Dorje’s Haven

It was my dream. With all my heart I wanted to establish a place called Dorje’s Haven, a place that we could adapt for Nathan to be happy.

One Monday night I looked in the MLS and saw this house. It was a house that Owen had shown me months before because he thought it had potential. I had frowned upon it. “It’s too ugly. I don’t want something ugly.” That Monday night I saw it again and it caught my attention, so I called the number and spoke directly with the realtor. I asked if he could show it to me and he said, “Sure, I’ll show it to you tomorrow.” I went to my reiki session that night but I couldn’t stop thinking about that house, something inside me told me to call him again. So I stopped a few minutes into the session and called the agent and asked if he could show it to me that night. He agreed. I went by the house to pick up Owen and the kids and off we went to the house. Even though it was dark and I couldn’t see the view, I knew right away it was our house. Owen saw it in my face and I saw it in his. We told the agent we wanted it and could we please sign an offer.

But of course it couldn’t be as simple as that. There was already a buyer under contract. The house was a short sale and this buyer had been under contract for many months while they went through the process of negotiating with the bank. So if the buyer backed out, we would be next in line. It had taken months for the bank to approve, and they had just finally approved, but the realtor wasn’t confident the buyer would continue, so he listed it back on the MLS. Guess when? That Monday, the day I saw it. I was the first person who called him when he relisted the house.

Several days went by and we waited to hear news. At first he said he wanted it and we were heartbroken. When the time came to sign the deal and move forward, the other buyer backed out so we were next in line. During those days many other people saw the house and loved it, and also signed offers behind ours. But since I had pushed to see it that day, we were next in line so we had dibs.

But of course it couldn’t be that simple. At that point, a cash buyer appeared. A guy who offered to have the whole placed paid in cash, right away. He really wanted it and tried very hard to convince the agent to approve his offer. Fortunately since we had called the agent directly he had become our agent, so he was loyal to us. The seller, however, was quite close to choosing the cash buyer. I begged, I pleaded, I prayed.

One Wednesday morning I get a call from the agent saying, “Marcela, get over to escrow right now. They need a deposit. The seller is going to choose you.” So Owen and I rush to the escrow office with a check in hand to secure our bid on the house. As Owen was handing the check to the lady at the escrow office, I received a call from Mark. “Sorry Marcela, she’s going with the cash offer.” I almost cried. But I sat, prayed, waited. And sure enough I got a call a little while later. “Never mind. Turn in your check. I convinced her. We’re moving forward with you.” We handed them the check and left the escrow office, only to receive one last call. “The seller doesn’t want to sign. She wants the shed.” I told the agent we’d have no problem with her taking the shed (a small studio that she was using as a barbershop, it was about 200 sq ft). So she signed and off we went.

We were told it would take a couple of months at least for the bank to approve of everything and for the deal to close. A couple of days later, I got a call from the agent stating that the bank had signed the papers and we had 21 days to close escrow.

It was a complicated mortgage and we had several people who said they could do it, but then couldn’t. In the end, the agent recommended a broker who had contacts at a credit union. The credit union approved the loan again.

But of course it couldn’t be that easy. They were wavering about whether or not they should approve it. They asked for an exorbitant down payment that we couldn’t afford. The terms weren’t very favorable. So we begged, pleaded, and prayed. Our mortgage broker came to bat for us and asked for personal favors from everyone he could so that they’d approve us. He told them Nathan’s story, showed pictures, told them how much this house would mean to all of us. Eventually, they approved the loan.

Then we had to get through the appraisal. The house has been vacant for 2 years and is sold as is. It needs a LOT of work. It has a guest house that is not permitted. The appraisal would determine whether the credit union would be willing to move forward. It had to be appraised for at least the value that was in the purchase contract, and it had to be in reasonable condition. It could’ve easily gone either way. The morning of the appraisal, I prayed hard and went to tag along with the appraiser. He turned out to be a very nice man and very professional. However he did see the many problems with the house and we weren’t sure what was going to happen.

A week later the appraisal comes in and it was AMAZING. He appraised the house for $50,000 more than the purchase price. So we have equity in the house already. Before putting a cent in and fixing it up. When does that happen in this day and age??!!

Days passed, lots of paperwork back and forth, and as we got close, the credit union backed out. The condition was for us to put 5% more on the down payment and that was too much money! We needed to keep some money to fix up the house. So we scrambled to find another lender. It was a heart wrenching day.

