KEEPING IT REAL: Elizabeth’s Story, Part III

Fri 05 Aug 2022

KEEPING IT REAL: Elizabeth's Story*

By Elizabeth Pode

What do you enjoy most about being a homeowner?

I love the freedom to make my home really mine! Some days I wish I could just quit my job and be an interior designer because I absolutely love planning new projects. I’ve done a lot of smaller-scale renovations that weren’t related to my disability, like painting my kitchen cabinets, installing a new Dutch front door, redoing my fireplace, renovating the entire backyard, and my personal favorite — my brand-new guest bathroom, complete with the perfect tub for Lush bath bombs. I feel such a sense of pride when I come home at the end of the day and pull veggies from my garden to cook in my kitchen and know that my hard work of researching and saving paid off.

What's the hardest part about owning a home?

Fingers crossed, as of right now I have not had to deal with any of the horror stories of termites, mold, bad piping, or wiring, even though my home is 57 years old. I think the most difficult thing that I did not anticipate is the lack of flexibility to uproot your life when you buy property. I have had the privilege of being fairly spontaneous until now and have lived in San Francisco, San Diego, and even London for a short time. But now that I'm a homeowner, I can’t necessarily go where the wind takes me. When I contemplated moving to another state last year, I realized all that was involved in making my home a rental property and the maintenance and upkeep. I definitely did not want to sell it because I worked so hard to get it, but I think it just made me slow down my decision making and weigh what was most important to me. I am happy that I have made my home close to family, friends, and a great job.

Is there anything you wish you knew before starting the homebuying process?

I already had heard this many times from people who had bought homes, but it’s sound advice to impart on others: the home buying process is ALWAYS more expensive than you think it will be.

Make sure to have a cushion for your down payment, closing costs, renovation budget, HOA, monthly mortgage payment, and furniture savings. Find a realtor that you can trust and that is willing to listen to you. A home feature that they may see as a minor inconvenience may be a major issue to someone with a disability (two steps up to the front door? No, thank you!).

You know yourself best, so to ensure no one has their time wasted, it’s best to find a realtor that only shows you exactly what you need. Also, buy as soon as you can! I closed on my home on February 25, 2020: one week before the world shut down and everyone was stuck at home. In two years, my home value has increased by almost 35%, which is great as an owner. But if I were still looking to buy, I would have been priced out of my home during the length of the pandemic. There’s no perfect time to buy, but you make it work somehow.

What would you like other adults with CP to know about finding the right home for themselves?

If you can, try to find a great support system, especially people who have gone through the home buying process before, as it can be overwhelming and emotionally draining. Keep your goal in mind: while you may have to compromise on some things, this will be your property for quite some time, so be sure to list your priorities in order so that you know what to compromise on if you have to.

Create a monthly budget now and live as if you have mortgage, HOA, and utility payments. This trains you to be able to handle the large expense and all the money you’re budgeting monthly can go into your savings for your down payment. When possible, I recommend saving the 20%. In my experience, loan companies and realtors said it wasn't necessary. But I found it helpful to do further research on private mortgage insurance, since this is an added monthly fee when down payments are less than 20%. I learned that this fee can add up. And since it doesn’t go toward paying down the loan, I preferred to be patient and save up that amount to keep my costs down later in case the unexpected happened, rather than having it sit in a bank. I’m definitely not a numbers person, but by having a basic understanding of budgeting and doing extensive research, I was able to keep my costs low and my quality of living high.

Follow Elizabeth a follow on Instagram @dontmindthedust.

*Elizabeth's story is part of KEEPING IT REAL — a series of personal stories that will take you deeper into the lives of people with CP. Each person makes different choices based on what works for them, and we’ll showcase that — highlighting what life is like for them on a daily basis, what they care about, and the ways CP impacts them. 

The KEEPING IT REAL blog is intended solely to raise awareness about the varied human experience with cerebral palsy and shouldn't be read or construed to contain any medical advice or medical endorsement by Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation. Only you and your doctor know what's best for you. Please consult your doctor for medical advice.

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