home-buyer victory

Our journey to the closing table…finally

I literally was starting to think this day would never get here.  When we were first discussing the 45-day closing process with our realtor, it sounded like no sweat.

We’re unhappy where we’re living, for some reasons I’ll get to in a bit, but I didn’t think twice about HOW LONG 45 days can seem.

45 days is long.  Truth.

Survival is Key

I just want to be perfectly honest at this point.  We had some amazing people helping us get into the house – they were personable, knowledgeable, and super helpful for all our questions.

And all those blogs and websites and news articles out there with helpful tips on the process, thanks so much.  Couldn’t have done it without you.

I read some books that were witty and straightforward and helpful.  Two books I couldn’t have done it without were these two.

The Noro book takes you step by step through the entire process, detailing just about everything you need to know and how to find people to help you along the way. The “Mistakes” book was helpful for understanding the various pitfalls in the process. Closing was (and sort of still is) mysterious to me, but both of these books helped me visualize things a little better.

We thought we were ready to rock and roll.  The entire process still nearly killed husband and me both.

Buying Backstory

We knew we wanted to buy so that we could move when our lease was up in 9 months.  We were anxious about the process but we deliberately signed the short lease so we couldn’t give up and we couldn’t back out.

See the issue with our homeownership has not been a matter of will or interest.  Rather nomad-ness and finances have held us back.

But this time would be different.  In a new city/state, with new jobs around, new schools for the kids we’re here now.  We’re committed for the long haul and we’re settling down.  Whereas our jobs have jerked us back and forth across the Midwest, this time, this move, this place, we’re done.

Roots go down.

Our first hurdle was then to get the money in order to save up the downpayment.  Then there was paying down some cards to get the credit scores up.  Then there were… all those other steps.

After a couple of months of both of us obsessively sending each other the “perfect” houses on Zillow, I got frustrated.  Yes, we have to pay a sort of obscene fee to get out of our lease and yes moving on the jump is horrible.  Yes, yes, yes.  I’m ready.

They were just a few words but I said to husband, “If the sellers pay our closing costs, we can afford the lease termination fee.  Let’s see what we can do.”

He later describes this as releasing a lot of pent-up potential energy – a surging rush of urgency released into dedicated work.

What it meant, in reality, was that I suddenly took on another part-time job.  This job was The House.  The staff started small and the pay was nominal.  The stress was high and the telemarketing calls and emails were vividly flowing.

Financing the Deal

I started with the mortgage.  We felt we had a pretty good handle on the houses but I knew the money was going to be the complicated part.  Everyone wants you to do the money first anyway so I figured that was a good enough choice.

Word to the wise, if you don’t want to be solicited, DO NOT enter your information into those handy websites that offer to help you find a mortgage.  Lending Tree, Zillow, etc.  These seemingly helpful forms open the floodgates for the telemarketing to be unleashed.

If you ignore the rabble, it does eventually die down.  But then, I never answer my phone unless I’m pretty sure I know the number.  Ever.

We nailed down a few lenders we wanted to move on with.  Sent all the documents and whatnots.  Waited.  Agonized.

While we waited, I found a couple Realtors – one was recommended by a lender, the other I found through the website Homelight.  I was pretty skeptical of this but I had already filled out all those mortgage forms and I read some reviews.  Decided to give it a go.

What do you know, it worked perfectly and we got a great agent to work with us.  Read more about my Homelight experience here.  Several agents I contacted were all like, “Oh your lease is up then, you have a few months.”

But, one said, “Let me know what houses you want to see and I’ll set it up.”

Yes!  Someone had just given me permission to look at houses!  To go!  To move!  To get up from the computer with the annoying requests for documents and see stuff.  No delays or weird timetables of their own – just what we wanted.  Perfect.

In the meantime, three lenders we were working with came back with word they couldn’t borrow us anything, or significantly less than we asked for.  One wanted us to do some weird acrobatics with our student loan payments.

One remained.

Making Progress

Once we got the green light we started touring houses.  Quickly, I learned two things:

  1. House shopping with the kids was not going to work.
  2. Husband was more flexible than he seemed at the onset.

To resolve #1, I started seeing houses on my own during the day.  As a result of #2 there were more houses available to us.

During one of these meetings, after seeing several houses, the Realtor and I went through a house with no pictures online.  It was spacious with a great layout, but it hadn’t been updated.  It was quiet and meek and not ooh and aah.  It has also been on the market for about 8 months at the time.  That’s never a good sign, right?

