Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Big Buy

We had our Open House (think, House Warming Party) earlier this week, and it was wonderful to celebrate our new place. I've downloaded a virtual tour of our place, but for now I can't get it to upload on blogger. Bummer.

Instead, I'm just going to post a little story about how we made the big buy.  If that sounds totally boring to you (and looks way too long), come back in a few days and I might have the video figured out.

Thanks to the wonder that is, last December I was able to figure out a yearly budget that would help us save the money needed for a healthy size down payment by Spring of 2013. Ben wasn't sure about my plan. He loved the savings ... but he just wasn't sure we were ready to buy. We both agreed we wanted a bigger space for the kids. As much as we loved our apartment, I felt like I was constantly telling Reid not to touch our neighbors things when we'd play outside. And Ben thinks part of Reid's good sleeping habits stem from him having his own room, so Ben thought we should find a 3 bedroom place before Spring of 2013. I thought moving into a new apartment this summer and then into a house next summer was a terrible idea. Ugh, I'm so tired of moving! I was determined that we only make one more move during our stay in Oshkosh. Ben pitched the idea of finding a house we could rent for the 4 years we know we'd be here. On the surface it seemed like a great idea, but I had my doubts, so I told him he could look at houses for rent and I'd look at houses for sale ... aren't I a great compromiser?

Knowing that we couldn't buy just yet, I tried my hardest to stay away from realtor sites. I wanted to avoid any lusting. But, I did want to get a sense of what we could afford and where we might want to focus our search. So I'd casually look at FirstWeber's site every month or so. By April I decided I should save some of my favorites, and watch how quickly they sold and what price they went for. This "research" was helpful in learning about the local market.

Near the end of April I was checking the site more regularly, and I convinced Ben to do some Sunday afternoon drive bys. I found drive bys were the most useful in narrowing down a list of possible future homes. One house in particular had great finishes and was less than 5 years old.  It was near an Elementary School that was scheduled to be rebuilt in the next couple of years. On the internet it seemed perfect. When we pulled up to the house Ben said "Yup, it's two buildings down from the strip club a couple of my clients work at." Scratch. A couple of the other houses had absolutely no yard. Also, in April Ben helped a family in our ward get their house ready for a big move. They lived in an older house (Oshkosh has many great older homes) and he felt totally overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done. Not to mention, he couldn't stand fully erect in the basement. By the end of the month I was able to cross off any homes in neighborhoods where Ben had clients, any homes built over 50 years ago, and any homes on less than a tenth of an acre. That narrowed our search right away.

Even though I knew we didn't want to start looking until after our Utah trip, I decided to go talk to the bank about financing options (meanwhile, Ben hadn't bothered looking up any places to rent ... as I knew would be the case, he he). Though my father-in-law kept telling us there was never a better time to buy, I don't think we realized that home loans were going at half the rate our (ginormous) student loans are at. I did some math and realized that even without the 20% down we wanted, we'd be paying less in the long run if we caved early and bought while the rates were so low.

Knowing we might start a real search once we got back from Utah (after all, Ben wanted to move before little girly came), I thought it might be useful to check out a few places in early May. There was one house in particular that we really wanted to look at. So we met the realtor and had our first ever showing. We loved the yard and the location, it was at the high end of our price range and some of the finishes weren't really our taste, but overall just getting inside a home and looking was what we needed. We told the realtor we weren't serious about buying a house yet, and she was very respectful of that. I did tell her there were a couple other houses I'd like to look at for comparison and she agreed that was the best next step.

Well, that week we had a couple of HUGE rain storms and three of the five houses we wanted to go see actually cancelled on us because their basements flooded. The realtor (Robin) told us right then and there to cross them off our list. So we met her at one of the homes and soon realized their basement had flooded as well. Man, it stunk! We also looked at the house next door, and though it was nice (no sign of recent flooding) and in one of Oshkosh's finest neighborhoods all the finishes were really outdated. The kitchen was functional, but definitely a step back into the 80s.

Robin told us we should go back to the first house we looked at to see if its basement had flooded. She was adamant we not buy a house with flood problems. She also felt strongly about not buying houses on main roads or houses that were split levels. Many of these were in our price range, but she said we'd have a hard time reselling them. We really appreciated her perspective and how honest she was with us. It helped build a lot of trust because we knew she wasn't trying to just sell us anything and collect her commission.

