What I'm Doing

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Buying a House, Part VIII

Okay, so I've not updated in a while. A lot has happened.

Where I left off, we had sent in an offer on a house we really liked, and had to wait over the weekend to hear back from the bank that's selling it.

The next Monday, I got a call from Eric, our Realtor, and the bank wanted to accept our offer, with a couple changes: 1) shorten the due diligence period (the time in which we have to do inspections and, if we find something we don't like, can walk on the house and recoup our earnest money) to 7 days instead of the 14 days we'd asked for, and 2) move the closing date to April 16 (we'd asked for March 31). Eric talked them out to 10 due diligence days, and we got a closing date on April 9 (or sooner if we can manage it). However, if we miss the April 9 closing date, the bank wants to charge us $100 per day (alternatively, they can walk on the deal).

So, we came to an agreement, and put the house under contract. Woo!

Last week, I received the Good Faith Estimate from our lender, a guy Eric knows and recommended at Countrywide. Now, stupid me, we had just gone with the guy Eric recommended rather than shopping around. Frankly, I hate dealing with money, and I wouldn't really have known what to look for, anyway.

Fortunately, a coworker of mine used to work at a mortgage company and had learned about all this kind of stuff, so I took my copy of the Good Faith to him, and he looked it over and told me I could be getting a much better deal. I decided I needed to shop around while I still could, so I told the lender at Countrywide I wasn't ready to lock in on the loan yet, and let him know I was going to shop around.

Because the closing date was so close, we weren't able to use Kristen's credit union, which probably would've been ideal. In the end, though, I found a good deal with my own bank (I got half a percent lower rate than Countrywide could offer me, for one thing), and locked in with them Friday afternoon.

Then, on Monday, Kristen and I met with the inspector we'd ordered and did a detailed look over the house. This guy seemed very thorough, and we were there for 3 hours. We found one major issue: the water pressure regulator is broken, so the pressure inside the house is way too high. Fortunately, we have the valve closed at the moment, which should protect the appliances. Eric spoke with a contractor he knows to get an estimate on fixing that and the other bigger issues, and is going to try to get the bank to pay for those repairs.

In addition, we went by the company we have our car and renter's insurance with, and spoke with them about insuring the house. They have contacted the bank, so once the appraisal comes back, they'll be able to tell us how much insurance will be.

As of right now, we're waiting on the bank to get the appraisal done, and everything should be set. God-willing, by April 9, we should have a house. And then the next adventure: moving. Who wants to help (I don't know when we'll be moving yet, but I plan on being moved before Holy Week, which in our Church is April 20-26)?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Wester!

(Note: 'Wester' is pronounced wē'stər)

I've been really busy lately, between work and buying a house, so I've not posted any updates. Sorry. I did want to make a quick post, though, and wish all my Western Christian brethren a Happy Wester (Western Easter).

Wester (pronounced wē'stər; like "Easter" with a "W" in front of it) is a term someone at church came up with today during choir practice. I actually kind of like it, since many—if not most—of us at my parish are converts and have Catholic/Protestant families (or just non-Christian families who still celebrate Easter in a more secular way). Since, in many families, Easter is both a time for religious observance and a time for familial get-togethers, I heard the question more than once today, "So, are you doing anything for Western Easter?" along with discussions about finding a balance between taking the Lenten fast seriously and not putting out your family when they pass you the ham.

And so, again, I wish you a Happy Wester! Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is risen!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Buying a House, Part VII

Because of the gas prices, my company has approved us to work a day a week from home. I chose Fridays.

While I was working from home this past Friday, Kristen went out with Eric to look at some more houses. A little after 4pm, Kristen called me and asked if I can meet them in a certain neighborhood a few exits on the Interstate north of the apartment. I reminded her that I don't get off work until 5pm, and she responds that it's important. My curiosity was sufficiently piqued by the fact that this neighborhood was the same neighborhood with the house that we'd really liked but was too expensive, and she sounded excited, so I checked to make sure I didn't have any pending emails to deal with, and headed out to meet them.

When I pulled up, I discovered that the house Kristen and Eric were excited about was a foreclosure that had, previously, been well outside of our price range, but had been reduced to the high limit of our price range. It's a "Cape Cod" style house with a garage/finished basement. This time, Kristen and Eric spent a lot of time, including the time waiting for me to get there, looking over the house trying to find anything wrong with it.

They did find a few issues: a piece of wood trim on the chimney needs to be replace, and a piece of wood over the porch is also bad. There's a deadbolt in the back that needs to be replaced, and the stove/over needs cleaning. The carpet could also use a good professional cleaning. These things are relatively minor, and probably won't be terribly expensive. Once we're past that, there are a number of things that could be done to make the home even better than it is.

At the reduced price, Eric believes that this house will be somewhat of a hot item. In fact, he was able to find that at least 3 people other than us had looked at that house that same day. Since none of us felt any reservations about the house, we decided to make an offer that evening.

Because the house is a foreclosure, and a bank is selling it, they aren't likely to receive the offer until Monday, when it may be that they receive two or three other offers as well. At the same time, Eric expects that other people, looking at the house, may decide to try and talk the price down even further, so we considered it and decided to offer the full price of the house (minus the fact that we're asking the seller to pay closing costs), and told them we want to close at the end of March. This should give us enough time for an inspector to come through and check everything out to make sure the house is as good as we think.

