Ep. 233 – Interview With Stephanie Who Had 200K In Student Loans, And STILL Bought A Home! 

 April 9, 2024

How to Buy a Home | Student Loans

Student loans are always a huge burden to bear, but they must never hinder you from achieving your biggest dreams. Stephanie is living proof of how someone dealing with student loans managed to buy her first-ever home – in just three months! Joining David Sidoni, she looks back on her first-time house purchase in 2022, getting through financial hurdles, anxiety, and a highly competitive market. Stephanie shares how finding the right people for support and holding on to faith proved vital in her home-buying success.

Interview With Stephanie Who Had 200K In Student Loans, And STILL Bought A Home!

Real-Life First-Time Home Buyer Story

Are you one of the millions of people out there who owes on the trillions of dollars that Americans owe in student debt? Yes, trillions with a T. A lot of people think that’s going to be a major deterrent in getting you to stop renting and start owning a home. Read this incredible story. This is Stephanie. She has $200,000 worth of student debt and she bought a nice $400,000 starter home.

She pulled it off even though she was freaked out, tons of anxiety and was self-proclaimed, “Not a great manager of my own life.” If you’re looking to figure out how to do this and you think you’re freaking out about it, wait until you hear Stephanie’s story, which has a wonderful happy ending. Play that music.

I’m super excited about this one. Stephanie and I have been trying to get this interview going for a while and she’s here with her and her dog Loki who is my favorite. I already got a chance to meet Loki. Stephanie, congratulations, homeowner.

Thank you. It is very exciting.

The cool thing about your story is that it was a three month story. You checked in with us in July and by August, you had an accepted offer.

That escalated quickly. I can tell you. why it happened so quickly.

You and I were communicating throughout the process. Let’s start with this. What was your biggest tip? We’ll go back from the beginning and you can help other people figure out how to get there. Within the process, what do you think is the biggest takeaway you have that you would tell people if they go, “I’m thinking about buying a home.” Would you go, “Make sure you do this.”

Find your unicorn realtor.

Having that experienced person who also is willing to work with a first-time homebuyer, what parts about the unicorn were different then? I know at one point, we talked about the fact that you would talk to someone from your ceramics class.

There was a real one during my ceramics class and she was nice. I vibed well with her. It turned out she didn’t have that much experience. I like her. She’s great but this is the one thing that I have a choice over so why not go with the most experienced person who’s going to get me the best deal and has good experience with other realtors in the area? Have experience with mortgage companies and with all these other people in our little network nearby.

I couldn’t have said that better myself. In fact, I’m mad at myself that I didn’t.

I learned it from you.

Getting Started

Your language was so great there. One thing that you have the choice over. It’s so important. I got back from a giant conference and there were 800 of us there. There are 1.5 million realtors and another million and a half people who have their license. That’s three million total and only one million homes for sale. In order to do this for three months, you had to be set up in some capacity. You had some good savings, a good job, and good credit score. We talked in July of 2022. Where were you in the beginning of 2022? What led you to finding the show and starting your research?

Where I was in the beginning of 2022 was in a luxury rental that was costing nearly as much as a mortgage would. Highly depressed, if I’m being honest. I’m not happy with the property management there on site and got a letter saying, “Your rent is going to go up this much this year.”

You were already paying $2,300 or $2,4000 a month?

Close to that.

It was going to go up hundreds?

It was going to go up like probably $150. Not a ton.

That’s a ton if you’re already paying almost $2,400 a month. Was that letter the thing that sparked you to start looking into it?

I was like, “I should probably know how to buy a home because I’m going to want to do that eventually.” I moved to Portland, Oregon in 2020. The past couple of years have not been like a good basis of what this area is like when it’s not under pandemic conditions. I wanted to stay here for a couple of years and to decide like, “Do I love it here? Do I want to live here?” I was like, “I should probably get a head start on knowing what I’m going to need when I am ready to buy.” I literally looked up like how to buy a home and your show link is the first that comes up, so I just started reading.

For our readers, I’m not supposed to ask a woman her age.

I’m in my 30s.

