January 16, 2002

It's Just a House

After living in an apartment for 2 years (3 in my husband's case) and watching a lot of money each month swirl down the toilet to that big sewer they call "rent," we've finally decided it's a good time to buy a house. We knew last year that we'd probably have enough in savings for a down payment, so we renewed the apartment lease for another year expecting to move out into a home of our own in 2002. So January rolled around, and we realized it was time to start doing this house-buying thing.

Now, neither of us knew anything about buying a house. I checked some websites, and the ones with tips on this sort of thing advise beginning the search at least three months before you expect to be ready to move. Our lease is up sometime in early April, so right about now would seem to fit into the house-buying timeline. Last week I drove through a neighborhood we both like, noted any houses that had for-sale signs, and called the realtors. There were about 5 houses for sale, but only 2 I liked from the outside, so I arranged to look at those. They were both older than we wanted and more expensive than they should have been, so we said sayonara to that neighborhood and decided to focus on central Plano.

We went to look at a bunch of houses on Saturday, and there was one that we both really liked. It's priced to sell, it's pretty, it's very nice on the inside, it's down the street from a park and a school, and it's in a great neighborhood. The biggest problem is that the back yard is tiny, but there's a patio. My husband doesn't want to mow the yard, so this isn't even a problem for him. The realtors are of course urging us to put an offer on this house because they think it's likely to be sold pretty soon, but it's been on the market since October, so I don't really see how they can be so sure.

It's a little strange that we found a house we really like that's in our price range a week after we started looking. I know it's a buyer's market and all, but this was unexpected. There are a number of problems with putting an offer on this house right now. First of all, the reason it's priced to sell is because the seller is an older woman who bought another house, and now she's got two mortgage payments. She needs to get rid of this house as soon as she can, and I'm not sure she can wait until mid-March to close. Of course, she'd be assuming it would sell to someone else who could take it sooner if she didn't accept our offer. Second, my husband has been informed that he will be laid off at the beginning of February. There's a very good chance this won't be the case, and he'll be transferred to another department in the same company, and they told him they would know this Friday. They already said they would tell him on Monday, and they didn't, so this could be something they string him along on for a while. I don't really want to buy a house with just my income, and we have no idea how long it would take him to get another job. The third problem is that when we calculated how much cash we had for a down payment, we were including our IRS tax refund. Since W2s don't go out until the very end of January, we won't be able to tell before then how much we'll get back, and we won't actually get the cash for at least 14 days after we file a return. If it's a lot of money, that won't be a problem, and we'll get it before it's time to close on the house, but if it's not as much as we had planned, it could throw a wrench in the whole scheme.

It's just a house. If this house is sold to someone else, it's not the end of the world. We looked at another house last night that we both liked also, but it had a few drawbacks like being farther from work for me and being right up against a major street. I'm sure there are even more houses we could look at later, and the buyer's market will be around for a while. I guess the moral of the story is, don't start looking for a house too early when you don't have all your ducks in a row, otherwise you might be forced to miss out on something great. If you wait longer, you'll never know what you missed. PFFT!

Published: January 16, 2002
Editor: stacy

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