After going through the whole house-buying process, I’m amazed that so many people manage to buy a house! It’s scary, full of paperwork, and complicated.
If I could go back in time and tell my past self some tips about the entire process, they would be.
- Get pre-approved. At first, I balked at having to get pre-approval before even looking at a house, but finding a bank that will pre-approve you will give you an idea of how much you’re allowed to borrow from the bank, around what interest rate it is, and pretty much give you a ballpark number to work with regarding the purchase price of the house.
- Hope to any deity you have good credit. Will and I had to jump through lots of hoops thanks to the credit industry, which is ridiculous considering we’re both debt free and financially responsible. I’ve had a credit card since I was 16, always paid off my bill at the end of the month, and was never delinquent in anything, so my FICO score was great. But according to the bank, that doesn’t matter because I haven’t had a line of credit open long enough. Even though I’ve had a credit card since I was 16. How stupid is that? Then, there’s Will’s issue, which is worth a whole separate post. Long story short, even if you don’t need a credit card, you should have one to establish a good credit score.
- Pick a realtor you’re absolutely comfortable about. The realtor will be your infantry, getting you through all the gritty details of contacting the seller, setting up paperwork, and answering home-buying questions, so someone that you feel comfortable talking to is a must. Our realtor was decent, but had the tendency to cut us off mid-sentence, but luckily we’re both pretty vocal, demanding people, but I can see how he can be intimidating to more passive people.
- If your offer on the house gets accepted, even if you have a long escrow, (ours was 30-45 days), the days fly by fast! Schedule a house inspection as soon as you can. Make sure your loan stuff is in order.
- If you can, find an escrow service that’s recommended by friends. As part of the seller’s acceptance of our offer, we had to go with her escrow service. Now I’m not blaming the seller for this because maybe she didn’t know, but that escrow service was CRAP. Instead of being the middleman that eases things along, they were dragging their feet towards the end. They wouldn’t give us paperwork about how to fund our downpayment because they said they were waiting for loan documents from the bank, even though the bank already emailed them loan documents. They claimed it was because they needed the original, which doesn’t make sense since the email version has all the correct numbers and is just missing signatures. When the escrow service finally got the loan documents, they still sent us the WRONG paperwork with the WRONG numbers on it. When I called to complain, they claimed they hadn’t looked at the loan documents yet. Uh…why demand the loan documents before crafting up paperwork if you’re not going to read them in the first place? Gah. Sure, the people I called on the phone at that company were nice and all, but overall incompetency makes me angry.
- This last tip might not work for everyone, but maybe it doesn’t hurt to ask. Our seller was super organized and made up a little folder of information about the house. Repairmen she recommended, phone numbers for utilities, the company she used for remodeling, the gardener’s contact info, all sorts of useful tidbits. If you can convince the seller to write down that type of information, it’s REALLY helpful.