One good thing that happened for me in 2020 is that I completed the homebuying process. And I learned a lot that I didn’t expect to learn.
When I decided to start the homebuying process, I knew a few things to expect going in.
A good friend of mine and his wife recently purchased their own home so I heard stories about what they went through. From my perspective, things moved very quickly for them. He told me he hit only a handful of snags early on. But when he switched to a different buyer’s agent, that made all the difference.
He gave me that agent’s contact information and I reached out to her. Within a couple of weeks, I’d looked at a couple of properties, finalized my choice of the area I was interested in and found the place I wanted. The bank prequalified me for more than the purchase price — an amount I wouldn’t have wanted to pay. It then preapproved me when we made the offer.
From there, I’m told things with the mortgage process went just as expected.
I kept reminding myself along the way, however, that everyone involved — the agent, the mortgage officer, the attorney, etc. — were saying that.
It didn’t always feel that way.
The homebuying process means having to hurry up and wait.
You will definitely feel a sense of urgency when the bank requests information. Expect them to request a lot of information. They will want two months’ worth of bank statements — statements for all of your accounts. They’ll want you to sign documents that authorize them to pull your full credit report and the last two years of your tax returns. They’ll want W-2s.
You’ll have to prove you’re employed. You’ll provide copies of your driver’s license and other identification so they know you’re who you say you are.
My bank had a nifty website designed with a “checklist” so I could monitor where I was in the homebuying process.
When they asked for something, since I knew ahead of time they were going to ask, I mostly had it ready to send.
I’d send it.
Then I waited.
Let me warn you now: If you’re not one who’s long on patience, buying a home is going to royally stress you out. Again, things went smoothly for me. Everyone involved in it told me that over and over again.
It didn’t always feel that way.
I submitted those documents when they asked for them. And days would go by when I heard nothing. The next requirement would come up. I’d comply. And I’d hear nothing.
They set a closing date — that’s the day you wire your down payment and closing costs to the real estate attorney and, along with the seller, sign all of the documents that make you a homeowner.
With a closing date set, you feel the pressure of a countdown.
You wait for word. Three weeks away, I heard nothing. Two weeks away, the formal application went to the “underwriters.” These are the folks who nitpick every detail of a mortgage. They’re the people who excelled in those annoying proof exercises from our high school geometry classes. Remember those? Instead of just solving a problem, you had to document every individual step of the process and explain how you arrived at every conclusion and deduction.
I hated geometry.
The underwriters view the mortgage application, the offer, the home inspection and any other costs that will go into your monthly payments with equal enthusiasm.
Whenever they asked for something, I rushed to provide it.
And waited some more.
I closed on a Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t learn until the Friday before that they actually approved me for the mortgage. That’s less than a week away.
When you give notice to your landlord that you’re vacating and then you don’t find out until that close that the move is actually going to happen, well, that’s a bit stressful.
On closing day, I didn’t find out until a couple of hours before I was supposed to arrive at the attorney’s office to sign my life away the exact amount I needed to pay.
Everything went smoothly. Everyone involved in this assured me everything I experienced was normal.
It didn’t always feel that way. It often felt like we were on the ragged edge of the disaster that getting a big fat “No” would represent.
Considering buying a home?
If you’re the nervous, impatient type and you’re considering the homebuying process, know this: it will stress you out. Big time.
Find a real estate agent you click with: find one who’s aggressive enough to look out for your best interests, but is calm, rational and reassuring enough to talk you off the ledge when you’re feeling pressure.
Find a lender with a mortgage officer who’s willing to answer questions. And let them know that you will have lots of questions.
If either seems impatient with that, you’re probably going to want to deal with someone else.
I’ll have more on the process, including one potential cost issue you almost never hear about, in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, I’m still unpacking at my new “Home, Sweet Home.” And finally breathing a bit easier.