House Hunting

We’re looking at houses!
It’s fun.:extrahappy:
It’s stressful. :crying:
It’s time-consuming. :ehh:
It’s expensive.:bigyikes:

I’d love to read about your house hunting journeys.:popcorn:

And did Catholicism have anything to do with your home search? For instance, did any of you look at the nearby Catholic parishes when making your decision? Do you react differently when you see crucifixes or Catholic art displayed in a home for sale? Tell me about it…

We bought this house four years ago. We stayed in the same town as before, so the parish stayed the same. I think we bought from Mormons. Not sure if I recall seeing any Catholic homes (but we may have, it took us 8 months to find a house and we saw over 100 homes), but there was a lot that turned me off of a property! Unflushed toilets, for one thing. Blech.

I would say my biggest tip is to be patient. Don’t let the excitement of buying or the fear that nothing better will come along lead you toward compromising your “big five.” Oh yeah - have a “big five.” Those are the five things you and your husband refuse to compromise on. For us, we needed a min. of four bedrooms, we wanted a large yard, we wanted to live on a cul de sac, it had to be a nice neighborhood, and had to have NO POOL. We also had a “small five” that were important to us - we wanted a house with a lot of natural light, mostly move-in ready, no neighbors with pit bulls (weird I know but I hate them), a good neighborhood school “just in case”, and air conditioning. Many times we were tempted to place offers because we were scared we’d miss the boat on a house that was good enough, but we waited and ultimately ended up in the perfect home for us. Now I am so glad we disn’t pounce on some of the houses we saw earlier! You will know when it’s just right :). Have fun and good luck!

We began our house hunting just when Pope JP II died. I prayed for his guidance. We bought the third house we looked at. We did do a lot of research on the areas we were considering before we even looked at any houses or contacted an agent. I don’t think you can go into house hunting totally on a whim or totally blind. You have to do your homework and know the school districts (property taxes), the local parishes, the access to shopping areas, hospitals, etc. We also viewed the websites of the real estate companies, watched the local real estate show every week…just to get an idea of prices and what areas our budget could get a better house.

I would also suggest if you have friends or family that just recently bought a house, ask for them to recommend an agent or company. Our agent was wonderful! She made the whole process a piece of cake.

Well, I live in low income housing, so I doubt I’ll be house hunting any time soon. But I do want to say one thing. When I applied, I was asked if I had a preference on where I l ived. Well, I heard that two of the sites were really good and to go there. So I mentioned them. My original apartment was in one of those two buildings, and it was the worst experience of my life. I was there 9 years. Then it got to where I absolutely had to move. I was being harassed by two male tenants and a female employee. Where I currently live is better by far. It’s still low income housing, but quieter, without the “in your face” presence of the housing authority and better neighbors in general. I even have a small area where I can grow whatever I want. Well, anything legal. :eek:

You and I have different definitions of “fun,” I think. :stuck_out_tongue:

When my husband and I were still engaged, we were trying to find a house to buy for us to be able to start our lives together. We ended up doing a short-sale, which, while worth it in the long run because of cost, was frustrating in so many ways. We knew that it was going to take a while, but we put in our offer in April, got married in July, and couldn’t move in till October, so we spent the first few months of married life in my in-laws’ house. The realty office the previous owners were using was terrible - they would hardly get back to our realtor (she was wonderful and really on the ball - I’d get emails from her at 2 am sometimes. I don’t think she understood the word “sleep”) and would send urgent emails that had to have immediate responses that sometimes required changes to the contract or spoken agreements. We were actually ready to walk away at one point (while living with his parents, so that should tell you how fed up we were) when everything finally fell into place.

That said, location was a big deal to us for multiple reasons. We know the area very well - I grew up in the county, and my husband is a teacher in the county, so being in a good school boundary was really important to us (we really can’t afford Catholic schools, and the schools in the county are so good that we can make up the faith teachings at home and at church). Being in a good parish was also important, but not as much because there’s more flexibility in Mass attendance than school zones. Once we found the neighborhood we currently live in, we pretty much told our realtor that we didn’t want to look anywhere else and narrowed our search to there.

