I live in a 1440 square foot 1920’s house that sits on a narrow city lot in Syracuse, which is in Central New York. We are famous for salt potatoes, Syracuse University basketball, The Dinosaur BBQ, Wegmans grocery stores (aka – the Best Grocery Store on the Planet), and some of the harshest, snowiest winters anywhere in the country. People who live outside New York state think we all live in New York City. People in New York City think the rest of us live on farms. Neither is actually true.
My house means everything to me…here’s why –
I bought the house after getting out of a disastrous marriage which included physical abuse and ended with a restraining order. My ex used to tell me that I had no choice but to stay with him because a loser like me would clearly never own a house of her own. So naturally, as soon as the ink was dry on the divorce, I bought the house all by myself. 🙂
Just buying the house on my own was a big accomplishment (I was a full time bartender and just starting my gift basket business), but I’m also very proud of the work that I’ve done on it. When I bought it, every room was covered in wallpaper or a border – and sometimes both – and the floors were adorned with emerald green shag wall to wall carpet. The light fixtures were dated and the kitchen and bathroom were not great. But I fell in love and knew immediately that this was “the one”. It had loads of charm and nobody had screwed it up too much with terrible “updates”.
Over the years I’ve acquired an impressive collection of tools and taught myself how to do a lot of basic home repairs and DIY projects.
Fast forward to 2009. I was self employed with a corporate gift basket service and the economy tanked. My business went under in 2010 and for a couple of years it was pretty tough sledding – my income in 2011 was under $15,000 and in 2012 it was still under $20,000. Just to keep things interesting, my son’s father stopped paying child support around the same time.
I was scrambling to just keep the lights on and food on the table, cobbling together part time jobs and trying to get a new business off the ground, so not surprisingly the house went into foreclosure. For a long time I couldn’t do much about it – I had to focus on making money and surviving.
In 2013 I was in a position to get things back on track and started the process of trying to get the mortgage modified so I could begin making payments again. If you’re not familiar with foreclosure (and I hope you never are), once you’ve fallen behind on payments there is a point where they will not accept payments unless you are able to bring the loan completely current. It was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life and I spent 2 more years faxing endless reams of documentation to the mortgage company and jumping through fiery hoops to convince them that I just wanted to start making regular payments again. in 2015 I was running out of options and made a last ditch effort. I finally began demanding a pay rate more in line with the work I was actually doing for my clients, so my income had increased, plus my boyfriend moved in with me – so we were more than capable of restarting payments. I was crushed when they turned me down again…it didn’t make any sense.
In the fall of 2015 I began prepping the house for sale. The idea made me physically sick, but I had no choice. I knew I could sell the house for significantly higher than the buyout, so in between meltdowns and tears I was scrambling to finish projects, clean out the basement and get the kitchen in shape so I could sell it for as much as possible before the court took it.
In the middle of this emotional roller coaster, the mortgage company called me and reopened my case. To this day I’m not sure why or how it happened – they were pretty clear just a couple weeks before that I was out of options. Long story short, I was approved for a trial period modification, which basically means that they allow you to make payments for 3 months and if you do that on time they reinstate your mortgage.
I started this blog as I started my new second chance. My house has always been incredibly important to me, but it means even more these days – not just because I’ve worked my ass off to improve it, but because I literally came within weeks of losing it. I am weirdly attached to it, and there is no place I would rather be.