Author Topic: How to get started buying a house?  (Read 1507 times)

Emergo

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How to get started buying a house?
« on: July 11, 2021, 09:26:01 PM »
Hello, potential first time home buyer here.

Do y'all have any tips?

Any specific broker to use?

Thank you!

Ecky

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2021, 09:35:24 PM »
There are first-time homebuyer programs in most states.

Here's an example: https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/vermont-first-time-homebuyer-assistance-programs/

Basically, you get pre-approved for a mortgage (based on your income), you make an offer on a property you like (often contingent upon some things, like an inspection), you secure your funding, and then you close on the house.

Broad strokes? It's a cut-throat housing market right now, and if you don't move quickly, you'll likely miss the better places. HOWEVER, you don't have the experience yet (probably) to pay the right price for the right house. I'd actually advise taking your time. See a lot of places, talk with several lenders (rates can vary drastically), speak to a couple of agents. Real Estate is an area where firsthand experience and knowledge are highly valuable.

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2021, 12:42:35 AM »
Bend over.  Kiss a... --sorry, just typed what came to mind.

Tips:
1.  Get an awesome inspector.  A deal-killer, not a deal-maker, who will tell you what's really there.
2.  TALK TO NEIGHBORS!  You're doing the largest financial transaction of your life.  Do you just trust your own eyes and various salespeople/vendors?  Hell no.  Go get info from the people who have it--the folks who live right by that house.  I'm shocked how many people buy houses and don't do that.  We could have saved one of our poor neighbors tens/hundreds of thousands, had he only asked (we met) before he bought.  His loss, I suppose.  Consider this your due diligence.  It's well worth your time.  You can learn all KINDS of things about the area, desirability, neighbor issues (e.g. party houses), crime, etc.  The neighbors KNOW. 
3.  What kind of brokers?  I'm going to answer both, I suppose. 
As for mortgage brokers:
Brokers sell the mortgages off.  They get paid a cut.  So go with the cheapest.  They have 0% loyalty to you.  It's a financial transaction.  Try Box Home Loans online for comps/quotes, but go with whoever gives you a great deal.  I've found that I can get better deals via online comparisons than via brokers. 
As for realtors:
They are all salespeople.  Keep that in mind.  Go in with hard limits and boundaries before you even speak to one.  They will (often) push those.  They want happy clients and sales (even if the clients later go broke).  Beyond that, go with one who knows the area(s) you want and comes personally recommended.  And one who's willing to work/do showings/etc. 
4.  Location is everything.  Research your locations extensively.  What's around it?  What can be?  What sorts of issues are common there?  How's the neighborhood trending? 

To me, the financial side is easy: figuring your budget, finding a mortgage, finding a broker, and so on.  The hard part is the research, due diligence (e.g. neighbors, area research, inspections), and so on.  And the negotiations can be annoying, but they're usually short at least.   

Tip #5--bonus tip: Be willing to walk away.  Walk.  Away.  Don't do a bad deal.  Don't get a house you'll regret.  We had to walk on one when it didn't work out (huge repair issue was concealed)--and we've never regretted it, not even a little bit.   Plan to spend several thousand dollars on inspections and so forth that you may well throw away: after you lock a house in, you can't get that money back no matter what--so don't let it trick you into sticking with a bad house (i.e.: the sunk-cost fallacy, or "throwing good money in after the bad").  Houses are commodities: more like frittatas than Faberge eggs. 

Dicey

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2021, 08:31:02 AM »
Longtime homeowner, landlord and house flipper here.

In no particular order:

- How are you going to pay for this property? Do you have a down payment in order? If not, start there.

- Where do you want to live? Do you know the area well? If not, start walking through the areas you're considering, you'll learn far more by walking, particularly if you vary the days/times.

- Figure out what kind of property you want. SFH, Condo, etc.

- Learn the ins and outs of Zillow and Redfin*. Set up searches for the type property you want in your price range.