You moved to Portland in 2020. You’re not from the Pacific Northwest?

No, I was living in the Southwest in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

What took you to Portland? Was it work or was it just change of life?

I’m in healthcare, and so we were being required to still see people in-person at my facility. They were slow to approve telework because my job is something that I don’t need to go into the office to do. I started looking for virtual healthcare positions. I found one in the same agency that was 100% virtual and 95% work from home in Portland, Oregon, and I got the job. That’s how that happened.

Housing is not political, but politics does come into housing. If you’re in a state that is restricting some things and there are other places that are not restricting or vice versa, depending on what you want to do. Sometimes that can make sense.

It was more of the facility. It’s varies by facility. This agency isn’t all over the country. I work for the VA. If you’ve been to one VA, you’ve been to one VA. They do things very differently at different places. Portland scenario were very early looking for people to go virtual to work from home to be telehealth providers. The position I applied for was a rural mental health psychologist on the rural mental health team which means I would be videoing to people in remote places in Oregon and Washington.

Inside Stories

Again, you are giving me great language. If you talk to one realtor, you’ve talked to one realtor. If you talk to one mortgage broker, you’ve talked to one. Even though they’re supposed to be a uniform national system, probably even more so with VA, but good insight. Good to know. It was so fun because we talk so much during your journey. Give us your inside stories of even when you found a unicorn, the stuff that you went through.

I started listening to you and the thing that got me to move from a position of like, “I could buy a home,” to, “I’m going to buy a home,” was you saying that having a mortgage and buying a home is inflation proof. My rent is not like if I’m in a rental, that’s going to go up. Does it ever go down? I don’t know. Probably not. It only goes up and having a mortgage is a great way to lock in a certain rate. Maybe not indefinitely, but until you can refinance. That’s what stood out to me. I’m like, “That makes perfect sense.”

How to Buy a Home | Student Loans
Student Loans: Buying a home and having a mortgage are inflation-proof.

I had so many people coming at me in 2019, 2008, and 2020, telling me that when inflation goes up, rents are going to plummet and they went up. Inflation went from like 2 to 8. The country went crazy. It’s been many years now that rents have continued and there’s a stability in being a homeowner. You did the research, you got yourself mentally on board, something I’m sure you’re very familiar with. What were the nitty gritty in the details for you? What did you do? I know we had met with a unicorn and you checked back with me to say, “David, I don’t know about this.” Do you remember that whole part of the process?

My realtor is Ben Andrews. He accepts case. I’m using the word case because I can’t think of the realtor term for that. Client’s probably by referral. I wouldn’t have found him otherwise. He’s like the closer. He comes in and talks to the realtors. Deal is done. I talked to him then he was like, “You’re going to follow up with my colleague, Rhonda. You’re going to go and look at places and do whatever that stuff is with Rhonda.” I was like, “I thought I was dealing with you. What’s up with this?” Bait and switch.

I expressed some concern about that. He was like, “We close this many homes per year. The only way that we’re able to do that is by using the system.” Knowing that he was recommended by you, I was like, “Okay.” The numbers don’t lie. I worked closely with Rhonda Riley and she was fantastic. They gave me access to their Keller Williams so I could go on and look at homes in the areas that I wanted.

I made a schedule for myself to be like, “Saturday at 10:00 AM open house here. Saturday, 12:00 PM open house here.” I went to like two maybe excursions to look at like a number of houses. I probably looked at like 6 to 8 houses and this was the last one that I looked at like on the Sunday. I went like Saturday and Sunday. I got there late. It’s like end of the day and people are clearing out. I’m running through my camera trying to take. I’m like, “Depiction.”

I have just a little bit of anxiety. I have like a list of like, what are the things that I wanted? I need to have a garage. My must-haves and the things that I want but weren’t deal breakers. It checked off most of my things. I was like, “That was fun.” I was like, “What do I go see next weekend?” I was expecting the process to be longer. I thought I needed to see 20 to 30 more homes. Rhonda was like, “Did you like it?” I was like, “Yes.” She’s like, “Why don’t we put in an offer?” I was like, “That seems so soon,” but we did put in an offer. It was listed at $400 and we put in an offer of $460 because the comps in the area were higher than that. They put it at $400 to maybe get some people bidding.

