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Real Estate, Portland Oregon

Home Buyer’s Diary:
Buying our First House, Part One

When I became a realtor, I hadn’t yet bought my first house. We’d been looking for awhile, but very casually, and now we’re in the process of buying our first home. Everyone’s buying and selling stories and experiences are different, but I thought it might be helpful to see how it went for one buyer (namely, my husband and I). Here’s the experience we have had so far buying our first house.

November 14, 2012: Could this be the one?

We’ve been looking casually at homes for almost a year (it’s this fascination with houses that led me to my career choice in real estate, in fact). But we hadn’t yet found the right thing. We live in Hillsdale (a neighborhood in SW Portland) and wanted to stay nearby because we love the neighborhood. Trouble is, we’re young and don’t have loads of money, and it’s a relatively expensive part of town to live in.

In considering all our options, we have considered thinking outside the box — we were open to a fixer-upper in a good location, and we’ve always loved the idea of building an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) on our property to help defray the cost of a mortgage. We also wanted to consider a home that could be a rental someday. On the afternoon of November 14, I noticed this home which was for sale in our price range and in a great location near Gabriel Park (where we love to walk in the evenings). We made an appointment in the evening, and went to see the house.

It’s not fancy — it’s a 1975 ranch-style home that hasn’t been updated since the mid-1990s (which means builder-grade oak cabinets in the kitchen, powder blue carpet and some deferred maintenance, to be sure) but in terms of the size (we like the compact 1,320 square feet), the large lot with a terraced garden in the back and the location, we were pretty happy. It also has an attached two-car garage which we are dreaming of converting into an apartment ADU.

Real Estate, Portland Oregon

This is the living room in the house. Notice the dated mirror wall, wood paneling and faded powder blue carpet. We have our work cut out for us!

November 15, 2012: Pull the Trigger

After leaving the house on the 14th, we decided to write an offer. We submitted it by 10 a.m. I did a lot of research before submitting the offer. The house had been on the market for close to 30 days, so that can mean there is some room for negotiation on the price. Also, I did some research on comparable homes that had sold in the area over the last 3-6 months to ascertain a fair market value for the home. We offered $8,000 less than the list price, and by lunchtime that day, we had an acceptance of our offer.

November 19, 2012: Reality Check

One of the first things we lined up were home inspections. We had a general home inspection on the 19th. Our home inspector, Lee Sellick (who I recommend to all my clients), poked around everywhere. He climbed the roof, braved the crawlspace, operated everything in the house with an electrical current and otherwise poked and prodded at the house. When he was finished, about 3 hours later, he had a thorough report for us which stated everything that could be trouble. The main concerns were a drainage issue under the house and an old roof.

The next day, we also had a sewer scope done at the property (no problems!) and armed with all the information, we submitted a repair addendum. We asked for the owner to fix the drainage issue and replace the roof. The scope of this work was about $11,000. We thought we might lose the house if she couldn’t afford to fix it or wasn’t willing to fix it.

November 27, 2012: Finally, a Consensus

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, we did a lot of waiting in between asking for the repairs and  finally agreeing on them. Because it’s winter and a lousy time of year to replace a roof, we reached a compromise: The seller would take care of the drainage work under the house before we closed the deal, but we’d replace the roof later on our own. She lowered the sale price of the house by $5,000 to allow for the roof work. We still have about a million things that need to be done on the house, but these are the two major pressing issues.

November 28, 2012: Let the Application Begin

As soon as we had negotiated all the repairs, the focus shifted to our loan paperwork. Our mortgage consultant, Brian, sent us an absolutely huge packet of paperwork that we were to fill out. We had to provide statements for all of our bank accounts, letters of explanation for every inquiry on our credit over the last five years, pay stubs, tax returns, copies of our drivers’ licenses and more. Because we are on a timeline (with a goal to close by Dec. 31) we hurried and got all this information to Brian in one day. He began processing our loan application. With any luck, we’ll be homeowners by New Year’s Eve!

Every buyer’s story is different, but this is how ours is going so far. Questions? Want to share your own story? E-mail me at [email protected].


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