Since things are starting to calm down around our place, and we’ve been in our new home for almost five months, I decided I will finally start sharing our home tour and process piece by piece. For the longest time I didn’t want to talk about it here (or anywhere) at all, because of how frustrating and emotional it all was for me, but now that I’m a little bit removed from it and getting around to making it our own, I feel ready to open up about it and share the little advice that I can.
So before I get into posts about the actual space, I thought I would let you in on what went down in the process of buying our home.
The Pre-approval Process
In January of last year (2016) Colby and I decided we wanted to buy a home when our lease ran out on our apartment. We had been living in a basement of a fourplex for a year and a half, and we knew that by the time our lease was up at the end of June, we would be more than ready to get out of there. So we got a recommendation from a friend on who to use as our lender, and we started the pre-approval process.
After submitting all the paperwork, we found out that we would need to spend a few months building our credit. I had good credit from my car loan, but neither of us had a credit card so Colby didn’t have a credit score at all. They told us it would take about 3 months to get it to the point that we could be approved.
INSIDER TIP #1: Start building your credit long before you want to buy a house! I don’t know why I thought my car loan would be enough for both of us, or why we thought we shouldn’t have credit cards, but seriously, just get one.
Since Colby had no credit, it was hard for him to get a credit card, so we applied for three in my name and put him on the account. As we started using the cards, we hired a realtor and began looking at houses to see what we liked, even though we wouldn’t be able to put in offers yet. During this process, we tried to communicate with our lender as to what they thought we would be approved for, and weren’t getting much of a response, so we decided to switch lenders to someone who would help us more and be more involved, and went with someone recommended by our realtor.
After the three months, we resubmitted our paperwork to the new lender and found out we still would not be approved. Apparently, there were some unresolved debts under Colby’s name from when he was a teenager that we had no idea existed. Since he was under the age of 18 when it happened, we could get them removed, but we had to hire a credit consultant to do it and it was going to take another six to eight weeks.
By the time all that had gone through, it was almost June. Thinking we could quickly get approved, find a place, and still be out by the end of our lease, we submitted paperwork again and for the third time, we were denied. Since Colby didn’t have a credit card in his name, his credit score still was not reporting. With this news I was beyond frustrated and couldn’t understand why no one had told us this until now. He could now get a card in his name, but it would take another two months for it to report once he got it.
INSIDER TIP #2: Ask questions and make sure you choose a lender who will communicate with you. I was very glad we switched to the new lender, since we weren’t getting all the info from the first one, but I still wish we had asked more questions and been able to speed the process along.
Luckily, we had an amazing landlord at our apartment who completely understood the situation and allowed us to go month-to-month as we figured it out.
Finally, eight months after we had started the process, we were pre-approved and could start hunting for a home. I thought the hard part was over, but I was so wrong.
The first week or two of house hunting went exactly as I had pictured it would. We leisurely looked at several homes, some close to the city and some farther away. We went out to look at some townhouses on the west side of the valley where we could even do a new build, but ultimately decided that we wanted the diversity, character, and proximity to the mountains that we can get more of on the east side. Our goal was to move closer to Salt Lake City, into an older home that had been at least partially remodeled on the inside.
After looking at a few homes that fit that description, we knew the one we wanted, and placed an offer. The sellers countered, we countered back, and we were under contract! It was so easy! The home was exactly what we wanted: close to the city and a gorgeous park, a beautiful remodeled kitchen, wood floors, and lots of character. We planned to close quickly and get the keys just before our trip to Iceland in early September.
Everything was fine and dandy until the inspection came back and we realized how many hidden problems the house truly had. It had been built in 1923 and had electrical issues that weren’t up to code and a crumbling exterior. None of this concerned us too much – it could be fixed – but then we found out that the foundation of the house was irreparably damaged and cracked. We decided it was a no-go and tearfully terminated the contract.
Almost as if a switch had been flipped, the house hunting process turned from a dream to a nightmare. We spent every weekday pouring through listings, every evening visiting several of them, and every Saturday morning at open houses.
The market here in Utah is extremely competitive and cutthroat, and as we started to place more offers, we lost bidding wars time and time again. One house had 14 other offers. One literally went under contract while we were there taking a tour. One went to a cash offer. Right before we left to Iceland, we found our absolute dream home and placed an offer. While in Reykjavik we found out we needed to respond with our biggest & best against six other offers. We offered $15K over asking price and lost. Good thing we were in the most beautiful place in the world at the time we got that news, because it would have been way more rough to take in our dark apartment at home.
INSIDER TIP #3: If the market is competitive where you are, it can be better to go in with a strong offer to secure the home, and then try to talk them down later once you’re under contract and after the inspection. Looking back, I think that would have helped us out a lot.
When we returned, we continued to search, but were beginning to realize that many of the homes in our budget closer to the city had structural problems like the first one, and weren’t going to be worth our money or time fixing them up. We were both so discouraged, and it was starting to get to the point where if we didn’t find something soon, we would have to give up the search and resume in the new year since Colby would be too busy to help move during the holidays.
One evening when we were at our wits’ end, our realtor called us and said he had found a great place close to where we were currently living. I was on my way out the door to a meeting, but Colby headed over to see it without me. Late that night when I got home, Colby was really excited about it and we went over to see it again. It was a cute older home (though not 1923 old) with a remodeled interior, lots of natural light, a spacious fenced backyard, and bigger than we thought we could afford. We decided to put in an offer and go in strong, and we got it!
The Closing Process
The inspection came back with a few problems but the sellers were willing to fix them, and everything went relatively smoothly through the closing process. We signed the papers in early October and moved in the next weekend.
Since the home had been recently remodeled, there weren’t many changes we wanted to make before we moved in, although we did have a contractor come build some shelves for us in one of our closets. We even got things put together enough to throw our Halloween party, which I was so happy about!
INSIDER TIP #4: If you have the luxury of being able to take some time before you have to be out of your old place, make the renovations you want before you move in. Even painting a wall or two will be much easier when the house is empty!
There are a lot of things I would have changed about our home buying process and the struggle it was for nearly ten months of last year. There were many times I bawled, wanted to give up, or got angry at people I shouldn’t have. But in the end, we are so incredibly lucky to even have the ability to purchase a home. We found the perfect home for us and our relationship got stronger as we supported each other and experienced the emotional rollercoaster together, so I’m grateful in a way that we went through it. It taught us a lot – about the process, about each other, and about everything we have to be grateful for.
Now, I just have to decorate this baby! Stay tuned for more posts about our actual home tour as I complete one little space at a time.
Have you bought a home or are you planning on it? I’m hoping this post was a little bit helpful (and not just a long rant) and that it will make your process much easier than ours was!