39-year-old Christine K. bought her Santa Cruz condo in 2013 following a transitional year of instability. Sure the condo had lime green walls, a plastic tub and rug so threadbare she could see the floor, but she was proud of it. It was hers. Below is her story how, after six years making due, she finally found herself in a position to make some of the changes she’s been dreaming about.
Q: When did you want to get a place of your own?
A: I moved back into my parents’ home about seven years ago following a series of complicated life events. I basically saved every paycheck I had during this time period because my parents didn’t ask me to pay rent or for food, not that I don’t love my parents, but I was looking to move out pretty much the entire time I lived with them. I had always rented in the past and was ready to buy. I knew I wanted to stay close to my mom and dad (even though they don’t need it now, I’m the oldest of six, and all my siblings have moved away), but it’s hard to buy in the Bay Area. I was really disheartened with quality of what I could buy for the money I had budgeted.
Q: Were you able to find a place near your parents?
A: I found this little place in Santa Cruz: a two-bedroom, two-bath-condo. 910 square feet. There are huge trees all around so there's lots of shade. It’s close enough to my parents, and it means I’m by the beach. It’s also cat friendly. It instantly felt like home. Maybe I can find a new life, I thought. I can start over. So I said, "Let's go for it.”
Q: What was it like after you brought your new home?
A: I was very house-poor after I purchased the condo so there wasn't a lot of wiggle room to do any extra changes. I had to take it “as it was.” I spent about a month cleaning it because the woman before me didn’t clean. I would go to work, drive back after work, and spend four or five hours vacuuming or cleaning, painting. The walls were lime green and orange when I moved in. I’d sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag, then get up the next day and go back to work. Then in 2014, I lost my job as a customer service manager for a supermarket chain. I was very upset by the whole thing — I’d been there for 10 years.
Q: How did you adjust with this unexpected change?
A: I made it work. I had a roommate, which helped, and I received unemployment. I had to sell some stocks. But I was also going to school full-time at the local community college. I’ve been going since I was 18, on and off, because I’ve always had to pay for it myself, so I go when I can afford to go. It worked out better than I could have ever imagined, because I would have never left that job, and I really needed to. Now I have a job that I absolutely love. I’m the office manager for a small CPA office. My commute is 10 minutes down the street, so instead of spending $500 a month on gas, I spend maybe $20 bucks a month.
Q: What updates did you have in mind?
A: I needed a loan to make the changes I envision: I want to paint, redo the carpets (the current ones are completely threadbare — I can see the floor in some places), get new kitchen appliances, get a new bathtub and redo the tiles (right now, instead of tiles, it’s plastic sheeting) — all the things I’ve been sitting on for six years since I bought the place. I work full time, go to school full time, and am always worried about money, constantly, even with money sitting in my bank account. I live within certain confines, so any extra expenses are stressful.
Q: What were your plans to finance these fixes?
A: I spoke with the CPAs at my office about loan options. They recommended I refinance my mortgage, so I looked into a mortgage lending company. I didn’t like the experience. I was very unhappy with what they were offering me. They were really pressuring me, and then at the same time, telling me I wasn't good enough. “You’re not good enough to get what you want, this is the only way you can go about it, and I'm going to send you five emails and call you seven times a day.”
I found Figure through a flyer, and after looking at it a bit closer, I realized that refinancing wasn’t right for me. Refinancing means that my mortgage would rise, but I’m happy with my mortgage amount and I don’t want it to change, especially since I'm not going to have a roommate while I make all these updates. Ultimately, I went with Figure.
Q: How was your experience with Figure? What do you plan to do with the funding?
A: Working with Figure was an incredibly easy process. I was approved for a little over $93,000. I love the sliding scale that Figure offered where you could say, “If I take this much, it'll cost me this much per month.” That was really how I determined the ratio of how much money I needed versus how much I was comfortable paying: If everything collapsed tomorrow and I lost my job, I would still feel comfortable paying X amount of money. Overall, I was incredibly happy with the service. It was super fast, super easy, and I didn't feel harassed.
I consolidated a lot of debt with the loan I got from Figure. With the rest, I’m getting all new carpeting; I’ve budgeted about $5,000 for that; all new appliances: about $3,500 (I’m waiting for the Labor Day Sale at this point); and a brand new tub, which I already have picked out. I’m a bath person. I take a bath about once a week. They’re calming and soothing and I enjoy them, so, I’m getting a fantastically beautiful 70-inch soaking tub and doing white subway tiles on the side.
It’s also time for a new car. I've been driving this thing forever. My friends all laugh at me. They're like,"You're still driving that car?" I'll say, "Yeah, I'm still driving that car, so what?" So, hopefully within the budget, there will be about $18,500 left over from the loan that I could use to buy a new used car, preferably something with storage for bikes.
I’m excited to fix up my house. I mean, I'm not looking forward to moving furniture, but I’m excited to finally have a tub that's clean and new, tiles that aren’t plastic, and a new carpet that's not completely threadbare. I'm excited to have friends over for game night and my parents over for Sunday dinners — everything I wanted to do when I first moved in. I’m excited to have a fresh, clean start, and see what's next.