Homebuying; An Enthralling Memoir

19 Oct

Part One: Intro
Less than six months ago my husband and I felt stuck.  We were in an incredibly different place in our lives.  Physically, mentally, even spiritually.  You *wouldn’t believe* what a difference just a few short months can make!  It’s been about a year and a half since we moved back to NY from Tulsa, OK, leaving many wonderful friends and Jer’s first ‘real’ job behind to come closer to our roots and families.  But back in NY we found a crumbling economy and quite the ‘valley’ in our lives.  I’ll spare you the gory details here (after all – you didn’t sign up for a pity party) but rest assured that we muddled through a very trying time as Jer struggled to find any real work, let alone something that utilized his undergraduate degree.  But, here we are now, happy homeowners, remodeling our very own kitchen and snuggling up in our very own Cape Cod, just 180 days later!  Insanity.  Especially when you consider that we’ve been here at 444 Moseley Road for 90 of those days:)  So how did it all happen you ask?  Well let’s begin by peering at a little timeline… because that’s always a fun way to get parties started;)

Don’t you just love how neat and clean and straightforward this lovely SmartArt looks? Me too.  Only too bad the actual process was chaotic, messy, stressful and overwhelming.  Want to know a bit more?  Read on little ones, read on…

Part Two: Finding Your Very Own Home Sweet Home

Ch. 1: Loaners

Wondering how the heck we finagled that interest free loan?  Well there’s good and bad news there… Bad news: I can’t really help ya getting’ a loan of your own.    Good news: all other chapters will be insanely more helpful.

On that fateful Thursday, my wonderful in-laws mentioned that they had some stock options ‘available for the taking’ on their way out of town for the weekend.  Literally, they said it just like that, in passing.  Little did they know that we were going to hop on it!  Since it was the tail end of the government’s 8k tax refund for first time homebuyers (that’s us!) we were confident that we could pay them back within a year… so long as we survived all those horrifying deadlines.  A concept which seemed *outrageously* unrealistic at the time.

Truth be told, when we found out about the money we could use for closing just waiting around for us (we had about $500 to our name at the time) we still promised each other that we wouldn’t force it.  If there wasn’t an affordable house we really loved in our 30 mile radius, we’d just pass the offer up.  Simple as that.  ‘Cept in the back of our minds that was a terribly depressing option.  The years of scrimping to save for the down payment and closing versus a free gift from the government was a clear choice.  Then consider the thought of actually putting hard earned dollas towards something tangible (a house) instead of sending your money off into thin air (rent checks).  You hear me – it adds up to incredible motivation.  So like most things we do – we forged ahead at full speed.

Ch. 2: Google it up!

You probably won’t believe me when I say this, but being a notorious googling machine can really pay off, ‘specially when on the house hunt!  In order to survive this process, you’re going to need to own that thing they call the internets, taking search engines to a whole new level.  Since we were looking in Upstate NY (specifically Victor, Canandaigua, Bloomfield, Penfield, Pittsford, East Rochester, Macedon, Fairport and Webster), I primarily used these local websites:

In addition to these national websites:

Use all of the above to find homes in your area.  But be realistic.  Use what you know you can afford as the max price, because falling in love with a house out of your price range will only end in heartbreak.  Or general brokeness.  Or both.  Spare yourself the pain young one!

Ch. 3: The List

Once you’ve nailed down several homes you really love, it’s time to birth your very own spreadsheet.  Use whatever program you’re comfortable with.  Or be doubly insane and teach yourself Excel during the chaos.  Keep a list of the basics; their address, asking price, number of beds and baths, acreage, taxes and square footage at the very least.  Our smarty-pants cousin shared a couple handy dandy formulas with us so our spreadsheet was also able to calculate a rough:

  • monthly mortgage payment (including taxes)
  • down payment
  • closing costs

…for all the houses we entered info for.

(Because I like you so much, I’ll be uploading our actual spreadsheets at the end of this chapter, sort of like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, minus the leprechauns.)

Once you’ve compiled a healthy serving of houses you want to check out, it doesn’t hurt to Google their address or MLS (multiple listing service – basically a house barcode) number.  That way, you get a shot at more photos (but beware – pictures LIE!), more figures (some sites don’t list taxes, acreage, etc.) and more dirt (past selling prices, drug busts next door, etc. etc.).  And now that you’ve got all (OK fine most – more might come later) of your lovely dream homes compiled into one nifty place, you needa get in touch with the man of the hour.   Your very own real estate agent!

Ch. 4: Secret Agent Man

It’s super important that you get a good man (or whoa-man) working on your ‘team.’  This is another area that we really lucked out on, since my awesome Uncle Donn is a realtor.  I’m not really sure how you should go about finding one, other than personal recommendation by someone who has recently survived gone through the process.  But I do know that they play an insanely huge role in your home-finding adventure.  For instance, my uncle was the only reason we ever even heard of 444 Moseley Road, what would eventually become our home sweet home.  It was a FSBO (pronounced fizzbow – fancy realtor lingo for ‘for sale by owner’) so it wasn’t listed on any of the realty websites (it was hiding out on the official MLS listing site which peons like you and I can’t access) and most realtors aren’t too eager to show these homes to their clients since they make something like half a percent less income off them.  [Rude.]  It also bears noting that realtors are free for the taking.  They’re paid by the seller at closing so going it solo is insane, not advantageous and not even fiscally beneficial.

There’s a lot going on between you and your realtor.  Not only do you need to trust your agent to guide you to the right homes (like that FSBO for us) but you also need to trust that they’re not going to try to sell you a home out of your price range so they can make a buck.  Their income is based off the selling price after all.  They’ll set up all your house tours for you, and help you to keep your eyes on the prize. Plus, they need to be in constant contact with you through the harrowing ‘final days’ of offers, counteroffers and anxious, anxious waiting.   Which was equivalent to every day for us.

Ch. 5: Formulating Your Master Plan

To strive for sanity, I color coded each entry, first before we visited them, based off how they looked on paper, and then adjusted the color based on our tour. My colors were like ‘dis:

I also noted my personal feelings about each house immediately after we looked at them.  Seeing so many houses in 3 days made my head spin (think going from 0 to 400 miles per hour in .8 seconds – that’s how I felt) so I knew the only way I stood a chance of remembering which was which (on top of many, many digital pics) was jotting down things like “yuck! Stinky cat smell! And old/falling apart and too low of ceilings” You know, important things like that.

You better believe I took copious notes during each tour, usually on a print out of the house stats from online.  If I’d had more than 2 days I probably would have printed some of the digital pics and attached them too, but alas, no time for frivolous photo printing.     There are some websites that offer important things that you should consider when looking for a home, probably worth your while, it’s frighteningly easy to get distracted by pretty paint and nice furniture (which will be long gone when you’re signing your closing paper and the roof starts caving in).  Are ya starting to see how this beauty is all coming together into one glorious compilation of life-changing data?

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