My Journey To Buying My First Home

Saturday 9/19 – This Saturday was just like any other. It was after 2 pm, and I was casually looking through Zillow at new condo listings. I’d been searching for a few months to get a feel for how quick condos were selling, in what areas, and the average association fees. Until this point, I was planning on contacting a realtor after the new year. I do love a resolution, so why not make buying a home next year’s?

On this Saturday, all those plans flew out the window. The listing for a condo was quietly waiting in my email for me to discover it; I opened the listing to view the pictures. The location was in my preferred area close to work and a cute downtown with bars and restaurants. The condo itself had a screened-in balcony and included all the appliances; washer, dryer, even the kitchen sink. The complex is pet-friendly and has a low HOA, and this particular unit was priced on the low side of my price range. I may have shrieked when I saw it. That feeling must be what it’s like when you see your child for the first time. As soon as I saw this listing, I thought to myself, “that’s my baby!”

I didn’t have a realtor, so I had Zillow connect me with one of the area’s local agents. She called 30 minutes after sending the email, and  I told her I loved it and wanted to see it as soon as possible. I was off Tuesday and Wednesday; either day would be great. We set a date for Wednesday morning. 

I frantically texted my mom, telling her to pray I can put in an offer on this condo. I explained how over the moon I was, and she immediately stopped me. With her best motherly advice, she said, “Call your realtor back right now and schedule a viewing sooner than Wednesday! If it’s as great as you say it is, you have to see it first. It will be gone by Wednesday.” When moms know, they know. I rescheduled the showing for the first available time on Monday, 9:00 am. 

Monday 9/21 –  I didn’t sleep a bit on Sunday night. My thoughts swirled from decorating ideas to hoping it was just as lovely in person as it was online. I slipped on my comfy house dress and Birkenstocks in a fog and headed off to the listing. I met the realtor and the seller at the condo. I was in the condo for less than five minutes ( it’s only 650 sq ft), and I said I want to put in an offer today! 

Later in the afternoon, I sent in my paperwork to submit my offer. Full ask, 30-day close. I was patiently waiting to hear if they accepted my offer; instead, the realtor informed me the seller would not accept my offer. They wanted two other showings to be given a chance to view the property and potently submit an offer. I was fuming mad. I offered full ask first! What more could you want?!?! (More money, duh!)

Tuesday 9/22 – I Continued with submitting financial paperwork; Bank statements, W2s, payslips, etc. I kept myself busy for most of the day, trying not to stress, but let’s be honest, I was worried. Late in the afternoon, my realtor called with the news I didn’t want to hear. A second offer was submitted. I would have to offer over the asking price in hopes the seller would pick me. Having no idea of how much to offer, my realtor strongly suggested 5k over asking. She explained that for every thousand dollars over, the mortgage would go up an additional $10. I was okay with that and submitted my counter offer at 4:00 pm. The seller was going to make their final decision by 9:00 pm. The next five hours were miserable. I changed my shirt three times because my nervous sweating soaked them. I burned a hole in my shoes from pacing around the house, and my usual method of stress cleaning wouldn’t calm my nerves. 

Finally, at 9:10, my realtor texted me – The seller accepted my offer! 

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Wednesday 9/23 – I had the best sleep Tuesday night. My brain was exhausted from the anticipation of finding out if my offer was going to be accepted; the rest was much needed. Per my realtor’s instructions, I would have to send in my escrow money to secure the property. She gave me two options: I could drive to the attorney’s office and hand them a check for $1000.00 or wire the money from my bank. Outside of Paypal or Venmo, I don’t know how to send money through the bank. So I opted to drive to the seller’s attorney. Bonus, it would give me the opportunity to drive-by my future neighborhood. 

Once I dropped off the check, my realtor set up my home inspection for Friday. There would be an additional $275 to be paid in advance of the inspection.  

Friday 9/25 – The Home Inspection. I didn’t know what to expect from the home inspection. But I knew what the 4-point inspection covered, and the insurance company used it for my home insurance, but I didn’t expect it to take hours. I also wasn’t expecting the seller to be present the entire time. It wasn’t bad, just more standing around small talk than I was prepared for. I did learn this was the second time the seller had listed the condo in a month. The first time, a potential buyer was in the process of purchasing this condo and fell ill. They were moving from out of state and decided to stay put until they recovered. After that offer fell through, the seller put the condo back on the market, and that’s when I saw it. 

We continued to talk about my job and how I like the area. This led to talking about places we’ve traveled to, our favorite airports, and cities to visit. At that moment, it dawned on me, had Covid not happened, I would be in Germany for Oktoberfest right now. Everything for everyone was canceled this year, but I’m standing in my potential future home. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons. 

Saturday 9/26 – The inspector submitted the report to the insurance company; everything was in working order. The water heater was over 20 years old, so my realtor suggested I ask for it to be replaced as a contingency.  She texted me later that afternoon; The seller agreed. This was a big win in my book. You know what’s terrible?  A cold shower, or even worse, it leaks, and I’m left dealing with water damage. These are real adult nightmares. Not an ax murder, but water damage. The horror! 

Monday 9/28 – Filled out the quote for home insurance. This wasn’t a very involved process. I was given two choices. I picked the one I liked that best fit my needs. 

Wednesday 9/30  – My home insurance quote was approved. It was then sent to the loan processor to be added to my mortgage.

