Well, it finally happened. The real estate bug bit me. And it bit me hard.
I figured that it would just be a matter of time after turning 30 and getting my fake doctorate and adorable puppy (Figure 1) before I started to think seriously about home ownership.
So here’s the deal: I’m in the market for a place in the DC metro area, and I’m going to chronicle my home buying experiences on this blog.
Over the past few months, I’ve taken the first steps in preparing to be a homeowner: lots and lots of research.
First, I got a great overview of where to begin from my improv buddy Greg Tindale. Greg just happens to be a Realtor, so having him in my network was quite fortunate. And Greg is absolutely fantastic at what he does. He completely demystified the process and made me realize that buying a home isn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be. I left our first meeting feeling hopeful that home ownership could actually be a reality for me. Plus, can you really say no to a guy who looks like this (Figure 2)? I’d buy a house on Mars from this guy:
Greg also connected me with a Bank of America mortgage loan officer named Sophany Stewart, who has been terrifically helpful in giving me an idea of what I could pre-qualify and be pre-approved for so I know not to look at condos in the upper $600,000s. So far, the number that’s being thrown around is $250,000.
Given my huge assets-to-liabilities ratio (thank you, $140,000 in student loans!) and the fact that I don’t have too much in the way of a down payment, I’ll probably end up looking in Virginia, which has an attractive first-time homebuyers program called FHA Plus that’s more flexible than DC programs. I’ll probably also be mainly looking at one-bedroom condos.
But even then, $250,000 isn’t all that much, especially in the Arlington and Alexandria neighborhoods, so I anticipate that the next few months will require me to be flexible and open-minded as I start looking at places. I also anticipate being taken on an emotional roller coaster ride on my house hunt. And I also anticipate watching a lot of HGTV. Even more than I do now. (Incidentally, I submitted a casting application to be on one of their first-time homebuyer shows, My First Place. We’ll see how it goes. That last time I sent a casting application, The Real World never got back to me.)
But to get me started, I’ve started to identify features that are on my wish list for a new place:
- Washer and dryer in the unit
- In a decent neighborhood close to public transportation
- Updated kitchen, if possible
- Hardwood floors, if possible
In the end, the deciding point will definitely be my monthly mortgage payment, as my student loans go back into repayment in the fall. So yes, I may have to re-introduce ramen noodles to my diet. And yes, I’ll just have to resist spoiling Brian when we’re at the pet store. And I will definitely be using the mortgage as an excuse to become a shut-in.
So wish me luck! And feel free to send me referrals, tips, and other potential pitfalls to avoid as a first-time home buyer. I’m on the hunt for my first place and could use all the help I can get!