House Tip #1: Everything Costs More Than You Think It Will
Now that I've chosen a house, the hard work begins: paying for it.
When I first considered looking, I read three books. All discussed the importance of staying organized--keeping your financial house in order, logging your expenses, maintaining records to help keep emotions in check once you found that dream home. I figured house-hunting represented the perfect project for my anal-retentive nature.
But being a rabid organizer can have its drawbacks. Organized people tend to think they have their world under control. We carry around the false belief that we can predict where life will lead us, that we've anticipated the next step. Not so with most important things in life: falling in love, loving family, managing your health, adopting a pet...and buying a home.
For example, when it comes to the "good faith estimate" of the costs to purchase your home, it's just as important to focus on the "estimate" part as the "good faith" part. Because, believe me, you're going to need some great faith to believe you're going to live through the 60 days until you reach settlement.
Right after the sellers accepted my offer, I began the race for the home inspection, termite inspection, homeowners insurance and mortgage approval. My blood pressure rose with every phone call, since the person on the other end of the line would quote me a number several times higher than the estimate. I've looked through the estimate line by line, trying to see where I can save a few dollars here and there. Usually, I can find something. But saving a few bucks doesn't subtract my insecurity over the following unlikely scenarios that have gone through my mind over the past days:
- The house is appraised too low, our agreement falls through and I end up homeless and on the streets.
- A worldwide computer virus destroys my bank records, preventing me from getting my mortgage.
- The president calls a state of emergency and stops all mail, delaying checks by weeks and leaving me unable to settle.
- My real estate agent and loan officer talk and decide I'm too nuts to own a house. (OK. I know this won't happen. Jane, my realtor, and Phil, my loan officer, think I'm just another funny and frantic first-time home buyer.)
The take-away message: Be organized. Stay calm. And plan to spend a whole lot more than you estimate.