Again our mortgage broker really came to bat for us and convinced the credit union to approve under the initial terms. This was about a week ago. After that, everything went smoothly. Today, April 26th, the loan funded, and tomorrow, April 27th, the house will be recorded and officially ours.

Now let me tell you more about the place. It has 7 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. We are going to open up the floor plan downstairs by taking out a few walls so that Nathan can get around the whole place in his pony walker. Eventually, when he has a power chair, the entire downstairs will be accessible to him. It has a 1000sq ft garage that we are going to convert into his therapy/play area. We plan on setting it up with stations. There will be a table for his medek, an art station, a play station, a speech therapy station, and an area with all of his favorite toys. We have to create a “dream room” layout for him, and then as we renovate the house this will be a priority. If we include the garage the house has a total of 6000 sq ft.

There is a guest house, which is segregated into 3 spaces with 3 separate entrances. There is a large office downstairs. Then there is a separate entrance to a 2 bedroom apartment with a bathroom and kitchen. Then there are 2 stairways, one internal and one external, to the 2nd floor apartment, also with 2 bedrooms and a bathroom. The upstairs apartment in particular is gorgeous, with hardwood floors, a chimney, and a deck. The barn is over 2000 sq ft.

And then there is the yard. 2.5 acres for the kids to roam, play, and explore. So many different ways for them to play, be active, grow while in the great outdoors! And guess what? there is an area for horses!! The previous owners had 3 horses. And yes, we plan on getting a horse for Nathan, not right away, but in the future. We will be able to do hippotherapy with him every day! How amazing will that be! For those of you who don’t live in southern CA, I have to explain something. Here, lots are never bigger than 8000 sq ft. And that is a HUGE lot. Most houses are in very small lots. It’s almost impossible to find a place that has bigger lots, and when you find them, they are always in the millions. This place is just a couple of min’s from where we live now, in the same city. It is just 30 minutes to Hollywood, 30 min’s to Santa Monica, 30 min’s to Pasadena. It’s unbelievable to have found a place with this much land, so close to the city!

The backyard has a pool and an unfinished gazebo. It also had a volleyball court that we plan on restoring. We have a lot of work to do in the backyard but when we finish it will be amazing.

We have a huge amount of work ahead of us. We will be painting the inside and outside, playing with the floor plan, knocking down walls, redoing the kitchen, redoing the floors. We will change the facade of the house a bit by removing the arches in the front. We also plan on incorporating the garage into the house. There’s so much work that we plan on doing. The first 2 months we will have contractors working on the house for the major heavy duty stuff, then we plan on continuing with the work ourselves.

And of course as we do the work we will make everything accessible to Nathan. We’ll remove any steps etc so he can get in and out of the house in his walker. We’ll use minimal furniture so he can get around easily. There is already a bathroom upstairs that we can roll him into for a shower. It is amazing. Initially we will carry him up the stairs, but eventually we will put in an elevator or some kind of system to get him up and down the stairs. There are 2 bedrooms downstairs but we don’t want him isolated, sleeping downstairs by himself while the rest of the family is upstairs. This is Dorje’s Haven and it will be a place for us to look ahead and move on with our life, past disability, into inclusion and happiness.

And for those of you who are wondering, yes, there will be a wedding. And it will take place at Dorje’s Haven 🙂


  1. CONGRATULATIONS!!! I am so excited for you & your family. The space looks amazing & has so much potential.

  2. Congratulations! I liked the house from the first picture. I saw how much potential the house is.
    I would choose it myself too. I have been in the same process at the moment. I am so happy for all of you 🙂 .



  4. Wonderful news! Congratulations to you all – 2012 just keeps getting better & better.

  5. the real story behind losing 30 lbs!! lol!!!

  6. Summer Jesse says

    OMG I love the house, and wow it’s big, I think you may just loose the kids and I can just see Nathan taking of in his walker. I can just see the wedding already, how wonderful. The kids will have a great place to grow up.

  7. When I first saw it, I thought “that looks like a hotel.”

    Good for you!

  8. This post brought tears to my eyes. I am so very happy for you!

  9. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed!
    Extremely useful information specially the last part 🙂 I care for such info much.
    I was seeking this certain information for a very long time.
    Thank you and best of luck.

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