Next week it will be three whole months since we purchased our first home! Wow. What an amazing, incredible, stressful, crazy process that was. Here is a taste of our first time home buying experience. Buckle your seatbelts because you're in for a ride!
For the last six years we've been living in a great country home close to family but far from everything else. My husband traveled an hour each early morning to work and then an hour back in the evening. I'm sure there are many out there who make a similar or even longer commute and my heart goes out to you. Come winter time the commute became longer and often impossible on our dirt road and the last few miles of unplowed snowy roads. Some days he'd have to leave 2+ hours early close to 4am to arrive at work on time. It was a daily worry and a stress I don't mention to complain but to emphasize that we were ready and anxious to move before winter came again.
In 2021 when we were finally ready to move the housing market jumped drastically. In Twin Falls, Idaho, homes that were $150k in 2020 were now selling for $350k+. More than double what they had been selling for in the previous years. That priced us, as first time home buyers, out of the market. We also knew these prices weren't sustainable in this part of Southern Idaho and purchasing a home with such an inflated price would inevitably mean we'd lose equity when the market corrected itself.
And so, we hunted for a home online and kept our eyes open for opportunities for weeks that turned into months and a year passed. We had been preapproved for financing and after a year that expired which meant they'd need to do another hard check on our credit if we wanted to place an offer on any homes we saw. If you're familiar with a hard check on your credit then you know it will effect your credit and you don't want to have a lot of them. Not knowing when we'd actually be able to find a house we were hesitant to be pre-approved again but we were hopeful that the time was finally here.
Our financial advisor with our bank shared that it usually took six to nine months after a change in the market for the sellers to list their homes to reflect those changes. In February of 2022, the Federal Reserve began to raise the interest rates and so roughly six months later the prices began to lower $10-15k at a time and homes began to stay on the market longer.
With the market coming down just a little bit and forecasted rises in interest rates we decided it was time to get serious in our search and brought a fabulous realtor on board, Jessica Anderson. Our ideal square footage was between 1800-2500 sq ft. with at least three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
After a couple weeks of house hunting we found what we thought was the one. It was on a quarter acre lot with an abundance of natural light, a single car garage off the laundry room that was perfect for my husband's gym and a separate two car garage for the cars. It needed a little work in the kitchen and bathroom but there was a huge room in the basement perfect for a theater room and so much potential otherwise. There were popcorn ceilings in the some areas and ceiling tiles in the basement that could have been asbestos. Being built in the 1950's it was a possibility but we placed a hopeful low ball offer with conditions that it would be tested for asbestos. When they countered with an offer only $5k less than their asking price we had to let it go and I was heartbroken. Sure, this was only the first house and our first offer but it was the FIRST house I saw "us" in.
And so the hunt continued... Jessica was so patient with us and great to work with during the whole process. We looked at over thirty homes over the course of a few weeks and here are a few things I gleened from that experience.
Things I wish were part of the home search experience:
"Smoke Free" shown on the listings. With young children and a smoke free lifestyle nothing was more discouraging than seeing a home with a lot of potential from the listings and then realizing upon arrival that it was not a smoke free home.
"Pet Free" Similar to Smoke Free, knowing if a home had pets like cats in advance would have been helpful information as well. My husband is allergic to cats and a few homes in particular had a number of indoor cats that brought on all the itchy eyes and sniffles as soon as we opened the door. While carpet can be changed out and a good wash down could help those homes be an option it would be nice to know in advance that there's an allergy issue with perspective homes.
Things I didn't expect:
Cameras everywhere! Many homes had cameras placed all throughout. I can see for security that you may want a camera to keep an eye on things but it was a little awkward. Our realtor advised not to give the impression we loved the home or that we hated it but be somewhere in the middle. In one home in particular, the home owner came out of his camper just as we came out the door of his home and we knew he had been watching us the whole time. Just an awkward feeling about it.
Rude flipping companies. We placed an offer on one home with great potential for $40k less than the asking price and the seller happened to be a large flipping company. Their answer was to counter at a price $5k higher than their asking price. They were completely unwilling to negotiate even after the home had been on the market for months and it was just rude.
Finding the ONE!
After searching for a home for months we were coming close to winter and feeling an urgency to find a home. We selected a handful of homes to take a second look at and decide which one we would place an offer on. We had looked at these homes before and some needed a lot of work, others were a little too small or over budget but there are always compromises in finding a home right?
One of the homes was just a little small for our family of five but it had been fully remodeled and was on a beautiful charming street. Another was at the end of a quiet steet with a great yard and a ton of work that needed to be done inside including a new kitchen and bathroom that would need to happen right away. But, the space was there and so was the potential and it was at the best asking price of the lot. The third house was the one owned by the flipping company which we had placed an offer on before and we wanted to look at it again and decide if it was worth what they were wanted for it. Finally, the fourth house in the line up was one we had looked at before but it was just a bit over our price range and it had the most square footage. That day their realtor called our realtor to share they would "entertain any offers" and so we thought we'd give it another look.
We went inside all of these homes and narrowed it down to two...the major fixer upper at the best price and the largest home in the best location. After talking it over we decided to make a lowball offer $50k less than asking price for the home with the least amount of up front work and the largest square footage. They counter offered coming down $15k less than their asking price which was still out of our budget so we countered their counter asking for $30k less than their asking price and $5k towards closing costs. It was like the amount came to me knowing that was what we could afford and what they would accept. They accepted our offer with the stipulation we would close in three weeks time!
Here's a look at our split level home built in 1963 with its four bedrooms, two bathrooms and 2300 sq. ft.
What a miracle! We were under contract and the home we hadn't thought was possible became possible. My husband had mentioned looking a listings a few weeks before that he wished we could be in a home like this one while pointing to this very house and it's amazing it came true! The realtor reaching out that day to our realtor made all the difference in putting us where we needed to be. We had hoped to be in a home before Christmas but to be in our home before Thanksgiving was such a blessing.
The truth is there were a number of homes that could have been a great fit for our family and become "the one." But the way things worked out, there's no doubt in my mind that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. Little did we know the adventure in purchasing our home was just beginning when the offer was accepted. Stay tuned for a look into what happened leading up to closing and upon getting the keys to our new home in my next blog post! (Spoiler Alert: We had a flood!) Thank you for taking time to read about our experience!
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