I wanted to do a quick post to thank all of you for cheering me on during the crazy first home buying process. I closed last Friday -- and moved in the same day -- with a cold. So, that was fun... Now I'm focused on slowly unpacking and plotting how to make it more "me."
A year ago, I never would have thought I would have been able to buy a place. I was a serial renter based on convenience and lack of savings (To say I am a slacker at saving would be putting it mildly.) But, now that I've done it, I've become a home-ownevangelist and want everyone who is on the fence to consider taking the plunge. Here five things I learned along the way:
1) Wait for the one that you love. Yes, my experience was filled with twists and turns, crazy negotiations, appraisals that were way out of whack and one very bitchy agent (hint: not mine). Once I saw my condo, I knew it was the one I wanted. I had to be prepared to walk away. But if I hadn't doggedly pursued it, the deal could have died about eight different times along the way.
2) Use all of your connections and resources. Tell everyone you know that you're looking. You never know which person will refer you to your real estate agent, your mortgage broker or your new home. Some of mine came through personal connections, some via Twitter and some via web tools. Two of my favorite iPhone apps are Trulia & Zillow that allow you to search easily by location. They allowed me to get a sense of prices in neighborhoods that I was interested in. And alerted me when new homes in those areas popped up.
3) No one really knows what they are doing. I wish I could say that along the way, I felt like I was in control or that my agent or broker was in control. But, the home buying experience is more like white water rafting. Here's hoping one day the home buying experience will be able to be done with less than 50 signatures (often of the same documents) and written in layman's terms.
4) It takes less upfront money that you think. I went with an FHA loan, which meant, I put 3.5% down. I don't know why, but I had always been scared off by 10-20% off down. I was able to save over about 6 months and make it happen. So figure out your budget, save 3.5% down, and get to looking!
5) It's a great time to buy. All of the madness aside, I locked in a 30 year interest rate of 4.5%. People that need to sell their homes are definitely in a box where they need to negotiate.
So what are your tips? Or what questions do you have that I can answer based on my experience?