We made two offers within five days. Two different houses, a few miles apart. Both offers were turned down in favor of others; in the current Grand Rapids housing market, submitting an offer essentially means entering your bid into a silent auction. The sellers choose their preferred option, and if your offer doesn’t cut it, you’re asked if you’d like to keep your offer in place in case the financing falls through. We said yes in both cases, but it felt like a formality. Time to walk through more houses; time to refresh listings every half hour to catch the three bedroom two bathroom gem in Fulton Heights.
Gwyn and I have been married seven years, and we’ve rented apartments throughout. Three years in Holland, two in Grand Rapids, one in Holland, another in Grand Rapids. This is our first foray into home buying, made possible by two incomes and the absence of grad school payments. Our parameters are broad but still defined: within fifteen minutes of church (twelve, preferably), some wood floors, relatively move-in ready (we’re not exactly project enthusiasts), untouched by cigarette smoke. The rest is intangible and guided more by intuition, which means we walk through too many homes.
“Don’t fall in love with anything,” our realtors told us when we met in early summer. The pace of the market means there are multiple offers on almost every house, so there’s always a good chance our offer will be passed over for another. But to write an offer you have to imagine yourself in the space—reading on the porch, cooking (lol) in the kitchen, planting flowers out front, writing in the office, hosting friends in the backyard. The house search becomes an exercise in vision casting, always a precarious and intimate game. When our first offer wasn’t selected, both of us felt more sadness than we expected. We’d made space in ourselves for a new reality.
The latest offer we made came with a crazy timetable. The house listed around 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, we walked through it at 3:30, and we wrote on it by 11:00 a.m. Friday. We weren’t the first offer. On Friday morning, as we decided whether or not to offer, I served communion to a few members at an assisted living home. My phone buzzed constantly (but quietly) with conversation between Gwyn and our realtors, so after serving the sacrament, I stepped out for five minutes to electronically sign the purchase agreement so we could get the offer in on time. Body and blood, “On the night of his arrest, Jesus took bread, and after he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples…” followed by signatures on six forms.
As I write this, we’re scheduled for a showing at noon. Another house, another chance to imagine our lives taking shape in that place. The price seems low based on the photos, so probably we’ll find asbestos or be greeted by the overwhelming smell of stagnant cigarette smoke. But this is fun, and we’re privileged (I mean that word with all its positive and negative connotations) to do it, and we haven’t lost sight of that yet. If ever we do, then what’s the point?
Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.