How This Single Mother Became a Homeowner on a Teacher Salary - Part I of III

When my marriage hit rock bottom in May 2017, I got into couponing. I’m still using items from my stockpile that I purchased over a year ago.

Once we separated and I knew there was no turning back, that divorce was our only option, I decided to focus my energy into purchasing my first home.

Oh did I forget to mention that during this time I was well into my second trimester with our child?

To say I work well under pressure is an understatement…

I live in Palm Beach County in sunny South Florida. Palm trees, sandy beaches, year round 80 degrees and above temperatures. Yeah, I consider myself to live in paradise but paradise is expensive as hell. The average one-bedroom apartment can run you about $1350 per month! That was okay when I was part of a two-income household. But with divorce looming and a baby on the way, I needed something less expensive and with more room. I had no other choice but to kiss my renting days goodbye and buy. But what though with my at the time 9th year teacher salary that was (and still is) under $45,000 per year? Well, let me take you on a little journey…

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Step #1: I met with a home loan officer and got pre-qualified with my bank. (June 2017)

I hadn’t even checked my credit scores before my appointment. I use credit karma but wasn’t sure how accurate those scores were against the credit bureaus. Imagine my surprise when I was informed that my scores were about 25 points higher than I’d thought! I will tell you that my scores were higher than the middle 700’s. I have never missed a payment on any account and had low credit card debt. 

The first moment of “Can I really do this?” came when I was pre-approved for under $200,000 for a single family home. In Palm Beach County? The county were the average home costs $355,000 and anything less than $250,000 is probably a chicken shack? My loan officer suggested that I look into condominiums and townhouses instead. But what about my backyard? My two-car garage? I guess dreams sometimes change once you put into motion making them a reality.

Step #2: I made a list of my must haves and hell nos. (july 2017)

My first must have was my overall mortgage amount. And by overall I’m including principal, interest, insurance and HOA fees if applicable. Speaking of HOA fees, they had to be under $400 per month with adequate amenities. I wanted a community that was gated and possibly included a guard. I narrowed down my search to a few cities within distance of one another. I did not want to live anywhere I felt unsafe to raise a child. I wanted at least a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom unit but I was hoping for a 3 bedroom unit. Lots of natural lighting was a must as well as ample parking spaces.

Step #3: I found the right realtor for me. (august 2017)

I started searching online for properties and met with the first realtor that responded to one of my request for a showing. When I first met him, things felt off. He always seemed to be in a hurry and annoyed. Maybe he had doubts about me making a purchase. Again, I was this tiny Black woman, pregnant with a limited budget. I could understand his concern. But in no way does that mean I should get short changed in the customer service aspect. I dropped him two weeks later after he didn’t have the decency to tell me he couldn’t make an appointment. I’m about to make the biggest purchase of my life and you go ghost? Boy bye.

I then began working with a second realtor. When I moved back home two years ago, I enlisted his help with finding an apartment. Well, I should have known from the first go round it wasn’t going to go well. Just like before, I felt as though I was always chasing him down. A day or two would go by while I waited for his response. That may not seem like a long time, but in the real estate market every second counts. You can want to put in an offer today and it be sold a few hours later. Once I dropped the second realtor, the second moment of “Can I really do this?” began to creep in. It just seemed that finding the right realtor was going to be as difficult as finding the right romantic partner.

Le sigh. Or so I thought. I will never forget the day. I’d called in sick from work because I had trouble sleeping the night before. I was on the computer looking at more properties thinking that it was never going to happen for me. And then my phone rang. I answered and realized it was yet another realtor responding to one of my online inquiries. I’d spoken to at least a dozen but Anthony seemed different. It was something in his voice that made me feel like everything was going to be okay. Anthony and I spent over 45 minutes talking even though I warned him in the beginning of the conversation that I wouldn’t be able to sign the final mortgage paper until my divorce was final. He said that was perfectly fine and that in the meantime we could still look for properties. He said that once I was ready to go forward that he would be there waiting. And that he was…