Adulting: Buying a House
I recently upped my current life, packed it in boxes, quit my job, and decided to pursue an MBA. Now, let's be honest, this did not happen all at once. There was plenty of planning, and the whole MBA application process is a whole other post, but this is just about the process of buying a house. So here's the situation: I've never owned a house before, I am moving three states and 10 hours from my current residence, I've never lived where I am buying a house. Keep this in mind, because your situation might be slightly different. Some of this information may not apply to you. During my time I had Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia as frequently used apps on my phone. Here's everything I wish I had known before I bought a house:
1. The Importance of a Good Real Estate Agent
I found mine simply by reaching out about a house I found on Zillow. Goodness did I strike gold. I knew I would need a good agent, but I didn't realize how important that would be. Mine did a great job of helping me find the right neighborhood, within a reasonable distance to school. He would do video tours of houses and describe things in the video I wouldn't get from watching it. Things like the smell of the basement or the height of the slanted ceiling. He was so helpful in guiding me through the process of buying a home. A good agent will be patient with you, but can also help you understand the market you're buying in. Mine even showed up with beer and pizza after we finished at closing so my fiance and I didn't have to figure out dinner.
2. Get A Good Home Inspector
Your agent can't tell you which one to use, but they can give you the names of some that previous clients have used. Got that? That's the thing - there's all these questions that they can or can't answer depending on how it's worded. So while you can't ask "is this a good neighborhood" you can do your homework, look at crime rates, see how many people rent v. own etc. Anyway, back to the inspector. Your inspector can keep you from getting into something that's beyond what you bargained for, beyond your risk comfort, and beyond something your appraiser will approve.
3. Buy The Home Warranty
In the first week of living in my house, I had to file two claims. One because my air conditioner was no longer working and it was hot as all get out the first week of August, and the other was regarding the water being dumped into my basement every time the first floor bathroom sink was used. I'm pretty sure I would have spent more than the warranty cost just getting people to come look at the issues I mentioned above. Yes, you still have to pay a deductible for every claim you file, but I think in the end it will still be worth it.
4. Know the Laws of the State or Use A National Bank
I used a local bank. Local banks can be really great, but they can also have some drawbacks. For example, my mortgage officer told me to I'd need to bring the "cost of closing" money with me via a money wire or a cashiers check. I brought a cashiers check with me only to find that in the state I was moving to you could only do a money wire. That was not a fun moment. They then had to do a money wire to cover cost of closing and I had to take the cashier's checks back. One more thing - they charge you to do a money wire and to write a cashier's check.
5. It's Going To Cost More Than You Think
I had a budget planned. I knew how much house I could afford. I knew how much I had for a down payment. I knew what I could afford as far as monthly payments. I saved and set aside money for moving. BUT one thing to keep in mind - while you're getting moved in and settled, you'll be eating out a lot because your kitchen will be in boxes; you'll need to get a whole lot of random things; you'll need to replace a light bulb here or there; the contractors will leave your trash and recycling cans full thus leaving you to take it to the landfill to be dumped; you'll need to have someone mow the law because you don't have a lawn mower there yet. You get the idea...there are a lot of random things that will come up.
6. Hand Soap and Toilet Paper
When I finally got into the house after going through closing and getting my utilities switched, I needed to go to the bathroom like no other. Amazingly, the sellers had left a whole package of toilet paper. I don't think I was ever this excited about TP. What was I missing? Hand soap. Also high on the list of things I would need right away: paper towels, trash bags, and a broom.
In the end, I got the house, I moved in, I unpacked, and it's great. I hope that my experience can help when you take that same big step towards "adulting." Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat a bowl of Cocoa Puffs.