Scattered throughout years of ordinary life are these handfuls of supernatural events that remind me something much greater than myself is in charge. Ten years ago today our family purchased, and moved into, this mountain farmhouse. The complicated story of how this took place is one of those rare, miraculous events that only those closest to us know about. Today I share it with you.
When we first began looking at houses in May of 2006, we had just listed our suburban South Carolina house with a realtor. I was nearly seven months pregnant with our seventh child, and I hoped to be settled in a new house before his birth. In the meantime, we were renting a beautiful, century-old Victorian house on the corner of a small town with two main roads up against the property. It was a quaint town and a lovely house, but the roads and the pond were less than ideal for us since we had three toddlers and preschoolers at the time. We called an old friend of the family (who happened to be a realtor) and set up a date to tour some houses. My husband also searched the Internet and discovered this farmhouse had just been listed. It looked perfect, except for the fact that it only had three bedrooms and one main bathroom. We decided to put it on our list of possibilities.
That day in early May, we looked at numerous new houses in subdivisions, an interesting large house with several acres near a river (but no basement, attic, or any storage space whatsoever), and this mountain farmhouse. We drove farther and farther out into the country, turned onto a gravel lane that wound through the woods, over a small bridge, and up the mountain. And we arrived at this house on a sunny spring day. The lilacs were in full bloom, and there were so many of them. The pool was clear and shimmering. The grass was a lush green, and the yard and property seemed to go on forever and disappear into the woods somewhere. I was instantly in love, and I hadn't even walked into the house yet.
It just got better and better because there were covered porches, a split staircase, colonial colors and light fixtures, original doors and oak floors upstairs, and wide pine plank floors down. Additionally, there was a full sized basement and attic to store all of our stuff and a large shed divided into a garage and another nearly-finished room with a loft above for storage and a lean-to for who knows what. I thought it was perfect, and I never needed to look at another house again. It didn't matter that it was over 120 years old. Or that the basement sometimes flooded. Or that the entire house had only one closet. Or that a family of 7 was going to share one main bathroom on the top floor or have to venture down into the rustic basement to use the half-bath. Or that it would take over six hours to mow all that grass if you had a riding lawn mower, which we didn't.
I was ready to make an offer right then and there. But there was a glitch. Our house in South Carolina hadn't sold yet. We had a mortgage, installment loans on a minivan and remodeling of a bathroom in that SC house, and we were paying off the remainder of some student loans. As depressing as it was, our lender informed us that we could only afford a house in a lower price range. That was a very disappointing day, to say the least.
So we spent the next two-three months with the realtor all over the county looking at cheaper houses. We didn't like any of them. As my due date neared, however, I felt like we needed to settle on something. Our lease was running out on the Victorian rental house. We even considered purchasing it and finishing the spacious attic, but the small yard and noisy roads were not right for our family. We started making offers on some of the smaller houses, but rather peculiar things happened when we did. On the one house, someone counter-offered more money within hours of our offer---even though the house had been on the market for months. Another house was under contract, but the realtor believed it was going to fall through. After our offer, the contract was accepted and those buyers closed on the house. On yet another house, after we made our offer, the sellers changed their minds and decided not to sell. This went on and on throughout the summer. In the meantime, I got more and more pregnant, our current lease was due to expire, and I continued to dream of this mountain farmhouse.
On July 14, 2006, I went into labor with our youngest son. It was the hottest day of the summer, and we were scheduled to look at six houses with our one, four, and five year olds in tow. I felt as if we HAD to decide on a house that day before I had this baby. The very last house we looked at was a duplex in the middle of town. It was a nice neighborhood, but we hadn't been interested in a duplex. Our realtor assured us we would like it though, so we looked. By the end of the day, we were hot, sweaty, hungry, and tired. I held off going to the hospital until after dinner because I wasn't in that much pain. When we finally arrived and I was admitted, I told my husband to call the realtor and make an offer on the duplex because I wanted to know we had a house under contract, at least. He acquiesced because it's never smart to argue with a woman in labor.
Within hours, our son was born, and it was by far the shortest and mildest active labor I've ever had. The next day, we received a call from our realtor stating that the owner of the duplex (who happened to live in the other half) rejected our offer even though it was very close to the listed price. So we offered the full amount. He again rejected it. Our realtor was perplexed. She had never seen anything like this in her decades of real estate sales. Her partner met with the owner in person, and he came right out and said he would not sell that house to people of color nor to ethnic minorities...nor to people with children. He had apparently been watching us as we toured the other half of the duplex. Our children were well-mannered and well-behaved even though they had spent all day looking at houses in the heat. But seeing my husband and me with three small children and me being extremely pregnant turned him off, I suppose. Unfortunately for him, there are laws against discrimination, and the realtor promptly removed the For Sale sign from his lawn, and all the local real estate agents refused to represent him.
Our realtor met with us and urged us to file a legal complaint with the US Housing and Urban Development so this person couldn't continue to discriminate. She was appalled and embarrassed by the entire situation, especially since she was the one who urged us to look at that duplex when we really hadn't been interested at first. I was initially hurt, flabbergasted, and offended at what had just happened. In my postpartum, hormonal state I felt shocked and speechless. Once our baby and I returned "home" from the hospital, however, I realized that aside from filing the lawsuit, we also still needed to find a house because time was rapidly running out on our rental agreement. Fortunately, our house in South Carolina had sold a month earlier, and in a totally unexpected way. Within a week of being listed, another realtor decided to purchase it at the full asking price because of its location adjacent to the horse fields where the annual Steeplechase occurred. She planned to update the fifty year-old house and then flip it as soon as possible. We had only owned the house for five years, so we didn't have a lot of equity in it, but it sold at such a good price that we made a nice profit. We never dreamed that would happen, but it enabled us to pay off most of our loans which changed our buying power considerably.
At the same time all this was going on, my husband picked up some extra hours in the ER of a local hospital. One night as he was talking about our adventures in house hunting, his boss mentioned that her house was for sale, and maybe we should check it out. It had been on the market for nearly three months, and although offers had been made, none of them were close to the asking price. What do you know? Her house was the same farmhouse we had looked at in May---THE house I wanted in the worst way but had given up on. I called our lender again and asked what we could afford now that our SC house had sold. She asked if there was a house we had in mind, and she didn't have to ask twice. We talked to our realtor immediately and made a good offer, and six weeks later the seven of us moved into that house. THIS house. And that is our happy ending.
Several years later, we were granted a significant amount of money from the HUD settlement. It enabled us to build a greenhouse and install an aquaponics system without incurring debt. And that is really how our farmhouse turned into a small farm since the herbs and greens grown in the aquaponics system were the first items we sold to the public at a local farmers' market. How amazing is that?
My wish for all of you readers is that your lives be sprinkled with such miraculous moments to ponder and share.