Friday, May 18, 2012

House Hunting - Steps 1 & 2

Sammit and I started looking for a house this month.  We started this process last summer but stopped when A) we couldn't find a realtor that would talk to us if we weren't pre-approved for a mortgage and B) a creepy and aggressive loan officer who didn't complete his contracts and who really over-shared in his first meeting with us.  So, we ran away as fast as we could and hide in our frugally-rented-family-owned-too-small-for-everyone-living-here house until we felt comfortable enough to reemerge this spring.

And now, we're really enjoying the process.  Here's what we did differently:

A) We found a realtor we really like.  I was a little hesitant as a DIYer to look for a buyer's agent.  I was concerned it would ultimately be an added expense and we'd have someone who just wanted to get us in the most expensive house they could as fast as they could.  I took some advice from a blogger I respect and searched for a realtor through the Dave Ramsey website.  It's free - and while I don't tend to buy into a lot of the hype I find online about anything, I respect a lot of the stuff Dave Ramsey teaches about debt relief and money management.  The website sent my phone number to 3 agents in this area and each one of them contacted me within 24 hours.  I didn't get good feelings from two of the initial conversations.  I felt like they weren't listening to me and they recommended that we close before the end of the summer because "inventory is dropping and interest rates can't go any lower!" Gross.

One of the realtors I spoke with seemed very receptive to the pace Sammit and I are operating at - we want to be able to move quickly when we see something we like, but we don't want to feel rushed and we're in a great place to be able to take our time (even until next year if we need).  This realtor got it.  He set up a consultation with one of his buying agents so we could walk through the entire process of buying a house from beginning to end and have all of our questions answered.  This meeting was an hour long and came with no obligation to the company.

Our meeting was with Jerry (when we complete our transaction and are completely satisfied, I'll be happy to share his information) who is a laid-back but efficient guy.  He's about Sammit's age and has just started a family.  He's fantastic!  My favorite part about this process is that the agency encourages us to try other realtors and look with other buyer's agents.  We don't have to sign a commitment to them until we put an offer on a house we saw through them.  Actually, my real favorite part was when I told him we might have to wait until next summer - instead of trying to convince us to close in the next few months he said:
That might make the most sense!  I want to make sure you're in a house you love - 'cause if you're not happy, who are you going to blame? Me.  The inventory will always be there and I honestly don't think interest rates will be going up too much - they may even go down.  Besides, you'll have more money saved for a down payment and you'll probably feel more financially ready than you already are.
Can you say love at first meeting!?  That's exactly how we feel about it and he's the first person to agree.

Our Credit Union - "Doof-Koo"
B) We started the pre-approval process (again) but this time we talked with 3 different loan officers first.  We finally opted to apply with our credit union for a few reasons: 1) We get a higher dividend paid out to us each year if we hold our mortgage with them; 2) We can do all of our banking from one site and I don't have to remember more usernames and passwords; 3) Most importantly, our mortgage is kept in Michigan by the people who are loaning us the money.  They are more conservative with their loans because they are the ones who will eat-it if we default, but we have good credit scores and a low debt-to-credit ratio. While we won't hear back until next week, I have a feeling we'll be okay.  This is the largest amount of money we have ever, and most likely will ever, invest in ourselves and in the economy; I feel good knowing that it's staying local and supporting the kind of socially responsible foundation on which we try to build our lives.

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