This is the post excerpt.
I have a to do list as long as my husband’s fuse (he’s the most patient guy I’ve ever had the bliss of knowing). ‘Write blog’ has been at the top of the list for the past two months. Yet, more urgent ‘to do’s kept dethroning it, as I suppose it should when you are preparing for the big move…in less than a month!
Since we celebrated our new home and argued about the purpose of a certain living area, (music room won!) we entered into negotiations with the current owners about their furniture, appliances and service providers. We also divided the pre-move tasks: Someone deals with the agent and owner, someone deals with the lawyers, someone looks into internet connections and all things technical, someone deals with the handy man. Obviously someone often become someones as we try to work together for the benefit of all.
Our task, my husband and I specifically, is to guide/suggest/steer the initial decorating and furniture fitting exercise. Even though I volunteered, it does present a teeny-weeny challenge, especially since I suffer from clutter phobia. I started suspecting this about myself after marrying a, very neat but nonetheless, hoarder. My suspicion was confirmed after having kids. I can handle the crying, the agony, the longing and tantrums over a “lost” toy, as long as it means more space in my space. To me, “Space is luxury.”
The house is big, but we are a lot of people, each with their own heirloom, sentimental piece of crockery or special chair. Not to mention the pool table! I get it, I really do. Personally, I not want to let go of the antique, beveled mirrored, rosewood buffet that my dad gave me as a wedding present! Who would want to do that? Perhaps someone who wants to exhibit their Art-Deco exhibition cabinet?
Our solution to the potential problem of cluttering the space with our combined bounty of old and new furniture, was to decide in advance what goes and what should rather stay in our parent’s attics. Everyone sent pictures and measurements of their stuff. We created a schematic of the house plans and possible furniture placings and submitted it to all for comment. The picture featured is a first draft. It does not include the upper rooms or outdoor furniture. It needs work.
I am very aware of the fact that come moving day we will end up with too many plastic chairs, mismatched scatter pillows and several braai grids. We will have to deal with that when we get there. I’m thinking…bonfire. In the mean time I am moving ‘declutter’ to the top of my pre move to do list.
I have always wondered why congratulations are offered when you buy a house. If one acquires an ambitiously large amount of debt from an institution as dubious as a bank, I would think that condolences would be more fitting.
However, apart from having to pack up and move and all the trauma that goes with relocating and big change, we felt rather celebratory ourselves. Everyone came over to our little house for my, now famous, Spanakopita. We obviously had champagne. We looked at all the photos my husband took on our second viewing. (Promise to have some up on the blog in due time). We finalized stage 1 of our living arrangements: who is going to sleep where. We joked about my eldest sleeping in one of the storage closets to his great enjoyment. We hinted at the admin that lies ahead concerning our appliances, furniture and fixtures of which we obviously have more than required among us. We discussed how to spend the discount we got from the lawyers. We all agreed that the pool needs a net first. Kids + Pool = Net. No argument here. We would have liked to install a water tank. Drought. Water restrictions. We have to fix one of the ‘outside’ rooms in order to make it habitable. We also need to place a sliding door between the living areas and the sleeping quarters. Lots of people. Different routines. Sound management will be important.
Then we debated the use of the living area close to the stairs. I suggested a music room, complete with piano and guitars hanging on the walls. Some of us wanted to make it a pool room. Don’t read ‘a place to put flippers, towels and pool noodles‘! Pool as in ‘two people hitting balls into holes at the edges of a table using a long stick.’ My husband wants an art studio. Some others among us argued for a cross fit box. I think the music room is going to win.
We were laughing and talking excitedly until really late. Well, it was really late for us. I got the feeling the rest of our adventurers are used to much later bed time routines. Obviously, they are not living with kids…yet. Condolences will be in order soon. Whooh ha ha ha (evil laugh).
As I looked at our new, to be, family I felt hopeful. Happy. Exited about this adventure and especially about these adventurers.
