It’ll cost me some cash and a pizza… I call that a win!

In early May we had a chance to catch up with Stevi Gelinas, a 2014 Warriors to Summits Mission Mt. Whitney participant, about buying her first home.

We wanted to know about her experience since purchasing a home is a goal for many of us out there. Although the process was long, and at times stressful, she finally closed on her new house and couldn’t be more excited about how her future is shaping up.

Stevi has proved that it’s possible to be in control of your future if you’re willing to take a little risk, and a little time, to go through the process.

Here’s what she had to say about becoming a new homeowner:

How did you come to the decision to buy a home?
It’s simple really. My long-term relationship ended not long after the Mount Whitney expedition and I immediately moved into an apartment in a less-than-desirable section of my town. Within two weeks of living there I moved again into a tiny efficiency apartment. It has been a cozy retreat through the long, cold winter nights but not someplace I wanted to stay forever.

Finding an apartment in the Mount Washington Valley that allows dogs is next to impossible. I was frustrated and lost hope of finding a decent place to live where both Aspen (my pup) and I would be happy. So… I started exploring the idea of buying a house. I was both excited and trepidatious about the idea. I honestly thought the process would be shut down at the loan application. Surprisingly, it wasn’t!

What was the home buying experience like for you? From the home search to the contract process, and finally to closing?
I was unbelievably calm throughout the buying process. I had the approval from the bank and I was touring homes, but it was all still a hypothetical idea. I have lived in New Hampshire for the last 6 years and absolutely love it. I began my search solely dedicated to staying in the “Live Free or Die” state. I looked at more than 30 houses in my price range and didn’t find one that was right. The natural next step was to expand my search. I was finding that you could get more house for the money in Maine.

After speaking with both my mortgage broker, who made this whole process incredibly seamless, and my real estate agent, I made an offer on the house I now own. The house is on Raven Lane (awesome street name BTW) and was a short sale. A short sale is a house that hasn’t yet gone into foreclosure but is subject to a third-party approval, usually a bank. Phew! On top of buying a house, I received a crash course in real estate jargon through this whole process.

Initially, I offered the full asking price and was denied by the third-party bank. I thought that was absurd! About a month passed and I continued looking for another house when my best friend demanded I make another offer on Raven Lane. So I did and it was accepted. My thoughts at the time were, “Ok, cool, but there are still a million things that can fall apart before this is a reality.”

I consider myself quite the optimist, but in this case I wasn’t. I’m not quite sure where that was coming from but I think I had an internal resistance to the idea of being a single homeowner. I didn’t even own any tools!

The offer was accepted in early February and I underwent the long process of tracking down old paperwork, getting approval letters, and long circular conversations with my accountant. After each meeting with my “money guy,” I asked if he had everything he needed and he always confidently said, “Yes.” Unfortunately that was never the truth. It took about three months but we were finally ready to head to closing!

Then I was told I would have to pay an extra $1100 for closing costs….

With all the time that had passed and then in the ninth inning being told to fork over another large sum of money, I was sure that the universe did not want me moving to Maine. I tried to negotiate to no avail. Ultimately I agreed.

The date was finally made to close. Then pushed back a week. Then we found out the address was recorded incorrectly. “REALLY UNIVERSE?” The closing date was pushed back a third time to straighten everything out. My stomach was a knotted mess. I was excited, worried, thrilled, terrified and completely emotional.

The hardest part was the realization that this love that I have had for the last 7 years was now ending, for real. A new chapter, a new adventure was ahead, without him. I wanted to be ready but was held back by thoughts of what could have been. The next day I signed my name over and over on a stack of papers that seemed more like a small novel than closing documents, took a deep breath, and smiled.

What did it feel like at closing when they handed you those keys?
There wasn’t some sort of ceremonial passing of the keys like I had fantasized about. They were just slid across the table to me. It was truly, very unsatisfying.

What does it mean personally to you to buy a house?
It feels great! I have made a huge investment in my future. I have solidified the fact that I will never put myself in another relationship situation where I am the one who needs to leave. I now have a place to call my own and it is very empowering.

Did you go through veteran assistance programs?
I used the VA lending program. It is part of our veteran’s benefits package and without it I wouldn’t have been able to do this. They did have quite a few stipulations to the kind and type of house they would allow me to purchase, but their guidelines ensured that any house I bought would be a quality home in need of little to no work in the beginning. It made the selection process a little more difficult but in the end I do appreciate it.

What was the best and worst part about the home buying process?
The best part of the home buying process was touring all the different homes. Sounds weird but it let me decide what I would want and what I wouldn’t tolerate. The worst part was the short sale aspect. My advice to anyone buying a home would be to pass on short sale homes if possible. The process sucks.

What’s the first thing you did after you set foot in your new home?
I cranked Tom Petty on Pandora, cracked a beer, and laid on the floor of my new bedroom.

Now that you have a home, what projects are on your must-do list?
Painting. I have very little patience for the monotony of painting walls so I am contracting that out to my artist brother. It’ll cost me some cash and a pizza. I call that a win!

As you kick off summer what else are you looking forward to for the warmer months?
I am looking forward to river trips, cook-outs, the No Barriers Summit, the Kronos trip to the Gunks, and just relaxing with family, friends, and of course my sweet Aspen.