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Okay, So I Lied.

It looks like my first "big purchase after getting a full-time job" is a lot bigger than I expected!

If all goes according to plan, I should be a homeowner in less than 30 days! Eeek. I’m sort of in a state of half shock, half excitement. I don’t think the reality of the situation has quite sunk in yet.

I’ve definitely had a few heart palpitations over the past few days. And I’ve had a few more today just thinking about the mortgage shopping process and the long road ahead of me.  This is a HUGE decision to make in a matter of days, let me tell you! The amount of the loan that I have been pre-approved for is mind-blowing. That’s a whole lotta debt for a 27-soon-to-be-28-year-old gal who has NEVER, EVER BEEN IN DEBT. 

I only started looking at homes two weeks ago with my friend, Mako, who is a real estate agent. In that time I saw many short sales, and frankly, I wasn’t impressed with any of them. Some needed SERIOUS work, some had layouts that weren’t appealing, and most had claustrophobically small kitchens. There was even one that nearly made me vomit when I walked in; there was trash that had been rotting for who knows how long, leaking a foul black liquid all over the kitchen tile. At that point, it became clear to me that all the good houses are snatched up right away, and you really have to scour the MLS listings for brand new listings every morning to catch any gems before they’re off the market.

Also, in this timeframe, I really was getting tired of not having my own space to do what I want with. I love my new roommates so far, but seriously, the 1300sqft house is cramped with three tenants.  And I want my privacy. And I want to lay down the law. And keep everything spotless. And have space to organize all my crap. And finally be able to SETTLE DOWN. Oh, the value of settling down is not to be underestimated. I know the frugalista in me had said I could rent forever, and save oodles of money doing so, but my nesting urges took over.

I found this particular house on MLS early Thursday morning, got an instant gut reaction, and had Mako take me to see it Thursday night. By Friday afternoon I had put in an offer, and we went through some back and forth counter-offers before it was finally accepted on Sunday. Needless to say, I haven’t gotten much sleep since Thursday. I’ve been learning AS MUCH AS I POSSIBLY CAN about buying homes. There’s a lot I need to know. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes, but I’m doing my best — and I have great friends who have been fielding my questions left and right.

Here are a few of the reasons I instantly fell in love with the place (and had to talk myself into making an offer, since it was a bit higher than my original budget):

  • Location, location location. It’s located in Ahwatukee, about 5 minutes from where I currently live. (Even closer to my favorite sushi restaurant!) Major score on this one. I love, love, love the area after being here three years. It has a walkability score of 77, which is extremely high for a Phoenix house.
  • It has all the ideal qualities I was looking for: one-story, no pool, open layout, decent sized kitchen with lots of cabinets, lots of storage space, separate shower and tub in master bathroom, walk-in closet, etc. Actually, after renting a house for three years, I found that I had a very good idea of what I wanted (read: I was pretty picky).
  • It is brand new, built in 2009, which is ridiculously rare in Ahwatukee. The original house (built in 1993) burnt down, and they rebuilt it this year. According to the agent, the foundation and front wall are original, but everything else is new. (I have requested contruction documentation to verify this.) This means new roof, new A/C, new appliances, new paint, etc. The new house smell was definitely intoxicating.
  • No HOA!!! I cannot believe that I found a neighborhood in Ahwatukee without an HOA. I’m still giddy over that one. All the houses and yards are beautiful, so the neighborhood certainly isn’t suffering. Now I can save that $100/month payment and put it toward my landscaper. Which, judging by the jungle that I’ve inherited, I will definitely need.
  • It’s the perfect size! (2050 sqft) I was worried that I would end up getting a small house that I would quickly outgrow, and wouldn’t be able to afford a house that I could see myself living in long term. It has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a den and a "bonus room."  All the houses in the neighborhood have the option of either having a 3-car garage or the bonus room. The bonus room is actually quite large.  I think it would make a perfect workout room ;)
  • It is sold by owner. This is also extremely rare in this market. To me, it was worth paying a little extra just for the peace of mind of not having to wait several months to hear if my offer was accepted by the bank, and then several more months just for paperwork. I heard back within 24 hours on each of my offers, which was nice.
  • Other perks (but not must-haves) — French doors, stainless steel appliances (I just need to buy a fridge to match), vaulted ceilings, very big laundry room with cute white cupboards and a sink, tons of cabinets and a workbench in the garage, extended patio and fireplace in the backyard. It’s also a corner lot, so the lot is bigger and there is only one set of immediate neighbors.
  • The neighbors are friendly. We met and spoke with the neighbor across the street while we were looking at the house. She was extremely nice. She even told us her purchase price three years ago, which was $100K higher than what my house is going for now, new. Ouch.

As you can see, it wasn’t a hard sell :) I just wanted to get my offer in before the weekend. I’m pretty proud of myself too, since I negotiated a final price $21K less than asking price.

I can still back out after the inspection, but considering the house is built in 2009, I don’t think anything too drastic will come up. I’m curious to see what the house is appraised for, since we had a heck of a time determining a fair offer since there were no comparable recent homes sold in the area. As my friend David stated, in the end the house is worth whatever I’m willing to pay for it. I think we bottomed out on a very fair price.

My closing date is set for 7/14/09. Wish me luck, as I embark on this rollercoaster of a ride!  Also, any advice on the closing process is MUCH appreciated!

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