WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

Ah, the American Dream: a home, 2.5 children, a dog, a huge American-made sedan that gets four miles to the gallon, and a beautiful little lady to fix supper every night. Obviously all that's dead, but since I'm 30 and finally financially stable enough to afford the fancier brand of Instant Mac & Cheese, my wife and figured it's time to think about buying a house.

And for a long time, all we really did was avoid thinking about it, because buying a house is intense and full of variables and details and jesus just writing about it makes me want to put it off. But ask around! The time is right! Interest rates are super low! There are lots of homes recently foreclosed on or vacated for slightly less horrific reasons and hey, if you don't do it now you'll be kicking yourself later. At least that's what everyone tells me. So I figured I'd document my foray into home ownership.

Nice house
"Offer $30,000. Let's see if they bite."

My wife and I have rented for five years, and we've been lucky to have more positive experiences than negative. Our current landlord tends to answer my phone calls with the phrase, "Don't touch it. I'll replace it." I like the idea of a landlord. I like the idea of someone else having to do all the replacing and renovating and paying for stuff that breaks. But lately the trade-offs have grown to be grating. We have weird neighbors who avoid us in the stairwell. We share walls with a very lovely single mother and her extremely rowdy and easily-upset five year old boy. We share a four car garage with a woman who constantly leaves her door open and got my $1,000 bike stolen. And our upstairs neighbors ratted us out to our landlord for using our smoker in the backyard on a Thursday afternoon when most people are at work. WHO GETS OFFENDED BY THE SMELL OF CEDAR CHIPS AND SMOKED FISH? Savages, that's who. So we agreed it's time to move.

Except how the hell do you move? How much money do you need? Where do you get financing? How do you even sift through all the houses on the market? How do you know you're not getting an old Scooby Doo murder house that's going to ooze blood from the walls or, worse, need a new roof or something? We had no idea. That's why we decided to get a realtor.

Realtors have a reputation similar to car mechanics: you're reasonably certain they're f---ing you over, but it's a professional courtesy for them to keep it from being obvious. When I hear the word "realtor" I can only think of the people from my hometown: the gleaming overly white smile, the bleached blonde hair, the failed assumption that their youth and beauty would carry them beyond high school.

Missy Caulk, Tech Savvy Agent in Ann Arbor, Michigan
"I thought Homecoming would last forever."


So we went to meet with a realtor. Actually TWO realtors, who I'll call Ronnie and Dave since I don't have their express written consent to talk about 'em. They came highly recommended from some friends of ours who recently bought a house of their own, so we sat down for coffee and a meet and greet. Ronnie's a mile-a-minute woman who I'm guessing is in her 50s and within 12 minutes of meeting us had told us all about getting drunk at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, somehow winding up in St. Louis, and trying to walk to Columbia, MO before winding up stranded at a liquor store/bowling alley somewhere along the lonely I-70 corridor after jumping out of a moving vehicle because the guys she was hitchhiking with were creeping her out. Dave had a nice shirt.

We sat down and they went over the process, talked a lot about what we're looking for, our price point, neighborhoods we liked, and what to expect. We shook hands and walked out of their office with realtors of our very own and an appointment in two weeks to go looking at houses.

Of course none of this matters at all without getting pre-approval from our bank, and oh what a joyous occasion that's going to be.

Have questions about home buying? Got advice for Randall? Can't fathom how anyone would want to own rather than rent in this economy? Let us know in the comments!

 

Flickr photos Nice house by JarZe, Missy Caulk, Tech Savvy Agent in Ann Arbor, Michigan by missycaulk used under a Creative Commons License.

ThunderThighs


quality posts: 570 Private Messages ThunderThighs

Staff

Don't pffffft at HOAs. They actually keep the community looking good so you can resell later. Just make sure it's affordable and ask what they actually do. Mine mows and trims the front yards, bushes, and trees of all the homes and green spaces. I know my neighbors won't have unsightly yards when I want to sell.

Yes, owners have to report deaths in a home. Don't ask why I know this.

If you hate yard work (like me), look at patio or zero lot line homes. I love my postage stamp yard.

Older homes are great if you like to do home projects and be a fix-it guy. New homes often have hidden costs (oh, you want grass in the back yard?). Newer but not new is what I aim for.

When you narrow it down, go knocking on doors and talk to your prospective neighbors. Ask them about the neighborhood, schools, etc. Sometimes it's easiest to do this on a weekend.

Visit the house after a good rain. See if you are going to be the future owner of a pond or stream in your yard.