- Do you want a fixer or turn key? Beware of the extremes of each. Many fixers can be money pits and flips can be lipstick on pigs. My first property was ugly, but only needed paint, flooring and some minor fixes to be totally presentable.

- Go to every Open House in your chosen area. If they ask for contact info, make something up or have a separate email account set up or they will hound the shit out of you. When they ask if you have an agent, say YES, even if you don't.

- Eventually, you will get a feel for who the movers and shakers are. Start paying attention to their listings, reviews, etc. I advise choosing someone with many years’ experience. It's easy to talk a good game and harder to survive and thrive through the ups and downs of making a living in Real Estate. Having a good realtor can make or break you, so take your time with this step.

- This is trickier, but you need to develop a discerning eye for the quality of workmanship. YouTube can help here, but experience is the best teacher. If you can learn to read roofs, windows, foundations, drainage, mechanicals, etc. you will save yourself a ton of money and aggravation.

- Don't rely on a home inspector. They are not liable for missing anything. Use one, sure, but don't take it as gospel. Be present for the home inspection.

- Don't trust home warranties either.

- Do Not succumb to FOMO! The current housing situation is bat-shit crazy. Use this time to learn, learn, learn!

- Talk to an experienced insurance broker. Homeowner's insurance can vary wildly and you don't want to find that out after you've fallen in love with a property. Avoid flood zones, fire zones, areas with known soil or drainage problems, etc.

- Learn about incurable defects. Right now, buyers are so desperate they're waiving inspections and ignoring defects. This means people who know their properties are a POS are putting them on the market. Buyer beware.

- Trust your gut. Well-meaning people advised me against buying my first house, because it was so ugly, but I discovered the builder also built my friend's parent's house with very similar plans. Their house was lovely, so I knew it was fixable and bought it anyway. Turns out, it was.
   
I'm sure I'll think of more, but this is a good start.

*I'll do another post about Redfin, because this is long enough.

Edits: trying to fix wonky spacing, which doesn't show up in Preview. Fixed, I think.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2021, 10:23:43 AM by Dicey »

the_hobbitish

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2021, 09:00:27 AM »
Ditto on inspectors not knowing enough and not being able to do enough. I specifically asked about the insulation in my attic that I thought was wonky and got an it's fine answer that I now know was incorrect.

In addition to youtube there's a book called the Holmes Inspection that goes over things to look for in the home inspection process. It's got great photos and is made to help home buyers notice things they need to have looked at in greater detail by a professional before they buy. Its available on kindle unlimited if you're a member.

Paper Chaser

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2021, 09:26:06 AM »
There are lots of fish in the sea. Don't fall in love with the first house you walk through. It takes some time and some experience walking through different houses to get a feel for what might work well or not, and what's normal in a house or isn't. In this market, you're likely to miss out on some houses before you get one. Try to focus on the important functional things more than the superficial things. The layout, framing, roof, HVAC systems, etc are all expensive to change. Light fixtures, paint colors or ugly tile in a shower are relatively inexpensive.

Dicey

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2021, 09:51:00 AM »
Here's the tip I promised earlier.

I use Zillow and Redfin for different reasons, but here's a feature I love, love, love about Redfin. Spoiler: You must have a Redfin account to see this, and it's not available in all areas. DH and I have spent hours playing with this feature. If you like Before & After photos, you're going to love this.

If you don't have one, create a Redfin account and log in, then open the link below:

https://www.redfin.com/CA/Walnut-Creek/620-Chandon-Ct-94597/home/1857023

Looks nice, all fresh and clean, right?

Okay, now scroll down to "Sale & Tax History for 620 Chandon Court", then scroll a bit more to "See all property history".

There you will find the price history, plus photos from previous listings! You will see this property is a very recently completed flip. Have fun comparing the before and the after shots. See what you can learn about the property. Don't freak out about the price, that's considered "cheap" in that area. Bonus points if you can figure out why I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. (Hint: it has nothing to do with if I can afford it, so ignore the price.)

