House-Buying 101

It was a typical Sunday at church; my husband Andrew and I had just entered the sanctuary and were getting ready for the service to begin. And then, we overheard Tracy, our music minister’s wife, mention that she and her husband Matt were putting their home up for sale in order to make an offer on another house.

Andrew, who had been to Matt and Tracy’s house for praise band practice, got very excited. He said that I just had to see the house, it was so cool: it’s in a great section of town, and so on. I looked at him in disbelief—earlier just that week we had been “window shopping” the homes in our city and decided that we were going to remain in our apartment for at least another year until we knew for sure that the Lord wanted us to remain in Fort Worth. My heart was closed to the idea, but Andrew asked me for one favor: Go over to their house just to see it. I agreed, quite reluctantly.

We actually went over that same afternoon and had the grand tour. The whole time, I was thinking, “It’s a great house, but it’s not in the plan so it’s out of the question.” I felt bad for wasting Matt and Tracy’s time and raising their hopes when I knew that there was no way we could be serious about buying the home.

Tracy gave me the number for their mortgage broker and urged me to just call to run some numbers, just so we would know if this was something we could even afford. Andrew called the next day and a little while later, he excitedly called me. He told me he thought it could happen, and we decided to seriously discuss it after work. After talking that night, we decided to make it a matter of prayer for that week.

My heart was changing, but there were a couple of obstacles that we would need to overcome to be able to buy the house. We asked the Lord that if He wanted us to buy it, He would clear the way and give us a quick answer. Everyday that week, He slowly answered each prayer, even down to randomly giving us a top of the line refrigerator and deep freeze for $325! So, one week and one day after the discussion in the sanctuary with Tracy, we made an offer.

Things went very quickly from there. Matt and Tracy accepted on the spot, and we spent the rest of the evening discussing how to go about the actual sale since none of us were using a realtor. Tracy and I did most of the footwork, and I personally enjoyed getting a firsthand view of how home-buying really works. We set up all the inspections, worked with the broker, spoke with the title company and just about went crazy with all the details involved, but it was worth it. One month from the time we made the offer, we closed on the house. We’ve been here now for about 7 months.

Andrew and I learned some important things in the process of house-buying:

Be open to the Lord’s timing. Having a plan is good, but make sure to hold plans loosely as God may have something totally different in mind.

Get good legal advice. Run everything by a lawyer you trust, especially if it’s your first time to buy and if you’re doing it without a realtor.

Budget carefully! Aside from the monthly house payment, you need to allow for homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, closing costs, inspections, appliances, home owner’s association dues and potentially an increase in utilities. You will also want to make sure you budget for any furniture, painting, drapery or general décor you may want to add to the home after you purchase it.

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Make sure you have an emergency fund. Set aside for home repairs, maintenance and other unexpected things.

Allow plenty of time for closing. Most people experience delays of some sort and don’t actually end up closing on the day that was originally scheduled. Make sure you’re free for a couple of weeks after you set up the initial date just in case.

Read lots of good books so you know what to expect. We found Home Buying for Dummies, Mortgages for Dummies and The Complete Home Buyer’s Bible to be invaluable resources.

While it was unexpected and happened very fast, the whole experience was an unexpected blessing. We are so thankful for our home. We learned so much and feel armed with knowledge and confidence now about buying a home in the future.

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