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Thread: I am looking for my first house!

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I am looking for my first house!

    And so my search for my first house begins. I plan on buying sometime in August or September of 2005, but I am starting to look now, so when the time comes, I will know what I am looking for, what I can afford, the neighborhoods I would like to reside in, and what options are available to me. I am comfortable with getting a house that might need a little work. Growing up, my parents house was over 100 years old when they bought it, so I now know how to do just about everything that I need to do. I have helped to build garages, install kitchens and bathrooms, put down carpet, refinish wood floors, wiring, plumbing, drywall, paint, wall paper *none will be used, and I spent years doing landscaping as a job.

    What things should I look for in my first house? I am thinking two – three bedroom, 1.5 to two bath. 900 – 1500 sqft, plus a basement. One thing that I know I will do is ask for the property to be surveyed before I buy.

    Any help would be great. *Oh for locals, I am looking in the City of Kalamazoo, I would like with in walking distance of Bronson Park, or WMU.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  2. #2
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    As you do your calculations on affordability, remember to never take the realtor's word on utility and property tax costs. Realtors and their listings can be way off on these figures.

    Call the utility companies for costs and caculate the p-tax numbers yourself.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  3. #3
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    look for what you want.


    Stuff to do when you think you've narrowed it down.
    Check all light switches, plugs.. don't be afraid to bring in a plug-in device. Swing all doors, test all locks. Move furniture if there is carpeting to see concealed stains. Try out the garage door. Talk to neighbors if they're around. Go in the attic, visit the crawlspace/basement.

    I think with a starter home you want to make sure your furnace is relativlety new or at least regularly maintained. A/C is optional in MI and you could always fork over the cash for a window unit. Visit the property during the day and during the night on a couple random days of the week.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Buy now. Interest rates have actually fallen since June, after a slight increase in May. It's smart that you want to buy a fixer-upper, many of which should be relatively new and in good shape as the former homeowners of those properties have traded up for new homes to take advantage of historic low interest rates.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    HOA Fees? & Docs....

    Make sure you get a copy of any HOA covenants/docs. prior to buying the house.
    Skilled Adoxographer

  6. #6
    Well, you certainly want to talk to your local planners to find out the zoning.

    I'd be concerned about how much power Maister has as far as granting development/use variances....Bwahahaaaaaaa

    Seriously, good luck and I would also encourage you to take advantage of the current interest rates -- they will go back up.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  7. #7
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    I'm also going to be in the house-hunting market soon. Unfortunately, I had to sign a 6-month lease for the apartment I'm living in. In a couple of months, I'll start the serious search. I only hope the interest rates don't take a big jump.

    On the other hand, maybe I can get pre-approved for a loan now. Anybody know anything about that? Does that lock in the interest rate?

  8. #8
    If this is your first home, getting a loan pre-approved might not be a bad idea. Generally it does not lock in a particular interest rate, but it does provide proof of your credit-worthiness which can at times be a sticking point in landing a successful contract. Having owned three houses myself...the first being less than 20 years old, the second being one that I built, and the third being one that is nearly 40 years old I can say that one of the most important factors that we considered is how well we "fit" in the house. In other words, does the house feel like home to us. I realize that is sort of an intangible but for long-term occupancy it does matter. Case in point...we designed and built our second house with all of the amenities that we thought would make it the perfect home for us. The only problem is that we made it almost too perfect. Almost to the point where we never felt like we could completely relax. It was almost too nice for our tastes. Our current house very much has a lived-in feel for us. It is constantly a work in progress but we are very comfortable there.

    The other advantage to considering a house that needs some work is that you can often negotiate a lower price based on the work that needs to be done. We actually purchased our current house at less than $40 per square foot because of needed maintenance and repairs.

    Good Luck with your search.
    A word to the wise ain't necessary. It's the stupid ones that need the advice.
    --Bill Cosby

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    If you are concerned with re-sale value, go with 3 bedrooms rather than 2. I did a fair amount of reading up on stuff like that before buying a house in my mid to late twenties and two bedrooms just don't sell as well.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    Make sure you get a copy of any HOA covenants/docs. prior to buying the house.
    These will appear on schedule B-II of the title policy as exceptions to the insurance. The document may not be attached, just referenced. They do this because no one ever reads their title report! BIG mistake!

