Saturday, July 12, 2014

Day 341 of 365: One-Year Homeownership

This time last year, my husband and I were signing on the dotted line ... only to get a call from our mortgage company about wanting more proof that we could pay the change in our closing costs ... only to get another call from them after we had already come up to the house that they wanted a slightly different way of having the paperwork signed ... only to change their minds again when we make the trek back to the lawyer's place.

This year, I spent the majority of the day in teacher training and meeting with my fellow trainee about our upcoming practicum. A huge difference from last year.

I recognize that I am absurdly lucky to have the house we do -- or to have a house in the first place. So I've decided that, with my remaining energy, I'll tell you three things that I wish someone had told me about buying a house:

1) It will cost way more than you expect it to.
We had a serious chunk of cash squared away for our house. Given that we were first-time home buyers (and we were preapproved for an absurdly high loan), we got the sense that what we had was more than enough for any type of house.

We ended up finding a house that was actually below our budget. We thought about where all our extra money would go -- finished basement, new furniture -- only to find our closing cost fees double. And what didn't get eaten up in fees disappeared after we realized that we had none of the essentials: no ladders, no shovels, nothing. Factor in money for movers and painters, and our huge chunk of cash turned into a sliver.

2) You have no idea how much mortgage companies suck.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it: thanks to the house bubble bursting, mortgage companies are absolutely jackasses now. You expect that now. But you don't expect just how horrible they are going to be. They will pry into your lives and make you explain every transaction you've ever made in the last 5 years -- in a formal letter, dated, signed, and faxed over. And they'll wait until the very last minute to inform you of crucial changes. And they'll pick inopportune times to decide they need more "proof" of something (like proof that we could afford the extra closing costs, even though we had the farkin' cashier's check in our hand).

They're terrible and horrible and your only choice (unless you have a cool $150 - 600k rolling around).

3) Thought picking out things for your wedding was stressful? Try picking a house.
A house is the single most expensive thing most of us will ever invest in. And, sure, it's a lot of fun to make up your dream house on Pinterest. But it's a whole other game when you're being shown houses that have some of what you want, and a whole lot of "almost"s and "not quite"s. Suddenly you have to figure out what is a deal breaker, what is a complete necessity, and what you can do without.

However, when you find the house, you will find "the house". It will probably not have everything on your Pinterest board, but it will just feel right. We swore we needed a four-bedroom house with a same-floor garage and a tile-floored kitchen. We walked into our house -- a three-bedroom house with a basement garage and wooden-floored kitchen -- and knew we were home. And while the process was stressful -- from crappy mortgage brokers to terrible painters -- we'd do it all over again. Because this is home, plain and simple.

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