Becoming a homeowner is a daunting but rewarding experience. My husband and I started looking to buy a house in April of this year. Actually, we went in to see a mortgage broker who was recommended to us (Art Marine, Academy Mortgage) just to see what it would take. To our surprise he said we were ready to look right then and there and referred us to our fantastic Realtor (Andrew Beach, Prudential). They have both bent over backwards to help us find the perfect house – so if you are in the Portland, Oregon area I HIGHLY recommend them.
We saw Andrew that day and he promised to find us “the perfect house”. We began viewing homes that weekend. Now it’s August and we are in the last stretch of escrow on our new home! I wanted to share with my readers what I have learned – the good, bad, and ugly…
Find Out If You Can Buy
It never hurts to call a mortgage broker in your area and ask for a meeting. They will meet with you (no charge) and go over your financial information to see if you can afford a home and how much you can buy. Be prepared to bring in check stubs from the previous 30 days and tax information from the previous year, along with any debt information and your monthly expenses. You might be pleasantly surprised (like we were) to know you can afford it!
Know What You Want
Do you need a 4 bedroom home? A yard? 2 car garage? Make a list of “must haves” and a list of “wants”. Make sure your realtor knows what you are looking for. But remember that these things might change as you look. When we first started looking a “must have” was a 2-story, but this changed when we realized that a single level is so much easier with young children. Also – look at things that you can change and things you cannot. While you can change the way the kitchen looks, you cannot change the neighborhood, yard size, or the basic structure of the home. And if you have kids be prepared to look at schools and academics.
Buying a house is an all-consuming and detailed process. If you don’t understand something, ask your realtor or broker. It is true in this that the only stupid question is one that’s not asked! It will save you some anxiety and time.
Keep an eye on homes with sites such as Trulia, Zillow, and Redfin. You can easily search areas, amenities, square footage, and more. Your realtor should be sending you listings that fit the criteria that you want, but you never know what else you might find. You can also drive around neighborhoods you like and inquire with residents. My sister in-law did this when purchasing her first home – she found the neighborhood she wanted and left a postcard at each house she liked to let them know that if they were thinking about selling, she might be interested. This “out of the box” thinking got her a home at a great price that never really went “on the market”. If you decide to do this just remember to respect the owners of the homes you like and be friendly!
Don’t Give Up
We thought that finding and offering on a house would be quick and easy. Boy were we wrong! Our first offer had 9 other offers to choose from! We offered on 10 houses before we finally found ours. It can be a long process depending on where you live. But don’t give up! That perfect home is waiting for you!
It’s Ok to Say “No”
We actually got accepted on a house before this one, but after a while we realized that there were some things that we weren’t happy with that we couldn’t change – the surrounding neighborhood, namely the schools. So about a week into the process we changed our minds and decided to look more. Your mortgage broker will let you know if there are any penalties (usually not within the first 10 days).
Be Prepared for Expenses
During the escrow process you will have an inspection and appraisal to pay for, plus possible expenses such as a pest inspection, plumbing inspection, and others. Be prepared to spend about $1000 (depending on where you live) for added expenses during the escrow process not including your down payment of closing fees.
Of course your experiences may be very different from mine depending on where you live. You may find that house right away – and I hope you do! Right now is a GREAT time to buy if you can. FHA mortgage rates are lower than they have been in years! So it doesn’t hurt to find out if you can! Many times your mortgage will be lower than what you are probably paying for rent right now!
This is NOT a sponsored post and I am not a licensed real estate agent or financial expert. All opinions expressed are my own.