Why I do what I do
Going through a Foreclosure on my first home purchase inspired my work as a realtor. This fueled my passion to help others; and I decided to specialize in working with first-time home buyers in order to guide them through the process of buying a home that’s aligned with their values and enhances their life.
So, let’s rewind over a decade ago. It’s 2007, my girlfriend, at the time and I had recently moved from San Diego where we met our freshman year in college to Seattle, Washington where she grew up and her family lived. We had been dating for almost 7 years and had what felt like a pretty good relationship. I think we both had imagined we would get married someday.
However, shortly following our move to Seattle, we made two major decisions that had a big impact on our relationship and our lives. We both started working with her father who owned a boutique financial planning and investment business AND we decided to buy a newly constructed condo in downtown Seattle. This was an exciting time full of so much promise and possibility. However, under the surface of our excitement were some major doubts and concerns that had not been addressed and would later emerge.
Over the next year, it became clear through a painful process that this wasn’t the right business relationship for me for a number of reasons that I won’t go into. The challenge being, we both had all of our income coming in from this business arrangement and we owned a new condo with a pretty hefty monthly mortgage payment. Regardless of our financial obligations, I knew I needed to leave the business and made what was a very difficult decision and a leap of faith to exit. This decision caused upheaval on a number of levels. Not only between myself and her father, but also between my partner and I and her parents.
Fast forward a year, we actually decided to end our relationship. All of the stress from our financial situation and the fallout of the business venture had taken a serious toll on us. Fortunately, we were able to part ways amicably, which was a blessing. However, it was a very difficult decision because we had been together for almost 10 years, had many shared dreams of building a life together and truly cared about each other. Our breakup was a few years after the 2008 mortgage meltdown where the market had plummetted by 30%.
As luck we have it, we bought the condo at the VERY top of the real estate market and had made a low 5% down payment purchase thinking the prices would continue going up. Believe it or not, at the time, many people were buying with NINJA loans (No Income, No Assets), ZERO downpayment and even getting loans to remodel or buy furniture.
So, our 5% downpayment seemed fairly responsible compared to the ZERO down crowd. The stark reality was neither of us had enough income individually to stay in the condo and cover the mortgage and we couldn’t short sale it because the prices had gone down too low and the bank wouldn’t allow it.
So, the only option we had left was either basically stop making payments and wait for the bank to foreclose on us or contact the bank directly and do what is called a strategic default – actually choosing to hand the keys back to the bank. On paper, this is pretty much the same thing as a foreclosure. So, my first home purchase ended in a FORECLOSURE. Ouch!
I have not shared this story over the years in my work as a realtor due to my own shame and embarrassment. I feared that if I shared it with the people in my life including my clients, they would not think I was not qualified to represent them. I could just hear people thinking….How could a real estate agent that went through a Foreclosure on their own home purchase be the right person to guide us through the home buying process? This is a fair question. However, after having over a decade to process and integrate this experience, I’ve realized that it has not only shaped my work but it has shaped who I have become as a person.
Initially, it motivated me to get my real estate license so that I could learn the ins and outs of real estate and specifically what goes into making a sound home purchase decision. My journey continued when I decided to join Redfin.com, a tech-forward real estate brokerage. My years of working at Redfin gave me the unique opportunity to work with literally hundreds of first time home buyers and observe the obstacles and pathways to a successful home purchase. It also opened my mind to approaching real estate in new and innovative ways.
Recently, it’s become clear that my own “failure” is what has inspired me to specialize in supporting first time home buyers. When we purchased our condo, our agent did a really great job helping us with the actual real estate transaction. It went smooth and there were no big issues or surprises. That being said, our agent didn’t help us determine if it was “truly” the right time for us to buy our first home. That aspect of our purchase was not addressed (which technically isn’t a real estate agent’s job on paper).
However, this aspect of the process is something that I deeply care about. If you are thinking about buying a home, I want to get to know you and understand all that is going on in your life. What are the decisions that you’re considering both now and in the future, not just about housing, but about what you want in your life, what you desire on a soul level. What are your dreams and deeper desires that you want to manifest?
I believe that Holistically understanding these things makes a huge difference in me being able to advise my clients to make really good real estate decisions.
Of course, everyone has a different level of comfort about how much they let me into their life. But I feel strongly called to support people to make sound real estate decisions whether that or not it results in a purchase. There have been a number of occasions when I have met with a couple or an individual and after we holistically go through their life situation: what’s currently present, what’s on the horizon, I realize I don’t think it’s the right time for them to buy. This feedback is often surprising to them. They say, wait, you don’t think we should buy now?? However, most people feel relieved to wait when a purchase would not be in alignment with their core values and future dreams. In these cases, we still put together a plan for them to become a homeowner. It’s just tailored to the timeline that is truly right for them.
I wanted to share my foreclosure experience because it explains why I feel so strongly about working with first time home buyers. I want to support other people in making the right choices and avoiding painful mistakes. If you are considering a home purchase, whether that be now or in the future, take the time to really understand what’s motivating the purchase for you. Does it really align with what you value most? Will it serve to enhance your life or be another burden you need to manage? Lastly, when the time is right for you to buy a home, find a realtor that can help you facilitate the process or getting clear on what you want and need, it can make a really, really big difference.