Some of you may know that I’ve decided to buy a house. It’s an idea I’ve toyed with for years but never felt like I was in the right place to do so. Recently I looked around my little apartment at the cracks in the ceiling and tile and the varying levels of things that could be updated-painting, flooring, counters, etc. I listened to my neighbors-slamming their doors, rapping outside my door, and I smell them smoking right below my window. I decided I was ready to move, it was time to make sure I do the clever thing compare real estate agents.
This apartment has been great. It had six years worth of memories of parties and heart-to-hearts. Time I spent living here with my best friend, but he’s moved on and maybe it’s time I should too-especially when there are so many things I’m over about this place. One thing about this place is that it’s in a really good location, and it’s extremely inexpensive for the locale-so if I was going to find another place to rent I was going to see an increase on my monthly payment by at least $100. So if I was going to spend that much a month why not buy something and let it build equity for me instead of going to someone else’s pocket? The only thing I was concerned about was making sure I had enough for a down payment but then I was told I could try www.downpaymentassistancearizona.com for your down payment and I decided to cross that bridge when I came to it.
So I emailed a mortgage company I’ve heard ads for over the past few years on a Saturday. Monday morning he emailed back, and by Monday evening I’d applied and was approved for up to 200k. By Tuesday my realtor was sending me listings for big beautiful homes-homes that I instantly fell in love with. Homes with beautifully redone interiors, amazing locations, and beautiful wrap around porches like this:
Well it didn’t take long to figure out that while I was approved for up to 200k, and all of these homes being in the 170k-190k range were under that figure, that I actually couldn’t afford any of them. A home at 190k is almost exactly half of my monthly income each month, and that would be painful on top of other utilities, car payment, etc. I confess that I was flattened at first, but moved on to looking at houses under 150k, as my ideal range was 130k-140k for a manageable payment on a semi-decent home.
With the market the way it is currently all the homes I liked in that range were often Under Contract within 48 hours after my realtor sent me the listings to look at-and that was typically before I could even go look at them, and the worst part was that there weren’t any new homes hitting the market that weren’t short sales. The term “short sale” is a complete misnomer-it really means that the bank owns it and wants to get rid of it, but they don’t want to get rid of it bad enough so they can take six months or even more to decide to accept on a bid.
Well I should also confess that I quickly learned that I needed to completely revise my expectations. When I was feeling the most low about house-hunting my mortgage guy said this to me, “I recommend buying something less expensive that needs some work. Live in it for 5 or so years and fix it up slowly over that period-then sell it. Take the money you’ve made on equity and from the sale and put it down on a bigger/nicer home in an area you love-and you’ll have more manageable payments.”
So I changed my strategy, but still there wasn’t much hitting the market in any area I wanted to live in. There were things if I went really far West out into the boonies, or things a little farther North of where I’d been hoping to buy. While I love living where I do so close to the city-I can’t afford it, so I thought I’d buy a little further south to help shorten my daily commute but that wouldn’t put me too far away from civilization and the city that I love.
In the map above the pink dot represents about where I live now, the purple where I work, and the yellow square in the middle is the area I wanted to live in. Puts me a little bit more south but still with quick access to the freeway/highways that would get me to work in a reasonable amount of time.
Here’s a closer look at what was available:
Points A and B are homes I looked at. A was 700 square feet adorable flipped house with no air conditioning, no covered parking, and absolutely no storage in it at all. It was also in an area that was a little scary. Point B was a house about 800 square feet with the most cramped kitchen you’d ever seen and it needed a lot of work, plus it was right next door to a gas station that just had a shooting at it. About 95% of the other points listed on this map are Short Sales, and about 90% of them show offers pending approval already.
So I started looking in an area I hadn’t considered before. I hadn’t considered it because it’s always been what I considered the ghetto part of Salt Lake City. It’s the west side. Who’d want to live on the west side? But, I’d heard that young couples and single adults had been moving there in an effort to gentrify the area, so when I saw a super cute little home listed there I decided to check it out-I emailed my realtor and then I just went and drove by it after class. It was small-at only 830 square feet-but it had been all completely updated inside and it had a nice yard and garage. It’s important to not underestimate the importance of a nice garage, as this space can prove very valuable for homeowners. Even if the garage hasn’t been too well kept, you can improve it by investing in things such as a new garage door from somewhere like www.garagedoorguruny.com, making your garage even nicer and increasing the value of your home.
The area was poor like I’d expected, but around the house wasn’t bad. Right at the end of it’s street was the river, across the river was the International Peace Gardens, and there was a pretty Elementary School right across the street. Yes, you had to drive through some really run down parts of the city to get there (from either side) but around it was really pretty nice.
I decided that if I was going to set a time to go look at it I had better pick a few more homes to look at in the area also, but this was the one I was excited to see. So after work yesterday I met my realtor to look at houses. One house I’d chosen wouldn’t qualify for my loan, and this one-the one I wanted to see the most-the realtor never called my realtor back. The first house we looked at was really cute and kind of roomy, plus it had a HUGE yard in the back with a giant plot for a garden. I really liked it, but there were three other people there to look at it around the same time and my realtor warned me it would be gone before the weekend so I’d better put in an offer if I wanted it-it was listed that same day, and I just checked today and it’s already Under Contract. That’s how fast these homes are moving!
The second house we looked at was one I was kind of “meh” about online but thought I’d better throw in the mix to have a look at. I loved it from the moment we set foot in it. It’s still small at only 980 square feet, has a tiny kitchen, only has a swamp cooler (no actual AC), and does not have a garage because they converted the garage into a bedroom-but I loved it. It’s been beautifully updated, has a lot of storage, and the yard is lovely and fully enclosed by a privacy fence in the back. It is also on a cute little tree lined street that’s really quiet and away from the main thoroughfare for the area. Here’s an old photo from the listing:
We drove to the other house and I immediately noted that it was in a not-so-great neighborhood. There were lots of people outside smoking, lots of apartments surrounding the house, and everything looked really run down. When we tried the lock, it was broken and we couldn’t get into the house, the realtor apologized for it, but I had already decided I didn’t want to live there.
We left, and I put in an offer on this house. I PUT IN AN OFFER ON A HOUSE.
I confess that my level of anxiety about this whole experience tripled in the hour after I signed the offer document. And I spent the rest of the evening, and all night, going back and forth in my head.
“It’s so adorable-I hope I get it!”
“It’s so much money… 140k… I’m going to be house poor.”
“It’ll be your own space you can do with it what you want!”
“It’s in the ghetto… You would be a single girl living alone in the ghetto…”
“No, it’s a tree-lined well-kept quiet little street-it’s not the ghetto.”
“Alone. I’d live alone in a house in an unknown neighborhood.”
“You are a strong independent female who is ready to take this step!”
Well, ready or not-that ball is already in motion. I’m now waiting anxiously to hear back from the realtors about my offer.