Archive for the ‘House’ Category

We’re buying a house! Part 1

I haven’t posted in quite a while – life happened and we got busy and well, now I have something to post about.

Back in May, we’d met with a BECU mortgage officer to see what kind of financial shape we were in, and to figure out what we could do to get into a house soon.  Like, in 12-18 months.  We were anticipating some debt from the wedding and honeymoon, we still had a $450 per month car payment, plus several hundreds of dollars per month in student loan payments for the both of us.  We weren’t in horrible shape, by any means, but it seemed prudent to pay down some debt, and then maybe start thinking about looking in Summer 2012.

House #1: Lots of potential...

Late this past fall, Matt and I started looking at houses on Redfin.  I don’t exactly remember why we skipped the waiting plan, but we did.  The first house we looked at, on the weekend after Thanksgiving, was a HomePath house – meaning it was owned by Fannie Mae, and was eligible for special financing.  Only a few banks are able to use this special financing, so we found one we’d actually heard of – Umpqua Bank, based in Portland – and start the preapproval process with them.  We liked a lot of things about the house – its Lake Forest Park location (cheap enough for our budget, but not so far away from Seattle) the big yard, the renovation potential, etc.  For various reasons, one of which being that it went into “pending” status the morning we toured it, we decided not to make an offer on that first house.  We then decided to wait until after the new year to look at more houses.

Then I booked a tour to see four houses in South Seattle the following Saturday.  South Seattle had many houses in our price/size range – we were only looking at houses under $300,000 with at least 1,750 sq ft in the house, and a lot of at least 4,000 sq ft in total.  South Seattle was not really our ideal location, since most of our life happens in the northern neighborhoods (our current house, our favorite grocery store, our doctors, our hangouts, the majority of our friends, etc). The schools down there are iffy at best, and there aren’t any of the grocery stores we normally use.  Despite the downfalls, we do have a couple of sets of friends who live in South Seattle neighborhoods that we like, so we were looking forward to seeing what was available and be willing to make a leap.

One of the houses was essentially a crack den.  There was a little vial of some drug substance on the front porch waiting for us.  Another house looked fantastic from the outside, but when we went in, it was clear that in the 4 years since the house was built, no one ever vacuumed or cleaned any surface.  There were holes in the walls and dirt every where.  It was shockingly bad.  Another house was in good shape, but cramped and labyrinthine in layout and just felt like munchkin grandparents had been living there for decades.  The last house was fantastic – a stunning Craftsman in good condition for only $239,900 – and it was another HomePath house.  We looked past the cramped second floor and low ceilings of the basement and saw a main floor built for our style of entertaining.  It had a sun room and a huge yard and a garage and seemed to be in a neighborhood where we wouldn’t find meth on the front porch!  We were preapproved and made an offer two days later, on Tuesday.  Only to find out that evening that there had been an offer accepted on the house that morning while we were submitting ours.

House #2: The one that got away....

I was crestfallen.  Matt was pretty disappointed.  We again decided to wait until January to look again, to give us time to mourn.

And then I booked a tour for the next Saturday to see another house in South Seattle that just made me laugh.  I felt like we didn’t have to feel so in love with our first house as we’d been by the Craftsman – that it was just going to break our hearts, so we might as well find something we liked and thought was fun.

House #3: The Juniper House - a party in the middle of nowhere.

The Juniper House (so-called because it was on Juniper Street) was definitely fun.  It was HUGE – about 3,000 sq ft, and had a ton of amazing spaces.  There would be projects galore,  space for guests, and tons of entertaining.  The only problem was that it is in a neighborhood we didn’t know existed – WAY down near Renton, but not really part of Renton.  It would have been an extreme lifestyle change to start living down there, plus the neighborhood wasn’t very nice-looking.  I’m sure that because we looked at it in mid-December, the neighborhood wasn’t showing off its best side (it looked bare and unkempt and unfriendly), but it was still something to consider.

So we decided not to make an offer on it.  It was getting down to the week before Christmas, and we again thought we would wait until the new year to look again, but we knew better than to take that decision seriously.  Matt didn’t want to look in South Seattle anymore.  As much as we love our friends down there (and we REALLY do!), it just didn’t feel right for our lifestyle.  So we booked a tour to see 5 houses (all contenders!) in Shoreline and Lake Forest Park.

House #4: Home Sweet Home

I won’t go into the houses that we saw and didn’t like – they just aren’t worth mentioning.  We saw this guy (name TBD) and were blown away by how much better he looked in person than in the photos.  The spaces in the house were great, there was room to move and breathe and have guests and do projects!  He’s in Lake Forest Park, only 15 minutes from our second favorite grocery store in the area (hooray for Town & Country/Central Markets!) and in the best school district in the area.  We toured him on December 23, submitted our full-price offer before noon on December 24, and then were told on December 27 that there were multiple offers on the home.  We were asked to submit our “highest and best” offer by 8 am the next morning.  Our real estate agent (all of this was through Redfin) advised us to set our high offer and then use a strategic “escalation clause” to try to win the house.  It would make it so we would essentially offer $2,000 more than any other offer, up to our top price.   We did this and waited to hear back the next morning.

Unfortunately, because our agent hadn’t been given the right paperwork, we didn’t know that the seller (in this case, Freddie Mac owned the home and it was a part of the HomeSteps program) was not accepting escalation clauses.  So we put in our top price, adjusted our terms for our downpayment (raising it from 3.5% down for an FHA loan to 5% for a conventional loan) and closing date, and waited.  On December 30, Matt checked the listing and it showed that the house was “pending.”  At that point, we hadn’t heard whether our offer was accepted or not, since our agent had been dealing with the whole thing while on vacation in Vancouver BC!  We were nervous and anxious for several hours until we got word at about 4:30 pm that the pending status was due to the acceptance of OUR offer.

The past two weeks have been a bit of a blur.  We had a meeting with the bank to finalize the loan (due to Matt’s great credit, we got locked in at 3.75% for a 30 year mortgage and because of the HomeSteps program bonuses and deals along with Redfin’s commission rebate, ALL of our closing costs are covered and we won’t pay a dime aside from our downpayment at closing!), deposited our earnest money with escrow (5% of the purchase cost of the house, which will roll into the downpayment), and had our inspection last weekend.  Everything has gone well – no major concerns about the house, just small repairs – and we would recommend both Redfin and Umpqua Bank to anyone who is thinking of buying a house.

Phew!  I know if haven’t actually talked much about the house yet, but I’ll post again soon with some of our initial ideas for remodeling.