Homebuyers Took 'Road Less Traveled' to Affordability

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ShutterstockDenise and Jim Carbone were offered a half-a-million dollar loan to buy a house in Chicago, where they were renting.
America: What's your money story? Credit.com contributor Bob Sullivan is hitting the road to ask the people he meets across the U.S. that very question. Whether it's your struggle with student loans, what you did when you lost your job, how you dealt with a house that was underwater or the ingenious way you paid off a major debt -- we want to know about it. Everyone's story is unique, but the concept of money -- and the challenges and triumphs that come with it -- is universal.

Bob's travels are taking him through Chicago, Iowa City, Omaha, Denver and then Seattle. If you're along that route and want to share your money story, you can reach out to him on social media, using the hashtag #AmericanMoneyStories.

Here's one of the dispatches from Bob's time on the road.

 Denise and Jim Carbone of Munster Indiana
Courtesy of Bob SullivanDenise and Jim Carbone at home in Munster, Indiana.
By Bob Sullivan

MUNSTER, Ind. -- Denise and Jim Carbone walked into a bank several years ago and walked out with an offer to borrow $500,000 to buy a home. They were renting in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood at the time, home to their beloved Cubs. That might have been enough to buy a place not far away -- but the young couple knew that was way beyond their means.

"A half-million dollars? That was crazy," Denise, 42, said.

With other friends choosing to extend themselves to stay in Chicago, the Carbones took the road less traveled to Indiana. They bought a lovely $297,000 home with a huge backyard for their golden retriever, Beaker, in Munster, Indiana, the first exit over the state line. The commute is long -- they both work close to downtown -- but the peace of mind that a reasonable mortgage gave them is priceless.

The Carbones bought the home in 2006, probably the single worst time to buy a home in modern times. They shudder to think what might have happened if they'd listened to the bank. Instead, they are on such solid financial footing that they were able to refinance into a 15-year mortgage last year, which will get them out of debt even faster.

And they make the best of distance. Jim and Denise commute together, which gives them two hours of "quality" time every day ("Well, not always," joked Jim, 38.) Meanwhile, as long as there's not a traffic surprise, the drive into downtown from Indiana isn't really any longer than their train or car commute was from Wrigleyville.

Sure, they go to a few less Cubs games, but because they work downtown, they use happy hours to stay connected to friends in the city. And many of those friends enjoy coming out to the suburbs for fresh air and space once in a while.

"On New Year's Eve, everybody came to our house," Denise said. "It was great."

Want to read more of Bob's #AmericanMoneyStories? You can follow his road trip on Credit.com.
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