So we moved this past weekend. Moving is something we've done a few times in the years we've been married, but there was something special about this one. This time, we moved into our own place. We are now home owners in Ukraine.
That's the short story.
The longer version is a pretty neat testimony to how God surprised us with answering multiple prayer requests all within a quick three months. If you've got the time, we'd love to share.
Backstory, Part I: Investments
Four years ago, Katie and I met with a financial adviser to go over retirement plans and talk about how things are looking for our future. He encouraged us to consider diversifying our sources of retirement income and he mentioned, as an example, rental properties.
We'd heard terrible stories about rental homes, and imagining dealing with those difficulties from the other side of the world was never the most appealing idea. But the idea was planted, and every now and then we'd talk about how it might work.
Backstory, Part II: Renting
Katie and I have lived in Ukraine for more than ten years. I think it's natural for anyone renting long term to occasionally add up all the cash they've handed over to someone else with not much to show for it. So the idea of buying a place in Ukraine has always been on a back-burner list of things to do, especially now that we are settled in Kyiv with what we see is a long-term ministry.
Backstory, Part III: Buying
It isn't simple for foreigners to buy property in Ukraine. We can't get a loan here, but even if we could, we wouldn't want to—loan rates are between 25–30%. We've always known that if we wanted to buy a place we would have to raise the money in the States, and that would be such a big ask that we've never been ready to pursue it.
Backstory, Part IV: Parents
My parents are wonderful people, and they constantly sacrifice much of themselves in order to help others. They are givers, and they work extra hours and use their savings in order to keep giving. Even though they are of retirement age, retiring is not something on the horizon. I've been wishing and praying for a long time that something might happen which would allow them more financial freedom during this new phase of life.
Chapter One: A New Old Idea
My parents visited us in Ukraine in October and we enjoyed a good month together. As is always the case, being here got my mom excited about being here, and she began to talk once again about how they would love to buy themselves a place in Ukraine and spend more time with us.
The thinking this time was that if they could sell their home in Nevada, they could afford to buy a place here in Ukraine that we could all live in, and then they'd buy themselves an RV for when they'd be in the States. The problem is, RV life is not easy and not cheap. Though they'd be saving on some things, it'd be difficult in a lot of other areas. Even though they could afford a place here, figuring out what to do there was still up in the air.
Chapter Two: Our Trip to the States for Christmas
Fast forward a month and we were back together again, only this time we were visiting my parents at their home in Nevada. My parents mentioned that one of their friends just sold a small one-bedroom condo. My mom was saying that it was too bad it sold, otherwise they could have rented from their friend and made that their home in the States—like an RV without the maintenance.
That's when the idea hit me: Why couldn't Katie and I buy a condo in Reno as a personal investment, and then my parents could live in it as our tenants? Katie thought I was joking at first, but this one idea really seemed to be the missing piece to the big puzzle we'd been trying to put together:
We could buy a condo in the States as investment for ourselves.
My parents could sell their home and move into the condo, which would allow them to pay off their mortgage and live on a property with zero outdoor upkeep.
With the money they’d make from their sale, they could buy us an apartment in Ukraine big enough for them to live in when they visit, but cheap enough that would allow them to have some good savings left over for retirement.
Because they’d pay cash for our place in Ukraine, we would no longer have rent to pay here, and our rent could go toward our mortgage in the States, which would allow my parents to live rent-free.
We did the math and, though it would be tight, my parents would be able to live in the condo without needing to work if they didn't want to, which is exactly where I've wanted them to be.
But it gets better.
Chapter Three: The Real Estate Agent
All that was right before the Christmas holidays. After the new year, a friend referred us to a real estate agent, and she came over to hear about our unusual plan and to talk to us about what steps it would take to get it done.
After seeing my parents' home and talking with us about the current market, she shared how and when we'd list it and show it, and then she said something none of us expected: she told us she wanted to buy the house. And not just as a rental property or anything, but a house for her to live in. A day or two later she came back with her offer. Not only did this greatly simplify what could have been a long, drawn-out process, it was a good offer.
So Katie and I got to work on getting pre-approved for a loan, and at the same time, we started looking at condos in the area. Just several days before it was time for us to fly back to Ukraine, we found a condo in a neighborhood my mom had always dreamed about living. The price was over our budget, but it was workable. We made an offer, the owners countered, and we accepted. We were set to close on February 19th, and my parents' home was going to be sold March 19th.
We quickly signed a Power of Attorney in order for my parents to finish up everything without us, then we flew back to Ukraine.
Chapter Four: A Very Rigid Search
We got setup with RE/MAX in Ukraine, which isn't well known here, but we were hoping that since it was an international brand, they'd be more able to help us through all the ins and outs of buying property as foreigners.
Our agent was great, and over the course of a few weeks, we got to know him very well. We went and saw 24 apartments with him. It wasn't easy, partly because it was during a very cold period of winter here.
We saw a place early on that we liked, but it had quite a few things going against it. There were actually more cons than pros, but the pros were strong so it stayed at the top of the list. Because we had seen it so early in the search, we decided to wait a couple weeks to see what else we could find. There were so many options, but most of them required some level of construction work and wouldn't be so move-in ready. This, of course, would mean more time and more money. With each passing apartment, the first one looked more and more like it was going to be the one.
After a couple weeks, Katie and I were ready to be done searching. We made the decision and planned to tell our agent the next day, but late that night, right before bed, I decided to check and see if any new apartment listings had come up in the last couple days. We saw a place that looked beautiful, and it was right in the area we wanted. In fact, it looked so beautiful that we were certain it was a fake (bait-and-switch listings are huge here). The next day, our agent called and found out it was, in fact, legitimate. We went to see it as soon as possible.
What we loved was that there was nothing about it we would need to change, and nearly nothing that we'd even want to change. The design was very much our style. The renovations done several years ago were top notch. It was priced fair (maybe even low) because the owner wanted to sell fast. We went back for one more look and then made the down payment. We closed on March 18th—almost exactly three months from the day we had the idea to buy a condo.
The owner needed a couple weeks to move out, with plans to get us the keys on a Monday. That meant we didn't expect to move until the following weekend. But when she called us Friday to tell us she was ready to hand over the keys Saturday morning, we quickly put together a move for Sunday afternoon. Several men from the church and some of our students from the institute helped us get all our stuff over within an hour and a half.
And even though it's hard to believe, we are no longer renters.
My parents have moved into the condo. They've been working hard to get it into shape. Like always, there was a lot more work that had to be done than anyone expected at first. They are nearing the end of the major work, however, and we are thankful for that.
I'm sitting here in my new bedroom as I write this, and I am in awe of how God put this all together. What was a crazy idea in October turned into feasible plan by December, and by the beginning of April, it's all a done deal. So many dreams came together so quickly. How incredible.
God used some amazing people along the way to help all the pieces come together. Without family, friends, and our family and friends in the church, this wouldn't have gone as smoothly as it did. Praise God for these unexpected blessings. Praise God for answers prayers and making some long-term dreams come true. Praise God for my wonderful parents who have made this all possible.