Seems like most banks just did not even know which boxes to tick when they looked at our application
So, our offer expired. We thought it was all over…just like Lazarus’ sisters did, but then Jesus arrived and when Jesus arrives…miracles abound:
That same evening, the evening our offer expired, the estate agent took two contracts to the owner of house number sixteen: An extension of our offer and another offer on the house. The owner accepted and signed both. We were back in play, but the other offer was higher and it was cash – they just needed to move their money. That would only take a couple of days and we…we’ll it’s been 21 days and we had no success yet.
The thing is, we started a company as a vehicle to buy our house, and that is not common practice in South Africa. Seems like most banks just did not even know which boxes to tick when they looked at our application. We just needed someone with credentials to take a proper look at us, but no one would. Then, one of our fellow adventurers called the one person he knew that, if he spoke up, would get us noticed. You may call it desperation but I call it Providence. It worked.
Two days later, on my husband’s birthday, the bank granted us an 85% bond, hours before the other party’s cash were secured. We only had enough cash for a 90% bond but God already provided the extra cash we needed to cover the shortfall.
I cried and hugged the kids. At last.
But wait, there is more. The bank offered us an interest rate less than prime. Still, a day later they dropped it even more. We did not ask for this. It just happened.
Then, our bond originator contacted the lawyers involved and asked for a discount on our behalf, to which they agreed. We did not ask for this either. It just happened.
Wow. Excitement. Thankfulness. Let the new journey begin.
Our offer expired. We did all we could to make this happen but our offer expired and we do not have a bond.
We have twenty percent cash. We only had ten percent, but God provided another ten within days.
We gave the banks everything. We danced to their tune: Another month’s bank statements, another proof of income, plans of the house, another year of financial statement’s. On and on it went. The admin around buying a house is tedious, but trust me, if you have your own business, like my husband does, it get’s complicated. At some stage we felt more like criminals than law-abiding citizens…for no good reason other than not hearing from any financial institution in spite of providing all they asked.
During this trying time we drove past the house numerous times. We took the children to play in the park down the street more than once. We dug up our savings and paid it over to the lawyers. We had our hopes up – despite what life teaches. We are Christians. We have eternal hope, even when all seems lost.
So we are at it again. Hunting for the perfect house. Like seasoned hunters we signaled each other, we circled every property, inspected it thoroughly, we raised eyebrows, frowned, pointed fingers, shook heads in silence, opened cupboards, “Ahem”ed and “Aah”ed politely and then we let the prey go…and moved on to the next promising property on the market. My kids soon got tired of the ritual.
In the mean time we continued to meet once a week for prayer and worship. One thing that we all have in common is our faith in Christ. We also share the conviction that He called us to pursue this kind of community living. I have no idea how it is going to look or feel or be. I have doubts. I have fears. But…I also have hope and faith. If God called us to this, it will be for our benefit. We just have to follow His lead, hence the weekly prayer sessions. And then we found it!
The perfect house. One that works for all of us! It even matched the number in my dreams – house nr 16! But it was way way out of our budget. The agent assured us that the owner would not even consider too low an offer as the house’s price had already been dropped after some time on the market. How did we miss this house for the last couple of months? O that’s right – we did not even look at houses in this price range! But here we were. With our shopping list and all the boxes ticked and hope in our hearts and weekly prayers. We made the best offer we could. It was still way way way under the asking price, but we had to.
The owner, who’s mostly in Australia, happened to be in the country that day…the day we decided to make the offer. It was Friday. He flew back to Australia on Saturday. Saturday morning he wanted to see proof of our deposit. We left the kids in the shopping trolley while we searched our emails for proof of our life’s savings. There were some changes to the contract. We rushed off to get them signed on time. Then we waited. He had till Monday to let us know.
Monday 12:15 – Our offer got accepted. Our ridiculous offer, our very best offer…it got accepted.
Imagine going to the mall to get Marcel’s, or whatever you call great frozen yogurt in your part of the woods, with 5 of your friends. Sound’s like a treat. But there is a catch. You all have to share one medium bucket. You can fit about 3 flavors in a medium bucket… Not such a treat anymore?
