Maybe you want to buy a house, maybe not

#612 in a series of true experiences in real estate
November 2010, Hills Newspapers

Maybe you want to buy a house, maybe not. How will you know?

You do a bunch of things: You search your soul. You compare the joys of renting with the joys of owning. You gather real information. You find out if you can buy a house. You find people who can help you.

Do first things first, and it will be a big help to you. Don’t start by looking at houses. Instead, start with finding an agent – a full-time local-area-specific agent. Get a referral to an agent from a friend or visit open houses and talk to the agents. Find someone you feel comfortable talking to. Then talk.

Next, through that agent, contact a known-to-the-agent and therefore-trusted loan broker. This is very different than looking for a loan online. We meet people at open houses all the time who know nothing about loans. Sometimes they’ve gone to websites and punched in some numbers and think they know good things. But we’re telling you: they’re not good enough.

The only way to get genuine information is to talk to a real live person about your real life circumstances. Can you qualify for a loan? How much loan? What will it cost you? Getting these answers is the only way you can know if you can buy a house or if you are dreaming.

After that you can look at houses. You can explore neighborhoods, read ads, start noticing For Sale signs. Think about bedrooms and gardens and sun in the morning. You can develop a close relationship with your agent and discuss obtainable dreams. Ask your questions, voice your worries: “Is this a good time to buy? If I want to sell in a few years, can I get my money out?”

“Should I reach for the highest star with the highest mortgage now, or should I consider a beginner step?” Your questions are part of your legwork, part of determining what your objective will be.

Now is when you should look at your finances and figure out where your money goes. Do you spend a bunch on a vacation every year? How are you going to feel about replacing your water heater? Think, too, about your time. Are you at home on weekends, or do you go skiing and snorkeling year-round?

As you ponder, as you talk, as you gather information, one of two things will happen. Either your wish to buy a house will fade away (in which case you will concentrate on something else in life) or your objective will become clear and bright – you are going to buy a house!

If this last happens to you, concentrate on these essentials: Be sure your loan broker and your agent have received and understood your messages. Then use their expertise.

It is also important to recognize new possibilities when you see them, so keep yourself open to variations on your theme. We’ve written before about Diana and Ricky, super favorite buyers of ours, favorites because they were so clear about their objective. They were determined to buy a house. They did their investigations first, knew just how much they could borrow and what neighborhoods they would like to live in.

When they found a particular house, it was certainly not perfect. It needed foundation work, new plumbing, paint, fencing, and more. But this house was right for them. That’s what they said; that’s what they meant.

From the moment of decision, they moved steadily forward. They gathered information about the imperfections of that house, what could be done about them and how much that would cost. They told us straight-out what they could spend on the whole thing. Then they stood back and let us go at it. They used our abilities to get what they wanted.

This was smart and it worked. We knew they meant it so we were fired up. We used all of our resources to get them where they wanted to go.

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