Jessica was a vet student with enough money to buy a half-duplex with a small yard for her dog. That was twenty-years ago. When she called a real estate agency about that duplex, I answered the phone.
Jessica was my first client. She had inherited the down payment and was able to afford the $900 a month mortgage with a roommate and somehow, she qualified for the loan.
She turned the beaten-up old rental into her first home. And it was beautiful. But she moved on with a marriage then babies and bought her dream home in Denver. Whenever we saw each other, though, we only talked about the beat-up duplex.
Some of us are lucky to spend our childhood in one home. After we move out, we look for that home again and again. Not always in the form of a house but with our own tribe of friends and families that make anyplace feel like home.
But the first home we buy ourselves is one we always remember. For some of us, it’s our home for years to come. For others, like Jessica, it’s the steppingstone to a home that accommodates spouses, kids and possibly grandparents.
I bought my first house on Mathews street in Fort Collins, a little 2-bedroom, one bath bungalow with no garage but a huge front yard. Sometimes I wish I was still there.
But the home I still think about was the one I spent 17 years in—the New England Colonial in Needham, MA. I prefer mid-century ranches with lots of big windows and a vaulted ceiling but whenever I see a photo of our family home on May Street, I’m transported back there with its two porches, secret attic hideaways, and the curved staircase with the spiral banisters that we six kids persisted in wrecking.
Sometimes I wish I was back there, too.
It’s become more difficult to buy a home with much higher prices and buyer competition. But you should try anyway. Talk to a lender, revise your expectations, and consider that houses, especially in northern Colorado, will continue to appreciate.
You may have to buy that old bungalow or beat-up duplex but with a little love and creativity, it can be home. It can also be the steppingstone to the next home. But without that first step, its just going to get harder.