We’re totally spoiled in terms of location, and that will make it difficult when we have to upgrade (we currently live in a 2BR townhouse with less than 1000 sq ft with one kid and one on the way in less than a month, so it doesn’t have to be for a while, but it will have to happen). We have a fabulous parish that I don’t ever want to leave, a good school pyramid (with a decent music program), and a perfect middle ground for our respective families (they live 30-45 minutes on either side of us and we were both military brats and therefore spent a lot of time nowhere close to family). That said, since we HAVE to upgrade at some point, I’ve put together some must haves and nice to haves for when that happens:

MUST HAVES

  1. Good school boundaries. I will veto an otherwise perfect house if the school they’d go to has a horrible reputation, particularly within the county teachers. Granted, our area has pretty good schools, but there are two in particular that I will avoid like the plague, and a few that I feel could take a nosedive due to possible socioeconomic/demographic shifts.
  2. 3 BR/1.5 bath minimum
  3. Nothing more than minor upgrades to be done. Painting and spackling is easy peasy. Replacing the floors/carpeting is doable, though a pain. Anything more than a basic bathroom remodel is probably not worth it on our budget.
  4. Storage space (I lived in an apartment that had more storage than the house we live in now. Weird, but true).
  5. Good kitchen. I will invariably spend a good portion of my time there and if it’s not well-designed, I will be regretting the house purchase

NICE TO HAVES

  1. Good natural light. I like leaving the lights off if I can to save energy and to enjoy the sun, plus I get really cranky if I don’t get natural light.
  2. Yard. Doesn’t have to be fenced, but something big enough to have a play area and a garden area would be nice.
  3. Garage or carport. Anything besides the parking lot we have is an upgrade, though.
  4. Sidewalks
  5. Good parish (as I said before, that’s more flexible than school boundaries)

Well. That was a lot longer than I thought. Guess it’s been on my mind a bit. :blush:

It took us a while to find our house.

We would start looking…get discouraged, and stop. And then start again.

The funniest house hunting incident happened when we were supposed to see this completely renovated home for a price that was significantly lower than other houses that we had seen. The neighborhood was supposedly very nice, yet similar houses in the neighborhood cost much more. :confused:

So we followed the realtor to the home. We pulled up and DH and I looked at each other, trying to keep a straight face. The home was lovely, all renovated with a fire place, a brand new gourmet kitchen, new baths.

A very, very nice home.

Why was it priced so low? Right behind the backyard was a cemetery. We could see all the tombstones from the master bedroom.

At least the neighbors were quiet.

:newidea: Great idea for “big five” and “little five”. :thumbsup:

I made my list just now. .:smiley: My dh and I had discussed things we wanted, as “must have” vs. “would be nice”. I realize that something that was on our mutual “would be nice” really belongs on the “big five”.

:rotfl:

I was wondering if anyone here had short sale experience. Some of the homes we’ve looked at have upside-down mortgages and are potential short sales. Wow! It took you April to October??!!! When did you know with reasonable certainty that you were getting the house? Did you have to negotiate a lot with the bank, or was the just slow at processing and approving your first offer?

It’s nice that you found an apartment where you can garden! I look forward to planting gardens wherever I live. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the suggestions! I know what you mean about needing to look at school districts for property taxes. Some of those property taxes are practically like second house payments! We’ve been looking on-and-off for a while. Now that it’s spring, we’re getting a little more serious about the process.

Honestly, the bank was the least of our problems. The other realtors were AWFUL. I am not exaggerating. For example: we put in an offer, but the bank appraised the house almost $30k lower. We thought we were shot right there, but instead the bank said, “Let’s just lower the price to the appraisal.” !!! The realtors, on the other hand…they couldn’t be bothered to return phone calls to our realtor, they wouldn’t know the answers to the questions we had when they DID respond, and they would do all sorts of last minute things. The final straw was when we got a phone call at about 8:30 one night saying that we had to pay $2000 in cash or cashier’s check to prevent the house from foreclosing in a week. That was when we were fed up and like, “You know what? It’s not worth it anymore.” The owners ended up putting up the money, which we then rolled in to part of the closing costs that we repaid them. We felt so bad for them - they got terrible representation and probably got screwed out of some money because of it. :frowning: Oh, and then it took their realtors weeks to come and take their dang sign and lockbox out of our yard, and it was only after my husband called multiple times and then finally left a message saying that he was going to cut the box off and toss the sign.