Moving Forward

We don’t think that. We know that. When it is competitive, realtors, because many of them suck, list prices are garbage. They will list something and that’s why having a great experienced team is like you just rattled off, “The comps were here.” That information is what the realtor team needs to know, so they can look at a list price and say, “They’re trying to pull the bait and switch,” at that point. Did you get into buyer’s remorse? Did you think you were moving too fast? What were the things that made you feel comfortable moving forward?

I was like, “Yes.” The thing that made me feel like I maybe wasn’t ready is I feel like I didn’t get enough time in the home. I feel like I took pictures of everything but I went through so fast. The walkthrough was quick, so I didn’t have time to picture myself here. I was like, “This is a great space. I see how this could be this and this is great.’” I like didn’t have that, something you can’t put into words.

There’s a way that things are done, depending on how the market moves. I wish it was the 1980s and we could all buy a home. We wouldn’t care if it was 12% because the home cost $100,000. It’s not that right now. As you said, once you believe in the math, then there are ways to understand how to work in a crazy competitive market.

You put in an offer and you do have a timeframe to go back and check all the boxes and make sure that you’re comfortable. Is that through the inspection period, the contingency period or option period and other parts of the country? Was that where you felt more comfortable, where you knew you weren’t all the way committed yet but you were under contract?

The next time I got to look at the place was during the inspection.

That’s very typical.

I also work like Monday from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM. It was hard for me to communicate on a regular basis because they work during my work hours, people that are in the industry.

That first week is an avalanche of emails and paperwork.

I did end up taking a couple of days off work, which I’m glad that I did now.

Thank you. Especially in the world of PTO, everybody. Be ready. The first ten days, I always tell people, “It’s smart to be prepared to take a day or two off in the beginning.”

I have patients that have been scheduled. They’ve been trying to be scheduled. I hate canceling.

You’re a good person.

It helps in my profession and if I’m not POS. I try to do the best I can by my people. I did end up taking some time off and was able to come and look through and I loved it. The thing that made me feel even more comfortable about it was the area. Not even like the area, but the houses on the street. It was such a nice neighborhood.

I got a chance to walk around the neighborhood because Portland’s pretty walkable city in most parts. I was like, “Yes.” It wasn’t just the house. It was seeing the neighborhood and driving around the area and seeing what’s available. My pharmacy is right down the corner, how far am I from the Freddy’s, and grocery store and where’s my Costco. That helped then it just happened quickly from there.

Those things that you talk about are hugely important stuff. I will talk to buyers all over the country, thousands of people. Some will get very fixated on the things that you talked about, but they won’t think about the mortgage. Some people will be totally fixated on the mortgage and they’ll see pictures online and it’s competitive so they want to make an offer now. I need to remind them a little bit like, “Go read Stephanie’s interview. Drive around and find your pharmacy. That’s huge. Where am I going to go? Where am I going to hang out?”

For me, one of the neatest things about this whole process with you, I’m learning a lot about it now. You and I did talk and a unicorn has to be someone that is flexible because you’re right, you choose them. If you choose one realtor, it’s going to be different from the next. The flexibility of Ben to make you feel comfortable with Rhonda and make you understand this is how we work. That person has the experience as well that got you there. You got past your inspection. You’ve only been doing this for a couple months. Did you have any moments where you were like, “What the hell am I doing?”

Yes, there was one specific day. I do not recall what had happened that day. I probably had a rough day at work to start. It was in a glass case of emotion. I called Rhonda and I was probably somewhat hysterical. I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s such a big decision. It’s so much money and I already have like $200,000 in student loans. This is a lot.

I know the one thing that was like important for me is that I’m fairly spiritual. I had to give it over like, “Am I doing everything in my power that I can do?” I have to turn it over. Whatever is going to happen is what’s going to happen and I’m going to be okay no matter what. There’s also a big part of faith in this as well. It was important for me. If I tried to do everything on my own, like I’m not a great manager of my own life. What makes me think I can manage all these other things? That was important and I was tested throughout this process.