If 7 people suddenly decide to buy a house for the purpose of living together as a family, then the house hunting can get quite daunting. One of our fellow adventurers word’s kept ringing in my mind through all our searching: “The house must work for all of us!”
There are us, a family of 5. Yes we can do 2 bedrooms, but would really prefer 3. Then there is my husband who would love to have a space where we as a family can be alone sometimes. Then there is me, who want a school room. I have been homeschooling my children around the kitchen table for way to long. I would love space where we can strut our stuff, you know: put a globe, hang a map, display our art or just have our math manipulates close enough to use often. Then there are the minions who just want space to ride their bikes, dump their lego’s, jump and run.
Then there are our married friends, who are starting their own family soon. I know you can raise a baby in a drawer, but really, that is not what we want for them or ourselves, so we need space for them and the baby.
Then there are the two single women. I really want to call them girls, because they are so young and vibrant and pretty. There is also the single student/hardworking guy. They all would love a nice room with a view or sun or an en suite or something!
And then last, but not least,there is the hope to rent a couple of rooms out.
At present, our fellow adventurers, are already living in a mansion with 16 (or so)…other people. They have been doing this! We are the only laymen here. They have not been doing it with kids, though, so I guess we are even.
The first house we looked at was an old Italian mansion. We were in awe! The house seemed to keep going, nooks and crannies, fireplaces and staircases and an old cellar complete with world war paraphernalia. The garden were unkempt but romantic enough. The children would be able to play hide and seek among the overgrown lavender and rosemary bushes. And the price was far less than what you’d expect an Italian mansion should be. As soon as we left the romantic charm of the property, sense came flooding back to us. It is cheap because it is a renovators dream. Almost every room needed some work, especially the bathrooms. Not to mention the myriad of toilets and bidet’s. We live in a drought stricken country. That would not do. Plus, the kitchen is way way way to small for community living. And then there is the busy road adjacent.
The next house was nice. Two separate four bedroom houses that share an entrance hall or mud room, garage and garden. The owners were desperate to sell. We looked twice, we had our parents look, we had a roof guy check out the dent in the roof. We wanted to make an offer. We were not sure. We waited. We looked some more.
We saw a mansion with baths to deep to fill, stairways to fancy to climb, hidden speakers throughout the roof, life size stone Buddha statutes in the garden and Khoi ponds inside and out. We saw a guest house with lots of rooms and bathrooms. Nothing felt right.
Then we saw a house with lots of potential. We would have to make do with 2 rooms, but the rooms were double volume and big. The house’s location was great. I had a dream that we would live in a house with a number 16, and this one was number 6. I thought it was close enough. We all looked and looked again. We had our parents look at it. We prayed. We made an offer. The offer got excepted. We were giddy with excitement. We started the tedious journey of getting all our admin sorted for the bond originators. Four of us left on a mission trip to India, leaving me, the sleep deprived mother of many minions, in charge. A previous potential buyer then came back and made a slightly higher offer than ours. We had 72 hours to get our finances sorted out. We did not make it. We were heartbroken, sad, mad even, but since we are not the grudge holding kind of people, we started looking again. For that special house. The one that would work for all of us.
“Do you blog?”
“You should write about this community living you plan to do.”
“I know. “
“You should not wait until it happens. You should start now.”
I have known for months. So here I am. Writing about our plan to buy a house, with 5 other people, and live there. Raise our kids there.
I am cautiously optimistic and apprehensive at the same time. We will share food, books, laundry and garden equipment. We will also share typical family moments, moods, parenting failures and fears. That is new for me. That scares me. My husband chose to live with me until death do us part, a choice I am sure he’s regretted from time to time. My children are too small to know better and they may or may not thank us for this one day.
But these other people…they do not know us, not like my family does. Yet, they are willing to partner with us in this expedition. Make no mistake, they are not total strangers. We have enough in common to make this work. They also believe as strongly as my husband does that this is the way forward. This is sustainable and this is what we will need for the future. Community that’s as close as home. I’m getting there…shortly.