First step, find a good mortgage broker who will tell you what you can afford, not what you qualify for. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Melanie, who led us through the process. This is considerably more complicated than ‘house hunters’ on HGTV makes it seem. A bank will pre-qualify you for an amount that you cannot hope to pay each month so you really have to take a good long look at your finances and figure out what you can afford without being house poor at the end of the day. D and I aren’t lavish in our lifestyle, we like going out for dinner, going to see movies, and making the occasional large impulse purchase, thank you for my Kindle honey! But by and large we’re frugal people who are happy to live within our means, even slightly beneath them.
Next step, find a great real estate agent. Sonja was nothing short of amazing, she deserves sainthood for the 80 houses we drug her through, most of which were uninhabitable. When someone says ‘fixer’ in the description, be prepared, b/c it generally means falling down. Sonja would often unlock the front door, take a few steps inside and call out, ‘not this one, but you have to come check out…’ there was the house with the all pink bathroom, this included pink shag carpeting that couldn’t have been newer than 1950. Or the house with the ‘upstairs bedroom’ that wasn’t accessible from well anywhere, we never did find that mystery bedroom. Or the house that smelled so strongly of cat you couldn’t even walk in the front door. Or the house with the herd of plastic deer in the back yard, included in the price! We traveled everywhere you can imagine and a few places you don’t want to looking for somewhere to call home. And when we found it, well let’s just say it wasn’t easy to make it ours.
We found our home and knew it was meant to be, not because it was perfect or ready to move in but because it was one of 5 houses that were habitable. I wish I could tell you I was exaggerating but no… and we have MANY witnesses that can attest to the level of dirty, structurally unstable homes we looked at. Imagination can only take you so far. So… we found our house, decide to make an offer and low and behold, so have 3 other people… and it’s a foreclosure so we’re dealing with a bank and not a homeowner. If your agent tells you the banks are ‘motivated’ to move homes… laugh. Yes, they want to sell the house, but they are going to sell the house for the price they want, in the time frame that works for them, with the terms and conditions they choose and there is no amount of counter-offering that can make them move, but it can allow another buyer to swoop in, offer $5 more and steal the house out from under you in the time it takes to snap your fingers. At least in our price range. Does that change depending on the price, market, bank… sure but it sure didn’t work that way for us. So we made an offer, waiting for a painful 3-4 business days, that’s another thing, when someone says 1-2 days, they mean business days, because weekends don’t count in the banking world, only to find out that they had accepted one of the other 3 offers. Where do we go from here we asked ourselves? This happened for a reason, something better is out there, we told ourselves… not so much. We looked at another 5-7 houses and were ready to put in another offer on a house we liked but needed a LOT more work up front than ‘our’ house on the hill. When Sonja told us the other offer backed out, did we still want the first house? YES! Another 2 weeks later it was finally ours. Not for the price we wanted, not with the concessions we wanted, but hey in the end we got the home we wanted for close to the price we wanted to pay. And we were FINALLY done looking!
Final step before closing, remember you can still back out at this point: the inspection. We found a great guy who does everything electronically and gives you a binder with pictures, descriptions, all kinds of useful things. HIGHLY recommend this, don’t ever consider forgoing a home inspection, who knows what could be lurking under fresh carpet and paint. Not to be all fatalistic but come on people, do your due diligence! Our wonderful inspector found no big surprises, just the small things that are bound to pop up in a house that hasn’t been lived in for over a year. Whew!
Closing… not awful but wow it takes a lot longer than you would think. But we got to turn in notice on our apartment, pack up and move up in the world.