Buying a House 101

This blog post is a step-by-step guide on how to buy a house. If you imagine this will be a ten-step guide, guess again. It turns out that buying a house is the most complicated and stressful thing that I have ever done. It was more stressful than getting married [because the bankers and realtors were not as cute as my husband] and more stressful than public speaking [because at least the audience can give you some idea of it you’re doing it right].

The first thing you must do if you want to buy a house is math. I did this on paper, on a calculator, in my head on the way home from work, and out loud to my husband. You must add up your income [a quick sum] and your outgoing expenses [a long subtraction]. You will never stop doing math. Not ever. We have finished buying our house now and I am still doing math. Usually subtraction.

The next thing you must do if you want to buy a house is take several days off work. In order to find out if we would qualify for our mortgage, and to find out approximately how much money the bank would give us to finance the purchase of our house, we had to go to the bank. We had to go during regular office hours. Office hours at banks end are from 9-5. My husband and I have jobs. We cannot both make it to the bank between 9 and 5. So. In order to make a large, expensive purchase, we began by taking days off work.

After the bank tells you how much money you can spend on a house you may do the fun part – going to look at houses. We were lucky and found our house only a few weeks after we started looking. Some people look for months. We did, however, see our fair share of cat-pee, mouse-guts, renters, faulty wiring, questionable paint-jobs, and sloped floors. We knew our house was “the one” because it was not next to a creepy grave-yard, nor did it have a make-shift toilet.

[In all seriousness, we choose our house because it was totes adorbs, was within our budget, had the right bedroom to bathroom ratio, and was right smack-dab between our two workplaces.]

After you look at houses the next thing you must do is make an offer. During the week leading up to making the offer you will google things such as, “what to do before you make an offer on a house” and “10 things to look at when you are preparing to put an offer on a house” or “how do you know if you’re ready to buy a house.” You will also dream about houses.

During the process of making a formal offer and negotiating the final agreement with the seller you will hear phrases you don’t understand, such as “kick-out clause,” and you will sign papers without reading the fine-print because it’s too small to read and you’re really hungry and the pile of papers is really big and Gilmore Girls is now on Netflix.

When your offer is accepted and you are under contract your husband will take a video of you dancing around the house in your pajamas. You will forbid him to share this video with anyone on pain of death and dismemberment. You will remind him that if he is dead and dismembered that he will not get to live in the new house.

The worst part of buying a house is applying for the mortgage. You will cry. You will sit on the floor by the coffee table with every piece of mail and every document that you have ever signed and you will cry. Your phone will die because you used your calculator too much. You will lose paycheck stubs from 3 years ago. You will discover a mistake in your jointly-filed taxes. You will become afraid of your phone’s email notification sound in case it is the mortgage officer asking you for another document that you will have to find. You will make three copies of your green card. You will write letters to explain that no, you will not in fact be continuing that non-profit work you did for 3 months in 2011. And you will cry.

The next step in the home-buying experience is the waking up late and night and thinking that you can’t possibly earn as much as that document you just signed said you did and you will begin to do more math. You will go to your husband at work at 6am and lecture him about how the bank must have made a mistake on the math and maybe we should call and let them know. Your husband will remind you that the bank does not open for 3 more hours and that really you should just leave well enough alone.

Later, on the way to work on his cell-phone, your dad will remind you that sometimes you need to stop being a controlling know-it-all and that the bank is pretty good at doing math.

At some point during the home-buying process you will realize that you cannot spend any more money. You will begin to eat the reserves of dry goods that you have stored up in your pantry over the years. It will not be frowned upon to eat cheap, sodium-free, canned tomato soup. You will go out of your way to car-pool and avoid spending money.

The next thing that you will do while buying a house is get an inspection. You will have a house inspection and a septic inspection. You will pay lots of money for them. You will follow the inspector around with a notebook and when he tells you to put some more insulation over the basement door you will write it down studiously. When he notices that there is an outlet not working correctly in the bathroom you will nervously ask him, “so, is that a bad thing?”

Once all these things are finished and the bank tells you that it’s ok – you can buy a house. To buy a house you must leave work early and go to the bank. You bring a special check that is $600 less than was quoted in the Good-Faith estimate. While at the closing you will write a check for $600 to the seller to pay for the heating oil and propane. While buying a house you will not save money.

When you google, “typical length of a house closing” the internet will tell you to expect anything from 1 to 2 hours. Our closing took 25 minutes. You will sign papers while listening to the lawyer tell you what you just signed. There will be at least 6 or 7 other people watching you sign. You will get really good at signing your married name really fast and illegibly. When you are done signing you will get keys. Then it is over. You own a house.

The first thing you do when you own a house is run home and jump up and down. Then you buy your Christmas tree and bring it to the your new house. Your husband will curse while trying to get it to stand up straight in your new house. You will bring your I-home so you can play Christmas music while you decorate your tree in your new house. You will explore all the closets and try to make the ice-maker work in your new house. You will stand around and say to yourself, “this is my new house.”