For a year or so, Ed an I had gone to new housing developments looking through models as entertainment. Slowly, though, the idea of getting a place of our own sunk in. In the summer of 2003 we decided it was time to seriously think about purchasing our first home. I started reading up on home buying, and in August we decided to contact a real estate agent to answer some questions we had.

Searching the internet for real estate agents is hard. Some advertise themselves so much that it's hard to weed through hundreds of results for the same agent before you get to a new one. In the end I found http://www.homegain.com which allowed me to fill out a form, and be contacted privately (through the website) by real estate agents who wanted to represent us. I expected that once we contacted one of the agents who responded, it'd be a pain dealing with them. I didn't want a ton of phone calls, and I figured that we'd have to go to their office to discuss what we were looking for (hear their sales speech).

None of that happened. Several agents responded to my request on Home Gain. (I wasn't sure if anyone would want to work with us, I had made it clear that we were looking to purchase around April -6 months away!) Some sounded slimy, some obviously didn't read what I had written on the form, but several sounded very nice. In the end we decided we wanted someone who had middle of the road sales numbers. (One agent who responded had sold so many properties the year before that I imagined she'd have no time to answer our questions or we'd get lost in her pile of prospects before April!) So, we actually ended up with the first agent who responded to me! I chose Bonnie Craig because her response showed that she had read what I had written, she responded quickly (which is important to me), and she knew the area we were looking at (Bolingbrook, IL). The clincher was this line: “I am usually immediately available, call me and see!”

I didn't call, I emailed, but she responded immediately and answered all my questions (along with the questions I should have asked) step by step. The next day she started sending me listings of properties for sale through email, they matched the criteria we gave her in our first email, and we drove past them that night to get a feel for what they look like in person versus the pictures and descriptions. We also spent a lot of time touring around the neighborhood to find out what it was like, areas to avoid, etc.

A week later, I hadn't contacted her yet (we were really busy), and she emailed me back to check in. I had some financial questions for her, and she referred me to John Hoch at Countrywide. I didn't like him. He didn't listen to me at all and was very rushed. In September he went ahead and pre-approved us for up to like $300,000 or something ridiculous. We discussed what kind of a monthly payment we would want to carry, and found that $300,000 was definitely out. We are both into expensive hobbies (our cars) and like taking vacations every year, so we decided that our upper limit would be more like $200,000.

In October we told Bonnie that we only needed new property listings once a week or so -we didn't want her spending too much time looking for properties for us since we wouldn't be ready to buy until Spring anyway. She emailed us sporatically as the market allowed, then in January we started refining the results and sending her properties that we had seen for sale while driving by.

In February I started searching for properties on Realtor.com (http://www.realtor.com) and sending Bonnie the ones I was interested in. Some of the properties I sent were unavailable, but we almost settled on going to look at a couple, and then Ed started giving a little more thought to the location we were looking at. Seems he didn't like Bolingbrook's proximity to the train. He wanted to start looking in Aurora instead. I dreaded telling Bonnie that we were turning this search upside down after all these months, but I let her know and she just rolled with the change.

I started asking more questions as we got closer to actually finding something we might want to buy, like how much less than asking price do houses in this area generally go for? And Bonnie was able to give me an idea of what to expect.

In late February we started driving around Aurora to get a feel for the neighborhood (like we had done in Bollingbrook) and found that we actually liked it better! The area we were looking at was all built in the 1980's -new enough to still be nice, but old enough to have mature trees, etc. We took note of houses with for sale signs in the yard, grabbed flyers if they were available, and emailed Bonnie with what we had found. Many were sold or otherwise unavailable, but one was available, and we arranged time to meet at the house on Saturday. It would be our first time meeting face to face, but while we waited for Saturday to roll along, Bonnie sent us some more “for sales” and we continued to send her more houses we saw for sale online. One that we found was available and although Bonnie warned that it had been on the market awhile, so there was probably something wrong with it, she scheduled a viewing of that property for us on Saturday as well.

On Saturday we met Bonnie as planned, and viewed the first house. It was empty, the sellers had already moved out, so it didn't feel like we were intruding on someone else's space at all. Bonnie was great, she lead us through the house commenting on how certain things would effect resale, and looking for red flags like a sagging roof or signs of basement leakage. The first house was fairly average, the second was horrible. It was really cute from the outside, but the inside was a mess! It looked like it had water damage on the ceiling, no maintenance had ever been done, the back yard had almost no grass due to the seller's dog. The second house was occupied as well. The owners were not at home, but it still felt kind of intrusive.

