About 11 months ago I first started thinking about purchasing a house. I had recently gained a position with a new company and was starting to make decent money. One day my boss and I were talking about renting versus owning and how horrible it feels knowing that your hard-earned money is going to somebody else, knowing that you are paying for your landlord’s mortgage and building his or her equity instead of your own.
I told my boss that of course I would rather own a house instead of rent, but that I couldn’t afford the cost of purchasing a house. My boss informed me that these days it does not take a lot of money to purchase a home. There are mortgages available that don’t require any money down (knowing what I know now, I think it’s a good idea to put some money down). He informed me of interest-only loans, and I realized the difference of a mortgage payment and my rent payment wasn’t astronomical. This is when the home-buying thought process really kicked into gear for me. It was all I could think about — not paying somebody else’s mortgage and paying my own. I was full-blown psyched.
For the next couple of days I kept the idea to myself. I didn’t inform my parents or my girlfriend. I kept doing research and running numbers. In October 2006 I told my girlfriend, Jennifer, of my plan. She was more than happy to go house shopping with me. Looking back, I think it probably would have been a better idea to talk to a mortgage broker before I started looking. But we were off.
A few friends who moved to Leland had told me how nice it was and how affordable the housing was, but I was skeptical at first. I lived one block from the beach and could ride my skateboard to check the surf. Moving to Leland would be a huge change.
The first neighborhood we looked in was Tyler’s Cove at Mallory Creek Plantation. We were very happy with what we saw, but it seemed a little out of our price range. Also around this time is when I popped the question to Jennifer — not that question but the “Will you be my roommate?” question. Surprisingly, without much hesitation she agreed. Jennifer is kind of traditional and didn’t want to move in with somebody until she got married, so I must be a swell guy.
We looked at a bunch of other neighborhoods: The Willows, Lincoln Place, Windsor Park, Wedgewood, Eastbrook and a few others. The next neighborhood we gave serious thought to was Windsor Park. At first I wasn’t too happy with the location. It’s about 15 minutes from downtown, but the houses were nice and they were in my price range. We looked at a couple different plans and we liked parts of each.
I thought I had my mind set on Windsor Park. My parents made the trip from the Outer Banks and accompanied Jennifer and I on a visit there. Having the thumbs up from my parents on a house was big to me. Dad knows a thing or hundred about housing so having him and Mom tag along was a big help. They liked the neighborhood and the houses. We thought we had found our home. But the first phase was sold out and the second phase wasn’t going to be ready for another month or two. That was a blow because we thought we had found something. The onsite agent told us that he would get in touch with me when they could start pre-selling the next phase. We never heard from him, so we were onto other neighborhoods again.
In March 2007, the next neighborhood we gave serious consideration to was The Willows. We loved the location, but, unfortunately, we couldn’t afford the homes, so we looked at the townhomes. Those townhomes are nice — hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings, stainless-steel appliances, screened porch, etc. Jennifer loved The Willows and I was happy with them as well, but I felt like something was missing. My mind slowly started to change and I grew fonder of the neighborhood. We thought we had found a winner again.
I started the process of looking for a mortgage broker. I did some research online and I filled out a pre-qualification application. A broker contacted me shortly thereafter. Jennifer and I went into her office and we reviewed my application. Everything looked good so far. She asked if I was working with an agent, and I said I wasn’t. I was put in touch with an agent from Coldwell Banker Seacoast Realty.
We told our broker we were looking in The Willows and the price of the townhome we were interested in. She ran the numbers again and verified everything verbally. This is when I informed her that I worked in sales and the majority of my income was based off commission. The broker looked at me with a face of disappointment.
“Please don’t tell me you included your average commission with your salary on your application,” she said.
“Is that a bad thing?” I asked.
Another big blow. Apparently, when you are working in sales and are trying to buy a house, you must have two years of documented commission. I had less than a year. Plus, my base salary was not high enough to qualify for the townhome we liked. We were hoping to hear “congratulations” and “let’s get the paper work started,” but that was far from the case. Jennifer and I went to dinner and we were a little depressed.