Shortly after this, we found THE HOUSE LOVE HOUSE LOVE.  We were enamored.  The neighborhood was fantastic – the house was on the lower end of an upscale neighborhood with seemingly unlimited ability to appreciate within the surrounding area.  It was across the street from the gym and the eventual kindergarten our little would attend.  Easy to the highway for me to get to work.  Lender came back and approved us for the list price of the house.

And then we started scheduling showings.  Twice we got within a couple hours of seeing the house only to have them cancel.  Then we had a scheduling snafu and we canceled at the last minute.  And finally, we heard from the Realtor, the real issue – after a couple days of heavy rain, there was water in the basement they were trying to clean up.  No thank you, very much.  Coupled with the financing hiccups, we scaled back the max budget.

So, we circled back around.  We toured the quiet and meek house and realized, it was growing on us.  We had a very frank conversation about putting in an offer during that tour.  And a couple days later we went for it.

Submitting the Offer

I felt as though I had lived through this moment vicariously several times before.  Property Virgins, House Hunters, Property Brothers have been some of my favorite shows for years.  I hunkered down ready for negotiation battle.  Miraculously, the process was easy!  It felt like it was going to be overwhelming but husband and I agreed on the offer price, Realtor made up the forms, we signed them (LOTS of them) and off we went.

Upon later review, after signing everything (only after reading everything) it turned out we had all made an error – the Realtor had put all the appliances to be EXCLUDED rather than included.  Even with that minor snafu which everyone understood, we went back and forth on the price and finally, agreed.  Closing set in those precious 45 days.  Piece of cake right?!

And then the Crash

Four days after we were officially under contract on the house, when we had finally started making plans for redecorating, moving, etc., my husband rear-ended a car at a stop light.  Now, this might seem minor, but neither of us has ever been in an at-fault accident (meaning at our fault) – we are totally rocking those Allstate deductible rewards and safe-driver bonuses.

My dad did auto body his entire career so I figured I had a bit of insight into what was a “repairable” accident and what was a total.

I was wrong, the insurance company totaled it out.  And for $500 less than we owed on it.  Panic started to creep up the back of my spine.  What is the one rule, the ONE RULE, when under contract for a mortgage?  DON’T OPEN NEW LINES OF CREDIT.

So, husband drove a rental car covered by insurance as it seemed we were without a car, still owing on the old one, and still too long before closing to know what to do next.  So, we juggled some things.  Money I’d saved from my writing work got reallocated for the downpayment on a new car.  Friends refunding football ticket investments covered most of the remaining payment on the old car.

Along the way we had several check-ins with the mortgage lender who reassured us so long as the payments stayed the same, we’d be fine.  Fine?  Really?  Can’t be true…

I’m not one for panic attacks usually, but there were times in there as we searched, scanned and sent endless paperwork for the final mortgage approval that I literally thought I might burst into flames or something.  Well, several lots of times.  I gripped on tight to the railing out before me and asked, is this part over yet?

Homestretch to Closing

And then, as a storm that washes over the ocean, the seas were calm again.  The car situation dragged on sufficiently that the old car was paid off and payments weren’t due on the new one until long after we got the keys to the house.  The mortgage was approved without a hitch.  The house appraised at the appropriate value.  We found a preschool for our little that is further than we’d like but excellent.

I dug the boxes out of the garage rafters – the move was on.

Closing the Deal

I came to closing armed with a plant.  For whatever reason, I could not get out of my head that this was a sweet and kind gesture to the sellers.  Husband kept grumbling that we were symbolically giving them a ton of money so they really didn’t need a plant.  I insisted.

We also came with the biggest check I had ever possessed made out for the exact amount.  It felt incredibly grown up to enter that room and somehow at the same time, a bit anticlimactic.  While we were closing today, we weren’t able to move anything for 10 more days and had scheduled the moving over two weekends to save time off work.  But, whatever it felt like, it was actually a huge step in mine and my husband’s life and the life of our kids.

In all, we waited with anticipation all day for a transaction that took 32 minutes.  We signed the oodles of papers that we basically understood.  We were talked out of buying insurance against our title company stealing our money and found the sellers weird and pretty disgruntled about having to actually move.

Jigga what?  Yes, both sellers complained at least once about having to move, the timing of the move, and getting help to move.

So now we just chant to each other, “Get out of our house”, as we count down the days till we not only own our house but to put our stuff in there too.

House closing

First time or not, what was your home-buying story like?  Share in the Comments below!

Thoughts? Share them with me!