We knew we had the house for good…well, honestly, we were holding our breath the whole time, but we were pretty sure we had it about 2 weeks before we closed. It was a little disheartening because we kept having optimistic dates that would come and go. “Maybe we’ll be able to close before the wedding!!! …Maybe we’ll be able to close by the time we get back from the honeymoon!! …Maybe we’ll be able to close by the time my apartment lease is up! …Maybe we’ll be able to close before school starts. …we’re never going to close, are we?” And April to October sounds bad, but we put in the offer mid-April, closed Sept. 30, and moved in Oct. 2. It’s not great, but it’s not like it was a whole 6 or 7 months.

That said, our realtor said that it was one of the top 3 most stressful house buying experiences she’s ever had, and she’s been in the business a long time. It can only go up from there! I can’t imagine you’ll have people as incompetent as those.

That whole thing sounds nerve wracking! I can see why you don’t think looking at homes is fun.

So…if you don’t mind answering, I have lots of questions on the short sale process as one of my favorites (so far) is a short sale. Since you got it at appraised value, did really even you save money on the house by going with a short sale? Or was it just that’s what you needed to do the short sale to get the exact home you wanted? And while you were waiting for the final decisions and the closing, did you keep looking at other homes just in case it didn’t work out?

There’s no guarantee that we would have gotten it at appraised value. Either we would have had to come up with the money ourselves to make up the difference OR we would have had to drop out and keep looking. The fact that the bank decided to let us amend our offer to the appraisal value told us that they really just wanted to make at least some of the money back on the house and not foreclose. This was right around the time the market was starting to recover, but the previous owners bought pretty much at the height of the bubble, so they got snowed.

We didn’t keep looking. We figured that if we did, we would be driving ourselves nuts and that wasn’t conducive to our sanity. In terms of getting the “exact” home we wanted…well, we were both teachers (I’m now a SAHM) and we needed to make sure we could get a place that we could afford on one salary just in case, which substantially limited the number of houses. There were still issues that we had/have with the house, but we can deal with them because we need to and they’re not super major.

Would we have been able to find another place that wasn’t a short sale that we could afford? Yes. Would it have been cheaper? Probably not, but that has more to do with what was available. Would we do it again? I don’t know. I would be willing to do another short sale (and would be a little better prepared for what to expect), and I love the location and really like our little house, but I don’t know if I would put myself through this particular brand of hell again.

Thanks for sharing more details about your experience with purchasing a short sale. :slight_smile:

haha. We have a cemetery we can see from our back yard. It’s not as in your face as what you describe, but they do make quiet neighbors. Our elderly neighbor just died and now my kids know that she is no longer in the house next door, but in the yard behind us. :slight_smile: (and praying her soul is in heaven)

Gardens, we are contemplating a move. We are keeping in our school district and want to be in either walking distance to our church or to the high school. Keeping in a good school district is wise, even if you have no one attending the school. It keeps the property value higher and keeps ones options open.

Our funny moving story is one to do with a novena to St. Theresa the Little Flower. After we finished praying the novena, my husband previewed some houses for us. He was keeping an eye out for roses, just in case. As he looked at over 20 houses, ALL the homes had roses, but one house!..it was 2 days after St. Valentine’s Day!! :p:D

Ours is an interesting story.

My husband and I were dating and had been together for almost two years. He had tried to apply for a loan when I was away for military training but was told to clean up a couple of things on his credit.

He spent that year cleaning up his credit and got to the point where he was good to apply again.

By this point I had discovered I was pregnant, we got engaged and started planning for a baby and a wedding. On a whim…he went through USAA to apply for a housing loan. We were accepted and started preparing to house hunt and make the biggest purchase of our lives on top of everything else.
We also started RCIA at the same time.