Bonnie continued to email us with new properties for sale, and in early March we heaped another requirement on her. DSL service. Ed had forgotten to check the area out for DSL service, and it seems that only part of the area is covered. The method we use to find out the quality of DSL service (distance to the CO) is long and complicated, but Bonnie wanted to know how, so I told her. In the end she agreed to leave that to us. She continued sending properties, and we'd test them for DSL service.

At this point we started to seriously look at getting financing lined up. I had gone to Lending Tree (http://lendingtree.com) at the end of February to get some quotes on mortgages, but everything I had read about lenders made me scared to go with any of them. My Mom works at a bank, and she got me in contact with the lender that works out of her office. She ran a pre-approval for us on 100% financing and found that we were unable to qualify for it, our credit score was 9 points too low! We were shocked because we have had our credit scores pulled, and we both have high scores. She offered an 80-15-5 loan where you put 5% down, and we persued that for awhile, but it got way too confusing. The second loan (for 15%) has to be an adjustable rate or a “balloon”, furthurmore it's a 30 year loan that has to be paid off in 10 years!?! I didn't like this option, and told her I had to think about it.

Bonnie sent us a property on Willow Ct, and we liked the look from the outside. We drove past and found 2 others for sale on the same street (almost right across the street from each other). We scheduled all 3 for a viewing, but one was sold before we could get a look! We met, and went through the first one -we really liked it. The family room was huge and had a vaulted ceiling, there was a bedroom at the front of the house that would be perfect for Ed's office, the kitchen was really nice, etc. The second house was fairly average. Bonnie pressed us to make a decision on whether or not to make an offer on the first house fairly quickly. We went to Baker's Square to talk it over, and decided that we both really liked it. When I got home I emailed Bonnie saying that we liked it, but asking if she could find out why there were 3 houses for sale so close to each other? Bonnie replied saying that the property had just been put under contract, it was unavailable. She felt horrible, but Ed and I knew that was a possibility and we kept looking.

The next day Bonnie reminded us that we had another property that we were supposed to drive past and let her know about, she told us that if we liked it we could call her and she may be able to meet us there the same day. We did so, and she was able to meet us at the house in less than an hour! Talk about service! We had lunch, and drove back to the place to take a look. (The house was empty, so it was available right away.) That house was too small, we passed on it.

At this point, we were getting closer to finding something, so we contacted one of the lenders I got off of Lending Tree -Prime Financial Group. She was really nice and informative; right after she sent her initial offer she called me to explain the program and why the rate may be higher than some of the others. The difference was that with hers there was no PMI. I looked into PMI, it's a $200/month insurance payment. It's not tax deductable, it's just lost money. Needless to say I was interested in if we'd qualify. I trusted my Mom's person more, but after we got more info on this offer I decided I was going with the simpler of the two (and no down payment!) We started the pre-approval process…

Bonnie kept sending us new properties, and we kept looking too. In response to a question I had about how long houses are usually on the market before they sell, she sent us a CMA -a Comparitive Market Analysis which showed the list price, selling price, and time on market for recently sold houses in the area we were looking at. Very good information to have!

We picked a couple of the properties that Bonnie sent to view the following weekend. One sold before we could view it, but she had another (a smidge out of our price range) to look at “so we could see what a little more money could buy us”. We looked at the first one, and it was the same model as one that we had already seen. It was empty, the kitchen was obviously newly remodeled -pergo floors, oak cabinets, nice lighting. It was nicer than most we had seen. The backyard was beautiful -it didn't have a house behind it like the others did, and it was nicely landscaped. The problem -small bathroom and master bedroom. We saw the second house (the expensive one), and while we liked some of the features better, the floorplan made it seem kinda cramped. It had a nice deck out the back, but the yard was in a low spot and collected all of the rain from the surrounding yards that had fallen the previous night. Not good, especially with the dog. It was occupied, but the owners were out. Bonnie did a good job asking us leading questions to figure out whether either house was a good fit for us, and she also offered to leave us alone to discuss it. We opted to split up and Ed and I discussed it over some ice cream.

Ed seemed like he could go either way on the house, and I felt it was kinda up to me to decide which made the pressure that much worse. My main worry was the Master Bedroom. It was very long and narrow, and I wasn't sure how I'd work that space. I went over the MBR in our apartment with a tape measure to try to envision our bed and entables in that smaller space. The other worry was the small bathroom. A few houses we saw had jacuzzi-style tubs, and that wouldn't be a possibility with this house at all. I thought, I researched, then I'd sway one way. Then I'd research again, rethink it, and sway the other way. It took me a couple of hours to come up with a decision, and I'll admit that there were some heated words between Ed and I while I tried to sort it all out in my head.

