First-time-home-buyers: Our Story

I'm writing this post today because two months ago, I had NO idea what all it would take to be living in our home. Technically, Jason and I were supposed to start looking at houses TODAY.

Jason and I are both hard-core researchers. We research everything before we buy, go, and do anything! Since this whole house thing kind of snuck up on us, we didn't have sufficient time to research and we really just had to walk through it step-by-step.

After we renewed our lease on our apartment last January, we made the decision that we would begin house hunting after our one year anniversary (September 22nd). Once we planned our trip to Seattle, we decided that the day we got back, we'd begin our search. Little did we know, God had another plan.

For all of you out there who are considering buying a home in the future, whether it's the near future, or the distant future, I hope that this post gives you a glimpse into what it may be like. Obviously, everyone's situation is different, so please keep that in mind. But at the same time, I know that I would have loved to read someone's account of buying their first home before I walked through this myself.

Since I'm addicted to HGTV, I thought that we'd have to be pre-approved for financing before we even started looking. I think that's the biggest thing I've been surprised about...because we weren't. I actually saw the listing for our house on a website I frequently looked at. I checked out the pictures, and I loved the price. It was in one of the areas that I knew Jason and I wanted to live in, so I forwarded him the website. He loved it too.

The next day was Jason's birthday, July 24th. It was a Wednesday. Jason wanted to go eat at a restaurant that is out in Trussville, so we did. On the way home, he suggested that we drive by the house that I'd sent him. So we did. We loved the location, loved the outside "in real life", and loved that the FOR SALE sign still said, "Coming Soon". We thought it gave us some time.

Back up a few weeks.

Jason and I were driving home from Publix one Sunday afternoon, and saw an OPEN HOUSE sign in Homewood. We thought it'd be fun to walk through one of the cute little bungalow houses and just see what it's like. So we did. The house was WAY too small for us and WAY too expensive, but the realtor was just right (there's my Goldilocks reference for the week). As I was looking around the house, Jason began talking with him. They just seemed to click. We got his card, and decided in the car that when the time came for us to begin our home search, we'd call him.

So, after driving by our house on Jason's birthday, I emailed Scott, the realtor, to see if we could see the inside of the house. Friday after work, Jason and I met at my office and drove over to "the house" for the first time.

We loved it. It was a great price, great size, and great location. It was everything we'd be looking for in a couple of months...but we weren't at that point in time yet. Standing in the living room of the house, I asked Scott what the next steps would be if we really wanted this house. He explained, and then we left. That night, Jason and I decided that we needed to see a few more houses in the area so that we could compare sizes, price, etc.

We also spent the evening in that area...we ate at the restaurants around, went to the bank around the house, and spent time at a friend's house in the area. We pretended that we lived there, which made our decision to proceed much easier.

The next morning, I went to work on this house stuff like it was my job. Scott emailed me the name of a few mortgage brokers, and he set up showings at a few other house for us. By Saturday night, we were pre-approved, we'd looked at 4 additional houses, we'd gone back our house, and we ended the evening sitting in Scott's office writing up our offer.

The next few days were nail-biters.

We didn't hear back from the seller until Monday. They didn't want to come down much on the price, and they wanted us to pay closing. Boo. We countered. They countered. We countered. They countered with 3 choices that basically gave them the same bottom line, but allowed us to decide if we wanted to pay more for the house over 30 years, or pay closing costs upfront. We chose not to pay closing costs upfront. Our mortgage broker told us that for every $1,000 in the sale price, it's around $7 added to our monthly payment. Good to know.

Just as I was signing the revised contract and sending it back to Scott, we heard there was another offer on our house. The seller wanted our best offer - and we were so afraid we were about to get into a bidding war. After some prayer and discussion, we decided to stick with our original offer that was being written up in the revised contract. We felt like it was a little on the weird side that we'd already agreed on the terms and they came back with a 'best offer' type thing. I know it's pretty common, but it just didn't sit right with me.

The next day, Scott called to say that they accepted our offer and it was ours. The seller did add something to the contract though. She added that she would not fix anything if there was something wrong with it upon inspection. Great...

We had 10 days to get an inspection done. We hired a really eclectic inspector known as Inspector Dave to do our inspection. He was really thorough, and thankfully the house had no big problems. Whew, that was a relief. We went ahead and set the closing date for Sept. 3rd at 4 p.m. Since we knew our closing date, we went ahead and scheduled everything to be turned on and connected the next day.

Over the course of the next three weeks, I sent tons of paperwork to our mortgage broker. Lots of signing, lots of sending. The crazy thing is, over the course of all that paperwork, all the phone calls, and all of the emails, we never met our mortgage broker in person. Technology fascinates me.

Then came the appraisal. Our house appraised at the selling value, but it was exactly our price. I kind of freaked out about that a bit, because we thought we were getting a great price. Turns out, many times, appraisers do that. They just put what the selling price is as long as it's worth that. They don't really look at the actual value unless it's way under the selling price.

More paperwork. More signing. More sending.

As I mentioned previously, we were scheduled to close on September 3rd, which was the day after Labor Day. Well, the Friday before Labor Day, we received a call that our closing was going to be pushed to September 5th. Not a big deal, right? WRONG. Since we'd planned for three weeks for closing to be on the 3rd, we'd scheduled movers, bakers, and candlestick makers cable people, and internet people all to come on September 4th. As it turns out...we would not own the place that day, so I had to call, before a holiday weekend, and reschedule EVERYTHING! It felt like a nightmare.

Later we found out that getting your closing date pushed is somewhat normal, and honestly, it ended up a little better this way.

So, Thursday, September 5th, Jason and I arrived at the closing attorney's office to buy our house. I brought basically every piece of paperwork I'd ever signed in my 24 years of life, plus my passport, marriage license, birth certificate, and social security card, but all we needed was a certified check. Leave it to me to be overly OVERLY prepared. We had our check made out a little higher than it needed to be, just in case. At the end of the closing, the attorney gave us the difference back, and another check for something we'd overpaid on previously. I know this is highly uncommon, but we ended up walking away from the closing with a lot more money in our pockets than we expected. Praise God...He really does take care of us...even in the tiniest things.

After closing, Jason and I drove straight to our NEW HOME, sat on the porch, and had our friend come over and take some pictures of us in front of the SOLD sign.

The process was easy in the beginning, hard in the middle, and then wonderful at the end. But isn't that the way most good things are? We know that God has placed us in our home for a purpose, and we intended to live in it well, for His glory.

Posted on September 24, 2013 .