Bohomeownership, Part II: The Deal

"Once the idea got into my head it spread like a happy cancer, occupying every cell of my body. I was going to own a home."  (from Bohomeownership: Part I: The Score)


Bohomewondership Part II: The Deal

 Target: 1000 sq. ft. of Coal Country Heaven

The Players:

Jim: Art Appreciator, History Buff, Owner of Realty Counseling Company

Margaret: Poet, Real Estate Agent

Rae: Retired Teacher, Peace Activist, Philanthropist, Home Owner

I was now bent on buying my little house, but getting a traditional mortgage loan would be beyond challenging. No bank was going to touch my dirty artist/singer/adjunct professor hide, with my no job security and shaky income, even though I had good credit and a surprising lack of debt. I'd lived in red zones all my adult life and saw the struggle the working poor faced when trying to move up, which explains why so many play the lottery in hopes of winning the magical injection of cash that will catapult them out of poverty. I don't buy lottery tickets. I can't afford them, so I enter Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes instead. It's free and my chances are 1 in 1.2 billion, so I've got that goin' for me. Which is nice.

Fun Fact: My friend Mr. Superduper buys a lottery ticket every day and never looks at it. "I'm already a winner," says Mr. Superduper.


Mr. Superduper, winning.


I'd have to find a way around a traditional purchase. I called Margaret to ask if Rae would be open to selling without a bank mortgage. "There's something called a Land Contract. Jim's done several and knows all about them," she said. I never dreamed there would be this kind of option - I was just shooting in the dark. Jim called me back that same day. He explained the details of the Land Contract, in which the seller finances for three years at a slightly higher than average percentage and the real estate company handles the paperwork. I'd still be making the check payable to them, they'd take their percentage, and the rest would go to Rae. It was a 3-year contract, after which I would make a balloon payment of $10,000
  and pursue a bank mortgage.

 (I'd worry about that part later. Maybe by then I'd have things like a savings account with 10 grand in it.) In the meantime, I could use what I'd paid the past year in rent toward the deposit, then divide up the rest in manageable increments.

 Because I needed a creative way to buy, and Rae wanted the properties her husband had managed and owned before his death in good hands so she could retire and travel, and because we all wanted to keep it simple, Margaret acted as dual agent. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Isn't representing both parties a conflict of interest?" But here's the thing about Margaret, and now that she's gone, I can say this:

She was a bit of a savant, maybe on the autism spectrum. She was socially odd, beyond shy, and extremely devout, going to Mass every day, but never speaking of her religion - I only knew because during our communications she'd mention that she couldn't meet at 5:00 because she'd be at Mass. She was an accomplished poet, a master of Haiku:


In Humility
Our confidence is grounded
Not in self glory
I'd never been given a reason not to trust any of them. They trusted me because I'd never been late with the rent, I loved the place, cleaned it up and took care of it, put in a garden and, like Rae, was an educator. The offer Rae accepted after Margaret had shown us comparable properties was low enough (though not insulting) that none of them was going to get rich from this sale. It was important to me to cultivate relationships with them because the fact that they were doing something really kind, that didn't benefit them financially in any significant way, was not lost on me.

In the three years after we signed the land contract, a handful of my fellow adjuncts and I began organizing our colleagues for union representation at the community college where I taught, which no one who's ever known me saw coming, including me. A labor organizer? Moi?

What can I say? Someone had to do it, especially when after some of my students spoke of coming back to their Alma mater to teach one day. "Under these conditions? Over my dead body," thought I. Low pay, zero job security, little chance for advancement, no health insurance and no retirement was unacceptable if not for me, then for my students who hoped to be in my profession. It was shortly after the controversial death of Margaret Mary Vojtko, who you can read about here in Dan Kovalik's explosive op-ed that immediately went viral :


 Rae and I had gotten together for tea a few times when she was stateside. She'd come over to see what I'd done in the garden; I would get to see her photos from her recent trip to Vietnam or New Zealand or China. When I told her I'd been working toward AFT certification, she was very excited as she'd been active in the PFT, the public school sector of AFT, when she was a teacher. When I was becoming weary and sad after three years of trying to organize and motivate our colleagues, she took me to an event at the Letter Carriers Union hall where I got to see the legendary Staughton Lynd Labor Day Parade, 2015, with my fellow organizers. I'm on end at right. So when the time to make the balloon payment and get a bank mortgage came, Rae called me. She knew no bank would touch me without a huge APR, and that I probably didn't have the money for a balloon payment. She offered to finance it at 2.5% fixed, forever.


  • Why, thank you so much, Amy Furman! Next up is my Interior Before and After PHOTO BONANZA!!! I’ll be publishing it this weekend.

    Jennie Kay
  • I could read your stuff all day. What’s next?!?!?

  • It’s so cool how everything seemed to mesh. Shades of divine providence here.

    Mark Zupan
  • I think the same is true in Ventura, I may own the land, but not the oil rights. So alas, no reciprocating piston pump in my back yard. But if I ever have the emotional need to be close to a so called donkey pumper, thirsty bird or grasshopper, I just stroll up the bike path and in minutes am surrounded by dozens of oil horses, nodding donkeys, and dinosaurs that someone else built and maintains. Life from the ground up, with an ocean view.


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