That’s right, discrimination. Use it. Don’t just buy what you need from someone because they know someone, or because you came across them first. How many times have you been job hunting, were passed over because you didn’t “know someone”, yet you knew that you were truly the most qualified candidate. Do NOT do that to someone else. In the service industry each time you call for a service, be it dry cleaning or home buying, you are the boss conducting a job interview. You can use a site like Angieslist, or you can do it the old fashioned way… by calling everyone yourself. The latter is my preference.
This blog has been brewing since I began the home-buying process 2 weeks ago. The actual process began long before that. Before my husband and I even started looking at houses we saved a bit of money for inspections and fees, and set a limit as too how much house we could afford, we didn’t let someone else do it for us. We looked at what our Basic Allowance for Housing is per month (we are military and currently live on post. The civilian equivalent would be rent+utilities) and decided to try to make sure our MORTGAGE + ESCROW were within this ball-park.
We not only looked at mortgage rates and calculations here, but also searched the area and looked at how tax rates are figured, crime rates (also here and here), schools, and utility costs. We also shopped around for home owners insurance. This gave us a pretty solid idea of EXACTLY how much house we could afford BEFORE we called a bank for a pre-approval. It was best to control the top amount ourselves so our realtor’s idea of our top end house was WELL within the range of what we could afford. I say this a lot, but it is your money and when it comes to neighborhoods, you truly get what you pay for the majority of the time. So if I am going to dish out a little extra for something, it’s going to be housing. My kids identity is crafted not only by the environment inside my home (in their early years), but also the neighborhood (tween and teen years). They will want to be friends with the other kids they see out playing, so we needed to be very conscientious of the back-drop as we house shopped. You can never find a perfect place, but you can minimize heart-ache to some extent. Since we have an 11 year-old the neighborhood was more important to us than it had been when we bought houses previously.
Before we called a realtor we already had a pre-approval from a bank we SHOPPED FOR, and a solid grasp on what our financial and geographic boundaries were. This is where to be discriminatory. We didn’t just pick the first bank, or the first Realtor we came across, we shopped for folks that would work HARD FOR us. After all I am paying these people. I want to give my money to someone who will work for it. Our real estate agent was STUPENDOUS, and we found a great house in a FABULOUS location (because our top end wouldn’t make us “house poor” neither party had to deal with the “but your bank says you can afford this much house” tug-o-war). Each time we saw a house we REALLY like we looked it up on Zillow and Trulia to see it’s “appraised” value, and to get an idea of the property trends over the last few years. This helped us decipher the validity of a seller’s asking price, before we considered making an offer. There were a couple of houses that seemed like a great deal, until we looked at their trends on zillow.
When it came time to pick an inspector, our Realtor of course had her favorite that she recommended. Instead of blindly giving my 300$ away to someone because he knows someone, I called every inspector in the phone book and essentially interviewed them. My criteria were clear in my mind; an eager go-getter attitude, friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to guarantee his work. I’ll tell you what, the dude was FANTABULOUS (and Christian)! When it came time to hand over the dough I didn’t mind at all, because in the end I know he saved me thousands of dollars due to his willingness to crawl under this house and hawk-eye the support girders.
I guess what I am sayings is that with any purchase decision it’s easy to just buy the first car you see, or stop at the first restaurant you see, and so on. What we need to start doing is really thinking about where our money is going, and who it is supporting. One of the reasons I wanted to get debt free was so that when it came time to spend my money I could use discrimination and pick the best person for the job, not the cheapest. Since I’m not spending tons of money on things I don’t need, I can use my money to support others as they make their living.
In the end, we will get an amazing deal on an amazing house in an amazing neighborhood, and some amazing people in the service industry will get a payday! Win-Win! With the extra space our (foster-to-adopt) family is thinking on adding more than just ONE “new” addition to our life. Thinking that is, we will take our adoptions one child at a time.