questionshelp me buy my first home... part 1

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Get pre-approved (not pre-qualified) for your loan, if you need one. That way when you find your house the sellers know you mean business and have the backing.

When we were looking, we had a list of minimums that we gave to the realtors and had them give us a drive-by tour of houses that fit our needs. You can tell from the outside, if the house will not work for you.

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I think the biggest factor is your realtor. Make sure that they have the impression that they truly work for you, will work to fulfill what you want, but also have the knowledge and experience to steer you if the search isn't going well.

Secondly, @theoneill555 is right, get your loan approved beforehand. Not only will you be able to easily compute what each house will cost you, but you also look more legit if there are a few buyers coming in at the same time (like after a price drop or something) and you can move quicker than others can.

Finally, know what you want in your house. If you want a front porch, hold out for one. If you don't care about granite countertops, don't let that sway you. The wife and I made a list of "Can't live without..." "I would like to have..." and "Deal breakers... (stuff we wouldn't want)" so we knew what too look for.

Armed with that, you should only see houses you like, and choosing should be easier.

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@prettywootprincess: If you like, I can send you the name of an excellent agent, and a loan broker, in your area. I will send these people via email. They were both enormously helpful when my daughter was buying her first home in your neck of the woods.

Your email at Wooterville still the same?

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I HIGHLY recommend going to a Mortgage Investors office. They specialize in mortgage searching and for a small fee, will be able to find all sorts of useful information to your benefit (first time home buyer grants, Rural Development loans, etc). Also, they can work with you on rushing your closing. I have never regretted the decision to do that

Also, don't let something as foolish as paint color or carpet steer you away from a home. It's an easy fix and only takes a weekend. I always hate seeing that in those TV shows...

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get preapproved definitely. know your budget with insurance and any monthly fees added in too. if you find a buyer's agent, be careful what you're signing with them and keep the option open to cancel with them if you're not happy.

find a good local MLS website and search everynight or setup alerts through them so you go look at places YOU want not places they want to show you. do your own drivebys at dusk/night before you spend the time with the agent.
don't worry about paint colors. look at space, layout, location, transportation/commute options. be overly chatty with neighbors if you see any, so you can get the inside scoop.
take the house search as serious as starting your own business

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@prettywootprincess: How exciting! It's a good idea to do a little online research on neighborhoods, crime statistics, and neighborhood associations to name a few things.
If a neighborhood checks out online, you can go visit the area to see if it's a good
location for you.

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Don't do anything like buy a new car or open a new credit card as that can impact your credit. Don't need any last minutes problems as you go forward.

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Once you find a house - or couple houses - youre seriously interested in, do drive-bys at different times of day. What seemed like a quiet neighborhood with lots of young families can sometimes seem completely different at night or on a weekend

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And when I was looking, I created a spreadsheet where I listed all the houses I had viewed along with their specs (sq footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, updated features, $/sq foot, etc) and how I felt about them, so I could compare things side-by-side. That might help to keep things a little more objective

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I wanted to echo the earlier comments about the importance of getting pre-approved, but not just for showing sellers that you're serious, but also because it'll get you grounded in what your options are.

To figure out your credit score, you could use various paid services or get your free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. It's not a scam site; it's the legitimate provider for checking your credit report for free each year.

You can also use online tools available at most major banks (www.wellsfargo.com/mortgage, www.bankofamerica.com) that should give you some read on options and current rates. Some sites also give average home prices in the areas you're interested in; Zillow.com can do this, too. Mortgage brokers can also give you a read on different options via a range of different lenders.

I think it's also important to pause and ask why you're interested in buying a house in the first place. There's a lot of pros to still being a renter in this economy.

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Depends a lot upon the market where you are and how long you plan to stay. Real estate goes in cycles. I seriously question if it will be considered an "investment" for quite a few years. I would definitely research renting vs purchasing and compare ALL costs involved with each. I know that you can probably pick up a nice home for a lot less money than a few years ago, but I think one needs to consider all of the expenses of the purchase, maintenance, and improvements - taxes, etc. vs. cost of rent. JMO

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@prettywootprincess says "I have started doing drive by's."

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When you see one that you are interested in go to the city government. Look at all the permits attained for the property. If they advertize recent work but you don't see a permit for it, move on, unless you are skilled at construction and have the time to fix their mistakes.

