. The figure I came up with is objectively not that much – $3,000 a month, which translates to about $22 an hour, 40 hours a week, minus taxes. So, I decided that working full time didn’t have to be terrible, and that I would just find myself a *good* job, one that I liked and where I was learning things that would get me closer to my goals, and one that paid me $22+ an hour.

Score 1 for list-making, visualization, and femmifesting: in 3 days I start my new job as a carpenter’s assistant for a home builder in Crested Butte, at $22/hour. It’s perfect! (Besides being 3 hours away from where I live now…but, I know it’s the correct next step on my path.) I’m excited to learn how to build homes, including the timberframe and straw-clay types, and to get that much closer to building my own dream structure. Check back for updates!

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