Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The final step to adulthood.

Hubs and I are considering taking the final step to adulthood (at the grand old ages of 41 and 38) and buying a home.

Leavenworth is likely our last duty station. We had plans to retire to South Dakota, but I think that Hubs skill set might be more suited to life in the Leavenworth area (he's been a Raven, a patrol cop, a detective and Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge of 2 military jail facilities, and by the time he retires from the AF he'll have a graduate degree in criminal justice). Leavenworth has 3 prisons in the locality...enough said, I think.

We also qualify for a VA mortgage loan. I looked at the interest rates and payment calculators yesterday and even at the highest interest rate (if we do this, we're going with a fixed rate. None of this fluctuating crap) over 20 years (instead of 30) we'd be paying LESS per month than we could for a rented property.

With that in mind....anyone got any advice for us? We've never bought a home before.



Eileen said...

Good luck! Moving house from one rented place to another is hard work - buying is fun but even harder in some ways!

I don't know much about buying in the USA but we have bought places in four different countries: Scotland (x5), Germany, England (x2) and Italy so I think we have some ideas about the process!

Only one of those was brand spanking new (this one, our holiday appartment that is now our retirement place in Italy) and we bought it from the plans but we did know the village and surrounding area well. Some of the others were for us to live in as a family, some for our offspring. One was bought by my husband wihout me seeing it in person - I was still in Germany and we needed it to be able to move back to Scotland. It was the only house on the market in our price bracket that was the right shape (sounds crazy, but we needed 4/5 rooms on the ground floor to make room for us and a "granny flat" for my MIL) so there wouldn't have been much choice anyway.

I have always believed I could feel when the place was the right one - whatever the purpose and we've had no bad buys. You have to learn to see beyond what the vendor has there - you're buying the house not their furniture or decor. It may smell to high heaven, the colour scheme may be 1920s, they may be using the rooms in the wrong/least efficient way - ignore all that. What can YOU do with it.

Do your homework before you start - decide what you and your family want/need in the neighbourhood. Look for it. If it's not there - think hard. Where is it? How far are you willing to travel to get to it? Can you do without it?

(more coming!)

Eileen said...

Don't reject a house until you've seen it. The AF hands you a house - not much choice. You're buying now - it's your choice. Sometimes there is something that'll surprise you and you fall for it even though on paper it didn't sound right. If you're not sure, go away, think and then go back. If you like it enough to want to buy it - do the same. Always look twice. If two weeks in you don't like it it's a lot harder to do something about it. In that sense renting is easy.

Does your furniture fit? Know your budget - can you afford to buy the house AND buy new sofas? Know your budget - set a price you can afford and a margin to go over if you MUST. Nothing more awful than sitting in the dream house with no furniture and no money to go out! Remember to include the cost of painting/renovating in the cost of the house, suddenly there isn't as much left over at the end of the month as you thought and, darn, that bathroom doesn't work!

Do you have surveys in the States? We don't always bother now - but we usually have bought old properties (100+ years old) and you need to know if it's going to fall down. But even so - does it need a new boiler, electrics rewiring? It's amazing what vendors can hide - do the kitchen cabinet doors and drawers still work without collapsing? That happened to my daughter and she needed a new boiler before the old one blew up! Legally the vendors were liable - they skipped it pretty darn quick, but Nat had made sure they had enough money left to cover something like that. Get estimates for anything you think you might want to do - factor it into the cost of the house purchase.

But above all - don't rush. You'll have housing won't you so there is no hurry - be sure, you'll be there for some time to come if you're staying there post-AF. Enjoy it. It can be fun, looking, dreaming, planning. Don't make it a chore - but if you do find the house you are absolutely positive is the right one don't lose it through being lazy or complacent. And remember: you can have eejit neighbours ANYWHERE - being a householder doesn't mean they are going to be quiet, polite, friendly. Case the joint - you can see the real antisocial ones with 6 junk autos on the drive and the bed in the yard! But neatness of yard, how the buildings are maintained tells you a lot - but you know all that.

In the UK they say location, location, location - good location is prime, don't get a fabulous house in a bad location, you can tidy up a house in a good area, you can't pick one up and move it to the next block!

Now you've seen the epistle on house purchase - hope there's something that helped, go get it! And do keep us informed on progress.
All the best, Eileen

la isla d'lisa said...

I've been in KCMO the last 10 years, and a homeowner there the last 7 ... I love my little house, and lucked out tremendously when purchasing it, becasuse there were many things I didn't know.

Things to pay attention to:
1) How old is the roof, and what make? If it is not the original, is it covering the original or replacing it (if the roof had work, replacing is better than covering).
2) You want the smallest house in the neighborhood.
3) Be careful of buying in areas that flood; even if not a flood area, check for drainage issues (rains are HEAVY every Spring).
4) Check out the siding: some masonite-type sidings were in a class-action lawsuit that got homeowners money to replace; a previous owner will most likely have gotten the funds but may not have replaced the siding. This means you'll need to repaint the house every 3-5 years.
5) Pay attention to the dogs! In my neighborhood we ALL have dogs, and they are quite vocal - if barking bothers you, it can be bad.
6) Find out whether the place you like belongs to a neighborhood association and, if so, whether there are dues and restrictions (this is often a dealbreaker).
7) Look into the town checkbook: a bankrupt town doesn't get the streetlights replaced or the potholes filled (or the streets plowed, etc.).
8) My town has a garbage collection contract w/Town & Country that is mandatory for all; the $11 charge is combined with our sewer bill.
9) Go online to see if the area you like has a local newletter ... you can find plenty of information around town politics in these.
10) Get a good agent! Check with friends for recommendations, and interview a few if thats what it takes.

Stuff like that. Also, if you're interested in an hour-long commute to Leavenworth, have I got a hot property for you in Greenwood!