Without paystubs and W2s, writers need to be ready to provide adequate documentation when they are ready to buy a house. Yesterday, the love of my life and I closed on our first home together. (Yes, my Valentine’s Day high point was being carried over the threshold of our new home!) Here are a few tips to make your home-buying process easier as a writer, plus some scoop on our home and town:
- Home value. Back when I worked in real estate, our office always told sellers, “A home is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” It was a way of helping sellers understand the emotional value they have in their home, and the money they may have invested in renovations over the years, does not determine what the home will sell for. I learned this is not true. Truth: A home will only sell for what it appraises for. (Unless you have an all-cash buyer!) We can attest to this after navigating several weeks of multiple appraisal issues.
- Critique the home! The home inspection process reminded me of critique groups. (Someone, help! I see writing everywhere!) There are some things that just need to be done right away—like septic structure repair and proper grammar—and some things you can just think about replacing later on—like a torn window screen and changing a character’s name. After the inspection, we had a very clear idea of what immediate work is required to keep our house well-maintained. I keep old critiques on my writing desk until I make the changes on my computer files…right now I have a list of house repairs and the tools we need. For the major stuff, we’ll be hiring professionals. Just like writers need to do when their book is ready for a professional editor’s eyes!
- Writer income. “Is all your income from writing?” For the past four months I’ve been asked this question every time I sent my bank statements to the mortgage broker. When you are a freelance writer and buy a house, get ready to provide much more documentation in addition to your bank statements. I needed to supply check images for every deposit made into my freelance writing account—going back three months prior to our loan application! Unless I do a mobile deposit, I typically don’t keep copies of the checks. I record the check numbers in QuickBooks and back up digital statements on an external hard drive. If you are not in the habit of retaining check images, get ready to visit your bank and request backlogs of check images. Fortunately, my bank was super-friendly and helpful and emailed me consolidated PDFs that were easy to forward along to the mortgage broker. Also, freelancers, keep an up-to-date profit/loss statement. I keep my accounting current, so this was simple to provide.
Now for the non-business stuff, what I love about our new home:
Charm. We have over 5 acres of gorgeous nature. The first time we visited the property, a hawk greeted us on the back deck. A babbling “crik” runs through the backyard. I’m lost trying to figure out the many trees around the property (holly, cherry, among oak and pine). A split-rail fence borders the front. Our fireplace shares a chimney with an outdoor charcoal grill. A clearing in the back not visible from the house will be great for camping and a fire pit, and the country charm keeps coming.
Character. This house keeps surprising us with personality. Exposed wood beams accent the living room, unique shelves along the stairway to the basement remind me of The Indian in the Cupboard, and an old railroad piece is the knocker on the front door.
Chatham. Our home is in a more rural part of the Triangle-area. Chatham County is just so damn pretty. Agriculture and the arts are big here. Our new town of Pittsboro is adorable. There is a soda fountain with a classic tin ceiling and Wurlitzer juke box, a used book store where we keep buying books and records from, a fantastic bakery, a wine shop, a meadery (honey wine), a brewery, a forthcoming distillery, a woodworking school, and probably the friendliest people you will ever meet. Here’s a little look at the town: