Under Contract: The Home Buying Roller Coaster

July 8, 2014

Under contract. People like to hear that, right? These words flood my brain with anxiety, immediately assuming the worst about the process to come. It’s a fun feeling, really.

Starting Over 

Yes, it’s true. I am buying my first home. Not my first home ever, but my first home on my own. I’ve spent the last two years rebuilding myself and my finances after splitting with my husband of 12 years. That is a long time to be part of a dual income and shared home responsibilities. With the exception of doing the taxes, I didn’t take care of the finances. Starting over on my own was like sending your naïve kid off to college for the first time. It was difficult and it was humbling.

During this time, I found myself in a better place financially after a career change and (some) proper budgeting. Now, I need a bigger place for me and my two boys that share my space half the time. They aren’t getting any smaller and 900 square feet just isn’t cutting it. While looking for a bigger place, my sister suggested I look into buying.

She pointed out that I would at least be informed and plan to get back on track if I weren’t approved. I was sure it would be a waste of time. I have a foreclosure and bankruptcy in my past, not to mention student loans up the wazoo and don’t forget the divorce. Still, I went in to speak to the mortgage loan officer at my credit union.

Getting a Loan and Next Steps 

After some time, I was approved for an FHA loan. I was shocked, but I was approved.

I qualified for less than I had originally expected but that was because I didn’t take some things into consideration. I knew I didn’t want a house with a yard so I considered a townhome. Townhome means homeowners association (HOA) fees -- and an additional monthly bill. I didn't think about this, but thankfully my lender did. I had to decide between an HOA and a yard. I went with the HOA. So, now what?

Denver is the fastest selling city in the country today. While the national average for a home on the market is around 85 days, Denver is 25. That’s it, folks. 25 days. I have a friend who put her house on the market and had three offers by noon of day one. It’s that fast. Denver doesn’t have enough homes for sale, so you have to move quickly. While this can be lucky for sellers, it is difficult for buyers.

Knowing the above, I called a trusted realtor that I knew and jumped on my search.

Seeing What the Options Were

I wanted a 3 bedroom/2 bath townhome, with laundry facilities in the unit, possibly a basement and a bigger kitchen than my current galley kitchen AND to stay in my current neighborhood. Easy, right? Nope. Not there. It didn’t exist in my price range or in my loan type.

While you may think that a loan will get you a home it isn’t true. FHA loans should be called “starting over” loans. It’s there to give you a boost but not everyone wants to help. Not every property will take FHA loans so that decreased my options even more.

I had to expand my search area and what I was willing to live without.  Ultimately, I ended up expanding my search to condos as well as townhomes, looking a little outside of my ideal neighborhood, and losing a bedroom. In doing this, I found a place and believe it or not, it was the first one I looked at.

It was bank owned so I got a great deal on it. The process with Fannie Mae is not that of a privately owned home. You don’t make offers, you make bids. You don’t know how many other bids there are and you sure don’t know how much they are for. The bank asked for “highest and best” offers then took their time deciding. My realtor steered me in the right direction for pricing because I won. It is mine.

Keeping It in Perspective (Kind Of)

Keep in mind, there are things along the way that could take a terrible turn such as the inspection or appraisal. I’m mentally prepared for that -- possibly to a fault. I had a lot of support and help up to this point and I can’t thank those people enough for their encouragement and direction. However, at the same time, I’m proud of myself for doing this on my own. It’s a scary step and I took a leap. I feel like my kids can be proud of me for doing it and that is what’s important to me.