The House I Bought After My Divorce Wasn't My Dream Home -- but I Felt Empowered Anyway

mom daughter houseWhen I got divorced, there was a lot of uncharted territory that I had to conquer. Figuring out where to live after selling the home I'd owned with my ex-husband was a biggie. I ended up renting, but that proved a bit unstable (and costly), so I started looking into buying a house for my kids and me. I quickly realized how challenging that was going to be.

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But I wasn't about to give up. 

I'd gone through the process of buying a house once before with my ex. Attached to that were big dreams of a "forever home." That time, I wasn't extremely involved in the money part of the house-buying process. My ex handled most of the financials, partly because I'd left my full-time job to work part-time and have a little more flexibility to be home with my then-2-year-old twins.

In the divorce discussions, we decided to sell that house, since it was too high of an expense for a single parent. It sold very quickly, leaving me to scramble to find a place to live. I decided to rent a very modest apartment, but it was clear I needed to increase my part-time hours in order to make it work. I never imagined I'd buy another house again. I thought that dream was gone along with my marriage. 

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All geographical areas are different with their own costs of living. After I did some research, it became clear to me that I could have lower monthly payments if I bought a home in my area instead of continuing to rent. However, there was the hurdle of having the right amount of money for a down payment.

I had already begun saving money like I never had before, and I accumulated a decent savings in case of an emergency. I knew I could continue to save, and I got very thrifty in many areas. I couponed; I swore off ATMs with fees; I was smarter with shopping and going out to dinner. All these things really added up. But I needed a way to save even more. So I moved us out of our rental into something a bit smaller and less expensive. I figured we could do that for a year and save, save, save.

I also met with a mortgage counselor. The service was free and my counselor, Susan, was incredible. She helped me take a good look at the money I had coming in and the cost of living in the area; she encouraged me to save the most I could. She also crunched all the numbers and came up with a realistic amount of what I could spend on a house when I was ready. The number was way less than most of the homes I had already had my eye on. But this wasn't about my having my dream restored farmhouse. This was about my having a home for my kids, and giving them stability of not moving every year due to landlords' raising rent. I needed to be practical. Not an easy feat for me. 

At first it seemed as if all I could afford was a fixer-upper, but that just wasn't right for me at this point in my life. I'm not a fixer-upper type -- I was busy fixer-upping myself; I didn't need broken tiles and messed-up plumbing to worry about. So I looked at house after house after house and tried to find something that felt like home and didn't need fixing. It got frustrating and so I gave up for a couple of months yet still focused on saving money, which I'd become very skilled at doing.

I subscribed to a couple of websites that sent me an email alert when a new home entered the market. I would usually delete them without clicking, but one day I happened to look, and a property looked promising. It was a bright and clean just-renovated townhouse for sale.

I had initially ruled out a townhouse or condo because I wanted a freestanding home, but something about the look of this place and the price made me think twice. I made a list of the pros and cons and I will say that the thought of not having to shovel or mow the lawn since it's covered by the homeowner association fees was very appealing. And it was right in my price range. I fell in love with it the minute I walked in. 

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It was not that restored farmhouse where I could have chickens in the backyard -- it was kind of the opposite of what I thought was my dream home. It was on the small side, but it had everything my kids and I needed. The real dream, the real goal, was to give my kids a nice place to live, a place to call home, somewhere we could live for a long time without any pressure to move, and a house I could afford on my own while still being able to save money in the process. I had found it; I just had to open my mind to it.

Making all these major decisions on my own was somewhat scary, but also empowering. I did it. I set a huge goal for myself and I accomplished it. The driving force was the love I have for my kids, and for myself. We deserved stability, a place that was ours. My divorce wasn't going to deter my dreams. In many ways, it propelled me to dream even more. And dreaming is just the first step in accomplishing.

We've been in our home for six months now and my son says, "Mom, I love it here. Can we live here forever?" 

 

Image via iStock.com/Ugur Anahtarci

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