Buying Our First Home: The Search
This series of posts will look at our ridiculously long home-buying process (that had a happy ending!) in the hopes that people out there can learn a thing or two from what we did right and where we messed up. Today we start with “The Search,” which covers the first year of our home-buying process.
After M and I had lived together for about a year, we started talking about buying a place of our own. We didn’t know anything about the real-estate market at the time (it was booming) or how much we could afford—at that point it was just talk.
But as more and more time passed and the amount we had paid in rent started to climb, the talks got more and more serious. After going over to a friend’s place (which him and his wife owned) and hearing so many great things about the real estate agent he used, M and I decided to call him up.
Looking for a home looked like fun. We would know—we watched every home-buying show under the sun: House Hunters International, My First Place, Property Virgins, Property Ladder, etc.
After watching so many people (our friends and strangers on TV) realizing the “American dream” of owning a home, we figured it was our turn to take the plunge.
Our First Mistake
We weren’t ready. Looking back, it’s painfully obvious. But at the time we thought that if we found something, we would buy it.
Just like that.
The reality is we were in browsing mode. We wanted to see what was out there and test out what we could afford. Which turned out to be: not much.
When we moved in together, we chose a high rise because it was by the lake, convenient, and had a pool on the roof. We liked it so much that we started with those set parameters: we told ourselves we wanted to look at high rises near the lake and not too far north (this is in Chicago, by the way).
So we called up my friend’s broker and he had his assistant pick us up and show us some places. Right away there were some problems:
- We didn’t want his assistant, we wanted the main guy since my friend spoke so well of him
- The agent was a friend of my friend’s family, so he had done them a favor by representing him—he typically sells million-dollar homes
- We did not have a million dollars
I think you can see where this is headed.
But we went out around three times with his assistant and looked at high rises near the lake. That we could afford (I ran some rough mortgage calculations). They all sucked. They all needed work. They all made us feel poor and stupid for thinking we could afford a high rise near the lake.
This was not renting—it was a totally different beast.
We only saw one place that encouraged us: it had decent square footage but would need a lot of work. And because the price was low, we could probably afford to do the work it needed. Or so we thought.
Pain in the Assessments
But then we got our rude awakening: a little something called assessments. Typically, these range from $150 to $300/month. For high rises, you’ll see them go from $600 up to $1,300/month.
It’s almost like you’re buying and you still have to pay a rent for the right to live there. Insane!
This was our second mistake: we fell in love with the idea of living in a high rise. It got it stuck in our heads that that’s what we wanted and that’s what we were going to get. We saw the numbers, we could do the math, but we clung dearly to the idea despite what the reality was: we could not afford it.
That first year we probably saw around 20 places and never came close to making an offer. As fall came and the weather started to get cold, we decided to take a break and wait until next year, when we would make a point to go out with the actual broker and not his assistant.
That’s when the real fun would start.
Check out part II here.
Also included in the Carnival of Money Stories
Image by MissTurner