If you are able to follow these steps, then try it in your target area. Zillow now pulls photos once a property closes, so this trick won't work there.

This is a fantastic learning tool. I wish it had been around when I was just starting out. Have fun!

dougules

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2021, 09:56:27 AM »
What's driving the desire/need to buy?  It's good to start learning now, but the housing market is a bit weird at the moment.  I would wait several months to a year to buy if there's no pressing need. 

the_hobbitish

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2021, 11:07:30 AM »
Oh I knew about the price history, but haven't often seen it post old photos. That's great.

@Dicey What's the answer? I feel like it'll be something that will seem obvious once you point it out, but I haven't spotted it.

v8rx7guy

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2021, 11:18:04 AM »

2.  TALK TO NEIGHBORS!  You're doing the largest financial transaction of your life.  Do you just trust your own eyes and various salespeople/vendors?  Hell no.  Go get info from the people who have it--the folks who live right by that house.  I'm shocked how many people buy houses and don't do that.  We could have saved one of our poor neighbors tens/hundreds of thousands, had he only asked (we met) before he bought.  His loss, I suppose.  Consider this your due diligence.  It's well worth your time.  You can learn all KINDS of things about the area, desirability, neighbor issues (e.g. party houses), crime, etc.  The neighbors KNOW. 


This is so good.  We got very lucky with our neighborhood, but we have friends who literally moved next to a druggy house that's been causing all kinds of problems and had no idea before buying.  I will 100% be talking to the neighbors before we decide to make our next purchase.

Tester

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2021, 11:46:11 AM »
I will say that before looking for brokers do some other things.

- Decide if you need/want to buy.
- Think about the next 10 years in your life - this should help with choosing the area and house you are looking for.
- Think about the price - and if you want to "stretch your budget for a good house" decide if you are ready to give up vacations/kid activities/fun activities just to buy the house on a stretched budget.
- Make a list of wants, newds and deal breakers. Update the list based on any house visits you make. After each session of seeings, take the time and write down what you liked and what not, what you saw.

After, when you start looking:

- DO NOT FORCE BUY A HOUSE. If things seem to be hard, maybe it is not the house for you.
- Know what is expensive to repair and what not.
Examples for the above: Look at the fence - does it need to be replaced? If yes, is it ok to just replace the fence (relatively cheap - 3k in my case) or does it need a retaining wall (much more expensive - 15k in my case)????
Another example: "Small" water damage to the corner of the house (not seen) plus some other "small" repairs to the deck and the roof - 10k.
Replacing kitchen faucet - 350 for the work, around 250 for the faucet.
- Be prepared for surprises AFTER YOU BUY - be prepared to see things you do not like even if the during the house showing everything looked perfect to you.
Do not get upset by those, try to focus on resolving the issue, not on beating yourself for missing it.

Dicey

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2021, 03:24:19 PM »
Oh I knew about the price history, but haven't often seen it post old photos. That's great.

@Dicey What's the answer? I feel like it'll be something that will seem obvious once you point it out, but I haven't spotted it.
Yeah, you don't usually don't even know the old photos are there until you click on "See all property history"

I cross posted this in my journal, because a number of my journal friends share my love (lust?) of RE porn. A couple of people have gotten pretty close, so I'll hold off for a bit. I'll post my answers in both places.

Oh, and I added a clue there, which I'd better share here. The answers are in the listing, but not specifically in the photos.

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2021, 04:12:38 PM »
Oh I knew about the price history, but haven't often seen it post old photos. That's great.

@Dicey What's the answer? I feel like it'll be something that will seem obvious once you point it out, but I haven't spotted it.
Yeah, you don't usually don't even know the old photos are there until you click on "See all property history"

I cross posted this in my journal, because a number of my journal friends share my love (lust?) of RE porn. A couple of people have gotten pretty close, so I'll hold off for a bit. I'll post my answers in both places.