    REQUIRE the title examiner (paid by seller in all instances) to actually cough up the document. They will, no cost to you, and save you the digging.

    For that matter, read and make sure you understand ALL the inclusions and exceptions to your title policy.

    Require the seller to provide gap coverage. This insures you against any leins filed from the time the owners policy was issued and the time your policy is final.

    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake
    On the other hand, maybe I can get pre-approved for a loan now. Anybody know anything about that? Does that lock in the interest rate?
    Depends on the lender. The lock is usually for a fixed number of days, 10, 15, rarely more unless you pay points on closing.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 21 Jul 2004 at 1:59 PM.

  11. #11
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    What Michele Zone said. I owned a three bedroom house in Florida, and left the master empty while living in the rest of the house. There were no problems selling it; I faxed contacts back and forth from hotels on the road as I was in transit to my next destination.

    Another classic bit of advice you'll probably come across; it's better to buy a cheap house in a neighborhood of more expensive houses, than a more expensive house in a neighborhood of cheap houses.

    In older houses with electrical systems that haven't been updated, there may only be one or two outlets in each room

    Make sure the floorplan can accomodate all your furniture, and your preferred location.

    Hire the crustiest, most curmudgeony old building inspector you can find before you sign anything.

    Off-topic:


    University Heights, Ohio - $140,000. Colonial, Master Bed Room: 12x13, Bedroom 2: 13x14, Bedroom 3: 10x12, Dining Room: 13x12, Kitchen: 13x10, Living Room: 25x13, Fireplace, Garage: Paved, Detached, 2 Car, Lot: 40x122, This property was built in 1930.

    Whatcha' think?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet
    Depends on the lender. The lock is usually for a fixed number of days, 10, 15, rarely more unless you pay points on closing.
    For us to lock we had to be within 30 days of the closing date to avoid a penalty.



    Mskis- I'd say go for the bigger house. The one Dan just posted is amazing, I wish they had houses like that out here.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan
    Off-topic:


    University Heights, Ohio - $140,000. Colonial, Master Bed Room: 12x13, Bedroom 2: 13x14, Bedroom 3: 10x12, Dining Room: 13x12, Kitchen: 13x10, Living Room: 25x13, Fireplace, Garage: Paved, Detached, 2 Car, Lot: 40x122, This property was built in 1930.

    Whatcha' think?
    Very nice Dan! The wife and I are looking to buy a home with in the next year or so and have been seen very few like that house, in that price range, and in a good neighborhood. I suppose I'm going to have to either take on a killer mortgage (doubtful), or lower my expectations a little.
    Last edited by biscuit; 21 Jul 2004 at 3:30 PM.

  14. #14
    Hey, Dan! That's a pretty nice looking Tudor Revival. Price seems pretty fair: how's the 'hood?
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  15. #15
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan

    Hire the crustiest, most curmudgeony old building inspector you can find before you sign anything.

    Off-topic:

    Whatcha' think?
    The cheif building inspector for my city is a good man, and I am sure that for the right non monitary price, we would be willing to take a look at it for me. This man knows his stuff, and he will be right up front and tell me how it is.

    As for the house, $140k is a bit out of my range, but that same house in Portage would go for twice as much. Such is the reason I am looking In K-Zoo. (Thinking $75-$100k)
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  16. #16
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    As for the house, $140k is a bit out of my range, but that same house in Portage would go for twice as much. Such is the reason I am looking In K-Zoo. (Thinking $75-$100k)
    I wish housing prices were like that 'round here. You can't even get an attached 2 bedroom condo unit for less than $200,000 anywhere in southern NH.....
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  17. #17
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    The cheif building inspector for my city is a good man, and I am sure that for the right non monitary price, we would be willing to take a look at it for me. This man knows his stuff, and he will be right up front and tell me how it is.