When in doubt, turn everything over to your spiritual self. Have the trust that all will be okay no matter what.

Financial Talk

How much did you end up putting down? How much more did your monthly payment go up from your rent? We know it was going to go up anyway.

I am very lucky to have a mom who loves me very much. I’m also an only child. I will say, that probably has to do with it as well. My mom gifted me $50,000 to put down. That was a down payment.

You were still in the 10% range then right?

Don’t make me think about numbers.

The house cost for $460?

I only ended up financing $414 because I also had to put down $5,000 for escrow. I don’t know.

If it was $414 and out of $460. That was probably 10% at $40,000 plus closing costs. The point is, you put 10% down. You had a high rent already. Do you know what your mortgage payment is in comparison to your rent? Is it more? Is it less? Is it about the same?

My mortgage is like 28 and change.

You were at 23, about to go to 24 or 50 or something like that?

Somewhere around there because my rent was flexible. It was like $2,000 a month, but then I had water, sewer, electric, and all those other things that are also included in the utilities. I also had a parking spot and that parking spot was almost $300 because I have an electric car, which is why I needed the garage.

With the electric parking spot, $2,000 plus $300. Puts you at about $2,300 a month. You go to $2,800 a month. For $500 more a month.

I can own my own home.

Yet, you, this person. You said this, not me, that you’re not a great manager of your own life and you have anxiety. You still pulled this off in three months in a super competitive market with $200,000 of student loan debt. We’re here a year later. The people want to know, are you happy or are you freaking out that you did this?

My student loan debt is coming due again. We’re just starting. I’ve been saving money. That is one thing that I know is going to impact my disposable income because there’s a forbearance. Our student loans haven’t been due. October will be the first month where I’m paying everything. We’re going to see how it goes but I’ll make it work.

You’ve been paying $500 more a month and still been able to save your little student loans are coming back savings account.

I don’t know how much has gone in there because I also learned that having a home. I knew this like cognitively. Having a home is expensive and things break down, but they do vary unexpectedly. I was like, “I was not planning on that. How dare you break?” Another great thing about my unicorn realtor is that they gifted me a one year warranty something with American Home Shield. All of the appliances were under warranty. I had to get a new under the garbage disposal. I paid like a $100 fee for the claim, and that didn’t cost me. There were other things that have helped to keep things manageable financially.

How to Buy a Home | Student Loans
Student Loans: Getting a warranty for your home appliances through your unicorn realtor will alleviate a lot of your financial burden.

Most people out there buying a home, most people reading this, either you’ll pay for one or you’ll have to seller pay for one or you’re realtor will help you out. For a year, you have a deductible. Usually $75 or $100 but for the first year, you’re not going to have that, “I have to buy a new $1,000 dishwasher.”

I re-upped it for this year.

Good for you.

It is more expensive. I was like, “It was this much last year. Why is it more expensive?” They’re like, “Inflation.” I’m like, “Fine. I will pay that.” What other choice do I have?

It gets to the point where you have to figure out if it’s worth it or not. The first year, they’re always going to entice you a little bit then once they got you. If you’re in a situation like you are where you want you and Loki to feel comfortable and you know you have that safety net.

It’s worth the peace of mind.

A Satisfied Client

Your story is amazing to me and I’m so glad that.

I am happy. That was your question. Sorry, I feel like I didn’t answer your question.

Are you pleased? It’s a year later.

I am so pleased. I’m originally from New York and I’ve never had a garden. I’ve never had outside space that was more than like 10 foot by 10 foot. We have this huge yard, a redwood tree, and raspberry bushes. I have roses in the front. In the back, it’s Loki’s kingdom. He lays out there in the sun. He does not like the crows. He will bark at the crows. I had to remove a walnut tree because that would have meant squirrels. He also is not a fan of squirrels.

