I'm still massively in disbelief about this. Matt and I are in the process of buying a home in the Boulder area (Erie, a nearby town). As first-time homebuyers, this has been an extremely educational process. I've read a lot about the topic in the last year or so, but I still have shamelessly been asking our realtor/lender/friends questions constantly.
Deciding to Make an Offer
You know how people sometimes ask married people "how did you know he was the one?" Well, I've found that a lot of people have asked me a similar question about deciding to put an offer on this home. And I think the answer is pretty similar -- when you know, you know. You just feel right about it. It fits.
That being said, there are a lot of factors that go into making this huge, grown-up decision.
You can't do anything until you know much you can spend. Going to view a bunch of $600,000 houses before you realize that your budget is actually $110,000 is like trying on Vera Wang when you can only afford David's Bridal. Don't do it.
So the first thing you have to do is figure out how much you're qualified for and how much you can actually afford. Often, banks will qualify you for way more than you should actually spend. If you can't afford the monthly payments, you should not sign up for that price. We were connected to a realtor by some of our friends here and she pointed us to a few different mortgage lenders that her clients use and trust. The appointment was a little depressing, considering the fact that we live in Boulder, CO and not Waco, TX. Our budget didn't stretch as far as it would in other cities, but this is where we want to be, so we decided to prioritize accordingly.
Finding a Realtor You Like & Trust
Once you know how much you can afford, you can then have your realtor start sending you properties to consider. Our realtor spent at least an hour talking to us about the process and educating us on things fees you don't think about (like audits and inspections) and being realistic about what your budget can get you. She's really great - Alison Sirlin, if you're in the Boulder area.
Making a List of Priorities
Everyone's home priorities are different. Some people would rather be as close to town as possible, even if it meant a tiny space in poor shape. We wanted something that wouldn't have any major issues (aesthetic issues were fine, and easy/fun to fix), with mountain views, access to running trails, 2-3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and somewhere for Morton to pee without us having to put him on his leash and walk him down stairs (5 years of that has been plenty). That basically meant Boulder was off the table. So we started looking into the pros and cons of neighboring towns. Honestly, we know and like people in almost every town outside of Boulder. We wanted to consider school systems, safety, proximity to non-chain/fast food restaurants, and a lot of other little things.
We looked at a bunch of condos closer into Boulder, but decided that we didn't want vertical neighbors anymore. The noise is annoying -- for example, my horrible neighbors play dance music during the middle of the day loud enough that it sounds like it's coming from somewhere inside MY apartment. It's especially infuriating when I'm on a work call and they're blasting their music. I just can't, you know? But I digress...
We just wanted some space. Not so much that we'd move into a Denver suburb, but enough that we'd move to a Boulder suburb, especially since, to me, Boulder suburbs feel more like small towns than like the suburbs of a big city. I like that.
After saying no to condos, our realtor found an end-unit townhome that she thought was right up our alley. We scheduled a viewing, thinking that Erie was too far & would feel like living in flat, boring Kansas (no offense to anyone who loves Kansas). But when we pulled up, we saw that the Flatirons were this home's patio view. I drooled over the view a bit. This view was significantly better than our current Louisville apartment. The outside was super cute & it had a garage to protect our new Subaru from snow/elements and to store our camping stuff, bikes, and Matt's tools. We stepped inside, and it was kind of rough. After watching a ton of Fixer Upper, we could tell though that they were all just aesthetic changes. There wasn't water damage or anything serious -- just bad vinyl tile and poor paint color choices. That could be fixed relatively easily.
Side note: Matt and I love watching HGTV together, and the idea of having fun projects to make our house a home together appeals to us much more than moving into a brand new house where someone else made all the aesthetic choices for us.
The market here moves fast. The house had just gone on the market that day, and by the time we viewed it at noon, one other buyer had put an offer on the house.
Making an Offer
We talked about it and decided that we could see ourselves happily living in this home. We told our realtor we wanted to make an offer. She helped us put together a strategy. Since there was already an offer in on day 1, going under probably wasn't going to work. She suggested going a little over and then asking for cash back to update the flooring. She also suggested writing a sappy letter to the owner about why we want the home.
I put on my marketing hat and went to town on our letter. I sold Matt & I hard and did my fair share of brown-nosing by making a list of all of the reasons why we love her home. I added a bunch of pictures of us and tried to make it stand out from a design perspective. Our realtor suggested putting a time limit on our offer of 10pm that day to encourage her to make a quick decision. While we were waiting, we drove around town to scope our where our potential new digs might land us and took a tour of the Erie Community Center, which is super close to this townhome. We would likely sign up there for our gym.
At around 5pm, our realtor called us saying that the owner was going to choose us and that all she needed to do was sign the offer. At around 9pm, she texted me saying that the owner was having some technical difficulties signing the offer online, so she needed to come in person. We were at a holiday party at the time, so this felt stressful and distracting. With just a pinky promise agreement, I worried that she'd change her mind about us or about giving us cash back.
While we were at church the next morning, our realtor texted us again saying that they needed to have us sign the forms again because the deadline changed due to the owners technical difficulties, and they wanted to make sure the agreement was flawless. So we signed the agreement during the sermon and silently high fived each other.
It's all happening really fast. And yet, per usual crazy obsessive Bridget, I've already created 8 Pinterest boards with ideas for how we will make this house our home. I'm really chill...
Our next steps are:
- Complete the loan application
- Take the CHFA class (the type of loan we're doing requires us to take a class)
- Have inspectors come and check the house for any hazards/damage/concerns
- Have the bank appraise the house
If all goes well, we close on January 13 and move in early February.