3/26/2012

Home Sweet Home

Being a renter is an interesting, sometimes hard, place to be. For Jason and me, we feel a burden to pay down a hefty chunk of our student loans before starting to save for a down payment on a home. Our personal conviction is that we want to put as close to a 20% (or more, depending on the home price) down payment on a place so as to, as much as possible, avoid ever being underwater or in a position where we can't sell because of a lack of equity in the home. Obviously, crazy things happen, but we feel it's a biblical conviction to be as careful as possible to be wise stewards. All of this said, we are likely a solid 3-5 years from being anywhere near seriously considering home ownership.

I say this because though our reality is being renters my heart always desires some sense of roots and stability. Each home we have lived in has always come with a plan to stay put for at least a few years and only once did we move because we wanted to and not because the rent was jacked up at lease renewal time. If you've known us for long then you know each move has included basically starting over with finding a new community group, though for the first four years of marriage we were always still at the Ballard location of our church, Mars Hill. Last year we moved to Bellevue, and the Bellevue Mars Hill Church location, to be closer to Jason's work.

When we moved to Bellevue we found an apartment that, long story short, we were promised would be a long-term home, where rents go up maybe $30 at renewal time. We were fairly concerned about this given our last place (where rents were hiked upwards of 70% for some people, no kidding) and the apartment manager was very sincere. So we signed the lease, excited to see our little family grow in this apartment. We brought Roger, our first baby, home to this apartment, and thought we'd watch him grow for a few years and possibly bring home our next baby here.

Sadly, this isn't to be the case. Our rent was hiked nearly 20% and our small-ish apartment simply isn't worth the amount they are charging. To be honest, while I anticipated a possible rent hike, I was still pretty hurt. I know it's a renter's plight, but to be promised something and to build a home and feel like it's being ripped away because we're merely cogs in giant corporation's money machine is just a terrible feeling. I have no problem with anyone making money, I just hate that we were lied to, intentionally misled (based on facts I'm choosing to withhold) and that our humanity and dignity are stripped from us in a sense. It's a horrible feeling and I'm done shedding tears over it.

However, once we knew we had to move, I asked Jesus for some pretty crazy things. Based on what I was finding on Craigslist and our church's social networking site's version of Craigslist, I had no reason to believe it was even possible. Still, I asked Jesus for these things, if it was his will to give them to us:

  • Three bedrooms
  • Two full bathrooms (without built-in tub/shower doors, because I hate them, plus they make giving kids a bath a pain)
  • Lots of closets / storage space (maybe even a walk-in closet for the master)
  • More space in general, specifically a better layout for hosting our community group
  • A spacious kitchen with lots of counter space and storage
  • A front loading washing machine, and preferably a new-ish, nice-ish washer/dryer in general
  • Decent kitchen appliances (dishwasher a MUST) with a built-in, above the range microwave
  • A location that I love
  • Being near our friends and in a place where our CG members can generally all still come to
  • A deep bathtub, not the cheap, lowest end, stock grade tubs that are 14" deep
  • A bigger hot water tank (30 gallons just doesn't cut it for our family!), possibly tankless water heating
  • To still have an en suite master bathroom with dual sinks & lots of bathroom storage
  • Convenient, close, covered parking
  • Possibly a house with a yard
  • To not have anyone above us
  • A place with decent windows (the ones in our current place mold in about a week and this is despite us keeping the heat low and doing regular maintenance. It's disgusting. I HATE mold.
  • To rent from an owner with very few properties, this possibly being their only rental property, and not another apartment chain where we don't have a personal relationship with the people actually profiting off of us.
  • All for the same price as we pay now (ha!) and/or including utilities like water/sewer/garbage

Yeah, kinda bold. But the Bible does say to ask for good gifts, that our Father exceeds a dad who doesn't give a rock to a child asking for bread (Matthew 7:7-11, Luke 11:9-13).

When I was looking for a place, it was discouraging. We looked at one house, but it was more expensive, we would have had to buy our own washer / dryer, it was way smaller than we hoped, had one tiny bathroom, and it's the kind of place that would just never feel clean. Yuck. We felt pretty bummed after we saw that place.