I have a fire pit that I’ve been enjoying all summer. Even the day that that all my stuff moved in and there were just boxes in the living room. I felt roll my shoulders back like shoulders drop down from my ears and like, “I’m home.” I can do whatever I want to do next. I have projects in mind but I love this space. I feel safe and contented in my space. I’m glad I did it at the time I did it because rates went up even more after that. I’m so thankful for your help.

It’s been a real pleasure for me, especially in our conversations, both through text and emails. At this point, all I’m doing is educating and matchmaking.

That’s a lot.

I’ve done it so much in Southern California. You did it with all these people that work at Disneyland forever. I had a meeting with one and it was like, “Let’s open your eyes.” Your story is the thing that’s going to help other people because you’re paying more, but you also didn’t pay would have been like $30,000 in rent in the last year.

To go towards nothing.

It would have gone up again. Instead, not all of it, but a big portion of that has gone into Loki’s kingdom, you and your rose bushes and your fire pit. You own that now. Instead of that $30,000 going to somebody else. It’s gone into this long-term asset for you. It’s just a matter of finding the right people who want it to happen for you, then you realizing, “I can do this.” Off we go.

The one other thing I wanted to thank you for is that you also have a particular show about apps for better getting on top of your finances. I’ve been using You Need A Budget and that has been so helpful. I’ve had to consult with them a lot because I’m not great at the numbers game. Am I putting this in the right category? That has helped me to like, “This is my mortgage. This is this. I’m saving for this.”

Now, I’m excited and planning. I want to put up something in the back because in the back, it’s a little patio like concrete. There’s nothing over. It’s like, “I live in Oregon. It’s going to rain a lot. I want something so that I can sit outside like the other nine months of the year when it’s raining.” I’m excited about what’s to come.

That’s awesome. That is a great tip because a lot of times, I know people will stay away from it’s like YNAB. A lot of people go, “I don’t want to pay for that.” I tell people, “Understand your strengths and understand your weaknesses.” They’re free budgeting apps, but you’re like, “I’m not great at this.” You do their little program. It doesn’t cost a ton of money but it can set you up.

I know and it’s like, “I’m a New York Jew. We pay people to do things.” I hire someone to mow my lawn. There are things that I can’t do, I go find the best people that can help me do them or can do them for me.

How to Buy a Home | Student Loans
Student Loans: Find the best people who can help you with your home purchase or do the entire process for you.

It’s the how to buy a home motto and the only difference is that most of the time your realtor’s free when you’re buying a home. That must make you even more excited.

Since that time, your catchphrase is like, “You can do it.” I’ve been using that and been telling some of my patients. I’m like, “You can do it. We can do this.” I like integrated that and I feel like it has helped me with that and beyond. You’re helping other people.

I’ve learned many years of doing this when to quit. That was perfect because you can do this, you have a team, your teams got you and you do this for your patients. God bless you for the great work that you’ve doing. I’m glad that you got to find us. I’m excited for those vets who are living not necessarily in the suburbs but get your help and get us shoulders down, Stephanie. I’ve helped contribute to this little part of a giant bigger piece and that’s pretty damn awesome.

 Yes, you absolutely have. I have to remember that too. I’m the instrument. When I’m taking good care of myself and I’m doing well. That flows out.

Your next project is, you need a budget and start working on saving for a patio cover that you love so that you and Loki can hang in the fire pit for the nine months when it rains.

It’s already in there. We’re still saving for it. I’m deciding like, do I want to buy like a pre-made one that can be put together or do I want to hire someone to make it with wood?

They’ve got them at Costco.

I know. I also have to figure out because in Portland, I may need a permit. I should probably consult with someone about what I need.

I know a good person you can call that would understand how permits work in your neighborhood.

That would be wonderful. I would appreciate that.

It was rhetorical. It’s your unicorn silly.

I forget about that.

Closing Words

They’re not done when you close the deal. Trust me, they’re going to be able to let you know. You lifted my spirits. I thank you so much. You stay right there and you readers, go back and read this again. Stephanie, anything else you want to tell people out there?

You can do it. With the help of a great team, you can live in the house of your dreams. It’s possible. Even in today’s climate, it’s still possible.

