First Time Home Buyer: Well, That Escalated Quickly

by Randall Cleveland

When last we spoke, my wife and I had just started the hulking, slow-moving machinery of potential home ownership into motion, confident in the knowledge that the process would be gradual and almost painfully slow. We girded ourselves for multiple home tours, exponential paperwork, inspections, offers and counter-offers, and perhaps even some disappointment along the way.

We close on the eighth.

For Sale
I really need a tripod.

It turned out that we fell in love with the fourth house we saw on our first tour: a smallish craftsman-style home built in the '40s and completely renovated from the ground up in 2004 sitting on a HUGE (for the city) lot with fruit trees, a greenhouse, hot tub, and children's playhouse that my wife is already planning to convert to a chicken coop. We literally had to pinch each other to put our poker faces on as we walked through the house, since the sellers' representative was there. Back in our realtors' car I let it all out: "Ronnie. Dave. We need this house."

In preparation for our first home tour, Ronnie and Dave had been sending us photos and listings and had coached us on the process. The phrase "when it's the right house, you'll just know" came up a lot, and to be honest I dismissed it as a bunch of hippie nonsense. Buying a house should be a rational and researched decision, not something you "just feel." But there I was, telling Ronnie enthusiastically that I was, indeed, feeling it. I could already see myself writing that novel I'm too lazy to finish in the home office, I could envision the dinner parties we'd host, and I had already come up with a crudely painted "CLOTHING PROHIBITED" sign for the hot tub.

The hitch was we had not anticipated finding anything that day, much less making an offer, so we were severely unorganized. But that's why you get a realtor, right? To walk you through the biggest spending decision of your life as your eyes glaze over and you stare into space while they hand you more things to initial. We had started the process of pre-approval from our bank, but we didn't have it confirmed yet. I anticipated that being a problem, and my wife was supremely nervous about the possibility of getting denied or something, but I told her if we were going to get denied it was going to happen anyway and we might as well find out while pursuing the house we both loved.

We made a "strong" offer. They made a counter-offer. We countered their counter. They accepted. That all happened in like a day and a half. I'm not even exaggerating. We went to bed that night giddy with the thought of owning a home but also nervous at the thought of something tanking the whole operation. The next day my wife woke up saying she didn't want the house.

"You could've told me that before the carpal tunnel set in."
You can't try to talk your spouse into buying a home with you. They have to come to it on their own terms, unless you want to gamble that in 10 or 15 years they won't be shrieking at you and blaming you for forcing them into a house they never wanted. See, some people go into a house thinking, "Well I don't like this one little detail, but I can get over it. Maybe it'll even grow on me!" But it won't. It's going to gnaw at you, day and night, every time you walk past it, until finally one day you snap and your husband asks if you want to get a pizza and you scream, "THE CROWN MOLDING IN THIS KITCHEN IS AS MONSTROUS AS YOU ARE, YOU SON OF A B----!" and run sobbing out the door to stay in a hotel.

I've heard.

So I let her percolate on things for a bit, and it turned out most of her concerns were with the process itself, as in it was not going the way she had planned and she thought it was too fast. My response was if there's an issue with the house itself then yes we absolutely have to hold off, but if it's the process and paperwork that's got you down then let's just let the realtors do their jobs and take care of it for us. By the end of the day, she was back on board.

We were pretty much good to go as far as agreeing to terms, we just needed our friendly local gigantic international bank to deem us legit. Our loan officer person kept telling us "48 hours." Then 48 hours would go by and we'd get the same response. It's a horrible limbo to be in, imagining the folks at the bank rummaging through the financial equivalent of your underwear drawer looking for all the dirt they can find. Friday night we got the word we'd been waiting for: APPROVED!

All told it took eight days from seeing the house to getting everything lined up. There could still be a catastrophic failure, in which case I'm sure going to feel stupid writing this, but so far it looks like full steam ahead into home ownership!

I'm told our results are not typical.

Think Randall moved too fast? Got a horrific home-buying story of your own to share? Want advice on buying YOUR first home now that we've got an expert? Fire away in the comments!

Flickr photos For Sale by Ian Muttoo and Contracts by NobMouse used under a Creative Commons License.