Real estate

my first home

Get me to the bank and the church on time

Robert Neubecker
Robert Neubecker

I was late to my sister’s wedding.

I made it in time for all the important parts, but I had spent most of the day running around, jumping through yet another hoop in my quest to buy a house in foreclosure. That day, and of course it had to be that day, some form had to be delivered right away, or the whole thing was going to fall through.

And so, with less than an hour to go before my father walked her down the aisle, I forwent the limo ride with my family and took off in a brother-in-law’s car. Daunted by the prospect of missing the wedding and losing the house, I forgot to take the emergency brake off until I was a mile from the bank. (Sorry, Ryan. I didn’t mean for you to find out this way.) Running across the lobby in a sweat-drenched tuxedo prompted more than a few people to stare that hot July afternoon, and, whether out of pity or fear, everyone stood aside when I announced that I needed to cut the line.

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I first viewed the house only hours after it went on the market. It was a small two-family on a postage stamp lot about a mile from where I grew up in Dedham, but the rent I collected would cover my mortgage. It seemed like a great deal, and I put in my offer the next day. That was the last time anything went smoothly.

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The day after the inspection, the last day I could back out without forfeiting the deposit, I lost my job. My uncle quickly hired me so I would have a job listed on my mortgage application. When the bank came out to do the appraisal, it dropped another bombshell: I wouldn’t get a loan unless I made repairs to the foundation and siding. I had to ask my uncle for a day off to fix a house I didn’t yet own.

Two days after the wedding, I turned 30 — probably the least fun birthday ever. A week after that, my Jeep exploded while I was driving on the beach. My little cousin and I got out safely, but my beloved Jeep spent the night, Luca Brasi style, at the bottom of Cape Cod Bay.

Delay after delay pushed back the closing until after the lease on my apartment expired, forcing me to move back in with my parents. My first task at closing was to sign and fax the mortgage to the bank. Before the paperwork was completed, however, a question arose about whether I was buying one duplex or two condos. No one had the answer. Frustrated, I left — only to realize later that I had a mortgage but no house to show for it. The lawyers eventually figured things out.

It was not until after the deed was finally in my hands that I discovered that the tenants I was counting on to pay the mortgage had moved out. Their apartment was empty, save for their trash, furniture, and junk.

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But for all of the headaches I endured while buying this house, everything worked out in the end. It really did. After three years of living there with a great new tenant as a next-door neighbor, I used the equity I built up as a down payment on a bigger house down the street, enlarging my real estate empire to three units and 0.1 acre.

When people ask why I moved just four houses down the street, I smile and tell them I wanted to be closer to my family. All the easier, I say, to be with the nephew my happily married sister has given me.

Brian M.B. Keaney, an uncle, writer, and aspiring land baron, lives in Dedham. Send comments and your 600-word essay on your first home to Address@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we will not pursue.