Oh, and I added a clue there, which I'd better share here. The answers are in the listing, but not specifically in the photos.

This is the most awesome feature ever.  I remember when we found it a while back and looked at all of the old pics of our house--which looks night-and-day from now, after a modern remodel.  Very cool.

Also, I second literally all of @Dicey 's advice.   

As to your challenge, @Dicey , what sticks out to me is that someone is flipping this thing, but it sold BELOW LIST PRICE earlier this year.  So something is wrong. 

From there, the flippers only had it a few months, and here it is back on market.  They also claim to have done a lot for the not-so-big price increase on the flip, especially at current prices.  It appears that they also converted the den into a bedroom, but who knows how that worked out.  I would certainly be skeptical of the work done. 

But the huge red flag here is the below-market sale price earlier this year--that's unheard of in hot markets, and generally means serious/tremendous defect.   

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2021, 06:12:14 PM »
Research research research the first home buyer grants and programs in your state.  There’s so much out there to help new buyers. Also, there’s an entire real estate section here focused on this very topic, FYI.

Dicey

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2021, 06:54:36 PM »
Oh I knew about the price history, but haven't often seen it post old photos. That's great.

@Dicey What's the answer? I feel like it'll be something that will seem obvious once you point it out, but I haven't spotted it.
Yeah, you don't usually don't even know the old photos are there until you click on "See all property history"

I cross posted this in my journal, because a number of my journal friends share my love (lust?) of RE porn. A couple of people have gotten pretty close, so I'll hold off for a bit. I'll post my answers in both places.

Oh, and I added a clue there, which I'd better share here. The answers are in the listing, but not specifically in the photos.

This is the most awesome feature ever.  I remember when we found it a while back and looked at all of the old pics of our house--which looks night-and-day from now, after a modern remodel.  Very cool.

Also, I second literally all of @Dicey 's advice.   

As to your challenge, @Dicey , what sticks out to me is that someone is flipping this thing, but it sold BELOW LIST PRICE earlier this year.  So something is wrong. 

From there, the flippers only had it a few months, and here it is back on market.  They also claim to have done a lot for the not-so-big price increase on the flip, especially at current prices.  It appears that they also converted the den into a bedroom, but who knows how that worked out.  I would certainly be skeptical of the work done. 

But the huge red flag here is the below-market sale price earlier this year--that's unheard of in hot markets, and generally means serious/tremendous defect.   
Okay, you're getting warmer. Ask yourself why it might have sold for below market.

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #15 on: July 12, 2021, 09:41:26 PM »
Oh I knew about the price history, but haven't often seen it post old photos. That's great.

@Dicey What's the answer? I feel like it'll be something that will seem obvious once you point it out, but I haven't spotted it.
Yeah, you don't usually don't even know the old photos are there until you click on "See all property history"

I cross posted this in my journal, because a number of my journal friends share my love (lust?) of RE porn. A couple of people have gotten pretty close, so I'll hold off for a bit. I'll post my answers in both places.

Oh, and I added a clue there, which I'd better share here. The answers are in the listing, but not specifically in the photos.

This is the most awesome feature ever.  I remember when we found it a while back and looked at all of the old pics of our house--which looks night-and-day from now, after a modern remodel.  Very cool.

Also, I second literally all of @Dicey 's advice.   

As to your challenge, @Dicey , what sticks out to me is that someone is flipping this thing, but it sold BELOW LIST PRICE earlier this year.  So something is wrong. 

From there, the flippers only had it a few months, and here it is back on market.  They also claim to have done a lot for the not-so-big price increase on the flip, especially at current prices.  It appears that they also converted the den into a bedroom, but who knows how that worked out.  I would certainly be skeptical of the work done. 

But the huge red flag here is the below-market sale price earlier this year--that's unheard of in hot markets, and generally means serious/tremendous defect.   
Okay, you're getting warmer. Ask yourself why it might have sold for below market.