Every Saturday for 3 months we devoted time to house hunting. Every Sunday was Church in the morning, immediately head to RCIA, lunch and then looking at at least one other house.

We had specifics…but I like to call them practical specifics. We wanted a fenced-in back yard, we wanted a fire place, we wanted a Cape style house, we wanted gas heat and preferably two floors…and I wanted a dish washer (I had never had a dishwasher in my entire life and I told my husband this was an absolute non-negotiable and him telling me he’d buy me one if the house didn’t have one wasn’t good enough…my dad told my mom the same thing and it never happened). All within our price range and located in a certain section of town.

We started making compromises because we could never find absolutely everything we wanted.

By the end of the 2nd month I was totally exhausted…nearing 8 months in my pregnancy and I was still working and going to school. I didn’t want to house hunt anymore.

Our realtor wasn’t that fantastic…she was the wife of one of my husband work buddies and she was new to the realtor business. She wasn’t finding us much…it was turning into my husband hunting for new listings while at work…printing out the good ones he liked and asking the realtor to show us the house.

Then my husband found the perfect house…it had everything we wanted and was exactly at our price limit and was exactly the location we were looking for.

The home owners took our offer right away and we started applying for the loan. I was due in a couple more weeks and trying to put a wedding together and studying for finals.

Then we got the news we were dreading…my husband was being hinted at work that he might be laid off. He is also in the military and was working continuos orders for 5 years straight. He wasn’t told he was going to get another set of orders…his boss was stringing him along and wasn’t giving him a straight answer.
If he didn’t get orders then the bank would have seen that and we wouldn’t have gotten the loan.

Miraculously, he got orders for another 6 months only a day before the application was due. Other little things were popping up too…the closing costs were supposed to be covered in the loan…then our realtor told us we’d have to pay them…which meant we had to scramble money out of our retirement and savings. Then that changed back.
Then there was a problem with the lead in our house…that was resolved too.

The application was accepted…the house passed inspection and we were ready to close. I had given birth to a little girl and we were both accepted into the Church about a week later. Our baby girl was a month old when my husband handed me the keys to our new house.

He wanted to hang a banner at our wedding reception that said “mission accomplished” but we didn’t. :wink:
Our wedding was one of the best days of my life because everything seemed to have worked itself out.
God truly wanted us to be where we were and there were times over those past months where there was no other way we were making it through without the direct help of the Holy Spirit.

A week later we moved into our new home and it’s been a year since this happened. Hubby and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary in two weeks!

Ha!

The very last house we looked at had a beautiful view of the highway on one side and a cemetery on the other. We declined putting in an offer.

In our state…you really can’t buy a newer house without compromising on location. Houses are very, very old and very well built…so they last a long time. They also took up all of the good spots. New houses are built close to highways, in flood zones, on busy streets or right on top of each other with no privacy between neighbors.

However, buying an old home means you need to deal with lead and asbestos. Our home is 70 years old and had almost no issues with either.

Your story reminds me of a house we saw listed online. It was huge, had a completely finished basement, two bathrooms, large plot of land that was totally fenced in, a nice driveway, new roof and windows and a nice kitchen. The price was also a good $60,000 lower then what you’d expect a house like that to go for.
We agreed to look at it…but I told my husband that something was not right and there had to be a major flaw in the home we couldn’t see online.

When we drove up the street to the house…I immediately knew why it was priced the was it was. Right across the street…spanning the entire block…were the projects. Then my husband knew why he had recognized the street…he had seen it many times in the local paper’s police reports for numerous crime related issues such as domestics and drugs.

We didn’t put in an offer.

Well, it is now 20 years since i bought my house, so it gives me a chance to reminisce.

I was single. I was living in an apartment for 9 years. My business partner and i were going to move out of his attic and have a real office - which needed painting - and moving. We were going to hire our first employee - and we needed a “real” office. I was working 80+ hours a week.

So, i decided that I was going to take my first vacation in five years. I had friends doing their residencies in London, England. So, I was going to visit them. My flight was to leave on a Thursday afternoon. On Wednesday night, i come home from a long day at work. I still had packing to do. I get the mail - and there is an eviction notice. My landlords wanted my apartment for their son and wife and their new grandchild.