I called her back later that day to tell her that we wanted to persue this property. She asked if we could meet her at a nearby ~McDonald's in about a half hour. We agreed and headed over. She was there waiting for us, and she explained the paperwork we had to sign, we came up with a closing date, and she helped us decide on an offer price. We low-balled them for the first round, then waited to hear back. The next day they came back with a firm counter-offer, and while I wanted to offer about $2000 less, Bonnie advised to go closer to what they had asked for. I went for $1000 under as she suggested and she called us back later to say that they had accepted. I think they may have gone lower if I had stuck to my guns with what I wanted to offer in the first place, but there's not much I could do about it at this point.

Bonnie asked us to meet her to sign the offer, and bring an earnest money check. We met her at an open house that she was doing for a $325,000 house. It was gorgeous! After a quick tour we left to try to grasp what we had just signed ourselves up for. -We hadn't even gotten financing worked out yet! We went home and I emailed our lender to tell her the news and speed up the pre-approval process.

We didn't get the pre-approval until Tuesday due to “problems pulling a credit score”, but once we got it we had to go through the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and figure out what fees were going where. Originally we had quoted closing costs on $925 and a rate of 6% or so. In the end, the GFE said we'd owe $2262.14. We had to go through all the paperwork very carefully. Mistakes were made on the application (she got Ed's SSN wrong, for example), and the Truth in Lending Disclosure had us down for a variable rate when we most definitely wanted a fixed rate. The changes were made as soon as I brought them to her attention however, and she was eager to explain the difference in the closing costs (the rest of the money went to the escrow account and/or to title charges). We checked what she said with my Mom's lender (she was happy to review the documents from Prime Financial Group for us), and we also looked at some websites such as http://joemetzler.com/badgfe.htm . In the end we decided that it looked good (after the corrections), and we signed the paperwork and faxed it to her on Thursday.

Of course, that wasn't all we had to deal with, at the same time we had the sellers wanting to change the original contract, the attorney calling about deadlines that the lender had to meet, we had to schedule the home inspection… It was a stressful week.

On Saturday we had our Home Inspection with Tom Wagner of Premier Inspectors of America. This is optional, but everyone recommended doing it, and we thought that $260 was not much for the peace of mind. We met the Inspector at the house. My parent's also met us there to see the house for the first time. The parent thing was probably a mistake. I'm glad they were able to come see it, but I spent a lot of time with them, so I missed much of what the inspector found and pointed out to Ed as they walked around. After Tom was done with the inspection, he printed it out and put it in a binder for us. He walked us through the documentation, and showed us the nice little home maintenance book that was included. He was a really nice guy, did a great job, and the documenation we had at the end of it was awesome!

Back to the lender -Prime needed more documents. More recent paycheck stubs, 2 most recent statements for each of our accounts, a copy of the earnest money check, phone numbers and names to verify our employment, etc. We gathered all that up, and (except for the copy of the earnest money check which hadn't cleared yet, we got it all out to her on Monday). I also asked her (on Bonnie's advice) when the appraisal was scheduled. She replied back that it was to be done today. I let Bonnie know. Later on that night, both of them emailed me with the result of the appraisal (which was $500 higher than we paid).

I also had a message from our attorney, John Klunk waiting when I got home Monday night. Apparently, Bonnie sent him the Inspector's report, and pointed out some things she had issue with. The big one was the mold Tom found under the sink.

On Tuesday I got a call from Joann from the attorney's office. She wanted a list of the things we were concerned about (from the Inspection) faxed to her along with the relevant pages from the Inspector's report. This has to be done today or tomorrow so she can write it up for the sellers by Friday. Then, it would be up to the sellers to fix it or tell us “too bad”…

I gave her a list on Thursday, it contained 4 items: the mold under the sink, the missing screens on the sliding glass doors that open to the back yard, the missing/broken window screens, and the fact that the central air conditioner was not able to be inspected and verified to be in working condition.

In the meantime we arranged for homeowner's insurance to cover the entire purchase price of the property, and faxed proof that we pre-paid the policy for a year to Tania as this was required for the loan approval process.

A couple weeks later I got a call from Joann from the attorney's office. She finally heard back from the seller's attorney. They were willing to take care of the mold, the screens on the sliding doors, the window screens, and they were willing to get a guy out to certify that the central air worked. Then she asked if that was okay. I took a mental inventory… -That was everything we asked for! Uh yes! Yes, that's fine! Awesome!

The next call was from Bonnie. She had filled in our interest rate on the contract as being a quarter percentage point below what we ended up applying for, so we had to make another contract change. Ed and I made the change, initialled the contract, and sent it to the Seller's agent on April 1st.

Meanwhile, the loan commitment date creeped closer, and in the end Tania was not able to meet the 4/7 deadline. Joann said that the deadline is usually much closer to the closing date than that anyway, and they went ahead and moved it to the 19th.

