Thursday, October 22, 2009

In the beginning...

How did we get here? During the height of the "Great Recession", we talked about the possibility of buying a very inexpensive home somewhere in the U.S. We heard about artists buying homes in Detroit for 7k and for a little bit more you could pick something up in Florida. The key issue was finding work in a new state and lenders at the time were not too keen on lending to a couple of drifters.

So we thought that looking in the very hot, ugly and unappealing cities of Pittsburg, Concord and San Leandro might be our best bet given our meager price range (under 200k). Andrea found our agent Patricia and I worked on getting a private lender and figuring out how to use Zillow and Redfin to aid in our home search.

Weeks dragged into months and we made around 10 offers that would lose out to lower all-cash offers. The clock was ticking down to take advantage of the first-time home buyers credit and we suddenly had to change to our new agent (Colin Hill). Things started to look bleak until we landed this 1600 sq ft Victorian on the border of Emeryville, Nor. Oakland and W. Oakland. Not very pretty on the outside and it's along a noisy main street but the price and the terms were exactly what we wanted.

Things we learned: Zillow isn't very good at keeping track of homes that go off the market but it does have a very good way of helping you find and review a good lender. That's how we found Chris Garza with Vanguard. The man gets back to us on our questions super fast and we received a great loan package and terms. He can close escrow in like 15-20 days! I highly recommend him.

Redfin was a great tool to check out houses online and deciding whether or not we should take a look at a property. Listings are updated very quickly and the easy interface makes it easy to know where the property is and the condition. I would often scour Redfin for new listings and then forward them to our agent who followed up with phone calls and previewed the homes in advance. In a few cases, we made a "blind offer", meaning we did an offer via e-mail and e-signatures on a property that we saw only online. If our offer was accepted, then we would go check it out and decide if we truly liked it or not. In the case of our new home, I saw the new listing of it on Redfin, shot an email to Colin who visited the home later that day and said it had all the things we were looking for. He went back to the office and sent us an offer sheet which was signed and sent that evening. A few days later, we heard it was accepted.

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