Things I Learned When I Bought my First House:
I have been a home-owner for 6 months now and to say the buying-your-first-home experience was less than stellar is, well, a huge understatement.
Buying your first home should be exciting. Obviously, there’s a lot to do and a bit of stress but there should be that under current of “Whooo hoooo! Can’t believe I’m finally doing it. It’s happening . OMG it’s really happening.” That excited voice in me got smashed to pieces by the living hell of my buying-your-first-home experience.
I cried constantly, was so stressed out I couldn’t sleep and lived with a constant, sick pit of nausea in my stomach. Instead of trusting the realtor (who made me sign a piece of paper saying he would represent myself and the buyer equally and fairly – because he legally had to) I resented him because he pushed me to sign on closing dates I flat out told him I wasn’t comfortable with. To this day I believe he took advantage of the fact that I was a first-time home buyer.
It wasn’t that I was uninformed. I did all the reading, all the research and asked all the right questions. Unfortunately, some things aren’t covered in the reading and some times you get a misleading answer to the right question.
On top of feeling mislead by the realtor (or brutally forced into quick decisions and paper work legalities forcing me to be stuck somewhere I was doubting I was meant to be… big meany realtor guy… grrr) there was another feeling I had.
I was alone.
As a single parent you don’t have that partner to discuss these important, life-changing decisions. No one is as vested in it as you are. There isn’t any one else who’s got that nagging voice in the back of their head saying, “Is this really the best choice for my child? Is this the best investment of my money… our money? Don’t f#*k this up or you’ll be homeless and broke and your kid can’t got to university!” Others can give you an opinion, but the stakes aren’t that high for them.
For me, buying my first home was living hell. But experience brings knowledge and what I’ve learned is some helpful things to make your first-time-house-buying experience full of that excited “OMG” voice and quiet that “I want to tear my hair out” voice.
1) ALWAYS use a realtor: I didn’t and it was a HUGE mistake (did you get the HUGE?) In Canada the buyers don’t pay the realtors’ fee the seller does. In retrospect, I was stupid to not have someone representing my interests and being pushed to sign on dates I wasn’t comfortable with was the result. Knowing what I know now, in the future I will always have a realtor even if I have to pay for them.
2) Go to a mortgage broker: It’s their specialty getting mortgages and chances are you’ll get a higher mortgage at a better interest rate than you’re bank – no matter how good your relationship with your bank is. My bank told me I could maybe get a mortgage for $60,000 with a co-signer. My mortgage broker got me $100,000 with no co-signer. Big difference in the properties you get with those pesos friends.
3) Mortgage brokers rock: Not only did my mortgage broker get me a high mortgage at a better interest rate, he broke down what the cost of properties with taxes in different areas were and showed me that yes, I could afford this. And he took the time to recommend some properties he knew would get me the most return off my investment (alas, I couldn’t take advantage of these because of Mr. Meany Realtor but I’m over that now… sort of.) Did he need to do this? No. Was it appreciated? More than you could ever imagine.
4) Get everything in writing before you sign your offer: Yes, I know it sounds like a given, but believe me when you’re doing it you think you’re getting the right quotes for everything but then everything turns up being a little more. I’m not talking about the price of the house. I’m talking about the other things – the property taxes (doesn’t hurt to call and find out from the people dishing these out than what the realtor says “they probably are”), closing fees, in my case lot fees because I don’t own the land, etc. I crunched numbers over and over and over and in the end it still came out higher than my budget because I went with what was told to me and not what the people in charge were actually going to charge me.
5) Remember you are always in control:You can withdraw your offer within a reasonable time. It can be withdrawn at the last minute if you want to forfeit your deposit (paid at the time you sign the offer.) I felt pressured from the minute I hesitantly signed the papers until the end. When I questioned the closing date for financing the realtor smiled and said an extension would be no problem. That’s total bull. When you sign on those dates it is a problem and when I told him I needed an extension because financing wasn’t secured he went behind my back and called my lawyer – MY LAWYER – telling him to call the sellers’ lawyer to request an extension for half the time I had said I needed. (By this point frustration led me to a minor freak-out and I got my lawyer to get my requested extension and then some. I get a little satisfaction knowing Mr. Meany Realtor had to wait a little longer for his commission.)
I am very happy in my new home. It’s beautiful and our neighbours are awesome. Davis has her little posse of friends and it’s safe. There’s still a slight tarnishing left from the yukkiness of the whole experience but I have made peace with it (until it’s time to sell this place and if I loose a ton of cash I might not be such a happy camper.)
Hopefully these tips might help other first-time-home-buyers. At least I got to vent… Davis is so tired of hearing this story.