We signed the paperwork, and Eric has sent in the offer, so now we can only wait. The bank has until Tuesday evening to respond, so we'll know by then whether we have a chance at this house. If not, we'll find something else. God-willing, we'll have a house before Easter (according to the Eastern calendar, April 27).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Buying a House, Parts III-VI

Okay, so I've been lazy and skipped parts III-VI. Here's a quick recap, though, so you don't feel too left out:

Part III
Eric called us a couple days after our first tour to let us know that an offer had been placed on the one house we had liked. Since things in our price range seemed to be moving quickly, we decided to move quickly. The next tour, covering an area between my office and our apartment, was covered by Kristen and Eric on a weekday while I was working. They called me and I met them to see the house they'd kept: a home in the neighborhood Kristen first grew up in. It was well within our price range, and though it had a couple issues that could be dealt with, we really liked it. It was the same floor plan as the other house we'd liked.

Part IV
The next weekend, I joined Kristen and Eric again to go looking at an area a bit further away from my office. We looked at a number of homes, and, again, ended up with only one house (again, the same floor plan) that we kept, although the price was still a bit steeper and it was further out. I didn't like the way they'd finished the basement, myself. We also came across a few more homes that were surprising to see on the market. From people I've talked to that are selling homes, "stagers" say you're supposed to remove all personal stuff from walls, etc., to make the house more attractive to potential buyers. I haven't really liked that, but, at the same time, there's a difference between "personal stuff" (like photos of children) and clutter. In some cases, you couldn't see the house through the stuff.

Part V
Now we had two similar houses that we could consider. Because the market seems to be moving quickly for the nicer houses in our price range, we felt that we needed to be coming close to making a decision. Between the two we'd kept after our last two tours, I decided the next Monday to make an offer on the cheaper house. Admittedly, I didn't have a great feeling even at the time about it, but I put that aside, figuring that it was just nervousness about making such a huge decision. I called Eric, and we decided to meet that Thursday to sign the paperwork required to make an offer.

Part VI
From the time I called Eric until that Thursday, the "not great feeling" I had about the house grew into more of a foreboding. I continued to tell myself it was just nerves, and pressed on. That Thursday, as Kristen (who had met me at my office) and I were heading out to the car to meet Eric, he called us and suggested that, as he was coming from somewhere else anyway, it might be easier to meet at the house and take another look at it before we do the paperwork. This time, we looked even more closely, and the longer we stayed there, the more all three of us felt that this wasn't the right decision. I'm not sure if it was any one issue for any of us, but the number of issues, smaller and larger, that would need to be dealt with made us all feel uncomfortable. In the end, we decided to table that house for now, and look for a bit more.

We decided to do a broader search, including houses that didn't have basements, and Eric and Kristen planned on going out the next day while I was working.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Confusing Conversation

This is a conversation I had with a friend recently on AIM. As background, my status message was, "Working LIKE A FOX!"

MetalHead Type 0:
so how does a fox work? ;)
coderforchrist: by eating chickens?
MetalHead Type 0: is that how you're workign?
MetalHead Type 0: working*
coderforchrist: stop calling me a liar!!! :-O
coderforchrist: ;-)
MetalHead Type 0: ....
MetalHead Type 0: not-truth-teller!
coderforchrist: um...not not-truth teller!
MetalHead Type 0: truth-un-teller-not?
coderforchrist: are you not saying I don't not tell the not truth?
MetalHead Type 0: no-yes-no-maybe-definately-not
MetalHead Type 0: -and-so-forth
coderforchrist: I will not not be not accused of not telling the not truth!
MetalHead Type 0: you will not be acused of not not truth not firetruck!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Buying a House, Part II

Things are going well with buying a house, so far. I contacted the lender that Eric (our realtor and a friend from our old church) recommended and got pre-approved for a loan that should more than cover what we need.

Then, this past Saturday, we went out with Eric to visit some houses that he'd picked out from listings near my office. One of the things we'd told him we'd like was a basement. As it turns out, a house that is listed as having a basement doesn't necessarily have a basement. In some cases, it was a small area behind the garage which happened to be under the house. Granted, all the houses we saw had a garage/basement (as opposed to just a basement that sits under the whole house), but some were better than others.

Anyway, I had expected that we would take most of the day looking at houses, but it only took about half the day. This was certainly aided by the one or two houses that we pretty much walked into and quickly walked out of.

I think the most interesting house was, I believe, the second one we visited. The exterior was not terribly confidence-inspiring. The roof looked like it had been shoddily done, the siding didn't look too great, etc. In contrast to the exterior, though, the family room we entered through the front door was "pimped out." Tile floor, nice fireplace, leather chairs, nice TV, even a bar that had been cut into the wall between the family room and the kitchen. The kitchen, however, wasn't quite as impressive. When we opened the door to the hallway that led to the bedrooms, it almost looked like the exterior (in quality, at least), except for the master bedroom. What was so interesting to me was the huge contrast between the different areas. One might say they were very telling as to what this resident's priorities were.

Another house we visited was nice enough, except that everywhere you looked there seem to be a half-finished project. Well, except for the kitchen; that had totally been redone, but we didn't really like what they'd done with it (the floorplan was similar to a house we did really like, which gave us an idea of what the house may have been like before). The listing for the house promoted a "finished bath" in the basement. "Finished," in this case, means a toilet connected to a hole in the ground where a pump is probably going to be buried.

At the end of our tours, we had only one house we were planning to keep in consideration. On the downside, the seller is asking a bit more than we're wanting to pay, but there could be some working with that. Also, the house is very, very nice—certainly worth what the seller wants for it—which means there's a chance it may get snatched up before we've had time to look at other options.

Hopefully, over the next week, we'll get a few chances to meet with Eric again, and we'll probably be out looking again next Saturday, this time in some other areas we've considered. God-willing, everything will work out for us to have a house before our lease is up on the apartment.