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tweirjones


quality posts: 0 Private Messages tweirjones

Learn how to spot poor construction and finish carpentry. You're better off buying a place which is well-built but aesthetically challenged, than the other way around. Pay for a home inspection, but only once you know that you're going to get details on the infrastructure systems: electrical, plumbing, insulation, drainage. You want to know materials, capacities, and room for expansion, particularly in comparison to the minimum required by building codes.

Have a reasonable sense of relative costs of home improvements. At the cheap end are things like painting a room or replacing light fixtures; at the expensive end are things like rebuilding the whole kitchen or putting on a new roof. New windows are great but if the rest of the place has little or no meaningful insulation you're still going to struggle to heat or cool it. If the house has cracked/leaking foundations, or obvious drainage problems, walk away, it's not cost-effective to buy that kind of problem.

Above all, make sure you have a firm idea of what location you need. For any given point on the map, if you go farther away from places of value ("the city", big public parks, etc) you'll get more housing for your dollar, but at an increasing intangible cost. If you don't find somewhere you want which meets your location requirements now, wait until something comes on the market that does rather than settling on somewhere else.

Like many folks, I wish I could go back and buy a different first house, but if you have patience and a bit of knowledge you can probably sort it out just fine.

solidstiles


quality posts: 3 Private Messages solidstiles

About 3 years ago, I was in the process of buying my first home ($8000 tax credit, aw yiss) and the best advice I can give you is some that will hopefully maintain your sanity throughout the shopping/bidding process:

Don't get your hopes up and automatically assume that you'll go under contract for the first house on which you put an offer. I made that mistake, and was devastated when we were underbid and our offer was declined. It happens. And it can happen a lot. Or not at all! It's entirely possible you'll go under contract to buy the very first house you shoot for. And it will be awesome!

Another example: I've got some friends that are currently on their 5th different offer (if you ask me, they're bidding way too low, and blaming it on greedy homeowners, but hey, who knows) and for every bid, I'm seeing pictures of the potential house on various social media networks. Followed by disappointed statuses and tweets the next day. Maybe I'm just superstitious or way too grumpy (this is the most likely reason), but I think telling the world and posting tons of pictures just jinxes the whole thing.

Good luck and may your house hunting experience be filled with hilariously decorated houses!

solidstiles


quality posts: 3 Private Messages solidstiles
ThunderThighs wrote:Don't pffffft at HOAs. They actually keep the community looking good so you can resell later. Just make sure it's affordable and ask what they actually do. Mine mows and trims the front yards, bushes, and trees of all the homes and green spaces. I know my neighbors won't have unsightly yards when I want to sell.



This is great advice - from my experience it definitely depends on the HOA as well as what sort of development it is (townhomes vs detached single family homes). Ours is not responsible for for maintenance of everyone's yard, however, they are certainly responsible for reminding me that I've been lazy for the past few weeks. I am glad that they exist, because our neighborhood looks pretty good, but when they feel like nagging you, they can be a pain.

ThunderThighs wrote:If you hate yard work (like me), look at patio or zero lot line homes. I love my postage stamp yard.



I SO wish someone had given me that advice when I was house-shopping! I did not realize just how much I HATED yard work and I find myself wishing I'd gotten a condo instead. I look forward to fall for a different reason than everyone else: "Aw snap! Looks like the grass is finally dormant until next spring!" *Cracks open champagne*

dcobranchi


quality posts: 0 Private Messages dcobranchi

I've been through the process 3x. The advice I'd give is decide on a relative location before you start looking. Do you want to be downtown? Out in the 'burbs? Or in farm country? Then go on Zillow.com and type in the relevant zip code and price range. Zillow is a great (free) resource for house hunting. It has all sorts of historical pricing data as well as tax info.

We found our current home through it.

dukeofwulf


quality posts: 7 Private Messages dukeofwulf

The above posts are all very good advice. I just want to add my two cents. I should also mention that my tips are fairly time consuming, so for people with less time, it may be best to allow the realtor to shop for you. But for me, taking ownership of the home search worked out very well.

As soon as we figured out we wanted to buy, we tried to figure out the areas we were interested in and our price range. We then just got in the car and started driving potential areas during open house times (2-4 on Sunday, in my area). Any house even remotely close to our price range was entered and looked at. The idea here is to learn how to look at a house, and experience is the only way (though watching a lot of HGTV also helps). The expensive houses will help you learn the things you want, and the cheap ones will show you what you don't. Figure out things like preferred layouts (open floorplan? number of floors? "split bedroom"?) and features (pool? patio? fence?), and give them a rough priority list.