That I don't know.  I just see the red flag waving at me. 

Dead body inside?  Walls rotting off?  Homeless encampment in the yard?  Flood?  Fire burned part of it down?  Meth lab inside?  You got me. 

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2021, 09:50:38 PM »
I suppose @Dicey there's one more oddball fact sitting there that I'm wondering about (but maybe there's an answer): there's no HOA, but it's a duplex/has a common wall and roof.  So I don't know how well that works--problem of the commons and all.  Though that may be handled in the deed (albeit messy); one would have to see.  I don't see it in the listing, but maybe the other side sued this one or something--that would explain it. 

the_hobbitish

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2021, 09:08:47 AM »
Yeah, the 4 month flip raises flags for me already, but I'm at a loss for why it sold for so little in March. I did see what looks like weird water damage in the photo of the pink wallpapered bathroom (photo #17).

The description of the HOA in the old listing is a little odd. Are there other units other than the 12 that have HOAs, but these dozen don't? I'd have questions about what that means...

Dicey

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #18 on: July 13, 2021, 11:28:15 PM »
Hey @Emergo, do you want to take a swing at it before I reveal my reservations? I'm getting some heat to spill it, but I was responding your questions, so I'll wait if you want to play.

Also, I forgot to add to my original post to research and grab every First Time Home Buyer Program out there (except perhaps anything with equity sharing or lots of strings).

Dicey

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #19 on: July 20, 2021, 04:14:48 PM »
Well, I guess @Emergo's not going to play, so I'm going to reply to your responses, then I'll tell you what my two reasons are. A bunch of people took guesses in my journal, so I'll use the same format over there. If you're thinking of buying a property, especially if it's your first home, you might find good info in both places.

The reason this is such a good case study is that these are all the same house. All the same floorplan, all end units. One could argue that some locations are better than others, but otherwise, they're the same. What's interesting is that some are identified as 2 bedroom, some 3 bedroom, some 2 bathrooms, some 2.5 bathrooms, some 3 bathrooms. For the record, the floorplan is 2.5 baths, 2 bedrooms and den at the top of the stairs. It's possible that the flipper added a wall, door, and closet to the den and is calling that the third bedroom. Did I mention THEY'RE ALL THE SAME DAMN FLOORPLAN?

...what sticks out to me is that someone is flipping this thing, but it sold BELOW LIST PRICE earlier this year.  So something is wrong. 

From there, the flippers only had it a few months, and here it is back on market.  They also claim to have done a lot for the not-so-big price increase on the flip, especially at current prices.  It appears that they also converted the den into a bedroom, but who knows how that worked out.  I would certainly be skeptical of the work done. 

But the huge red flag here is the below-market sale price earlier this year--that's unheard of in hot markets, and generally means serious/tremendous defect.   
These were built in 1988 and a good percentage haven't sold since then. The number of original owners would tend to make me think there are no serious defects.

The Redfin estimates for these 12 units range from $720k to $924k*. So #620 was not sold below market. These units are very unusual (all the same, no HOA) and there hasn't been a lot of turnover, so the earlier selling price was fair, based on the lack of comps and condition of the unit, so not really a red flag there, IMO.

As to the not-so-big price increase, they're clearly hoping for a bidding war. I don't think it's going to happen. It's listed with a top Realtor, it's been on the market for 11 days, there's very little inventory for under $1M, and it's not pending yet.

Dead body inside?  Walls rotting off?  Homeless encampment in the yard?  Flood?  Fire burned part of it down?  Meth lab inside?  You got me. 
Lol, none of the above as far as I can tell.

Yeah, the 4 month flip raises flags for me already, but I'm at a loss for why it sold for so little in March. I did see what looks like weird water damage in the photo of the pink wallpapered bathroom (photo #17).

The description of the HOA in the old listing is a little odd. Are there other units other than the 12 that have HOAs, but these dozen don't? I'd have questions about what that means...