My realtor texted me, the bank would send an appraiser out to the condo Friday, 10/2. I asked her if I needed to do anything for the appraisal. She said, “No, they do this independently, nothing to worry about.” These words would later come to haunt me. 

Thursday 10/1 – I submitted more documents to the Mortgage company; Bank statements, and a Joint Bank Information Form. Much to my surprise, my mother is still attached to my savings account. When I was 11, she cosigned for me to open a savings account. Over 20 years later, her name is still on the account. We both found it funny. This was easily fixed by having her sign a paper from the loan company. 

Monday 10/5 – Appraisal documents were received and reviewed. It pointed out many of the things noted in the home inspection. It came back a thousand dollars under the original listed price. I didn’t think anything of this. I closed my email and went about my day. Until the next day…

Tuesday 10/6 – Late in the afternoon, my realtor called asking if I had a chance to review the appraisal. “Yeah, it looked similar to the home inspection. The value was a little less, but nothing seemed like a surprise.” This is the point where the rug was pulled out from under me again. My realtor explained the “offer” is the price I’m willing to pay. The appraisal is the bank’s way of assessing how much the property is worth. In turn, this is the amount they are going to provide in the form of a loan. I did not know this! If the property didn’t appraise for the amount I offered, the seller and I would have to renegotiate. 

I was given 3 options: walk away from the condo entirely, offer the bank comps to see if they would be willing to bring the value of the condo up, or meet the seller in the middle of the offered and appraised values. . I went with option 2. 

An important note, between hanging up with my realtor and waiting to hear what the seller was going to agree to, I cried like my heart was breaking. The kind of crying that comes from deep in your chest.  My contacts blurred, and I couldn’t pull it together; Nor did I want to. I was stressed, and it felt good to let it out. 

After I was calm enough to form full sentences, I called Aaron. He quickly calculated how much money I had with surgical preciseness, the estimated closing cost plus $2700, and the amount needed. It worked out to a thousand dollars I needed to make up. He asked a very straightforward question, “are you going to lose this condo over a thousand dollars?” He knew I wasn’t going to let this happen. Payday was next week, and it would bridge the gap but would leave much wiggle room for moving expenses. 

Wednesday 10/7 – The seller shot down option 2 and countered with option 3. If I disagreed, he was putting it back on the market. This meant I needed to find $1000 to meet in the middle. Annoyed at the whole situation, I reluctantly agreed. 

Thursday 10/8 – I spoke with the Mortgage company, and after several days of stressing, calculating, and recalculating, I was assured if I had ten thousand on closing day, I would have more than enough to cover all the closing costs; Green lights all around. This felt like taking off your mask after you’ve climbed upstairs. I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief.

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Wednesday 10/14 – The mortgage company sent me a first time home buyer education course that they probably should have sent a week prior. It would have saved me a lot of heartache. The coure explained all the boobytraps for home buying, and It had a whole section on the appraisal process. The modules walked first-time homebuyers through every step along the way to a  successful close. I could have banged my head through a wall, “why didn’t I get this information sooner!?!?” 

Friday 10/16 – I recieved the final closing paperwork. Cash to close was $800 more than I was told it would be. The Closing Document was sent at 5:00 pm on a Friday. By the time I reviewed the document and had a small meltdown (meltdown number three, for those keeping track at home), the office was closed for the weekend. I emailed and called politely, asking why the final closing cost was so high. 

Monday 10/19 – The mortgage company replied, citing higher than anticipated taxes and the additional $2700; I think she may have missed my point. I reminded her that before I agreed to move forward with the condo, I needed to have the max amount I would need for closing. (Reference 10/8). I felt let down and disappointed three days before closing; I had to find an additional $800 to close this deal. It felt like the finish line was forever moving. 

An hour later, after checking the couch cushions for that $800, I received a call from the mortgage company. It was the owner of the company calling to apologize for the confusion. To make things right, he would send a lender credit of $800 towards my closing cost. Making my cash to close just a hair under $10,000. I instantly burst into tears. Trying to keep my composure, I explained I wasn’t insinuating he needed to pay or send any credit. I just wanted to know where the disconnect was in coming up with these numbers. My homeowner’s education course said I should be critical of the final documents because this is the last thing you’ll sign before closing. I thanked him several times over, through tears of gratitude.

Tuesday 10/20 – I had to go inside an actual bank to wire the funds for closing. There are only two reasons to go inside a bank. First, You’re my grandparents, or of similar age. And second, you’re going to rob the bank. I did feel like a bank robber walking in with my mask and sunglasses on and maybe I scared off any potential robberies during my time there, “Sorry, I was here first, go find another bank to rob; this is my hyst.” The process was straightforward. I gave the teller the instructions, the closing documents, and my ID; she handled everything from there. I thought this was going to be more of a process, it turned out to be one of the most straightforward steps. 

Wednesday 10/21 – Exactly 30 days from when I first viewed the property, the keys were in my hand. I could not believe it! Surprisingly, there was no last-minute drama at closing. I met at the lawyer’s office with my realtor and signed the papers. My car packed with all my worldly positions, I drove to my home for the first time. 


I hope writing this first time home buyers saga will help someone avoid the potential barriers I faced. I jumped in head first; admittedly, I was not as educated as I should have been. It was an emotional rollercoaster like I’ve never experienced before. Thankfully, in the end, it all worked out.

 

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