Thursday, April 3, 2014

Things I Learned Buying a House

Photo from Mark Moz of Flickr
As I've mentioned before, my wife and I were in the process of buying a house. We can thankfully say that we closed yesterday, we're moved in, and we can really get settled in. In dealing with this whole process, however, we've come away with a few lessons.

1) It’s difficult to get a loan.

I don’t know what they were doing back when the financial crisis hit. They must have been giving out free house loans with every ten Big Macs you get at McDonald’s or something, like a manic Oprah standing in front of the loan officers office, dazed and screaming, “YOU GET A HOUSE LOAN! YOU GET A HOUSE LOAN! YOU GET A HOUSE LOAN!!!!” Because it was goddamned difficult to convince the bank that my wife and I were the type of people that should be given money for a house.

Our real estate agent was regaling us with horror stories of failed house-purchasing-attempts--and some of them were tragic. People that had everything going for them, and lost it all because they weren't aware just HOW picky the bank would be. One guy apparently had to reapply for his loan because the bank declined it because he got A NEW, BETTER PAYING JOB. Youch.

2) Often, there’s a reason houses are cheap.

I love to bargain hunt because I’m a cheap bastard that will probably need to have my last penny pried out of my long-dead, clenched fist. I was really poor growing up, which means my knee-jerk reaction to any spending is to say, “Yeah, but do you really need clothes? Can’t you just tie some garbage bags together and shoot for the “post-apocalyptic New Rome” look?”

However, when looking for houses, I low-balled how much it would cost and how much I was willing to look for by quite a bit. And boy-howdy, y’all. Some places are cheap for a reason. If it looks like the last time your house had anybody do any repairs was during the Carter Administration, you’re not going to get a lot of potential buyers.

3) Do NOT judge the house by website pictures alone.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. However, sometimes those thousand words are the best cherry-picked words out of a 5000 word hate-screed that screams RUN AWAY NOW! In that same way, some houses look absolutely adorable on screen. And then you go visit.

Some houses are perfectly nice as long as you don’t mind living in front a roadway as clogged as Ronald McDonald’s arteries.

Some houses are fine if you ignore the giant, sludge filled drop off just to the side of it.

Some houses are perfect for you, if you can ignore the gigantic Wal-Mart industrial shipping complex in your backyard.

In the same vein, while some houses only look nice in photos, some houses don’t look that impressive in photos, but are actually awesome in person.

I mean, try to get the full impression of the Taj Mahal in a photograph and you’re going to miss a few things. And I’m not comparing my new house to the Taj Mahal (actually, I am. I live in the Taj Mahal. Don’t let the guards know--I've been stealing their cable), but when I first saw a picture, I thought, “Meh. Not terrible, but nothing great.” Then, my wife convinced me to go check it out, and I wound up loving it.

4) Clean your room. NOW!

As we were packing to move, I was amazed at the sheer amount of junk that we had amassed in a few short years. That, however, wasn't the half of it. Sure we had a lot of junk that we started gathering up to throw away, but I was astounded by the amount of dirt and grime everywhere.

My wife and I, we’re not neat people. But we tried to keep the house clean. The living room and kitchen were picked up (most of the time). The kitchen, we took the trash out, tried to keep the dishes done up, the table cleaned off, the floors mopped. But y’all, that bedroom almost never got touched.

Sure, we’d pick up the clothes, put them in the hamper, do laundry, that kind of stuff. We occasionally made the bed, took our dishes back into the kitchen, the usual. But sweep? Rarely. Dust? Ha! If dust being comprised mostly of dead human skin is true, my wife and I should be walking, pulsating nightmares straight out of Lovecraft.

So, if you made it a habit of ignoring your mothers, just...y’know...give that ol' sleep space a once over with a broom or vacuum once a month. You’ll be glad you did when the time comes to leave it.