The Homebuying Chronicles: From a $4,000/Month Rent to a $2,500/Month Mortgage

It’s no secret that the pandemic caused many city dwellers to relocate for more space. Such was the story for Joshua and Melony Menard (and their two pups, Roxy and Lucy), who were living and working in tech in Seattle, Washington when COVID-19 shut the world down. Overnight, their 600-square foot apartment just couldn’t accommodate their indefinite WFH needs. So, they changed course: Letting go of their lease and relocating to a temporary spot in Southern California near Joshua’s family. Their new rent was upwards of $4,000 a month, spurring them to decide to buy. They were looking for a smaller condo in and around Orange County, and they knew they needed it to be big enough to comfortably WFH without getting in each other’s way.

The couple turned to Opendoor, an online-only company designed to streamline the buying (and selling) process and make a cash-backed offer. Here, we chatted with Joshua to learn how they found and paid for their dream home.

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On House Hunting. “Buying in California was new to us and the market is hot. I like a deal and was persistent on not overpaying. The partner agent helped us navigate the location, our checklist and pricing. He would call before a tour to make sure we knew what the sellers wanted in an offer. Some places already had offers over-ask, but were open to more. We avoided those and found one with no offers yet giving us a leg up.”

Offer #1: Rejected. “The first place we offered on was a two-bedroom that checked all our boxes—it was updated, had a nice outdoor space, a garage and was big enough for us to comfortably work from home without getting in each other’s way,” Joshua recalls. “We were the first offer—at $490,000—but within a couple of hours, there were eight offers. We maxed based on budget and foreseeable appraisal value with our agent’s help, but ultimately lost because the sellers accepted an offer that was $40,000 over ask.” For Joshua and Melony, the fact that it’s a seller’s market was tough. “We went in $15,000 over. You get so invested and have to wait for the seller to decide. It’s a no-control scenario. Our Opendoor agent kept us calm and in check by recommending we continue the search and have back-up properties.”

Fourth time’s a charm. “Over just a few days, I toured four homes and when it came to that last one, we knew it was the one. It’s a one-bedroom, one bathroom, which is really what we wanted. It met all our criteria, was even closer to family than the other ones we’d seen and it was still just a 20-minute drive from our favorite beach. Also, the home was already remodeled, so we dodged a bullet with those additional costs. Our long-term plan is to keep it as a rental so it will be a low-cost, easy maintenance place when we are ready for our next home.”

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So they made an offer. “Our offer was for slightly over ask at $380,000 and we gave the OK that the seller could keep their washer and dryer. They were attached to these—my wife said I won’t understand. However, at the same time, another offer came in over us, so we bumped our offer to $389,000, a reasonable price based on comps. We leaned on our partner agent heavily during this time to make sure we didn’t overpay. The other offers were apparently very close to ours, but because of our cash-backed offer with Opendoor and a 14-day close (which Opendoor could guarantee), we were much more favorable to the seller and got the deal.”

Their mortgage is now about $2,500 a month. “We only put 5 percent down on the home. The most unexpected expense for us was the HOAs. They seem to want to be their own government and charge arbitrary fees for lifting a piece of paper, but they were easy to work with and ours is pretty reasonable for the community size and amenities—about $369 a month.

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The kitchen is their favorite feature. “It was completely remodeled with quartz countertops, white skater cabinets, a deep stainless-steel, no-edge sink and floating shelves for décor. The rest of the home was also updated—the cabinets were extended into the dining area for more storage, the flooring was updated with large, plank-like tiles, there’s recessed lighting in the vaulted ceilings and throughout. The bathroom was also updated with a clean-tile shower and decorative inlay and they added some built-ins in the closet. Even the patio had updated flooring and, honestly, I love a good patio where I can keep my plant game strong.”

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...