I was working with a realtor, and she got us signed up to an MLS service. Give a pretty wide criteria for the service, because it's easy enough to sort through it yourself. Look at the new listings every week, being mindful for repeat listings (because re-lists usually means price drops, meaning the owner is eager to sell). If you find a house you're interested in, check it out on Trulia or Zillow and you may find some additional info (like comps, area information, posting history).

In the end, we called our realtor and told her which house we wanted to go see, and now we're living in it.

Best of luck in your search!

dukeofwulf


quality posts: 7 Private Messages dukeofwulf
solidstiles wrote:I SO wish someone had given me that advice when I was house-shopping!



I knew I didn't like yardwork, but my wife was a country girl so she wanted her yard. It only takes a half hour with a push mower, but I still rue it sometimes.

rh48


quality posts: 2 Private Messages rh48

There are two main types of realtors. One represents the buyer, the most common one represents the seller. Make sure which type you're dealing with so you can tell where they're coming from.

paverbuj


quality posts: 0 Private Messages paverbuj
rh48 wrote:There are two main types of realtors. One represents the buyer, the most common one represents the seller. Make sure which type you're dealing with so you can tell where they're coming from.



There are 3 types of relationships. Buyer's agent, seller's agent, dual agency. In the first two cases the fiduciary duty is with the named party, in the latter they represent both (feel free to google it, it's mildly interesting). However, any realtor can perform any of these functions.

The problem with realtors is two factors that combine for terrible results: a) it's fairly easy to be licensed as an agent, b) it's fairly lucrative to be an agent (aside: consider that commissions have largely remained static while housing prices have increased significantly faster than inflation). The result is that it's pretty easy to find realtors that are part timers and fish for the easy money (their neighbors/relatives listings) and are largely incompetent humans. Unfortunately it's very hard to tell a good realtor from a bad one.

Full disclosure: I'm a licensed real estate salesperson in the state of Florida. I've never really used my license though. (long story.)

isramex


quality posts: 0 Private Messages isramex

Hey good for you guys! I just made my second mortgage payment today!

I don't know what it's like in the area you're looking... but don't be afraid to jump around (see if theres any spring in the floors/walls) Bring a hard plastic ball and put it in the middle of the floor and see if it rolls (floors uneven/house tilted).

Around me (Boston) all the good houses are either from the 1900's or are new construction. All of the house we looked at built in the 50's 60's 70's on up were pretty crappy. Must be at the perfect intersection of lesser building materials and lax building codes.

gr8tone99


quality posts: 2 Private Messages gr8tone99

Congratulations on taking the BIG step into home- ownership.
HOA are as good as all the "rules & restrictions" not to mention the "fees" are. 1. Read through them all & contact a "member" to see if it is all those above rules mentioned are worth the fees to you & your lady. 2. Remember that the fees are for as long as you own there so be sure that is what you want.

The following is information I would have loved to have prior to my first home purchase;
1. If you are going to have children check out the local "government" school districts for the area you are looking into. Grade the school. Determine if you might have to put a child in private school,(tuition+still pay school district tax).
2. Check the property taxes for the property you are looking into, plus check to see what is covered in those taxes! ( my biggest surprise was the $7000.a year taxes .- (paid monthly into escrow fund after you buy) in advance bill that mandatorily goes up every year due to our school districts mandatory increase, even after being voted down 3 times by the public.)
3. When you believe after looking through your dream house, do as previously stated, don't be afraid of upsetting the sellers by requiring inspections by YOUR OWN INDEPENDANT PEOPLE. Get nosy, look into those closets, turn on faucets, a/c, heat, run the dishwasher, etc. make sure that what you "see" is working, staying & NOT just show items.(yes, borders on walls, supposed built in shelves, shutters, playground equipment as well as above the ground pools & spas). Oop I forgot the garage door openers, & any security cameras or safety items that seem to be built into the home.
Just because it is in there doesn't mean it's being sold with the basic frame structure & land! If you want something put it into the contract!
4. Make sure you have a pre approved loan by a lender. This makes it better to wheel & deal with sellers.
5. Your broker & contract lawyer. Make sure your broker & lawyer are YOURS! The agencies have as mentioned in previous comments, yours, theirs, & both! You want to make sure the people are working for your best interest.
6. Get the home inspected by your own independent reputable inspectors(Angie's List is a great place to find Honest assessments of your interests).
7. Last but not least. When going into closing, make sure to have an extra Lil $$. Sometimes something is forgotten & you want that day to go well! For once its all done & the keys are in your hands, it's all yours.(escrow accounts usually are held until your attorney releases them back to the sellers after your final inspection). Make sure you do that inspection, and get things resolved with the seller if something is amiss.
Then, enjoy your new home......... Oh, don't forget you are now the landlord so, good advice is to keep a maintenance schedule for upkeep on all the Lil things like plumbing, insulation, weathering, landscaping etc.
Happy House hunting.
PS you aren't looking to buy on LI, NY are you? Just checking.... Lol

