Monday, August 07, 2017

Buying Our House, Part II: Online Forms Galore

Part I here.  

During Spring Break we got some suggestions for realtors in the area. We went with someone who grew up in the town where we were looking and still lives here.  We called her, sent her three or four listings from Zillow that met our qualifications, and she starting doing whatever it is that realtors do to set up viewings.

Lending Options
Meanwhile, we were going through the mortgage approval process. There is pre-qualification and pre-approval and pre-qualification is generally a simple process and pre-approval is a giant pain in the ass. It turns out that if you want to actually know the rates that banks are going to offer you, you have to fill in lots of information so that they can figure out your debt to income ratio, and that is essentially getting pre-approval. We spent the better part of three hours filling out forms for the first credit union we did the pre-approval process through. It went much faster after that because we had the papers and information handy, but it was a process.

Things we needed for pre-approval:
Tax forms from the previous years (easily available to us since we file online)
Pay stubs from the previous pay period (easily available to us through online portals)
Bank statements (ummm, kind of easy for the credit union we actually use, but surprisingly challenging to export to other banking institutions)
List of all our assets (essentially we have none except for a 7-year old car with 180,000 miles on it, some spendy bicycles, and a few pieces of jewelry)
List of all our debts (this is what slowed us down - Dr. BB has some small student loans and finding exactly what he owed on these and what the account numbers were was surprisingly challenging)

We also had to type our basic identifying information approximately eight million times.

But we were pre-approved (for 250K, even though our budget was 225K, but don't get me started on this - one bank pre-approved us for $650K, which no...we couldn't afford that).  Yay!  We were pre-approved through two credit union and one bank and basically just went with the one that offered us the best rate. The lending institution basically just gives you a letter (an electronic document) with the information that buyers will need for pre-approval.  We happened to use the credit union we actually bank through, so I'm not sure what impact that had on the rest of the process.

Your Housing Market Is Probably Better Than Ours Was
We told the realtor we were qualified for 225K and we were off to look at houses.  Only...there were no houses. The market here is challenging for buyers. There aren't many homes in the 350K - 500K range, so people in our price range are holding on to their properties because there aren't any places to "move up" to.  So people who are in starter homes and looking to trade up to a slightly better house are snatching up houses in this price range. So.  That was that. Things were not going to get better in the market just because I wanted them to, so we were kind of stuck.
Just part of the jungle. You don't even know what you can't see behind those dogwood trees.
We looked at a total of two homes and made an offer on the second one we saw. Because, I swear to all that is holy, there were no other acceptable homes.  Location was a deal breaker for us and this house is on the "right side" of town (makes the commute to school shorter) and checked all our must-have boxes.  The house IS quirky,  the layout of the closets and bathrooms is not ideal (I am being generous here - the layouts make NO sense and I'm a bit confounded by how they got this way), and the yard is borderline ridiculous, but there you have it.  We made an offer.
Dozens of those bags later and our yard still looks like someone needs to take care of it.
We met with our realtor at the property, sat around their dining room table, and signed a bunch of forms, including the formal offer.  The property owners were given 48 hours to respond. So we waited.

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