Monday, December 31, 2007

Finding the right house for you--part three

My earlier posts part one and part two of finding the right home discussed the steps I took from starting the home buying process up to the accepted offer. The next steps involved home inspection, resolution of any issues found during the home inspection, plans for packing and moving, closing on the house and taking ownership of the new home.

Home inspectors are an important helper during the home purchasing process. They help identify problem areas on the house, show you where shutoff valves are, recommend maintenance for various appliances (yes, you do need to change that furnace filter) and are a great resource to ask questions about various aspects of a home. Your buyer's agent can recommend many people for the home buying process from a mortgage broker to a home inspector. I chose someone based on my seminar experience who was certified to the highest standard in my state, was part of an inspection agency and encouraged me to be part of the inspection process. My buyer's agent would have raised the alarm if the inspector did not allow this but following the inspector around will give you the hints and suggestions about your new home that are priceless.

My inspector was polite, fielded questions from multiple people well and started from the top of the house and moved to the bottom. He had a binder to hold the inspection report when done, which included maintenance task lists and information on home repairs. I walked away with the knowledge my potential home was sound with minor, fixable issues. My agent and I asked for and received a small allowance for the inspection issues and moved on to a smooth and successful closing.

While I may have budgeted for my mortgage payments and felt good about covering my closing costs, I had not realized I needed to pay earnest money (which did go to closing costs) and did not budget well for inspection costs. I closed on my house and paid for movers without completely emptying my accounts but it was closer than I realized. The downside to my quick home purchase was I could not save a lot more money befor closing. The one month delay on the mortgage payment eased some of the pinch but better planning on my part would have been ideal.

Closing involves paying the title company a lot of money and signing lots of paperwork. My closing was completed in less than two hours and without the former homeowner present. I closed on a Friday and moved into my house on the following Monday. The intervening days were filled with fixing small things (e.g., replacing the showerhead), painting (no more off-white walls for me!) and cleaning. My parents and friends were kind enough to lend a hand and that really allowed nearly every task to be finished especially painting before move-in day. My mom's experience and expertise really helped as well (she brought insulation for behind my outlets and light switches).

Moving was hard. I had to pack in less than a month, hire a moving company, get it all into my house and then unpack. The bed was the first thing assembled and it was lovely to lay in my bed at night and marvel at the silence in my house. That made it all worthwhile. Not only could I color the walls as I wanted, I had no neighbors sharing a wall (other than the garage) with me. I had resolved my noisy tenant situation.

Although I had no contingency based on selling my current house, I had an apartment to sublet with several months left on my contract. That was stressful getting the place rented. Not only did I buy my house during the off-season, I was trying to sublet my apartment during the off-season. I tried lots of advertising (rental-specific publication, craigslist, newspaper), but finally managed to unload the place with a heavy incentive before the dual rent-mortgage payments became fatal. Three months of rent after I moved and then I was free.

Homeownership is not smooth sailing. I am not fond of cutting grass, and shoveling snow is not a favorite task. However, it is nice to have my own home with a 30-year fixed mortgage. I have learned much about the buying process including I need to have more money on hand for those unplanned expenses before and after purchasing. I know more about what I do not want in a home (avoid sidewalks, fire hydrants and steep driveways) and what I do (a linen closet). My home satisfies my need for space and accommodates my lifestyle even if I would like to change a few things. My journey from first-time homebuyers seminar to home ownership was a smooth if atypically quick one. I made a good choice for me and other than some minor complaints, I have the home that fit my search requirements.

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