Thursday, August 29, 2013

Adventures in Home Buying Part II

And we're back!

I want to start with the preface that none of this should be taken as legal or any other kind of official advice.  I just wanted to share my experience.

We looked at financing before we started looking at houses. I guess some people do it differently, but I wanted to know what I could afford before I started looking so I didn't fall in love with something out of my price range.  I got connected with one of the mortgage ladies at the bank where I have all of my accounts and she was super helpful.  It is a local bank, and I think that helps.  I don't think I would have gotten the same level of service at a big national bank.  I did get pre-approved for quite a bit more than we are going to end up spending.  I am glad we found something at lower price point because it would have been a real stretch to afford the max that the bank would give. 

I will offer one piece of advice on the financial aspect of this adventure--it will be more expensive than you think so figure out what you think you can afford and go less than that. 

Around the same time I started talking to the bank about financing, I also contacted a realtor.  As we didn't know the first thing about buying a house, we decided we needed someone to help us.  I have a general rule against doing business with friends.  Nothing good comes of it. In this case we stretched the rule a little bit and went with someone who is an old friend of my dad.    It ended up working really well because we got someone we felt like we could trust and was looking out for us but no one that we are close to.  I would definitely recommend getting a referral from someone.

Before we started looking, Alex and I went though each part of a house and talked about what we wanted and what we did not as well as what was non-negotiable (we had to have a fence for the dog) and what would be nice (a deck).  We talked about what cities & school districts we would be willing to look in.

This would be a good point to make sure you know whose opinions really count in this process.  I was the one who was actually purchasing the house, but Alex's opinions were important too.  We took advice from other people but ultimately knew that we were the ones who would be deciding.

This is also a good point to realize that unless you are SUPER lucky or have unlimited resources, you are going to have to make sacrifices in what you want.  I had my heart set on finding a house on the Kansas side close to where my parents live and was super upset when we started looking and realized that with our budget we weren't going to find something in that area that was the size & layout that we wanted.  I guess all along I knew that I wasn't going to find exactly what I wanted where I wanted it to be in the price range that I could afford but it still broke my heart a little bit when I realized that it wasn't going to work out for us in my first choice area.

I will be back next time to talk about how we found our new house.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Adventures in Home Buying Part I

(So remember in my last post eight months ago when I said that 2012 kinda sucked.  Well joke was on me and 2013 has proven itself to be unlucky thus far.  But today the sun is shining so lets move on).

We bought a zoo!  Just kidding.  We are almost done with the process of buying our first house, which seemed like an excellent place to start up blogging again.  I want to start at the beginning because I really had no idea what this process would be like.  So hopefully if you are getting ready to buy your first house, this will help you out.

A little bit of background before we begin.  In college, I lived in the dorms my freshman and sophomore year (at the time, the school had a rule that you have to live on campus your first three years unless you were living with your parents).  Then my junior year I was in Cambridge and we lived in a dorm but had a lot more freedom (and a housekeeper which was nice).  When I got back, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to stand living on campus for my senior year, so I rented a duplex with a couple of my sorority sisters.

After college we finished out the lease on the duplex then in the fall right before I started law school, I moved into a little apartment in mid-town KC with another sorority sister.  It wasn't exactly high class but it was cheap and the location was great for school and work.  My sorority sister moved out after a year and a friend from law school moved in.  She stayed for a  year too then Alex moved in.  We had only been dating for a  year and looking back on it, that doesn't seem like much time before making a big commitment like living together.  But I needed a roommate and he needed out of his parents' house so we did it.  I like to think that having three roommates in three years doesn't say anything about me, but who knows.

Alex was never really a fan of the apartment, so after I finished the bar exam, we started looking for a new place to live.  We wanted to rent a house instead of an apartment, so it took a while.  My experience when looking for a place to rent in Kansas City is that you have to pick an area where you would like to live and drive around, calling all the places you would consider.  We ended up finding a cute (and new) little house that was really nice.  I'm not going to go into the whole ordeal here, but after a little over a year, we had to move because the guy who owned the house stopped paying the bank.

We had planned on renting that house for about 18 months then buying but due to a multitude of circumstances beyond our control, that didn't happen.  Right after Christmas, we had to find a new place within a couple of weeks.  We ended up with a short term lease in a cheap apartment in a suburb close to where some of our friends live.  It was always supposed to be temporary and we don't really fit there (going from a house back to an apartment really sucked).

With our lease getting close to being done, we knew it was decision making time.  We decided to buy rather than rent for a few reasons.  First, I am sick of renting and not being able to decorate and being at the mercy of a landlord.  Also, the financial and housing markets aligned and so we just decided to go for it.

Deciding we wanted to buy was the easy part.  Deciding how to go about it was considerably more complicated.  We are not married but plan on being someday (don't ask me when--God is doing his best to make sure we take our time on that one).  Since we aren't married, we did not feel like it was a good idea for both of us to own the house.  Heaven forbid something should happen, we just didn't want to deal with the mess.  Financially, it made more sense for me to buy so that is the route we are taking.  I am sure a lot of people have had great experiences buying a home with a boyfriend/girlfriend, but the lawyer in me just wouldn't let me do it.

Looking back on it, these seemed like big decisions but in hindsight, they were just the tip of the iceberg.  Check back soon for part two of our latest big adventure.