With the help of a great team, you can live in the house of your dreams, even in the middle of a harsh market climate.

A $200,000 in student loan debt and you did it in three months.

That’ll figure itself out eventually.

People are afraid. I’m telling you, as a positive story because you are continuing to add to an asset. Would you rather keep renting for the next five years while you figure out how to pay off your $200,000 student loan debt? You pay $30,000 one year, $33,000 the next year, and $35,000 the next year to nothing. At least now, in 3 or 4 or 5 years, when you’re trying to get a grasp on that, you’re going to have this asset.

Hopefully, it’s still around by the time I’m done with my 120 payments, but I’m doing the public service loan forgiveness. I pay 120 payments. Whatever they tell me to pay and I did the re-payee thing, which is now the saved thing. I forget but my amount came down. Thank goodness. That’s going to take care of itself. I have faith that everything’s going to work out the way that it’s meant to, whether it’s the way it should or not.

You have the stability of a home as a forced savings account. It’s better to do that than be thrown rent away. Thank you so much for your time.

Thanks so much.

That was such an incredible story. I’m so thankful to Stephanie for coming on the show. It was a long time coming. It was a while ago when she ended up buying a home, but the stories are still the same. I’ve been hearing them since 2019 on the show to all you people all over the country. I’ve been hearing it since I’ve been doing this since 2006.

Stephanie’s story is not unusual. The fear, panic, and anxiety, but then the calm, clarity and comfort of working with a unicorn support team. The next thing you know, she’s realizing she can do this. As she said at the end of the interview, you could end up in your dream house. Don’t let those student loans or anything else, if it’s bad credit, starting a new job, thinking you’re not adult enough to do this, fine. What’s the worst thing that can happen when you ask a unicorn about that?

You find out maybe you’re not ready. Maybe you need a year or two, or you find out like Stephanie did, that with the right unicorn support team she’s on her way. Now she’s a homeowner and still, a couple hundred grand in debt, but now at least, her money’s going toward something that’s going to be the financial bedrock the rest of her life. I’m excited about that. I’m just rambling now.

Go to HowToBuyAHome.com if you’ve got questions. There’s the basic starter kit there. There’s also some place, you can ask me a question. If you’re finally getting the hint, jump on there and ask for a unicorn. We’ve got hundreds of people now working. Some of them are a week away from writing offers. Some of them are a year away but this is what I love to do is hear these stories like this.

I love to be able to just share the knowledge. There’s tons of stuff in the back catalog and other inspirational interviews. I highly recommend you go back and read the interviews. We’ve got people from $100,000 and nineteen years old. Only a few months on the job and bought their first house for less than $200,000. We’ve had people in the millions, doctors, and construction workers. We’ve had nurses and teachers. We’ve had tech people, in show business, Blue collar people, and White collar people.

There are so many different stories in the interviews. It’s a great place to go back and read. Thanks so much to Stephanie. Thanks to you for writing a review. Am I guilting you into it now? Write a review, folks. The more people that find out about the show, the more people we can help. Share the show with your friends. Click it right there on your phone. You can text it to them. By all means, don’t let your own fears, which are unfounded, be the things that stop you. Look what happened, Stephanie, $200,000 in student debt, she’s a homeowner. You know what I like to say, you can do this.

Important Links

This podcast was started for YOU, to demystify things for first time home buyers, and help crush the confusion. After helping first timers for over 13 years, I knew there wasn’t t a lot of clear, tangible, useable information out there on the internet, so I started this podcast. Help me spread the word to other people just like you, dying for answers. Tell your friends, family, and perhaps that random neighbor you REALLY want to move out about How to Buy a Home! A really easy way is to hit the share button and text it to your friends. Go for it, help someone out. And if you’re not already a regular listener, subscribe and get constant updates on the market. If you are a regular and learned something, help me help others – give the show a quick review in Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, or write a review on Spotify. Let’s change the way the real estate industry treats you first time buyers, one buyer at a time, starting with you – and make sure your favorite people don’t get screwed by going into this HUGE step blind and confused. Viva la Unicorn Revolution!

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