Tuesday, January 29, 2013

House Hunting - What I've learned so far...


Yesterday we received wonderful news: Hubby and I are pre-approved to purchase our first home!  Hopefully it will be at least slightly larger than this charming garden cottage!

This is very exciting as it's something I have dreamed of for many years but wondered if it would ever be a reality for a variety of reasons including: the high cost of housing in San Diego and my credit-worthiness (I spent my early twenties wrecking absolute havoc on my credit. As a result I have spent the better part of my mid to late twenties and early thirties doing major damage control.

Late last year the hubs and I started really thinking about this and decided it was a step we were ready to make. During the months of November and December we drove around the neighborhoods we'd like to purchase in, visited open houses and toured "new construction" models.

In fact we found a model townhome that we really liked. We decided to apply for lender financing through the builder's mortgage company and were approved. And then things took a turn . . . we found out that because we did not have a realtor representing us when we first toured the property that we couldn't have anyone represent us through the negotiation and paperwork signing process. We learned that the builder was REALLY SHADY about not wanting to tell us up front how much flooring and other upgrades were. In fact, we wouldn't find out any of that until after we signed our purchase agreement and handed over our earnest money (earnest money is a deposit that the buyer provides to the seller which says, "hey, I'm really serious about this and this cash proves it). In the end, it started to feel wrong. We were getting pressured to come in and sign and we wanted to have more time to review documents and figure out exactly how much the townhome would cost us. In the end, it just didn't feel right anymore and we backed out.  

Subsequently, we decided we really needed a professional to help us. Luckily, one of our close couple friends bought a house last summer. They used a realtor another couple friend of ours used.  So we asked them for the referral and met the agent over coffee to discuss our needs.  It seemed like a good fit so we are now working with him.  It's nice to know that we are working with a "tried and true" realtor with two sets of happy clients.

Last week, we prepared all of our paperwork again and submitted a loan application to a loan officer that our realtor works frequently with. And as I just mentioned, we found out yesterday that we can OFFICIALLY move forward.

I check Redfin and Zillow several times a day looking for updates on homes that have gone on the market. There isn't a lot of inventory in our price range in the locations we want.  I admit, we have some pretty strict parameters - and I imagine over time those may get loosened up a bit. To be honest, I'm willing to be flexible on most of our parameters except price, of course (don't want to spend more than we can afford!). It's Hubby who is fairly selective. 

This is what I've learned in the very short time that we have been looking:

-It is a really competitive market place.  There seems to be a lot of other buyers and investors out there and not a lot of inventory.

- As a result of the above, we have to be prepared to make a decision very fast. I always thought there would be more time to mull it over but no . . . this is NOT your average HGTV House Hunters episode (I love that show even though it is completely staged!)

- This may take some time.  I feel frustrated at the moment because I'm not really seeing the perfect fit. We are slated to view two homes this weekend but we are sort of "eh" on the location. I think I need to prepare myself to see a lot of houses and even wait a few months until the right thing comes around.

Anybody out there have any tips for us or recent home buying experiences to share?  I'd love to hear them!

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