I see the water damage, but I suspect it's due to a lack of ventilation, possibly a broken or disabled fan. Some people disconnect the fans when they get noisy rather than fixing them.

There are no other units.

*Here's my best guess as to why the huge range in "value". I think it has to do with the number of original owners, the number of times a unit has turned over, how updated it is and if the work was permitted. The highest value property has been extensively updated, the tax history reflects permitted work and it has turned over twice since 1988. But it's the same damn floorplan!

Drumroll please...here are my two reasons:

1. The cul-de-sac is perpendicular to the BART (train) tracks, which are elevated, so sound bounces off the end of the street. I suspect it's particularly bad in the upstairs bedrooms, and BART begins at 4am and runs until midnight. There are two BART stations nearby, so add in the godawful racket of train brakes screeching. The freeway noise is also a concern, but it's more of a constant, so easier to tune out. I'm not even beginning to address the air quality/pollution issue. Another clue to the probable noise issue is the island at the end of the cul-de-sac. It's planted with three Fruitless Mulberry trees. It's not clear who the trees or the island belong to, but they're messy trees and require severe pruning every other year or so. They provide big, leafy cover, so it's a safe bet they were put there in an effort to diffuse the waves of sound rolling off the train tracks and freeway. Oh, and while you're looking at the Island of Trees, notice where the mailboxes are. Everyone will be traipsing past your house to get their mail. In winter, they'll drove with their headlights boring right into your kitchen window. And they'll probably block your driveway while they're getting their mail. And mail theft is a huge problem in this area, so you'll probably want to get a P.O. Box, so now you'll have to put up with cars every day and your mail won't even be there. At least your mail will be secure, and the Post Office is nearby. Last I checked, they have a waiting list for boxes though. Reason 1A- Use google maps: you'll see it's surrounded mostly by apartment buildings. The cross street is full of parked cars and even a couple of RV's. Google Maps, especially Street View and History, are your friends.

2. There is no HOA, but there are common walls, which is problematic. More importantly, because these places were originally cheap and they have no HOA, the street is full of cars parked on lawns (well, those that bother to keep up the front landscaping), there is a camper permanently mounted on blocks in front of one property and not one of them seems to have been painted since they were built. Some of the greenhouse windows appear to be leaking and look like crap. Nobody is maintaining the weird tile facades in the middle of each unit. Lots of missing grout. Interestingly, since there is no HOA, anyone could replace that crappy looking tile with anything they want. The street definitely has a trailer park vibe about it, with apologies to trailer parks everywhere. Much as I am not a fan of HOA's, they do serve a purpose.

Okay, that's all for now. There were a lot of good observations and questions in my journal, so if you like this stuff and your eyes haven't glazed over, I'm going to tackle those next.

This Real Estate Lesson has been provided by Dicey, who is not a Real Estate Professional, nor does she play one on TV. This advice is worth every penny you paid for it.



« Last Edit: July 20, 2021, 04:29:03 PM by Dicey »

Poundwise

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Re: How to get started buying a house?
« Reply #20 on: July 22, 2021, 09:48:44 AM »
We bought our house through Redfin and were very satisfied. When we started our homebuying journey a few years ago, I had no idea how to start, and my husband knew even less. We guesstimated a monthly payment and a down payment, that we felt we could afford (it was wrong, but it was a start), and set up a search with some parameters.  After viewing a few houses, we began to have a much better sense of what we wanted and what was available. 
https://www.redfin.com/

We also viewed the following video on mortgages, and used the calculator spreadsheet linked below the description: https://www.khanacademy.org/economics-finance-domain/core-finance/housing/mortgages-tutorial/v/introduction-to-mortgage-loans

There are some resources at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which gave us some idea about what to watch out for:
https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/mortgages/

Finally, we checked out mortgage rates at the banks where we have accounts, tried a broker recommended by our realtor, but finally ended up with a mortgage we found ourselves through PenFed.

Good luck!