One of the things I’m most proud of is the fact that I purchased my first home two years ago shortly after turning 24. Yes, that’s right– 24.
Some might consider it a great feat, and perhaps it was in some ways. I consider it to have been just a wise money-saving solution to my rental problem. I’m not going to lie– it was a very time-consuming and frustrating process. Luckily for you, because it was so frustrating and because I’m such a control freak, I have gathered so many helpful tips that will hopefully point you in the right direction now that you are considering purchasing your own home.
I’m going to make this a two-part series. This post will concentrate on my story and experience of buying a home, while the second post will consist of a helpful guide to the home-buying process!
Where it all began…
Like so many others, I bounced around from apartment to apartment over the years. Actually, when I count everything up, I lived in four different apartments over the span of five years. That’s quite a lot of moving! Two of those times occurred while I was in college and the other two happened after returning to Tampa and getting my first full-time job.
I was (and continue to be) surprised by the fact that even with a full-time job, renting as a single person can be almost impossible. I mean it’s certainly not like I was rolling in dough, but when you consider my income, you would think that one would be able to rent an apartment in a city like Tampa. And in theory, I could, but I would have to move every year. Remember that each year the prices go up!
I thought to myself– I can’t keep this game up. I cannot continue to move every year and keep paying more and more to live in these shit holes (pardon my French). It’s hard to remember at this point, but I really don’t think that my first reaction was “well since I can’t afford to rent, I can definitely afford to buy.” Yeah, for some reason, I don’t think that was my thought process. Instead, I began thinking about what my other options could be. Maybe I could go back to living with my parents. But then again, as an adult, that’s not really something that you would ever want to do.
Think about it– the average person would not think that they could afford to buy a house when they are struggling to pay rent as it is. I mean, most people would probably assume that a mortgage is going to be way higher than renting. I can tell you that in my experience, that’s definitely not the case. Of course, it depends on what your income is, the amount you have saved, and where you’re trying to move, but it can be so affordable!
So when I first realized that I would have to move yet again because of a $100 increase in my rent at the time, I was getting very nervous. I kept looking for an apartment that would accept me and my dog, Ginger. She actually made things very difficult. Because she is a shepherd mix, she is considered to be an “aggressive breed” and therefore is not permitted in most apartments. I wasn’t going to give her up so I kept on with my search.
Then, being a little crazy and a lot desperate, I decided to look into buying a home. My only problem was that I barely had any money saved and a limited time to find a home. I researched online for days on end, finally coming to the decision that I should call a bank (we’ll get into that later and why I don’t recommend it). I spoke with a representative, provided her with my whole life story, and was told that I could afford a home for around $75,000 through an FHA loan.
Being naive, I was very excited about this amount (“$75,000, I can buy an amazing fixer upper with that!”). I had, of course, looked through all the home-for-sale sites and seen so many ok-looking houses that were definitely a step up from my current place. I thought it would be an easy enough process to find myself a house.
Boy was I wrong.
So– the realtor. I think that finding the right realtor was by far my biggest struggle throughout this whole process. I always thought that a real estate agent would work with me very quickly and would be amazingly efficient (just like on tv). Wrong. So wrong. I went through four realtors before finally finding someone who was serious about his job and me finding a place to live. So in total, that’s five realtors. Yeah, I know.
My first realtors seemed promising enough. I found some houses that I wanted to view and they met up with me after a lot of appointment negotiation. My initial realtors went with me only to a few homes and then simply didn’t show up at the agreed upon times or stopped communication. It was so frustrating and made the whole process so much harder than it had to be. One realtor never actually met with me. He sent me home listings that I had already seen and then stopped communicating with me.
I really didn’t understand what their issues were– I mean, I wanted to buy a house like yesterday and was so dedicated to the home buying process. Yet no one seemed to take me seriously throughout the process.
While being stood up by realtors, I also became increasingly disheartened. My FHA loan and budget made the home buying process impossible. My budget was so low that I would end up looking at foreclosure homes and short sales which would never accept my offers. My realtors were also not knowledgeable about the FHA requirements and ended up encouraging me to put in offers on homes that would not have passed inspections that I would have had to pay for.
Finally, I was put in touch with another realtor and he ended up being amazing! He worked fast and had the hookup when it came to lenders, inspectors, and appraisers. Through my realtor, I was able to apply for my mortgage with a private lender and had my applications pre-approved for up to $120,000. I know– a huge step up from that initial $75,000.
Shortly after getting my mortgage pre-approval increase, I got an email from my realtor near the end of the work day. His email contained a link to a house that had just been put up for sale that very same day. He asked if I wanted to go see it later than night around 7pm. Such initiative! Of course, I agreed– I mean I had never seen a house that nice throughout the whole time I had been shopping for a home. I had to jump on this opportunity! I showed up with my mom and boyfriend in tow at 7pm on the dot. We checked it out and despite the neighborhood, I decided to put in an offer.
My offer was not initially accepted because someone else has also bid on the house as well. This was so nervewracking to hear, but I upped my bid and my offer was accepted days later! The appraisal and inspection both came back with flying colors and I was cleared to buy the home. At the end of the home-buying process, everything went so quickly. I was fielding calls and emails from my realtor and lending firm on a daily basis. Always clarifying information and sending copies of my documentation. It was very stressful, especially considering that at the time I was also working full-time, going to grad school full time, and packing to move from my apartment. 30 days after having my offer accepted, I signed the papers and the house was all mine!
I am so happy to have made this jump into homeownership. Yes, it’s not all good, but the freedom it has provided me has been amazing. Not to mention the pride I feel for my little house and all the fun projects I finally get to do. Please ask me questions about my experience or comment if you have experienced the same things! I’d love to chat and get a dialogue started. And don’t forget to look out for part two where you’ll get to read up on my advice and guide to homeownership.