Heading Home (IV)

Kristine Hayes

DURING THE FIRST three weeks of house hunting, I looked at a dozen different properties. None met all the criteria I’d set for my “ideal” home, but a couple came close. My price point of $380,000 limited me to looking at smaller, starter-type homes. The competition for those houses was often fierce. On at least three occasions, a home I wanted to view would appear as a “new listing” one day and be marked as “pending sale” the next.

I became obsessed with checking Zillow every few hours. One Wednesday morning, I awoke to find a listing that was just 10 minutes old. It was a small house in the neighborhood I was hoping to live in and had an asking price of $370,000. I contacted my agent and asked if we could schedule a viewing for later that same day.

When I saw the house a few hours later, I knew it was the one I wanted to buy. It was a single-level, 1,100 square foot house located at the end of a long private driveway. The setting was quiet and private, and the house had been owned by just one person since being built in the late 1980s.

I spent two hours looking at every square inch of the house and yard. There was a perfect area for the dogs. There were three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an oversized double-car garage. While some parts of the house were clearly stuck in the ‘80s, many areas had been updated. It was a house I could move into without having to do any major renovations. Best of all, it was located just six blocks from where my mother lived. I told my agent I wanted to make an offer that day.

Knowing how quickly homes were selling, deciding on a price to offer wasn’t easy. My agent suggested offering $375,000, the value of the home listed on the property tax assessment. Because I was currently renting an apartment, I didn’t have any contingencies in my offer. I could close at any time and I could come up with the money for the down payment quickly. I submitted my offer, along with a $4,000 earnest money check, and crossed my fingers.

The seller wanted 48 hours to review offers. In the end, three other potential buyers also submitted bids on the house, but it was mine that was ultimately accepted. I was overjoyed to have found a house that not only exceeded my expectations, but also didn’t go over the budget I’d established.

The next two weeks were filled with home inspections, radon tests and paperwork. I was able to secure all the funds for my down payment easily and my loan paperwork was wrapped up within two weeks of making the offer. With a closing date still five weeks out, I had plenty of time to second-guess my decision and wrestle with the long-term financial implications of becoming a homeowner once again. But deep down, I knew I’d made the right choice.

Kristine Hayes is a departmental manager at a small, liberal arts college. This is the fourth in a series of articles about her recent home purchase. The previous installments were Heading Home (I), Heading Home (II) and Heading Home (III).

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