For my boldest Christmas wish yet, I asked Santa Claus for house this year. And, I’m sure glad I was good, as I look at my newly acquired keys dangling from my key chain. While I wish the man in red had helped out with a few payments, I’m happy to be decking the halls at a place I can call my own. Merry Christmas to me, indeed.
And I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge about real estate through this process. I know about mortgage loans, and home owner associations, and what big commitment this was, and what can be negotiated, and even what this “closing costs” term is.
Some of you might ask why? I was very happy with my rental unit, but I had my reasons:
- Traffic: My apartment was in the heart of Destin and right by the beach; but, during the summer, that location was a little problematic. If I left at 5pm, I never got home at a decent hour. From 11-1 and then from about 4-7pm, traffic is terrible. And, if it was raining, I hit two malls. Forget about it. Sometimes, I just turned around, and went back to work.
- Money: My rent went up $100 since my first lease, and I expected that to continue. During my research of mortgage rates and monthly payments, I realized my monthly payments on a mortgage could be significantly cheaper.
- Neighborhood: I wanted a neighborhood, and somewhere I felt safe. Not to knock the apartment lifestyle, but there was so much turnover. I never knew who my neighbors were or who was parking beside me.
- Cramped: My apartment was a 1 bedroom/ 1 bath apartment, which was great when I first moved down! However, when guests came to stay, it was tight.
- Ownership: My payments were going towards something I was never going to own. I couldn’t paint the wall, much less nail anything in them either. If didn’t like something, too bad. I was stuck with it!
So, I started my search. And by that, I mean I downloaded the app for Realtor.com and started looking at pictures of mansions. There are all kinds of filters on this app, so you can pick location by radius, minimum and maximum price, how many bed/bathrooms you need, etc. I had no idea what to put in my price range. I even stupidly inquired on some co-op units, since they were falling in my estimated price range. And after a while, I realized I had bitten off more than I could chew. I needed a realtor – someone that knew the market, and would help me make a good decision financially for my future. Done! My realtor also connected me with my loan officer, and we figured out what I could qualify for my loan and what my payments would be.
Big girl moment – I didn’t fall in the bracket I originally wanted. But, when I started looking at what my payments would be for these dream houses, and how much I would have to put down on the house- helllllooooo dollar signs. It was time to start looking at the correct price range that I qualified for, and right area of town. Unfortunately, there were not a lot of options. I live in an upscale tourist town, where most buyers are looking for investment properties, long term rentals, or just have for a 2nd home. So, ok, I wouldn’t have a house right on the beach, but I had a great amount to work with. I just had to find the right house.
Two Homes: Decision Time
I looked at a few houses, and was so disappointed in a few of them. Some looked like great steals online, only to find water damage…or rooms that literally smelled like smoke …or they had hired very skilled photographers. That part was awful. I was pretty discouraged. (In retrospect, I was being dramatic. I didn’t search that long before finding something I liked. I literally looked at houses and found two that I liked in about two week’s time- see below. I’ve never said I was patient, people.)
Finally, I found two that I liked. One was a flip in Santa Rosa Beach, and one was a town home just down the road. Both had pros and cons, and I remember walking through the rooms the first time and breaking out in a sweat. My palms were wet. I had no idea what I was doing or what my realtor was saying, and I knew this was a huge decision. What should I look for? Was I just supposed to fall in love with the house as soon as I stepped inside? Would I prefer the fixer upper over the newly renovated home? What the heck are closing costs? Was that a payment in addition to this percentage down thing? Who are my neighbors? Why would they pick that wall color?
I brought in enforcements – my parents- and went on a 2nd walk through for each house. We came to the conclusion were just too many things wrong with the flip. It was almost like they ran out of money. And most importantly, the asking price was too high.
The town home had three bedrooms, two baths, a back yard, a huge den/ living area, laundry room, working kitchen, and even a cute little Florida room. The spot is super close to the beach, and part of a great HOA. As my realtor likes to say, SOLD…after a little negotiating.
Paperwork & Minor Hiccups
I qualified for a few things that helped me with my loan, and the town home received a great appraisal. I had to find all kinds of odd documents, work history, and previous addresses. Stressful. But, I found everything I needed, scanned them all in, and then just waited. I would get a call about an inspection, and then it was pretty quiet. And, then there were a few things we went back and forth on. After few weeks, everything was approved, and set the date to close at the end of November.
The house had a renter in it, and I was planning to honor the lease and move in January. However, at the last minute, she changed her mind and wanted to leave once I took ownership. Since I didn’t want to pay mortgage and rent in the same month, I bumped up my move out date from my apartment and rescheduled my movers. Of course, the new move in date was scheduled for the morning after a HUGE event I was co-chairing. Life is funny like that. You do want you have to do to make it work!
I pulled up to the parking lot for my closing with my car packed to the brim with clothes and breakables. The closing was super easy, however, SUPER long. My wrist literally cramped after signing so much paperwork. After about an hour that felt like an eternity, I was a new homeowner! I remember a brief moment of panic after I signed and handed over the last paper. But, I looked up to smiling faces, and nothing but confidence and excitement followed. I did it! And, I even received a bottle of celebratory champagne.
Now, I’m all moved in, with the exception of three cardboard boxes that have not been unpacked. I even had enough room to put up my Christmas tree. And now with the season over, all my Holiday decor is neatly packaged, in my attic!
And next year, I’ll be sure to leave cookies and a thank you note for Kris Kringle!