Friday, December 29, 2006

How To Own Two Houses And Still Be Homeless

My sister-in-law just closed on her first new house last week. She is thrilled to be a home-owner for the first time, and looking forward to leaving the apartment she has been renting for the last few years.

Just the mention of someone closing on a new house gives me chills for two reasons. The first, especially if its someone I know, is because a house closing will almost certainly result in a moving day. See my post from Thanksgiving about the top 10 things I am thankful for in 2006. Number 5 will be blown to smithereens about this time tomorrow. The second reason? Read on…

When Michelle and I closed on the house we live in now, we were so amazed and thankful. We had been on a three year journey to find the right home, having outgrown our current place and its 3 bedrooms. With the birth of R, there were six of us, and we were getting cramped. We didn’t know if we wanted to build a new home, or buy an existing one. I didn’t care, as long as we had at least 10 acres. I had no time to think mowing the 1/3 acre yard we had. Our realtor faithfully drove us around every weekend for months on end to all parts of Williamson County looking for the right house or plot of land. It finally happened in March of 2003. We found the perfect place.

We closed on the new house on Friday May 9th, 2003, and we were so excited we could barely sleep. Part of the insomnia for me was the fact that we had not sold our current home, and so several double-mortgage months lay ahead.

On Saturday May 10th, Michelle and I had watched the news about an approaching storm system that promised to deliver extreme wind and rain, and knew a night of scared little girls lay ahead. We finally got to sleep after midnight and several loud thunder claps that resulted in multiple visits by our girls asking to sleep with us.

A few hours later, about 3AM on Mothers day 2003, the phone rang. It was my friend Jeff, and he was yelling something at me. After a second or two I became somewhat lucid, and I heard him say that there was a tornado coming straight at our house. I thanked him, hung up, and woke up Michelle. We grabbed the girls, who promptly started crying, and headed downstairs to our “tornado room”, which really was nothing more than a small coat closet with a cinderblock wall on one side, and the stairway above. Somehow naming it our “tornado room” made it feel safer than if we were only hiding in a "coat closet." As we headed downstairs the house started getting pelted by large hail. Not a good sign.

After a few minutes, the wind picked up to a deafening roar, and then just as quickly subsided. We were safe, and I ventured out to make sure all was well. We lost a few roof tiles, and there was light debris in our yard, but nothing remarkable. We all sat together in our living room as I turned on the news.

The always faithful and perky Lisa Patton from Channel 2 News was hard at work keeping everyone up to speed on the twister outbreak. She got right to business, and we interpreted the following from her report:

The Good News
Our house was spared, and the tornado bearing down on us had passed.

The Bad News
The F1 tornado that skipped over our house went on to cause severe damage at several neighborhoods down the road.

The Really, Really Bad News
A new F3 tornado had been spotted in Leipers Fork, touching down several times and destroying some homes and other buildings.

Coincidentally, our brand new house we just closed on happened to be in Leipers Fork, and on the very road the tornado struck. We all went back to bed, but obviously didn’t sleep well. I dreamt of paying two mortgages and being homeless at the same time.

The next morning we skipped church and headed out to check on our new home. When we got to our road, it was blockaded by the police. We told the officer our house was on this road, he asked for our address. He checked a clipboard, and said that our house was in the damage zone, but he didn’t know any more information, couldn’t help us, and couldn’t let us pass through. Have a nice day.

I turned around and took a back road to get at our house from another direction. There were downed trees everywhere, but we were able to pop out further down on our road, just 2500 feet or so from the house. We drove towards our house, dodging tree branches and other various pieces of debris lying in the road, and made it to our driveway. There sat our house, undamaged, and looking as nice as the day we bought it.

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