Children are your heart but, Grandchildren make it beat!

shackdiva


quality posts: 0 Private Messages shackdiva

It's too bad you feel that way about real estate agents.

Through your writing I can see that you seem to know it all anyways so good luck with whatever you are trying to do there.

You used my friend Missy Caulk's image and that is rather unfair to her in this context. She is one of the most amazing real estate professionals I have ever met.

It is unfortunate that you can't open your mind and get out of your know it all world to find someone that can guide you through this process in an ethical manner.

elitsirk


quality posts: 0 Private Messages elitsirk

Hah. Have fun. Picking out the house is the fun part.

Speaking of which, I have one I'd be happy to sell you...would be happy to sell anyone at this point.

So, from the disgruntled-seller's POV, here's some advice:

1. Don't watch too much HGTV. Realy. Dead flowers in a pot on the front porch do NOT signal that there's something HORRIBLY WRONG with the house. And the pot of dead foliage is probably not for sale. (Real advice here: look at the house, not the decoarations...decorations leave with the seller unless you specifically write them into a contract).

(yes, we had a potential buyer complain, in the middle of a drought in August with temps in the 100's that a pot of flowers was dying....)

2. Save yourselves and the sellers some serious headaches by getting pre-approved for a loan for which you could actually get real approval. We had a contract fall through very recently where the buyer was pre-approved on a FHA loan, but already held an FHA loan (and you can't have two)...they didn't read the fine print. And they forked over $ for a home inspection on a house they can't afford to buy.

3. It sounds like you're buying a first house, so I guess it doesn't help to suggest that you actually sell your old one before purchasing the new one. But that was my own pitfall

4. Just because a house has been sitting on the market for a long time doesn't mean that there is something wrong with it. In our case, the "something wrong" involved a couple of failed contracts (due to buyer issues), plus a hail storm that poked holes the roof and siding and made the house look trashed for the peak selling season (construction in-progress isn't pretty...see the HGTV comment above). In fact, if you're looking for a good deal, try trolling the listings for ones that have been sitting for a while...they usually come with motivated sellers

Good luck. Check the mileage to the nearest home improvement store. Brush-up on your painting skills because you will likely be using them. And don't forget to budget for a fridge, lawn mower, washer/dryer, and movers (unless you don't actually need those things).

llandar


quality posts: 32 Private Messages llandar
shackdiva wrote:It's too bad you feel that way about real estate agents.

Through your writing I can see that you seem to know it all anyways so good luck with whatever you are trying to do there.

You used my friend Missy Caulk's image and that is rather unfair to her in this context. She is one of the most amazing real estate professionals I have ever met.

It is unfortunate that you can't open your mind and get out of your know it all world to find someone that can guide you through this process in an ethical manner.



Reading comprehension fail. I did get a realtor. I have two, in fact.

arismella


quality posts: 16 Private Messages arismella

Read:


And uh... pay your mortgage twice a month and potentially save thousands of dollars. info here (Related: Personal Finance was the best "practical knowledge" class I took in college. Should be required for all incoming freshmen and outgoing seniors.)

llandar


quality posts: 32 Private Messages llandar

Wow, I didn't expect so many genuine and helpful comments. Thanks guys!

fadecomic


quality posts: 0 Private Messages fadecomic

nevermind

neuropsychosocial


quality posts: 171 Private Messages neuropsychosocial

Even if you're not intending to have children, it's still worth investigating the school district in terms of resale value: the next buyers might care deeply about the quality of the schools. How much this matters depends, in part, on the particular house: a two bedroom/one bathroom house is more likely to appeal to newlyweds, empty nesters, or folks without children, while a four bedroom/four bathroom is far more likely to appeal to a family with children.