After that, we just had to wait. We had some questions about what to expect at closing which we emailed Bonnie about, and she was quick to respond. Apparently it's about one to two hours of signing document after document, and we won't know time or place until the seller's attorney receives the title.

Four days later, on the 14th, I got an email from Bonnie saying that the closing hasn't been scheduled because the seller's attorney was not happy that Tania, our lender, ordered title which is not customary in Illinois. About five minutes later Tania responded saying that she's in the process of taking care of this with our attorney, and claimed she ordered the title because the seller's agent said it was okay. Either way she cancelled the order, and the sellers were going to proceed in ordering the title.

More excitement on Monday the 19th (three days before closing) Tania emailed me saying that the closing date may be pushed back to the 26th because the seller's attorney was slow in getting some documents to her, and she was still waiting on one document before she could get a “clear to close” from the underwriter. She said that Joann (from our attorney's office) was also trying to get the last document. I replied that pushing the date back was unacceptable. We had a moving truck reserved for the 24th and 25th, and Internet installation set for the 23rd. Also, we had all of our utilities moved over as of the 23rd, etc. Moving that date would cause lots of problems.

Later that day I got a call from Joann about the closing date getting pushed back. I told her what I told Tania, and she asked if I knew why the date was getting moved, I said that Tania had contacted me, and I gave her the explaination that I was given. Turns out Tania told Joann that she was waiting for wiring instructions from the seller. Joann said that she never heard of a closing date being moved just for that, and told me that I should call Tania and find out what was going on (but I was not to mention my conversation with Joann).

I called Tania twice, but got her voicemail. I left a message saying that I needed her to call me ASAP at work or at home (it was late in the day). When I arrived home from work, I had a message from Tania on our answering machine. She said that she got the last document and everything was into underwriting. We'd just have to wait for their final “clear to close”.

In the morning, I had an email from Bonnie waiting, so I sent her the email conversation that Tania and I had and told her the story about what Joann said, etc. I said that I'd be bugging Tania all day to make sure we could close on time.

I emailed Tania twice asking if she knew what was happening, and all she could tell me was that they were working on it and that it was marked “priority”. Shortly before I was to go home for the day I got word from Tania that we got our “clear to close” and that the closing should be able to proceed on schedule. On my way home Bonnie called my cell phone and left a voicemail message saying that closing was to happen at 4pm on the 22nd, and we could to a final walk-thru at 3pm.

I called Bonnie back when I got home to tell her that the times were fine for us. The closing is to be held in Wheaton at the office of the title company.

We met Bonnie at the house for the walk-thru and everything looked fine, afterwards we met at PLM title company and sat down to start signing paperwork. Our attorney explained each piece of paper, then she'd pass it down for me to sign/initial, and I'd pass it to Ed. Slowly the pile on the attorney's side got smaller as the one near Ed got taller, and it didn't take too long to get through it all. The sellers did the same thing with their attorney on the other side of the table. While things were being signed the title company's office was trying to get ahold of Tania or anyone at Prime Financial Group. (The closing was scheduled late in the day, and with the time difference it was past 5pm in Michigan where Tania was.) Eventually they got ahold of her, but she was unable to get ahold of anyone at the bank, so she was unable to get the money to the sellers.

Talk about embarrassing! The lawyers and title company people talked about what to do while Bonnie kept telling us “see I told you so” (she really wanted us to go with her guy, and she was also leary of working with a broker). It didn't take long before everyone declared it a “dry closing” or something like that (I guess this happens from time-to-time.) We were given the keys to the house, and the sellers were simply promised the money tomorrow.

Bonnie and I hounded Tania the next day, and it wasn't until mid-afternoon that the money was finally wired. That's when I really felt like the house was ours. Whew. What an ordeal. I swear, like it or not, this is the first and last house I'll every buy. (Okay, not really, I'll just have to wait long enough to forget what a hassle it was.)

Update -It's been over a month now, and I'm more than happy we bought the house. There's been a lot of unexpected purchases which makes me that much happier that we didn't have to put all of our savings into a down-payment. Lawn mowers, ladders, a weed whacker, weed-be-gone, garbage stickers, lawn waste bags, the list goes on and on. We certainly have more work to do now, but it's ours. OUR garage, OUR flower bed, OUR (broken) front door. We love it, ALL of it. It still makes me giddy. :-)


Costs:

Lender Fees:

Lender Fees add up to $3070.48, minus $1500 (earnest money), means $2262 (approximate) is what we'll need to close.

 
buying_our_house.txt · Last modified: 2010/06/16 13:42 (external edit)
 
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