First, a disclosure. My wife and I did not buy a house in 60 days. That would be ludicrous. We bought a house in 56 days. That’s ludicrous-er.
Anyway, on to the steps:
1. Don’t: The word “ludicrous” wasn’t enough to scare you away? Or maybe it was, and you’re just reading this to see what kind of torture we put ourselves through because you know that buying a house in anything less than 6 months is pretty much asking for a divorce, nervous breakdown, or both. Seriously, don’t do this. Why’d we do it? See above.
Take-away less: Stop reading now.
2. Panic: You are about to make one of the most important decisions in your life, second only to the decision to become a parent. No more calling the landlord, getting tired of a neighborhood/neighbors after 18 months or freedom from yard work. The landlord is you, the annoying neighbors were there before you, and yard work is now your middle name. Not to mention the 30 year mortgage you’ll be required to sign. Have you ever actually read a mortgage or note? Don’t. Seriously this time.
Take-away lesson: Dude, this is serious. Talk about it, a LOT, before hand. And watch lots of episodes of House Hunters.
Apply to be on House Hunters: Nice thought, and under normal circumstances, a valid third step. But in 60 days? You’re dreaming. I’m saving this for the purchase of our island retirement home in 10 – 15 years.
3. Make a spreadsheet: As you know, this is an integral step in all of my plans. In this case, the spreadsheet tracked 26 separate characteristics across 6 categories, from garages to laundry rooms. Before heading out on our first afternoon of house viewing, we had 35 candidates which could be crossed off if horrible or placed on a second, semi-final spreadsheet if acceptable.
Take-away lesson: Know what you want before you start looking. Know what the other person wants too. That’s kind of important.
4. Panic again: Because it didn’t work. For the first time in my life, a spread sheet did not lead me to efficient, easy to track success. The first afternoon of house hunting was abysmal. Who would buy these houses? For that amount of money? Is this all we had to choose from? Were we going to have to compromise THAT MUCH?!?!?! I, the eternal optimist who just knew that our house was out there, became a whimpering sack of worn out house hunter.
Take-away lesson: You will not find what you want. Deal with it. Now, decide what you need. And no one needs a multiple-head shower or a theater room TV that comes out of the floor.
5. Fall in love: Like any good love story, there are missteps on the way to true love. The wife and I each fell in love with a house that, while not perfect, had shortcomings that we were willing to live with. But the other person wasn’t. And two houses just wasn’t in the budget. As is also key to any great love story, the house that we could and would both love was the one we least expected. The online photos were decent. The description was adequate. So when we pulled up, we weren’t expecting much in the way of “wow”. But our mouths dropped open in the entryway and stayed there throughout the entire tour. Where did this come from? How did we find it? Why in the heck is it still on the market? With twinkling stars in our eyes we drove away that day knowing it was the perfect home to be chained to by a mortgage for the next 30 years.
Take-away lesson: If you’re honest about needs, you’ll find the house that’s perfect for you. And install your own rising TV.
6. Hurry up & wait: It took us less than 30 minutes to make up our minds about the house and we wanted to own it in the next 30. We didn’t get our wish. Instead, we waited a week to do a second viewing, another day to put together an offer, and OVER 24 HOURS to hear back from the sellers. I don’t know if time has ever moved so slowly. But alas, the details were haggled over, reduced to writing, and signatures sent to and fro. The house was ours!!!*
*Not really. The house isn’t yours until the keys are in your hands. And there was a lot more torture by financial institutions to be endured before that would happen.
Take-away lesson: Patience is a virtue. And St. Theresa isn’t virtuous enough to endure the hell of waiting for an offer to be accepted. Deal with it.
7. Swear off (and at) stuff: With a contract signed it was finally time to start packing. For the first time in our 10+ year relationship, all of my wife’s stuff and my stuff was in the same home. And I had to pack it. All. Plus the munchkin’s stuff. There was literally stuff on top of stuff packed into STUFF. It was enough to make me swear off collectables, mementos, decorations, doo dads, knick knacks and anything else that wasn’t absolutely necessary for survival. I donated all of the clothes, shoes, toys and household items that were worth saving and trashed the rest. There. Our new home would be free from the burden of stuff.
Take-away lesson: Buying a new home is a great opportunity to not only get rid of clutter, but to also conveniently “lose” things — like that giant, bouncing blue ball that was so good at triggering migraines…
8. Panic (you’re good at it now): Because the lender needs an explanation about this. Because the bank has a question about that. Because the inspection results haven’t come back yet to tell you about the evil secret lurking beneath the surface of your new home’s beauty. Because this is hard and people have told you horror stories, and the house is so perfect, and your lease is up and…. Yeah, you get the picture.
Take-away lesson: Prepare to be asked for your mother’s high school diploma in order to get a loan in this financial market. Also, stop listening to people. Find a very good realtor that you trust (and tells stories like your dad) and listen to him or her only.
8b. Hurry up and wait. Again.: In between calling with asinine questions and complaints (“On the bank statement I asked you to pull on the 15th, your paycheck shows as ‘pending’. That could be problematic.”), the lines of communication between you and your lender will go dead. Which will fuel your Step 8 panic. Followed by a call to request a document for the 3rd time. Followed by more silence and panic. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Take-away lesson: There is none. This part just sucks.
9. Buy new stuff: Look, there is a hierarchy to stuff. There’s stuff that clutters a home and then there’s stuff that makes a home complete. I bought the latter. I mean, seriously, who buys a brand new house and doesn’t buy anything new to put in it?? It’s like buying a new purse and not buying a new lip gloss to mark the occasion.
Take-away lesson: Buying a home is a great excuse to go shopping. Also, the better you are at Step 7, the more you can buy.
10. Eat Chipotle: The day finally arrived. I’m not sure how I sat still in my seat for so long, but the closing (all that signing!) was endured, and, before I knew it, we were handed a bag of keys. Our keys. The owners said their goodbyes, we shook our realtor’s hand, and… that was it. Just like that. 56 days of hopefulness, disappointment, joy, impatience, fear and anticipation had brought us to this beautiful place. We giggled at one another and pinched ourselves just to be sure. Then we floated on air into the neighborhood Chipotle (that we had scoped out the first time we saw our new home) to order lunch. (Like spreadsheets, Chipotle is a key component of any good plan.) Then we went home to eat lunch, in our empty living room, in our empty home, our lives instantly more full than we could have ever imagined.
Take-away lesson: The experience of buying a home is whatever you make of it. If you’re prepared, honest with your co-buyer, and supportive of one another, you might feel like newlyweds all over again. Newlyweds who could conquer the world…