According to a popular Christmas song, there’s no place like home for the holidays. That sentiment is especially true for the extended Hughes family this season. Just before Thanksgiving, four branches of the Hughes family tree purchased new homes, with three of them buying the houses vacated by their relatives.
The idea to buy and sell to each other came in August, after Steve and Janice Hughes decided to downsize to a Coeur d’Alene condo from the Spokane Valley home where they’d lived 19 years.
When Janice told her daughter Nichole Bergam, Nichole’s husband Matthew suggested they buy her parents’ home. “That’s how it sparked,” said Nichole Bergam.
Then, about 20 minutes after Nicole’s brother Andrew heard the news, he and his wife Mary wondered if they might buy Nichole and Matthew’s house. “My mom got excited and got the party line going,” he recalled.
In order for the plan to work Andrew and Mary needed to sell their house, which they’d bought shortly before the housing bubble burst. So the family turned to another brother, Ian Hughes, who was renting just a few miles away.
“My mom approached me. I wasn’t even looking. I had the mindset to look for a house but was kicking back,” said Ian, explaining that he’d just started a new job and wanted to wait, in part because he dreaded the moving process.
But with family encouragement Ian decided to be the last link in the home-buying chain. “I’d been renting the same place for 10 years… The interest rate was right. Everything seemed to fall into place for me to overcome that avoidance,” he explained.
Of course, the family did have a few setbacks before closing. First, the Bergams ran some numbers, panicked and backed out. However, when Janice and Steve had their house appraised they learned its value was $100,000 less than they’d figured and the Bergams were back on board.
Then Andrew and Mary’s house also appraised low. “We’d only been there three years. It seemed like all hope was lost,” said Andrew.
But both his and Mary’s family rallied to help. “We had support from the family. We were able, through gifting, to come up for the difference. We found a way to make it happen.”
Julia Hansen, a loan officer with the Valley Guild Mortgage, said working with the Hughes family was inspirational. “They are proof that the American dream is still alive. They are living proof that four different individuals with four completely different scenarios were able to get a loan and buy a home.”
“We are all kind of in shock that this actually went through. We got four very different loans. We had different situations, different incomes,” said Bergam. “We all never gave up hope.”
It helped, said Hansen, that the family was so tight knit and mutually supportive.
“They are such a true family,” she said. “Their willingness to work together as a family and help each other out was incredible.”
“We’ve always been very, very close. The kids have always gotten along. We told them from the beginning, ‘no matter what happens, if one of you wants to back out, no problem,’ ” said Janice Hughes, adding that by selling to each other they all saved significantly.
“It is a way of beating the market today. I think we saved $50K in realty fees. That is big chunk of money,” said Janice. She explained that they did consult Realtor Dale Strain, who helped them work out the details.
“It was meant to be,” said Janice. “We were all ready to make a change. And I’m so happy she bought our house because it would have made me sad if it were a stranger.”
The rest of the family echoed that sentiment. “When they initially said they were moving it was almost depressing,” said Ian of his parents. “We had so many memories. Now Nichole is carrying on the tradition. It worked out for everyone and some of the family traditions will survive.”
The Bergams planned to host Christmas Eve and other family gatherings, just as Steve and Janice had. In fact, Bergam said the move jump-started the spirit of the season. “I think (moving) is perfect timing before Christmas. The tree was the first thing to be put up in the house. Even before furniture.”
As they moved furniture and boxes, their boys decorated the tree. Now, the adults are looking at their new homes as big Christmas presents. “What we all got for Christmas was a new house,” said Janice Hughes.
For the Hughes, this holiday is home, sweet home.