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Home Buying Journal

March 21, 2019 | Leah Driver

I started looking at homes in February, which isn’t the best time of year, but I was over my rental. I scheduled an appointment to look at two houses on Thursday, 2/14. I really liked one of them, but I wanted input from my family, so I scheduled a second showing for Saturday, 2/16. My realtor called me Friday – the owners had received an offer.

I showed up for the Saturday showing and the pressure was on. My family liked the house, but did I like it enough to make an offer? Yes. My realtor and I ironed out the details, and I momentarily panicked – I hadn’t gotten pre-approved for a mortgage. (I didn’t expect to find something so quickly, and never dreamed I’d make an offer in the middle of February.)

Pre-approvals are important. When you make an offer, it shows the seller you’re serious and the chances are good that your loan will be approved. It’s also helpful to you, because it gives you an idea of how much home you can afford. (I can’t imagine how bad it would be to fall in love with a house, only to find out you can’t possibly afford it.) Getting pre-approved doesn’t tie you to a bank or an interest rate, so it’s best to get one before house hunting, as my experience shows.

This is where I thought knowing mortgage lenders would be an advantage, so I called one who asked me to complete the online application. So it wasn’t an advantage, though it was nice to talk to someone so knowledgeable about the home buying process. The sellers requested that I provide a pre-approval letter by 5:00 Tuesday (Monday was a federal holiday). They had already moved, and rejected the first offer because it involved selling a house first. I didn’t have a house to sell, which gave me an advantage. After providing the pre-approval letter, earnest money, two offers and one counter-offer, we had a purchase agreement! But we weren't quite done…

It was time for a home inspection, appraisal, and loan underwriting. (Always get a home inspection, even if you don’t think you need one. You never know what can be lurking under walls or in crawl spaces.) Plus there’s paperwork – lots of paperwork. I provide tax returns, W-2s, paycheck stubs, an insurance quote, bank statements, proof of funds for the down payment, a copy of the sales agreement, a copy of the inspector’s report, and I’m probably forgetting something. All of this is done via e-signature. I can only imagine how time consuming this would be without the internet. (Though I don’t recommend e-signing on your phone.)

During this time, I wore out my Pinterest account. I had the house decorated, right down to new dishes. If I were to buy everything on my Pinterest boards, I would need a second mortgage. But it’s fun, and kept me preoccupied while waiting for the paperwork to be processed. The inspection was scheduled for 2/27, and I highly recommend Halstead Inspections. They were great to work with, thorough, and explained everything in a way I understood. While they were inspecting, I was measuring/photographing everything. As luck would have it, the appraiser showed up during the inspection, which was a time saver. It hadn't been two weeks since I first looked at the house, and the inspection and appraisal were done. (A benefit to buying before sales pick up and everyone's busy.)

After some back and forth over the inspection results, everything fell into place. My loan closing was scheduled for March 15, where the sellers and I finally met. A representative from the title company conducted the transaction - they signed a lot of paperwork to receive money, I signed a lot of paperwork to owe money.

This was a great experience. Some advice – choose your realtor carefully. Luckily, my realtor (Susan Neal w/ERA) was also the sellers’ realtor, which was a time saver. I cannot recommend a community bank for your mortgage strongly enough. It was so helpful that my lender knew the realtor, inspector, and title company representative. I had my lender’s cell phone number, and I’m certain I wouldn’t have received the same level of personal service from a larger bank. Be sure to ask for inspector referrals – it’s definitely in your best interest for them to be as thorough as possible. As for the appraisal - the appraiser let me know that replacing your current light bulbs with LED bulbs isn't an "upgrade," though people often think it is. Really.

I'd love to hear about your home buying process - I realize my turnaround time was really fast, mainly because it's a slow time of year. Send me a message and I'll share comments here.

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