Our Search For A Home
When we made the decision to move an hour away from our family to be closer to work, we also decided to rent for a year before we bought a home. It felt like a good idea at the time… And I’m not saying it was the wrong decision, I’m just saying it hasn’t been easy. We love the house we’re living in and we definitely love the location, I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, that our landlord has made things incredibly difficult. Read about our move in struggles, and our plumbing issues, and you’ll understand why renting has not been a super enjoyable thing for us this past year. So needless to say, when we could finally see the light at the end of the
tunnel lease, we began to search for a home. We’ve purchased two homes in the past, so we’re not brand new to the process. However, the previous two were new construction so the “process” was quite different… most importantly because we weren’t negotiating with a seller, we were negotiating with a builder. And yes my friends, they are two completely different animals. In the spirit of passing along what we’ve learned in our search for a home, I’ve compiled a list of things you might find useful in your next search for a home. Hopefully it will also provide some entertainment in the way of little Sannar-ific anecdotes. :)
First, I feel compelled to mention, that I am not a licensed real estate professional, nor do I claim to be an “expert” on the topic. However, I also feel that my experience in the mortgage and real estate industry, combined with my experience in buying and selling a couple homes, fueled by my borderline obsession with all things real estate, does at least put me in the position to offer you a couple things. Not the least of which are my experiences, if not straight up, good old fashioned advice. So here we go…
#1 – Don’t Get Too Attached
The most important thing I think you need to know in your search for a home, is that sometimes deals die and there’s nothing you can do to save them. It’s super frustrating! We lost a house this way last year, and almost lost the house we’re currently purchasing numerous times before we finally felt like it would actually close. This is why “they” say that you should never get emotionally invested in a house before you know it’ll close. Well, “they” (who I’m assuming is a group of experienced scholars that meet weekly to dispense advice for the masses) have a very good point and it’s good advice. However, I’m here to tell you that when you’re down in the trenches, and you’re searching for a new home… It’s hard to find one. And when you do, there is no telling yourself not to get invested. I mean you can say it, but if you manage to actually not get attached to that particular house, I’ll give you a medal. I definitely couldn’t do it. I even tried… but the minute we submitted the offer, I was picturing myself living there and playing with my kid outside, and re-decorating the whole house! So… do better than me, and if you can’t… at least keep this advice in mind so you aren’t entirely unprepared if this should happen to you.
#2 – Find An Awesome Realtor You Trust
This has been absolutely invaluable to us. Buying a house is stressful, even more so when you are selling one and buying one at the same time. A good realtor can guide you and navigate these waters for you, which will help make the process much, much easier. My realtor deserves a medal for all the back and forth we’ve done over the past couple years. A good realtor who has your best interest at heart will not be afraid to tell you their honest opinion on a house, because they care more about your well-being than they do about making commission on the house. Of course they want the commission, but they shouldn’t need it so bad that they are willing to let you purchase a money pit even when you ask for their opinion. A great realtor will have experience with home inspections and be able to walk you through it to help you to understand what items are big and worth negotiating and which items are tiny, but the inspector just has to list them. An even better realtor, will have already pointed out some of these items on your initial walk of the house so you have an idea of what you’re getting into. Realtors can make or break your experience in the buying / selling process, so do your homework and choose carefully. Don’t feel pressured to sign a listing agreement before you’re ready, if at all. You have to feel good about who you’re working with. And if you happen to get a pair of married realtors who will answer your call day or night, stand in a driveway and share their faith with you in the form of a prayer, and go to bat for you to make sure you get the absolute best deal you can get… then my friends, you’ve been as blessed as we have. Consider yourself lucky and begin your search for a home! (and if you’re local to the Austin, TX area and want my realtor’s number, contact me here and I’ll be glad to pass it along.)
#3 – Don’t Be Afraid To Do Your Own Home Search
Traditionally, buyers will give their “wish list” to their realtor and the realtor will put together a list of homes to show that buyer. But in these days of online technology and Realtor.com, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. I like to do a healthy combination of both. If my realtor has houses she thinks I should see, then great! But more often than not, I prefer to do my own search of the MLS because I feel like I can cross things off the list and not waste everybody’s time. I know things about us that our realtors don’t know, obviously. So I prefer to do my own searching and then send a comprehensive list to my realtor of every house I want to see. I think it saves both of us time and energy. This takes me to my next point:
#4 – Check Out The Neighborhood
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a house on the MLS that I felt really excited about….until I drove the neighborhood. Don’t skip this step. If it’s at all possible, drive past every single house you want to see before you even bother contacting your realtor. If you’re anything like me, you’ll cross off 85% of the houses before you ever even bother stepping foot inside. Pretty soon, you’ll know the area so well that you won’t even need to drive it. You’ll know street names, neighborhood names, school districts and you’ll be a regular aficionado of your town. That way, when you find “the house” you’ll know it and you’ll feel well educated and beyond prepared to submit that offer right away.
#5 – Get Your Financing In Order
Oh, the heartache I have suffered at the hands of getting financing. Or NOT getting financing as the case may be. For real, my home-buying friends, if you’re serious about wanting to buy a home, then get your financing in order first. Don’t fall in love with a house and then find out that you don’t qualify for a loan. That is the worst kind of depressing. Trust me, I know. My credit has taken a lot of hits over the years due to my health issues and we’ve spent years trying to recover. I swear, every time we go to buy a house, it’s a precarious line we’re walking trying to get to the closing table. Get that pre-qual letter in your hand before you start searching. If you don’t have a relationship with a lender that you know and trust, then talk to your realtor (since we already discussed making sure you trust him/her) and they, more often than not, have a relationship with a lender and can refer you to someone they work well with. A seamless working relationship between your lender and your realtor will go miles for closing your loan on time. Also, be sure to check out my top tips for financing a home.
Phew! Are you tired? I just laid all kinds of info on you… I know this was a long post, but it turns out, I could talk real estate all day and never get bored! But I know that’s not the case for everyone, so I’ll go ahead and bring this to a close. There is so much more I could say about our experiences with purchasing homes, but I’ll save them for another post. These are the 5 tips that I think are the most important things you need to know before your begin your search for a home. It’s a super fun and exciting thing to buy a house, so make sure you’re prepared! It’ll make it a thousand times easier to enjoy the experience.