House Dating Sucks. Here’s How To Make It Suck Less.

Doll House by The Shopping Sherpa - Used under Creative Commons

Doll House by The Shopping Sherpa – Used under Creative Commons

Husband and I looked at buying a home a few years ago, before we got married. The home inspection fell through, and it was really difficult to let it go. Looking back, it was the right decision and we’d have been kicking ourselves now if we had bought it. We settled into a beautiful rental, where we had our wedding reception, and where we have spent many happy days.

This year, because of the low housing prices, and because we would love to start paying ourselves rent instead of a landlord, we’re trying again. And can I just tell you that I do NOT have the stomach for house-hunting. For me, it’s nerve-wracking, emotional, and stressful. It’s like dating:

You know what you want and the kind of lifestyle you can afford. 

You look around and a house catches you eye.

You like this house. This house is sexy. 

You invest time and effort and money in getting to know this house.

This house has it going on. This house can really just let you be yourself. This house is amazing.

You really, REALLY like this house.

You love this house.

You propose to this house.

Then you find out other people are proposing to the same house.

What? Get away, it’s MY house.

People with nicer cars and fatter wallets. Younger, more attractive people with better buyer profiles. They’re proposing.

Then:

The younger, more attractive person with the better car and better buyer profile gets the house.

Or, conversely: The bank says “F@#$ you.”

We just lost a house today. A sexy, mid-century, California Dream of a house. One we really REALLY wanted.

So today I’m kind of doing the sad, shame-faced, Post-Breakup Mope: “Maybe if we had tried harder. Maybe if I was more aggressive at work and demanded a bigger raise. Maybe if we have seen it earlier. Maybe if we had saved up more of a down-payment. Forget it, there’ll never be another house like that again. That house was THE ONE. That was where we were going to raise a gaggle of fat little babies. I was going to put my garden along the side wall by the master bedroom. I HAD OUR LIVINGROOM DECORATED ALREADY FOR GOD’S SAKE.”

I’m not good at the emotional side of house-hunting, so for that part of it, I can only tell you to let your head rule, not your heart. Acknowledge those feelings, but don’t let them decide wallet-related things. Just because you love something doesn’t mean you can afford it, or that you should over-pay for it. Someone always wants your money, and just because you’re bereaved, it doesn’t make you a sap.

HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO MAKE HOUSE-HUNTING LESS PAINFUL

Before you buy:

  1. Know your budget. Really know it. Because if and when there is a bidding war (pretty much standard at any bank-owned property lately) you will need to not be swayed by emotions, no matter how much you may think you love this house. You need a firm bottom line to stick to.
  2. Know the house size you need (square footage and lot). If you plan to start a family or need a home office, there’s no reason to look at something you’ll be cramped in or soon outgrow.
  3. Know what to expect with fees associated with loans. Do your research on what loans are available to you, since some lenders specialize in different kinds of loans and may not tell you all of your options. A 3% FHA loan may be great as far as down-payment, but the (suddenly in 2012 astronomical) fees may cancel out any tax deduction or savings you may make on buying a cheaper house with less down.If you can save up for a few more months for more down payment, it may be worth it. Don’t forget closing costs and home inspection!
  4. Have an open mind as far as moving money around within a set budget: A more expensive move-in ready houses versus a cheaper fixer-upper.
  5. Prioritize how the house location fits with your job, since you’ll need your job to pay for the house.
  6. If you’re a couple, discuss career paths and what you expect your earning power to look like over the next 10 years. This should strongly affect your budget. If one of you wants to pop out kids and not go back to work or be Mr. Mom, the time to discuss it is BEFORE buying, not after.
  7. Know what you need, what you love, and what are bonuses but you can live without. This will help you decide when houses are really similar and the pros and cons get confusing. Spa Tub or Granite Counters? Garage or Hot Tub? Fireplace or Wood Floor?
Which Trailer do you Fancy?

Which Trailer do you Fancy?

When looking at properties:

  1. Prepare your questions about each listing BEFORE you get to the property. Take your list of MUST HAVES with you if you like, to check them off.
  2. Look at things like foundations, roofs, windows, ceilings, and walls for signs of water damage or cracks. You’ll of course get an inspection, but major repairs affect offers.
  3. If the house is unoccupied, take as many photos or videos as you can. With several houses, it’s hard to remember all the details.
  4. Observe things like AC and Heat vents, plumbing, washer/dryer hookups, etc. Note if appliances come with the house.
  5. If renovations are not “permitted” (up to code), or paint and wear and tear are an issue, this may affect your loan. Take note of these things.
  6. Don’t focus on the cosmetics: carpet can come up, fixtures can be changed. Instead, look at the space, floor plan and “bones” of the home.

Since Husband and I have only gotten as far as an accepted offer and a failed home inspection, this is the end of my advice for now. But I’ll certainly do another post if  we get any further along this time around!

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