I lost a friend when I was 23. I was living at home with my parents and she’d moved in next door with her boyfriend. We became close over a few months and when the inevitable breakup happened, she suggested we go in together on a 2 bedroom apartment. I knew I’d been saving to buy a home, but I wasn’t quite ready to make the purchase. So I figured I could rent with her for a year, and then make the big purchase. We spent a weekend checking places out, submitting our applications, and got approved in a week’s time. Before it was time to sign the lease, the House Gods appeared and shouted in my ear, “What are you doing? This is a waste of money – stay focused on your goal”, or something like that. So I told my friend that I couldn’t move in with her because I wanted to buy a house. She didn’t immediately unfriend me, but she definitely grew distant and I never heard from her again. Fast forward 1 year, and I was happily living in my brand new home – but let’s discuss how I got there.
Ms. Patsy was a family friend who happened to be a realtor, so she was an obvious and easy choice to start me down the exciting road to ownership. I remember the excitement I had during our first meetings. I rattled off about how I wanted a big open kitchen with an island, big bay windows, a fireplace, open floor plan, granite counters, etc., ….all jargon I’d picked up on the latest episode of House Hunters.
Editor’s Note: Buying a home turns you into a HGTV fanatic. Don’t’ fall for the hype like I did! I can assure you that it takes more than 38 minutes and $500 to make that DIY bookshelf! You can’t buy a house in the bay area suburbs on a leaf blower’s salary! Most humans don’t have a table saw hanging out in the garage! It’s all a setup – an enjoyable one, but not realistic. Don’t let the shows psyche you out.
As a brand new single, female engineer making somewhere around $60K in the Hampton Roads Area with decent credit, I got approved for $250,000. I was also approved for a first time homebuyer’s loan that allowed me to put no money down. Let me tell you…it felt like I’d just been given a blank check in Beverly Hills. However, I quickly calculated what a mortgage payment for $250K would be, with no money down, and that number scared me. I’d heard the stories of people who were house poor – I imagined myself in the living room of my big, pretty house, surrounded by empty sardine cans and store brand crackers, sitting on a torn bean bag that I bought from a guy outside the swap meet. I shuttered. That wasn’t the life I wanted to live. So, I gave myself a budget of $150K and we set off on our search. In my area, the options available for that price range were mainly condos, townhomes, and small ranchers. As a single woman with no kids, who wanted low maintenance living, a condo was the attractive option.
House 1 was a foreclosed condo. Looking back, I cringe when I think about it. It was in such awful condition, but HGTV had me feeling like I could make it livable with just 2 days, $2000, and my handy dandy table saw. (Seriously, who the heck just has a table saw laying around?). My agent told me this house was in bad condition, more work than I bargained for, but I was high on that HGTV crack, so I wasn’t trying to hear it. We proceeded with the process. After the inspector walked me through the house pointing out the mold, the termites, the water damage, and the damaged roof, I apparently still thought there might be hope. So I asked him directly, “What do you think I should do?” He looked me right in my naïve eyeballs and said, “If you were my daughter, I’d tell you to run like hell”. And that’s exactly what I did.
Editors’s Note: Before I go any further, I’d like to apologize to my agent, Ms. Patsy. I’m currently dating a real estate agent, so I get to hear their perspective – I’ve come to realize that I was the worst client ever. Sorry, Ms. Patsy!
House #2 was another condo, situated near my parent’s neighborhood. The entire debacle around this house makes me cringe- laugh every time I think back on it. In summary, because of the type of loan I was using (FHA), the condo community had to meet certain requirements in order for me to get approved. One of those rules in particular was that “no more than 15% of the total units can be more than 30 days past due on association fees”. That means that in order for me to use my loan to buy into that neighborhood, 85% of the people already living there had to be current on their HOA monthly dues. How sway? But of course, I was young and excited, and determined (and naïve), so I insisted we attend the next HOA meeting to try and plead my case. Ms. Patsy, bless her heart, accompanied me to this meeting and watched me stand up in front of those confused residents’ faces and tell my story about how they had to get their finances in order so that I, The Anecia Moore, could get qualified! Oh, the naiveté! Long story short, they sent me packing and I was again forced to move on.
After a few more months, my agent told me about a brand new construction condo community in Newport News, VA. With my excitement waning, we showed up for a tour, and what do you know, I fell in love at first sight. It was move-in ready, in my budget, with reasonable HOA fees, and since they were new, they met all of the FHA requirements. Within a few weeks, I had a closing date! I was told not to make any big purchases, or do anything that would affect my credit before my closing. I waited with anticipation for my closing date to come. The day prior, my agent called and told me there was a “problem” with paperwork and that I’d have to postpone my closing by 2 days. I was devastated. Looking back, I now know that these kind of delays are fairly normal and usually just the consequence of the sheer amount of paperwork and parties involved.
So, I eventually moved in and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Naturally, I bought a white leather couch and decorated with deep reds and blacks. (Apparently, I used to want to be a pimp). To date, I’ve completed exactly 0 DIY projects that I planned, and I don’t think I’ve watched an episode of that show since my closing. I’ve since moved away, but I still have my first home, now as a rental property. Buying that house was a big decision, and having an agent that I could trust to be ethical, professional, and personable made it a wonderful experience. Thank you Ms. Patsy!
So, here’s my advice to the next homebuyer out there:
· Hire an agent who’s personable, doesn’t assert their own desires onto you, but is knowledgeable and communicative enough to forewarn you if a home is a certified dump. They’ll save you from wasting time looking at unlivable homes.
· Have realistic expectations about what you want. Do your own research to understand what your loan amount can buy. Don’t expect a mansion on a condo budget.
· Unless you’re an experienced house flipper/contractor or have an extra $30K to spend, steer clear of the extreme fixer uppers. I’m not talking about cosmetics (i.e. paint, carpet, etc). Those are all easily cleaned/changed. I’m talking about big ticket items like mold, lead piping, roof damage etc.
· Be a good client – A good agent will respond to you within a reasonable amount of time, but don’t assume they can drop everything immediately anytime you call. Try to be on time for meetings and avoid cancellations; they likely scheduled their day around your showing so cancellations could throw off their entire day.
· Just because you were approved for a certain amount, doesn’t mean you need to spend that much. Choose a price that gives you a payment that you’re comfortable with. After all, you’re the one that will be responsible for the loan.
· Ask questions! You’re spending a lot of money. You deserve and are entitled to understand any and everything that you sign.
Happy House Hunting!
Move in Day!! June 2012
First meal in my new home (the crackers aren’t store brand! 🤣)