Something I did for the second house I owned, but not the first one, was to think about how my family actually used space, and what I realistically wanted in terms of fundamental layout. For example, my current place has relatively small bedrooms and a small kitchen, but a large living room that's mostly open to a dining room. Some families hang out in their kitchen and it's the center of their home, but we cook in the kitchen, eat in the dining room, and hang out in the living room, so I wanted the living spaces to be larger than the kitchen - and I didn't want to look at dirty pots when I was in the living room! I also wanted a smaller kitchen where everything was within 2-3 steps.

Picture how you and your wife use space: do you cook together? Do you tend to hang out in the evenings together? Does one of you have poker night once a week and the other wants to have a space where he/she can get away from that? Either of you have hobbies that take up a lot of display space or storage space, or are more convenient if left out? (For the last one, I'm thinking of my sewing machine: it's nice to have a place where I can leave it out instead of putting it away each time I hem something quickly, but I wouldn't want to leave it out where I'd be looking at it all the time.)

If you've been living in an apartment - and especially if you'd like to have kids eventually - talk about how your families used space when you were growing up. For example, my family ate in the living room in front of the TV (I disliked this), while my grandparents ate in a dining room separate from the kitchen (I loved this).

Think about whether you enjoy home repair or home maintenance, and contemplate what era of house you're seeking. Older houses may actually require less maintenance than newer ones, especially ones that aren't-quite-new anymore (1980s or 1990s), but that depends on the quality of construction and what work has already been done to the older house. The age of the roof and of the appliances (especially furnace/water heater)can influence the costs of maintenance over the next five-ten years. Similarly, the age/quality/fuel of heating/cooling/windows has a serious impact on your utility bills. If you're not originally from the area, be sure to investigate not only property taxes, but also what's included and what gets billed separately. I was used to trash/recycling pickup and things like sidewalk maintenance being included in my property tax and was surprised when I moved to a community where I had to contract for trash pick-up - and shocked when I received my first annual assessment for sidewalks... and then one for road maintenance... and then one for.... well, it made the cheaper-than-home! property taxes not as cheap as we'd thought.

Randomly: in kitchens, pull-out shelves in bottom cabinets (or better yet, drawers!) are indescribably awesome.

RIP A.A. Blanks (Obituary)

shover


quality posts: 5 Private Messages shover

Make sure you calculate the forgotten expenses when buying a home like Taxes, Insurance, HOA, PMI, and don’t forget the Home Improvement Stores

This is an AWESOME calculator to help with the financial decisions Karls Mortgage Calculator

Blurb from another site……
Users could add the estimated annual mortgage insurance on the home. They may also input property taxes to ensure that no detail is taken for granted. Once the data have been gathered, Karl’s Mortgage Calculator will then compute the possible monthly payment, overall interest, the real interest paid and the percentage of the total interest.

To determine the differences in the interest and the savings, one could also add prepayment data to the mortgage calculator. These prepayment data include one-time prepayment amount, monthly prepayment and the annual prepayment. The user should include the start date on each of the prepayment data to ensure that results would be accurate. The changes will then be seen on top of the page as indicated by a detailed graph. There would also be an annual table that predicts the interest and the principal for every year. This also comes with the mortgage balance and the monthly payments.

It lets you see how much you really pay for the mortgage and estimate what you can do to lower that amount.

dukeofwulf


quality posts: 7 Private Messages dukeofwulf
elitsirk wrote:
1. Don't watch too much HGTV. Realy. Dead flowers in a pot on the front porch do NOT signal that there's something HORRIBLY WRONG with the house. And the pot of dead foliage is probably not for sale. (Real advice here: look at the house, not the decoarations...decorations leave with the seller unless you specifically write them into a contract).



As someone who specifically endorsed watching HGTV, I feel compelled to defend. I don't know which shows you were watching, but I think most of the house-hunting shows emphasize substance over style (landscaping), unless the buyer has a specific reason for it being perfect on move-in (vacation home, about to have a baby, etc.).

They also tend to show the buyers listing off the things they're looking for in a house, and then having to face reality about their budget and having to prioritize their needs. I think this is also a good message to new home buyers.

My favorite show right now is Property Brothers, in which every home purchased is a renovation project. Every single episode, the buyers express concerns that this dumpy house will be too expensive to renovate and is hideous, but the brothers emphasize good bones and good location, and the renos always look great.

So in summary, I think HGTV does a good job of not emphasizing the surface flaws, and of presenting an informative view of the home search.

Other good shows: House Hunters, Property Virgins, Love It or List It, and Buying and Selling.