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I definitely agree with everything already said so I probably won't say anything new, just what's most important to me in my very recent experience. Hold out for what you truly want, to me is most important and narrow your search accordingly (there are A LOT of houses out there and more pop up daily). Know what kind of sales are for the houses you like.

Have financial information available easily (stocks, tax returns etc). Save up for unexpected expenses now. Find a reputable home inspector and get a home inspection (mine cost $375 but saved thousands in repairs) when the time comes.

All of the details can be mind numbing, but a realtor and mortgage agent working in your best interests makes everything go a lot smoother.

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I have already been pre-approved and have my down payment and assets all aligned. I have started interviewing buyers agents.

Now I need to decide do I want a fixer in a great area or a move-in ready in an ok area.

How much does it cost to re-do an entire kitchen, a whole house of flooring (carpet and maybe wood or the cool cement looking stuff).

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@prettywootprincess: Redoing a kitchen will cost, at a minimum, about $5000. If you are willing to do most of the work (or have someone in your life that is very handy), you can probably keep it at that. This is not including new appliances, and is assuming that you are not going to go for the high end fashionable items, such as granite countertops.

[Yes, I have lost my vote, and don't know where to find it. :-(]

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What @fosterscool and @theoneill555 said. I took digital pictures and measured the rooms.

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@shrdlu: Gracas much for the the email. I have done some demo (2 days total in my live) and the BF might be handy. Today I am stressed and want to cry.

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@prettywootprincess: I love remodeling, myself. I have had to stop myself from remodeling my kitchen, over and over. There isn't really anything wrong with it, it's just the only room in the house that hasn't been redone. Please don't be stressed. I am sad to hear it.

I would recommend not getting anything that has serious problems, and also point out that TX doesn't really have the strict laws about home inspections that CA does. You will really want to find someone who can inspect structural elements, electrical, and gas (if you are looking at a house with it). There were some terrifying wiring issues with my daughter's house (but I took care of them), and there were also termite issues (also handled). Watch for the twin evils of Sweet Gum trees (aka Liquidambar), and Hackberry (an aggressive trash tree). The sweet gum root system can destroy plumbing, & the seed pods are annoying, and painful to bare feet.

Back in a while. It'll get better, I swear.

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@prettywootprincess: I redid my kitchen through April, May and a few final touches over the past few weekends. I built ALL of the cabinets myself and still put over $2000 in the lumber and hardware, granite tile countertops and porcelain tile floors. It looks amazing though compared to the "out of the box" cabinets you can get at Lowe's and Home Depot. I've heard that some people spend as much as $25-50k redoing their kitchen depending on what you want (high end costs much more of course) and the area you live in (contractors make more money when demand is high).

Most of the time, you can just replace the cabinet doors, sand and stain -- or paint -- the cabinets and it looks as good as new. Countertops can be quite expensive also, even the cheapest stuff is a few hundred dollars.

A lot can be done in a house for $10,000 -- just be sure that if you hire a contractor that you do some reference checks. They're known for disappearing. and NEVER pay them before the job is done.

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@prettywootprincess: Quit doing drive-by's! Gun-slingin' is no way to find a house, and you're going to want to talk with the neighbors, not scare them off.

In all seriousness though, neighbors are some of the best people to talk to. They'll tell you the things that agents or owners won't always disclose, such as, "last year when we got that big rain, they were pumping the basement out for 2 weeks."
Also, think long and hard about what you want in the property (location, house/yard size, proximity to groceries, proximity to neighbors, etc.) and disregard any house that doesn't meet your criteria. Even if you find one that is a sweet deal, these things are what you have to deal with every day, so you want to have these things right. You can change the interior, but you can't do much about what's beyond your property line. Good luck! It's a buyer's market right now!

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You are in Seattle, right?

Well, may be our own innovation can help you out? Have you worked with RedFin? They are phenomenal.

(Others have already answered the financial part of the question).

Also, look for auction listings, there are tons of ridiculously good deals hidden from plain sight around the area right now.

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@lll0228: She is NOT in Seattle. The developers and writers are in Seattle. They used to be in St Louis. Staff is in Dallas, TX.

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When we were looking for our house we stuck to a pretty basic plan. While looking we went in neighborhoods instead of driving all over the place. We looked at everything in that neighborbood even if the pictures didnt seem to appealing. Most of them actually looked way different in person and you get to see a larger number instead of spending most of your time driving.

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@prettywootprincess: caution I hear remodeling can cause lots of extra stress on marriage.

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@caffeine_dude: Luckily and unluckily I am not married... sad face