First Time House Hunters – Learn From Our Mistakes!

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At the end of this post, is a free printable PDF for you!  Our home buying story starts pretty typical.  We got engaged and set a date to be married.  I was living with girlfriends at the time renting, and he had moved here from PA where he still owned a home he was renting out, and living with his parents for the time being.

We knew eventually we would need a home!  My lease with the ladies was up in the next 2 months, and we all decided to not renew (I was getting married, one took a job in another state).  So, in the interim, he and I got a storage unit for my furniture and some boxes and I stayed with my parents in the interim.  We kept it pretty traditional.  I know many couples move in together before they are married, or even engaged, but our situation worked for us.  And guess what, we didn’t have to live together prior to being married to discover whether it would work or not!  We are approaching our 4 year anniversary so we figured it out somehow!  But that’s a different story for a different time.

Back to house hunting.  I wasn’t in real estate.  I don’t think I ever even looked at Zillow.  I had 0 clue about buying a house.  I literally found all my rentals on Craigslist or through friends.  I even signed a lease in the middle of Lakeforest Mall on a bench after meeting the landlord once. So clearly, I hadn’t a clue. My husband did though, and the first thing you do is hire a REALTOR® right? Right.  I had a friend who I knew had her license at one point, I reached out to her but she was no longer licensed and referred me to someone else I didn’t know.  This sort of set my husband off.  This was his exact email to me… yikes!

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It’s safe to say, that the industry still has this reputation today.  We also weren’t pre-qualified. I even asked him what that meant… I had NO clue y’all.  None.

We decided to put off looking for a while and contacted his parent’s agent.  Who was AWESOME! And still works in the same market I do.  He and I stay in touch occasionally now that I’m an agent as well and he has been an amazing resource for me.  We ended up getting pre-appproved through my best friend’s husband Luis Farago with Empire Financial.  I never realized how many documents would be involved in buying a house.  And since I was pretty unorganized at the time and in transition, I know I delayed the process because I couldn’t find the necessary items.

Eventually, we had a loan amount and started looking.  But we had unrealistic expectations.  We had to have a single family, I wanted a fireplace and garage; he wanted a yard for the dog.  We both wanted in a specific area, and continuously were priced out with our “needs”.  None of these were really needs though.  We definitely didn’t NEED a single family.  We could have made a condo or townhome do just fine (and with a much lower mortgage). We didn’t NEED a fireplace or garage.  We did need a space for the dog though.  We put in an offer on one house, but it was very low and we asked for a lot of things to convey, and it wasn’t accepted.  They didn’t even counter.  Our agent advised us it wasn’t a good offer, but we were pretty adamant. We found a place, that was a single family and had a yard (way out of where we wanted to be but the price was right) and put in an offer.  Our agent must have showed us at least 15 homes. The offer was accepted after a little negotiating and I thought we were set.

WE DIDN’T EVEN ATTEND OUR OWN HOME INSPECTION.  I think I was working and didn’t feel the need to take the time off.  I can’t remember why my husband didn’t.  But we got the report, and it noted mold in the basement.  Of course, I freaked.  I wanted out of the contract immediately.  Google basically told me I was going to die in  a house with mold.  But my husband is in construction and knows mold well.  He assured me somehow it would be fine and we had it re-mediated by the seller and that was that.  I don’t think I even knew the appraisal was happening.  We hit some bumps in the road because we needed the money from the sale of his house in PA to put the money down on this house.  It had some problems with the inspection that needed to be sorted out as well, but finally it closed and we had the cash we needed.  Mind you, I brought nothing to the table.  God Bless my wonderful husband.  Closing was anticlimactic – sign a bunch a papers and here are your keys!  Our agent gave us a really nice bottle of champagne and we were off to our new home.

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We’ve done updates since we’ve bought and want to continue to do more.  We found out the mold problem wasn’t re-mediated as we thought.  The mold was removed, but the underlying problem, the moisture that was getting in, wasn’t fixed and we continued to have a mold problem.  Many times, I’ve seen buyers blame the agent or seller when something fails or a flaw is discovered after settlement.  Sometimes it is their fault, and legal action should take place.  However, we never blamed anyone.  We new what we bought and didn’t take the time or investment to look closer at the problem.  We have plans to fix the issue soon and already got a quote.  In the meantime, we have a missing part of the wall in the basement, ha!  Oh well. You live and learn.  So learn from our mistakes!

  • Get pre-qualified/approved and ask a lot of questions.  What documents will you need?  What are your fees for closing?  Is this the best loan program for us and the area we are in?   How do we know how much money we will need for closing?
  • Know that all agents aren’t slimy sales people.  If you have a referral from a friend or family member, meet with them and see if they can help you meet your goals.  Do they know the area well? Are they familiar with your loan program?  Are they responsive and available?  Do you talk to them directly or a bunch of other people?
  • Remember the agents who’s name you see everywhere usually have a large team and lots of investment in marketing.  That’s not a bad thing, but we really needed someone to hold our hand and guide us and we found that person!  We would have not worked well with an agent with a large team and not a lot of time for us.
  • Listen to your agent.  Know what is going on (don’t be clueless like me!).  If they advise you your offer isn’t strong, it probably isn’t and won’t get accepted.  It’s disappointing for everyone.
  • Understand your needs vs. wants.  Buying at the top of your price range isn’t always the best.  We got into a mortgage payment that has been stressful for us when I needed more time off when I had my first child.  You may want a house that has all the bells and whistles, but do you need it?  Can you make it work in another home and add in what you would like throughout the years?
  • ATTEND YOUR HOME INSPECTION!  Take the time off work.  It’s important.  You need to know the ins and outs of the home your buying.  And if you hire the right inspector, they can help explain some of the quirks, systems, ect that you may not know otherwise.
  • Mold isn’t always a death sentence.  But it does need to be treated and the source of it needs to be found and fixed.
  • Be kind to yourself and others during this process.  It’s stressful.  That’s normal.  Sometimes things go great!  Sometimes they don’t.  Google isn’t always your friend!

FREE PDF: Buyer Basics for House Hunting

mncirclekey                                     realtor-logo


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