    As for the house, $140k is a bit out of my range, but that same house in Portage would go for twice as much. Such is the reason I am looking In K-Zoo. (Thinking $75-$100k)
    I'll sell you my house next fall for $125,000 (a deal since it was appraised for more). 3 bedroomranch, 1.75 baths, basement is 3/4ths finished. It has a brand new kitchen and Maister won't be able to write you up for not cutting your lawn because your in the Zoo.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerByDay
    I'll sell you my house next fall for $125,000 (a deal since it was appraised for more). 3 bedroomranch, 1.75 baths, basement is 3/4ths finished. It has a brand new kitchen and Maister won't be able to write you up for not cutting your lawn because your in the Zoo.
    Might be a possiblity if I can figure out how to afford it. Is it a cool ranch, or just a ranch?
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  19. #19
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    I have a great house for you in SW Missouri!

    Only 43,000... A real bargain.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
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  20. #20
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    Might be a possiblity if I can figure out how to afford it. Is it a cool ranch, or just a ranch?
    DUDE, You know me, It is a cool ranch. Great Location, Great interior layout. The color of the exterior brick is okay, but everything else makes up for it.

  21. #21
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    University Heights ... solidly middle class inner-ring suburb developed between 1920 and 1960, with a large orthodox Jewish population.

    The $140K house probably needs updating at that price. Most houses I've seen in the area are in the $160-$180K range. There's a premium on housing out near where I work. $170K would get me this in Mentor:



    Here's what $160,000 in Willoughby will get you. That would be an $80,000 house in suburban Buffalo.



    I'm working east of the Cuyahoga, where housing has always been quite a bit more expensive than west of the river. Beautiful houses in vibrant pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods are VERY cheap in some areas of Cleveland Heights, but racial transition may be an issue; the city's once-acclaimed integration efforts are starting to fall apart as the tipping point is passed, sorry to say. You don't gain much equity in resegregating neighborhoods, unfortunately.

    There's also an enclave on the east side of Cleveland called North Collinwood, which is pretty nice. It's a middle class neighborhood that has a lot of cheap lakefront properties; around $150K will get you a 1920s-era 4 bedoom, two bathroom house with Lake Erie behind your back yard. Lots of city cops live there. I can get to work in 25 minutes from there if I drive fast. However, it is an enclave; it's surrounded by rough neighborhoods.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  22. #22
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Argggghhhh

    You all make me sick with your 75k, 125k, 140k housing prices :-0
    You midwesterners are sooooo protected from the rest of the world.....
    Anybody have any job leads in these places....ha ha ha......
    Skilled Adoxographer

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Since you are planning to do this more than a year from now, I recommend you read some real estate books and learn the art of asking for stuff up front -- "I want the seller to pay the closing costs and, oh, while you are at it, paint the front porch." I also recommend that you read 'The heart and mind of the negotiator' (or mind and heart -- I can't remember).

    Anyway, we bought a house and we were 27 years old, living on one income, with a 2 year old and a 5 year old and no money to speak of. We put up $500 earnest money, which was somewhat painful, but our total closing costs were under $1000 (including the earnest money) which was very NOT painful. We asked the seller to pay most of the closing costs, they counter offered with "Sure but..." and tacked on another $1000 or so to the price of the house. That added some miniscule amount to the mortgage payment and mattered not one whit to me. But coming up with an extra thou up front could easily have been a deal killer for us. We was poor folks.

    So, ask and ye shall recieve...sometimes, if you have a few negotiating skills.
    Last edited by Michele Zone; 21 Jul 2004 at 5:22 PM.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian pandersen's avatar
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    Check the hydro service - a 100AMP service will do, but a 200AMP service provides flexibility for remodelling and installation of "mod cons" such as central a/c.

    All the house I looked for had to have an attached double car garage.

    Learn what you can about your neighbours. In my case, I live beside a sherrif and next to a retired City Police Chief and across the road from a retired Minister. Bottom line - find out if there are a lot of kids in the area - this may or may not be an issue for you.

    Check and see what amenities are in/close to your neighbourhood - e.g. schools, shopping, distance to work etc. Not all of these things may be important to you, but may help when it comes time to sell.

    Check and be sure your title is free of any liens, caveats or encumberances.

    Once you've "pulled the trigger", the very day you take posession, change all the locks - who knows how many keys maybe floating around the neighbourhood.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone

    So, ask and ye shall recieve...sometimes, if you have a few negotiating skills.
    You be amazed how much you can get, we even got items I didn't think we'd get because we bought new- but they really want buyers and can negotiate.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

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