Dave Lowther

How it Came to Be
I’ve said before that I didn’t know what a normal path to owning this house would look like. Reflecting on that more, I began to consider what a normal home purchase would look like, which – fine you’re ahead of me – caused me to consider the normal home. And that’s where it all began to make sense. What is a normal home?
A normal home is frame construction, asphalt shingles. A normal home is not too big and not too small.268 St George Street St Augustine, FL A normal home is in a neighborhood of similar homes – several of which have sold in the last few months in order to provide good comps. A normal home has one kitchen and is easily and irrefutably characterizable as single family. A normal home (in short) will fit nicely into the criteria that makes a normal bank feel safe about lending money against it. Let’s see… The Upham Cottage is frame construction and has asphalt shingles. Other than that, none of the normal characteristics.
This lack of normalcy seemed to stump a lot of potential buyers over the years – and the house was for sale for years. Whether they didn’t want the upkeep, couldn’t find a bank to work with them, or were intimidated by the Frankenstein plumbing apparition in the crawlspace, I don’t know. What I do know is that we were fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time with the right team of people.
Far and away the most important decision that allowed us to come to live in the Upham Cottage was made several years ago when we began to work with Irene (Arriola of Saltwater Property Group). We chose Irene initially because most of the homes listed that we wanted to see were her listings.
We came to find that the reasons to choose Irene are many. She knows the houses in St. Augustine – and I don’t mean from a book.  Because she has been working in St. Augustine for so long and ends up friends with many of her clients she ends up participating in the history of the homes she sells – and then has that history to draw on when those clients go to sell their home. She also knows the zoning and code regulations (as Chairperson of the City of St. Augustine Code Enforcement, Adjustment, and Appeals Board) meaning that you don’t waste time thinking you can add a garage with an office over it on a property that won’t allow for it. And that’s just a start to what she knows. Here’s an example of the random knowledge she possesses: at closing, she pulled out the name of a painter (fine, a Realtor has to know a painter), a landscaper who could help with the pond (less common, but not that exciting), and a beekeeper – in the neighborhood, no less. Even after several years of working with her I was freshly impressed. But the most beautiful thing I found about Irene was that even with all that knowledge she was very quick to let you know when she didn’t know – and just as quick to find out if possible – or accept that some things are unknowable.
And how we tortured Irene! There were historic homes, homes with docks, large homes in need of significant repair (i.e. “gutting”), homes on the island, homes downtown, etc… We were struggling to meet our many criteria for a home in one house. It took us about two years of looking at houses (many of which Irene knew would not work for us) to realize that we would not be able to meet all of our realistic criteria in one house. So we had Irene look to see if there were any places where two houses were very near each other. And on and on. Then we gave up. Then, months later we started again.
Through all this she was accommodating and patient. We never felt pressured to make offers. In fact more than once Irene told us to be patient, not what you expect to hear from a Realtor (in my experience).
And then there was another price reduction on the Upham Cottage and we made an offer. And after only one counter-offer we were under contract! I don’t know who was more surprised Irene, Greg (the seller’s agent), or us. And though, as Marisol’s fortune said last night, “A bold attempt is half of success,” getting under contract turned out to be the easy part.
We knew from previous experience the trouble in acquiring financing on a home that is or has been used as a multi-family dwelling. We were burned badly once trying to buy a house that had been used as a vacation rental. It wasn’t until we were under contract and scheduling movers that the house appraised as a duplex – killing the deal because we couldn’t afford the different in down payment. So we were scared the same thing would happen in this case.
Enter the best mortgage broker you’ll ever meet, Matt Daly at Dolphin Home Mortgage. If Matt and Kim can’t make the loan work for you and the house you can safely know that it cannot be done by any conventional means. Of course, he was recommended by Irene as the two have worked together for many years. Matt provided me with solid and creative advice on the loan process and everything related. I won’t replay the entire drama and my daily calls for updates from (which Kim answered patiently) but two banks, two appraisals and two desk reviews later the bank approved the loan (with only about 30 conditions).
Certainly not least of importance in making our purchase possible were the seller and seller’s agent. Without their accommodation of the banks requirements for financing everything would’ve fallen apart.
And so that’s how it came to be. I don’t think we’ll ever get to a point where we take the house or the good fortune that made us living here possible for granted.
Click here to read more about Upham Cottage on David’s blog:

Irene Arriola Real Estate, Inc.
81 King Street, Suite B Saint Augustine, FL 32084
Email: | Office phone: 904.829.2002
Cell phone: 904.669.0691 | Fax: 904.829.2029