After a lot of prayer and futile hunting, one night a place popped up that for whatever reason just hadn't shown up in my previous searches. Long story short, we signed a lease this morning on a condo that's such a blessing I can still hardly believe it. Allow me to paste my original list of the things that this place includes, with more details where relevant.


  • Three bedrooms - The new place has three huge bedrooms; the smallest bedroom is nearly the size of our current living room, and bigger than our current master!
  • Two full bathrooms (without built-in tub/shower doors, because I hate them, plus they make giving kids a bath a pain) - Yup!
  • Lots of closets / storage space (maybe even a walk-in closet for the master) - Yup again! Only there are TWO walk-in closets in the master suite, plus a previous owner opened up and finished the crawl space so though the ceiling's a bit low (I can walk upright, but my 6'5" beast of a husband can't) there is a another area around 75 sq feet (my deeply uneducated guess!) for just extra storage. If you have a baby and know you want more (or like me, are pregnant already) then you know the dilemma of wondering what to keep, what to store, what to lend out, and what to just buy again because it all takes up so much space! Plus, this doesn't include sizeable closets in the other two bedrooms, a linen closet, a hall closet, a pantry, extra cabinets in the laundry room (yeah, a separate room! Not just a hallway closet!), and another storage closet out on the balcony.
  • More space in general, specifically a better layout for hosting our community group - The layout of the condo has not only more space in general but the layout is more "great room" style. Perfect for hosting!
  • A spacious kitchen with lots of counter space and storage - It's about the same as I have now, which is better than many houses in the area I've been in. HUGE blessing for me, as I cook 80-90% of our meals from scratch.
  • A front loading washing machine, and preferably a new-ish, nice-ish washer/dryer in general - Um, yeah. Not only are they only a year old, but they're higher end, pedestal ones that don't require bending over. The ones we have now are the cheapest, low-end option. It takes 2.5 hours to dry a medium load of clothes. Ugh! The new ones are a HUGE blessing for this growing, cloth diapering family!
  • Decent kitchen appliances (dishwasher a MUST) with a built-in, above the range microwave - All of the above, but better--they're Frigidaire Professional series stainless steel appliances that are only a year old. And I love saving counter space with an above the range microwave :)
  • A location that I love - It's in Redmond, which I didn't love at first because it felt far away, but this sunny weekend Jason and I took a couple drives around the area and now I can't wait to move there! Oh, and for the non-locals, Redmond is one of Bellevue's two northern-border neighbors (and it borders to the east), so it's still super close. It's 6 miles due north and slightly west of our current home, but we will still be at Mars Hill Bellevue, will keep our Issaquah doctor, etc. Even our CG coach will be the same, for those to whom that means something :)
  • Being near our friends and in a place where our CG members can generally all still come to  - Our CG is moving with us, and this worked out pretty much perfectly because not only is it closer for some people but some dear friends of ours actually live two buildings up in the condo complex and will likely rejoin our CG this summer. Beyond my hopes!
  • A deep bathtub, not the cheap, lowest end, stock grade tubs that are 14" deep - Not only are both tubs really deep, but the master tub has jets. Jets! I can hardly believe it, honestly.
  • A bigger hot water tank (30 gallons just doesn't cut it for our family!), possibly tankless water heating  - No more cold showers for me! The condo has an 80 gallon hot water tank. Bring it on!
  • To still have an en suite master bathroom with dual sinks & lots of bathroom storage - The master bath has all of this, and the second bathroom, though it only has one sink, has as much storage as our current master. In other words, TONS of bathroom storage, which I sure do love!
  • Convenient, close, covered parking for free - Check! Plus lots of uncovered spots so our CG people have a place to park.
  • Possibly a house with a yard - It's neither, but I don't mind. I like that if I scream for help hopefully someone will hear, plus we'd need to either buy yard stuff or pay to have it tended. And behind the unit is a big greenbelt / forest, so it's really private and wonderful.
  • To not be on a ground unit and to not have anyone above us - Since having kids I hate having ground floor windows that can be easily broken / crawled into. Plus, we have NEVER not have people live above us, and we've lived in four different places in four years of marriage. Two places included 3-5 year old boys who stomped and ran all day every day, and one place included 4-5 loud, partying guys who blared music and got drunk every. single. Friday and Saturday. night. Bleck. Now, we'll be on the second floor and our unit is actually sort of townhouse style with the master bedroom / bath in a semi-lofted second story with no one above us. Lovely.
  • To be near parks - There are tons of great parks within 5 minutes, including an awesome trail for biking, a huge, flat park called "Sixty Acres Park" or the like, and Marymoor Park, which is huge and amazing.
  • A place with decent windows (the ones in our current place mold in about a week and this is despite us keeping the heat low and doing regular maintenance. It's disgusting. I HATE mold. - Done and done. Grateful!
  • To rent from an owner with very few properties, this possibly being their only rental property, and not another apartment chain where we don't have a personal relationship with the people actually profiting off of us; heavily preferred is that this owner want long-term tenants and as such promise to not raise rent ala our recent experiences. - This is pretty amazing--our new landlord is just a solid guy. He didn't just promise not to raise rent verbally; it's written into our lease! Praise Jesus! And he clearly really likes us and hopes we're there for a long time. He was super friendly, is doing above and beyond things (like meeting us there when we can so I can take pictures of where outlets, etc, are and plan our furniture placement), and even told us things like if we hit a really hard time and need him to not cash a check for a week or two, no worries. He trusts us and trusts that we're responsible. We don't foresee needing that situation, but I have never had a landlord say anything like that to me, and I've been renting for over 9 years now. Just a huge blessing.
  • All for the same price as we pay now (ha!) and/or including utilities like water/sewer/garbage - Because the condo includes w/s/g and basic cable (something my sweet husband agrees to allow me to have since I love ESPN, HGTV, the Food Network, and the like) it ends up being about $20 more than our current rent, but over $200 cheaper than what they are raising rent to were we to renew our lease. For 1.5 times the space, nicer, and better in pretty much every way.
  • Random bonus: I didn't ask for a place with stairs inside the unit, but my entire life I never had a home with stairs. I mainly grew up in trailer homes. College dorm rooms and living on the second story of an apartment complex (but the actual unit being single-level) don't count. I did live with 4 other girls in a huge house for two years, but that still was basically college-type living. Jason knows I really want to buy a two story home, because stairs indoors just mean something to me. Pretty sweet that we hope to live in this place for a long time and it has stairs. Just a sweet little gift from Jesus that I didn't even hope for!
  • Oh! And the upstairs loft has a sweet AC unit that will come in handy in the event that 9-months-pregnant in August me can't sleep because of the heat this summer!

