My road to buying a damn house
I BOUGHT A DAMN HOUSE!
Wow... I never thought I would be joining the young, unmarried, homeowners club, yet here I am! Now when do I get my welcome gift basket?
And I suppose this is where I tell you what you need to do so you can join the club too, huh? Well I've been thinking about my personal home buying experience, and I am going to share some tips and general things to keep in mind during this really not that hectic time in your life! Like most things in life, this can be as easy or as difficult as you make it.
**Disclaimer: This is just the story of my actual process of buying a house. I don't talk about any of the financial stuff like saving for a down payment or figuring out how much house you can actually afford, but those are two very important things to think about.**
Get to know the contenders. (6 months prior)
The first thing I did, was of course pour over Realtor.com looking at houses and prices and features and lot sizes. I over analyze, so I found myself making a lot of spreadsheets with house stats, comparing 5-10 of them side by side. I found the house I ended up buying very early on in this process, so I was able to track its price and mentally compare it to all the other homes I would find later. To me, lot size was more important than house size. I ended up going a couple hundred square feet under my ideal size, but the house itself is amazing and the yard is so perfect! Know where you feel comfortable compromising.
PRO TIP: You can be a little unrealistic at this early stage. Figure out what you like by looking at everything you can find.
Do TONS of research. (4-5 months prior)
I read every article I could find that pertained even a little bit to my home-buying situation. Scoured the internet depths for things to know, things to be aware of, and steps to follow. I found this website that became immensely helpful in the early stages, before I had a Lender or a Realtor. It has tons of information, and all the steps laid out, and background information, and a glossary of all the words you should know! It was a great jumping off point. And of course, I talked to my friends and family for tips and hints. My parents were apprehensive at first, but quickly got on board when they saw how serious I was about it.
PRO TIP: Read articles about reasons NOT to buy a house too. It may save you from making an ultimately bad decision. Knowing both sides of the argument helped me honestly and objectively assess my situation.
Find a Lender. (3 months prior)
I think I used one of the search tools on Realtor/Doorsteps to find reputable lenders in my city. I was looking for a local company, with a number of offices in Baton Rouge, and if I could, good reviews and word of mouth. I went with Assurance Financial, and it was fantastic! Going with a good, small, local bank is much easier, faster, and overall a better experience, than trying to do business with one of the super large, national banks. The paperwork part is actually easy if you've been successful at being an adult and saving copies of your tax returns. I am not an adult, despite what anyone may think, but all my tax info goes to a CPA every year to be filed, and they of course had copies in their records. Using a CPA is something my dad got me in the habit of doing and has become a valuable resource over and over again. Other than tax info, they needed the past 3 months of bank and credit card statements, which you can get from your banks, usually online. Some lenders may require more financial information if your credit score isn't great, but don't let that deter you too much.
Find a Realtor. (2-3 months prior)
My loan adviser used to be a Realtor so she recommended me 3 agents to look into. I ended up going with Matt Noel from Baton Rouge. He was super fantastic, explained everything for me, and was very easy to get in touch with. Even if you have a house picked out, I would still highly recommend a Realtor/Buyers Agent, especially if its your first home purchase. My process ended up having rounds and rounds of negotiations, so it was imperative to have him there to field all the paperwork and explain all my options.
Narrow it down! (2 months prior)
Make a short list of 3-5 homes to tour with your Realtor. We visited them in order from least favorite to most favorite, just because that happened to be how they were laid out geographically. It was nice, as I could compare my most favorite house to everything I had seen prior. You may spend more than one day touring homes, and if you do, I made a Home Tour Checklist to help you remember them all! I spent so much time looking at them online that I only had a few that I really wanted to see in person, but I still used my checklist to help me remember the little things.
Make an offer! (1-2 months prior)
If you watch HGTV, the offer seems like a huuuuge deal. You meet your Realtor at a coffee shop and make all kinds of important decisions and sign some papers, then wait anxiously by the phone for the next hour. But its not like that. AT ALL! I ended up running over to my Realtor's office to chat about what to offer, and then we sent it off. Totally low pressure, just feeling out the market and your home's unique situation. Its pretty rare for the offer to be accepted the first time around, no matter what the market looks like, so prepare for some back and forth.
PRO TIP: Don't try to "win" the negotiations, you are looking for a compromise that makes everyone happy.
Panic considerably! (1 month prior)
Congrats!! You and the seller have come to an agreement, and they let you buy their home! Now this is when the lender needs you to make all sorts of decisions, like home owners insurance, and sign more stuff, and then someone needs more recent copies of your bank statements, and you have to get the home inspected, and they have to verify you have the money you say you have, and everything needed to get there yesterday, and everything you do you feels like you are holding up the process, and you are in constant fear of having the closing date pushed back and then you will be homeless!!!.... but that may have just been me... I was actually on vacation the week before closing so I could get away from it all and relax (slightly).
PRO TIP: Keep asking questions! It is never too late! Having my team repeat things to me helped keep me calm even when it felt like the pressure was on. Even if they've gone over it before, its their job to help you understand. Its not their money on the line, its yours!
Sign all the paperwork. (THE BIG DAY!)
This is what it's all about, closing day! I got there early and started my buyers process, which it a bit longer than the sellers process. You don't even need to make any decisions because you've already discussed everything before hand. So you spend about 30-45 minutes signing things and making small talk. You give them a big check, and they give you some keys. They didn't even hand them to me, they just slid them across the table, mid paperwork... It was a bit disappointing really. Like, put the keys into a ring box and present them to me damnit! Oh well. I own a house now. Oh, this is also probably the first time you meet the seller in person, so that can be a little weird. My seller was kind of bummed about the whole thing, and honestly I understood it. I got the vibe that he didn't really want to move (it was for work) and that he really liked that house. Leaving the signing, he mentioned a few things to me so I could make the most of the remodeling he had already completed, which was a really good feeling.
PRO TIP: Have someone else drive. You will be too nervous on the way there, and way too excited after!
Actually, the first thing I did after closing, was go to the store and get cleaning supplies. I read a few articles that suggest giving the place a deep clean so you can get the previous owner out and make a fresh start. Plus it will never be easier to clean your house than while its still empty! Then you do the moving part!!
PRO TIP: That final evening (when everything you own is at your new house, and you return the moving truck, and you just stand in the living room drinking champagne out of plastic cups because nothing is unpacked) is just awesome, and totally worth the last 6 months of work you did! Drink up! You earned it!!!
This is obviously not meant to be an end-all be-all of home buying information. Do your research and get as much advice as you can on the process. This is just my experience. I was lucky to have my Realtor, my Lender, and the Title Company, all within a minute drive of my office, making everything very very easy.