Well, we came back to the first home and the basement was dry as a bone. And after looking at a few other houses those tiny details we didn't like the first time around didn't bother us so much any more -- I mean having an antler chandelier isn't nearly as bad as a 1980s oven! Still, we had a few more houses on our list. One of which had a caved in roof, scratch. And the couple others accepted offers just days before we were scheduled to see them. We checked out a couple for sale by owners, and well it just seemed the more houses we looked at the more we really liked that first house!

So Robin brought us back to the first house for a third time and we decided it was time we took our thoughts to the Lord. Ben was still kind of hesitant. The house had been on the market for over a year and hadn't had a single offer. He thought if no one else wanted it, why should he? Isn't it funny how our brains work? He figured for sure there must have been something wrong with it. We brought up these concerns on that third showing and Robin reassured us it hadn't sold because it was listed too high. She also assured us we would have the basement checked for radon, the water tested for arsenic and a very thorough inspection done. Anything that came out negatively would HAVE to be fixed before she'd let us move in. I think she'd fallen in love with Reid, and she was not about to send that boy to an imperfect home!

After a week of pondering and prayer we decided to at least make an offer. Robin kept telling us the good thing about our position was that we could make an offer on any home we wanted and if the seller's didn't accept it we could walk away. Our first offer (made while I was in Utah) was for 10% less than the asking price, which had already been dropped by $10,000 over the course of its time on the market. Also, Robin had written in things like a home warranty and back-up assessment fees on the city water bill. The seller countered with a price we would have taken, but we felt like we could try just a bit lower before accepting. And we were right, the seller took our second offer and 25 days later we moved in!

Yup, 25 days is all it took. Things moved so quickly and with only a few bumps. There was radon in our basement, so the seller had to pay to fix that. The garage needed some rewiring, and it turned out the seller ended up replacing the whole garage door. The tap water has arsenic, but the filtered drinking water doesn't ... which means we are stuck with bad water (the house is on it's own well).  But thankfully Robin had the knowledge to write in that city water assessment bill, so this spring we plan on hooking up to the city water anyway. Since living here we have had one plumbing problem, but thanks to the home warranty we only had to pay a small deductible to get it fixed (labor + parts). The plumbers who came by were even kind enough to do a few extra things (like strengthen our water pressure and clear our filter system out), so the leaky pipe really turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

We were so fortunate all our paperwork went through so quickly. Our apartment required 2 months notice before vacating, but the funny thing was we could tell them on May 31 that we were moving out on June 30 and that counted as two months. So we only had overlapping rent + mortgage for about 10 days. Which didn't bother us one bit because that meant we could move our stuff (the whole mile and 1/4 distance) over the course of 10 days.

Each day Reid and I would make two trips to our new place, and then once Ben came home from work we'd make an other, heavy load, trip. By the time June 30 rolled around all we had left to move was furniture. About 10 men from our ward showed up and the whole thing was over in 3 hours time. Two sisters from the RS came over to help clean as well as Ben's mom. It was the easiest and smoothest move of the 6 moves we've made.

One last thing I really don't want to forget.  When Ben's mom and sister arrived on the 30th they wished us a happy anniversary.  Ben and I both looked at each other like, "Oh yeah, that's coming up soon" pause, twist in our stare "tomorrow?!?!?"  Without either of us saying a word our stare was broken by giant bursts of laughter. Neither of us had boughten any gifts or made any sort of romantic plans. We had both completely forgotten. I think we high-fived each other and then accepted Carol's offer to take us to dinner. That's how we celebrated #6!

As I finish writing this, I decided to ask Ben if he has any regrets (seems how I tell the story as if I drug him into this whole purchase). He simply shrugged and told me he's happy with our purchase but feels overwhelmed by some of the projects we still have to get done. Like, hooking up to city water and painting the outside of the house. Owning a home is definitely more work then renting ... but at age 30 I think we both needed this next step. And it definitely has made our little family happy!


Anonymous said...

Love the retell. It was awesome! Can't wait to check things out personally. Love, Pa

Aimee said...

That is awesome!! I can't wait for the video.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...