So here i am in a panic before my plane. I knew if i found another apartment that i would stay there for years. I had been thinking of trying to find a house a couple of years down the road, so i had been saving a little bit for that. So if i were to get a house - now was the time. I figured with closing, i had to find a house within two weeks (but a week of that I’d be in England. Because i had never bought a house before, i had no idea what i could afford, or how to go about it.

I stopped in a bank the next morning - asked them what i could qualify for. I went to a real estate agency and asked them if there were houses in that range in the part of town i desired. And i told them that i would return a week later to start my search.

So here i was trying to get our offices ready. - sneaking out and looking at houses. (And in my price range - there were some doosies! - I tried to stay away from those with huge cracks in the basement walls - I could deal with the psychedelic pink bathrooms or such. And after a week, I found a by-owner house that was just outside of my financial reach. I asked the owners if they could negotiate on price a little. I begged the bank for a larger loan.

And within two months, i closed on my house. Because i was in my own business (although, it was not well established, I had all these red -flags for the loan). They had to keep asking me for more financial information - and not only my own. They needed my business partner’s tax returns for a couple of years. (Now that is embarrassing to have to ask that kind of thing from someone else.

Well, it’s been 20 years. I love the house. In many ways i am fortunate that i had only a week to look. I’ve known people who spent years going to open houses - and every house had some kind of glich that made it unacceptable (until someone else made an offer on the house - then it was the perfect house - that they could no longer have). Either way, after you make your offer (or if you fail to make an offer) there are huge regrets - or fears that you made the wrong decision.

But after years of talking to people, i realize that a house is just a thing. If you did make a mistake, then you could always sell it an move on. (If you bought it at a market price, then you should be able to get most of what you put into it, and sell it and be a wiser buyer). It’s not a lifelong decision that you have to make.

good luck (and thanks down that trip to memory lane)

My husband and I recently began the first steps to buying a house. We’ve found a mortgage lender, a realtor, and now we are going through the preapproval process (ugh…the gathering of all the paperwork is a real pain). We start looking at houses in about a week and a half, and we are nervous, yet excited.

The hardest thing for us has been the decision to actually stay in our town. We live a very large metropolitan area with a high cost of living, so in order to afford a home for our future family (4 bedrooms, large yard, etc), we moved a while ago to a town about an hour and a half commute from our jobs. We LOVE our town, and we have an incredible parish that is very large and active. We love all sorts of things about where we live now, but the commute is really killing us, and it was the sticking point that prevented us from buying in the past. We contemplated moving to another region of the country or back to my home town 5 states away, but that required quitting our jobs and picking up everything and leaving this great town. We really didn’t want to do that, but gee, we were stuck in this “do we move, do we not move?” dilemma for quite some time.

Through prayer to St. Monica and St. Joseph, however, we have decided to stay. My parish started a novena to St. Joseph a couple months ago, so I thought I would join in and ask him for help with our predicament. While my husband was applying to jobs outside this area, and we were thinking that it would be best to move away, my husband got a call out of the blue from an employer in the city. He had not contacted them; they had just found his resume online and thought he would be a good fit. They offered him a job on the spot, without an interview, and then offered him a salary that is 50 percent more than he is making now. Such an increase in salary will better enable us to buy a bigger house for more children, enable me to stay home with kids longer, and make our lives so much easier in general. We took this as a sign and an answer to my novena!

St. Monica has also been a huge help. I prayed a novena to her in the hopes that she would help me in deciding what to do about my job and how we can start a family in the future with me working so far from home. It occurred to me while praying one day to search for jobs that are closer to our town and out of the city. I am also hoping to work from home once we have children (I’m a writer, so it should be a possibility).

Prayer has given us tremendous peace in making our decision, and now we are gearing up for the long process of actually finding a house that is perfect for us. St. Joseph and St. Monica are going to have a lot to listen to from us in this process!

Good luck in your process! Ask St. Joseph and St. Monica for their aide :slight_smile:

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