We learned there were some alternatives: 1) Put a large sum of money down; 2) Have a parent cosign or option; or 3) Jennifer and I go in together. You remember me saying Jennifer is traditional, so this proposition was on a whole different level. You’re curious: What did we decide? I’ll tell you soon. We put the house hunt on the back burner and started looking at apartments that we could move into. We were still very depressed.
After our depression simmered down, we came to a decision. We were going to combine our incomes and purchase a house together. The story now transcends from “I” to “we”. We kept our options open regarding other neighborhoods. We were starting to utilize the Realtor that our broker put us in touch with. He was helpful but left us wanting more at times. We were looking for an agent to show us homes, but instead we were finding the homes ourselves and he was just setting up the appointments. We looked at a few neighborhoods, but eventually we found our way back to Tyler’s Cove at Mallory Creek Plantation. Yes, the first place we looked at many months ago.
We looked at the townhomes and a couple different stand-alone houses. Many caught our eye, but most were out of our price range. We found a two-story house in the neighborhood that we liked. Jennifer and I looked a couple different times and we were ready make an offer. Our agent made the call, and what do you know? The house just went under contract. Are you kidding me? Again! Another blow. We were thinking this buying a house thing wasn’t for us, but this was actually a blessing in disguise.
We kept looking. In the meantime, we realized that a good friend’s mother-in-law is a mortgage broker. We scheduled an appointment and met with her. Anyone who knows me knows that I can be a little frugal. I just like to shop around for the best deals. The mortgage was just like any other big purchase — you have to shop around for the best deals. We found that our friend’s mother-in-law had a better offer than our current broker. The decision was hard, but we decided to bring our business over to Vista Mortgage. To this day we still feel that we made the right decision.
After partnering with Vista we began the search again. Still in Tyler’s Cove at Mallory Creek Plantation we found a house listed for $169,900. This house was two years old and was not in mint condition, but it was still nice. We put our first offer in about 10 percent less than asking price, a big difference. Their counter-offer was not what we were expecting: $167,400 and we had to pay the $2,500 in closing costs. Seriously? This house is two years old and the market has not been great. We made another offer of $165,000, seller pays closing costs. Their counter-offer was the same. Jennifer, our agent and I said “thanks, but no thanks.”
The next house we came across was still in Tyler’s Cove. It was brand new and was not yet completed. The same floor plan as the house we just put the offer on, but this house was listed for $164,300 and the seller agreed to pay $2,000 towards closing costs. Our first offer was $159,900, seller pays closing and we receive a $3,000 gift card that was being offered. They rejected the offer, of course, but at this point we were used to rejection. Our counter-offer was $164,300, seller pays closing regardless of our lender (at first they didn’t want to pay closing with us using Vista Mortgage). What was the response? THEY SAID YES! Aren’t you now so happy for us? We were so excited.
The next step in the process was to start picking out shutter colors, door colors, carpet, tile, countertops, etc. Jennifer and I worked hand-in-hand and, surprisingly, we didn’t have any arguments. We made all of our choices and the wait began. Our closing date was scheduled for September 24. We made the trip from Wilmington to Leland about three times a week all through June, July, August and September to check the progress. We monitored every step of the project, making sure everything went smooth. We had a couple issues here and there. For example, the builders put the wrong tile in the entryway, and that took a little while to fix. As the date approached we were getting super-antsy. We purchased essentials for the house. Home Goods and Target were our stores of choice.
My birthday was September 21 and my parents were in town. Jennifer’s parents made the trip down from Boston, and both sets of parents accompanied Jennifer and I to the closing. We signed our names about 50 times, but boy oh boy did that last signature feel good. Our attorney gave us our “fun bag” and we were officially homeowners. Actually, we had to wait for the deed to be recorded. But we were homeowners.
Now it is October. We still have a lot of work to do and we have yet to spend a whole weekend in our new home. It was a lot of work and we learned a lot about each other. We felt the sadness of hearing countless rejections, but the feeling of hearing our agent say that the seller accepted our offer is something that Jennifer and I will remember for the rest of our lives. It started out as a casual conversation with my boss and it ended with Jennifer and me owning a home. We couldn’t be happier.