So...yeah. We're pretty blessed :) After a long, hard winter in MANY ways, our spring is bright. We don't deserve any of these blessings. I wept to Jesus about how unfair it all felt. He didn't have to give us a gift that we can so clearly define as good--his good gift could have been a smaller, less-than-we-have-now place and it still would have been good. To add to his goodness, he's worked in my heart so that I receive this gift as the grace it is and not as something I am ungrateful for and/or simply feel entitled to, as though he has to give me what I define as good.

Bonus: Jesus provided for us through generous friends so that we are using movers. It feels weird, honestly, but this is our fifth move in four and a half years, we have two huge, heavy armoires and my awesome but very heavy treadmill that has to go to the upstairs master loft so as to respect the lady downstairs, I'm pregnant and still super dizzy all the time, and it's just sweet grace to use a respected, responsible company. Totally worth it!

They aren't the best quality, but here are a couple of pics I snapped that show the unit from the Craigslist ad before it expired. Just a sneak peek :)




Good Father. Good gift. Excited for April 15th, when we get to fall asleep for the first night in our new home! 

2 comments:

  1. wow Tami! So much good news! . . . and I totally have a thing about stairs indoors too!! Haha, glad I'm not the only one. I would never ever buy a "ranch-style" home for that reason. :)

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  2. Ditto! Whenever people buy ranch-style homes I think they're nuts! Seriously, even if it were 2,000+ sq ft I just couldn't do it! We'd have to think a place is SUPER amazing for me to buy if it's only one story.

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