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House help.

This is the post I've been meaning to write all week, but have repeatedly gotten sidetracked from.

As probably everybody knows, I'm buying a house. I'm currently somewhere in between inspection and closing.

I've talked briefly with n0thingman, lilostitch, telephasic and momacress (along with probably several others), but I wanted to ask the questions here, all at once, for everyone to see:

What are the things you wish someone had told YOU beforehand?

What are the hidden expenses that will catch me unawares?

telephasic was mentioning URA loans and grants to me -- anyone have any experience with that?

How would you recommend handling finding a mortgage?

And, well, any other questions that I haven't mentioned.

Also, Pittsburgh homeowner people: Anything Pittsburgh-specific I should know about?

C'mon people: educate me!


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
May. 18th, 2008 02:22 am (UTC)

The seller has only owned the house for four years, is selling for $7,000 more than she paid, is a compulsive liar, and, I suspect, is addicted to drugs. After the inspection came back, I did a response with my agent asking for $2,500 off, but I fear that this woman has little wiggle room to not lose money in the deal.

Then again, she does have to sell -- if she doesn't sell, she will be foreclosed on.
(Deleted comment)
May. 18th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
I'm getting plenty of practice on this with my parents, who are opposed to this whole idea. The other night, my Mother was saying that they couldn't offer any physical assistance but rather could only offer their moral support. "Well, you're off to a great start," I replied, sarcastically.
May. 17th, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC)
do you know that you'll have to pay real estate tax every year? this tax is based on the assessed value of your property, which is sometimes quite old and inacurate. if the price you actually pay is less than the assessed value listed by the county, you can file for a reasessment, which will probably mean you'll end up paying less taxes. also, assuming you'll be living there, you should figure out how to file for the homestead exemption. doing this knocks something like $800 off the annual taxes for that building.

do you know how much your closing costs will be? that surprised me when we bought our house. your real estate agent should be able to tell you. and you probably already know that you should get homeowner's insurance if you can afford it.

unless you know that your inspector is skilled, you might consider whether doing that is a waste of money. our inspector mentioned several things that we never found to be problems and failed to notice several things that turned out to be kind of obvious in retrospect (so if you are definitely going to do an inspection, try to get a recommendation for someone good)

hope that helps!
May. 17th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)
One of the URA things that telephasic mentioned to me was a closing cost grant. Who knows if I'll qualify or not, but that's one of the specific things I was interested in.
May. 17th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
You can pay the homeowner's insurance and the real estate taxes through your mortgage. You'll lose the discount for paying the taxes early, but it's a lot easier to manage, and you won't be temped to dare the city/school district/county to foreclose because you used your real estate taxes to pay for luxuries like food.

Don't be afraid to walk away from a deal if you don't think they're conceding. That's what your agent will handle - the fee is usually worth it.

May. 17th, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC)
Most mortgage holders pay the taxes early and qualify for the discount.
May. 17th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
The most annoying discovery
I wish I'd looked under the damn dropped ceilings in every room during my inspection. I knew I was going to get rid of them: it didn't occur to me that they would reveal enormous holes, evidence of old water damage, and scary home wiring jobs.

May. 17th, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
Re: The most annoying discovery
Crap. Now I really wish I'd asked this question *before* my inspection, because this house is dropped ceilings galore.
May. 17th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC)
In PA, you don't need a lawyer. So unless you want to shell out extra money, or have a really complicated problem with the sale, why bother? A good agent, who is working on your behalf rather than the seller's, will do. However, if you want someone to review any paperwork, I hereby offer the spousage's services. Or my own - I was a Realtor for a few years before I moved across the state.

Can't predict the hidden expenses. Because they are hidden. :-) But assume that there will be a few unexpected repairs, and put some money (or some credit) aside for emergencies.

The URA means extra paperwork and tediousness. Do you really need such things? Your agent should be familiar with URA and FHA programs - ask.

I used the bank where I had my checking account, so you could start there. You can also use an independent broker, who can work to find you the best rate.

As a first-time buyer, you may qualify for some good programs - discounted rates, or not needing PMI even if you aren't putting much down. Ask your agent and your banker.

They can also explain closing costs to you - things like transfer taxes and assorted fees. Transfer taxes are generally 2% of the sales price, split evenly between the seller and the buyer. Fees to record the deed. Oh, and there is usually a mortgage application fee, too, to cover the costs of running credit reports and ascertaining the value of the property. Some loans allow you to wrap some or all of those costs into the loan, which can be handy if you don't have much extra cash. A higher sales price, part of which is then returned to you at closing, is another way to cover closing costs.

Make sure that you insure your home for its replacement cost, which is not necessarily the same amount as its cost or its value. You can get a discount from the insurance company if you insure both your home and car with the same one.

Edited at 2008-05-17 11:50 pm (UTC)
May. 18th, 2008 01:28 am (UTC)
add me to the chorus of playing hardball with your sellers. also, be sure to communicate to them in no uncertain terms that you want EVERYTHING out of the house before closing. My sellers left a ton of junk behind. not cool.

hidden expenses I can't really remember. it was too long ago plus i blocked a lot of the homebuying memories. however, i did manage to get the sellers to pay the closing costs, so that was good. i suggest you look into that (ask your agent) because it will save you a decent chunk of change.

I didn't get a URA loan for improvements because I can't really take on another monthly payment right now, but you would certainly qualify and it could help you with some prettifying at least.

I have my mortgage through the Pennsylvania Housing Financing Agency (PHFA). I pay one flat payment and they take care of doling out the taxes and insurance to the right people. I've heard some people say that PHFA mortgages are not the way to go, but I've had really good experiences with it. They do their own inspection and since it's the state they make sure that everything is as safe as possible, which is good because you have that peace of mind, but can throw a wrench in the works if they demand certain repairs. if the sellers won't pony up with those, then they don't go through with the mortgage. but i have a very low, fixed rate and since you're a single woman, you will most likely qualify.
May. 18th, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
I'll be happy if I can get the seller out by closing. The house is divided into two units (I plan to turn it back into a house, tho) and the current owner has already asked which unit I'll be living in, because she wants to stay. She's been told no, and when we wrote our response after the inspection, we made it clear that we wanted the house vacant at closing. Hadn't thought about the stuff, tho.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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