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House? House! House?!
It occurred to us[1] recently that we have probably got enough saved up for a decent down-payment now. Sunday, we[2] drove around to a couple houses I'd seen online that were having open houses, then on the way home spotted a few more open-house signs and followed them around. (There were a lot! It was like an Easter egg hunt!)

We[3] were expecting to just get a better sense of what's available locally than can be gleaned from website listings, figure out what "1,200 square feet" and "1,700 square feet" actually look like, that sort of thing.

Instead we, um, found one we really like. I wasn't expecting "really like" and "in our price range" to overlap quite so much as they apparently do at the moment. So we[4] are precipitously and impulsively flinging ourselves headfirst into the real estate market. We are meeting the real estate agent who was at the house we liked again on Tuesday; she had a whole list of other properties she thought we might be interested in. And there will be a Bank Person there. And Andrés is setting up a meeting with another Bank Person for probably-Wednesday-morning. And we need to contact USAA and the credit union to see what they have to say about this because they probably have happy low-interest-rate things to say.

And, uh, I guess then we find a buyer's real estate agent? Are they the same bunch of people as seller's agents -- can we just have the one we met yesterday do this for us, assuming we interview a couple of others and still like her? Or do we need to go find some other sort of creature entirely?

And we need to write our wills! Might as well do that while we're already drowning in paperwork, that's what I say. In case we all die in a tragic housing accident.

So. Yes. Any and all advice welcome, especially from local homeowners and/or people who have done this housebuying thing recently.

[1] Andrés and me
[2] Andrés, Brooks, Cathy, and I
[3] I
[4] Andrés, Cathy, and I
You see why I don't normally specify?

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Generally, as far as I am aware, any agent can work for either buyer or seller, but I think you generally don't want the same one working for both, because there can be a conflict of interest -- what's good for the sellers is the highest possible price, what's good for the buyers is the lowest.

Yes, exactly. Good luck! How exciting!

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A detail tiger_spot didn't note was that this particular realtor wasn't actually the one selling the house in question; she was hosting the open house as a favor for a friend.

Any idea if there tend to be conflict-of-interest issues when your realtor and the seller's realtor are good friends and work at the same agency? (My guess would be far less so, assuming competent and upstanding people, but I don't know.)

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There will be all kinds of fees/costs you don't expect, from what I understand. Closing fees, or fees to have the house looked over by someone knowledgeable to make sure it won't fall down around your ears. I can't remember the name but am looking into it from a friend who's done this before (and survived). (And is happy.) Be aware of this.
And all the little things that you always need when you move still apply - realizing you don't have a garbage can/paper towel rack/shower curtain/random thingy.
Your own place!! So exciting! Where is it? Will you [5?] be staying in town, or venturing outward? (We did the same thing on Sunday, but solely to check out decorating ideas and to soak up air conditioning. There were some units off of Miramonte that were very pretty.)

We're not buying this one (http://1690californiast.com/) immediately, we're just Seriously Looking a lot sooner that we'd expected to. (We were gonna Casually Look for a while first, and then Figure Out What We're Doing, but we like what we saw on the casual look so hey, might as well jump forward a few steps....)

We are most likely staying very close to where we are now, because that is the area we like best. We might wind up in Sunnyvale or Palo Alto, but no farther than that. (Gotta stay in biking range of Google.)

Edited at 2009-08-18 12:14 am (UTC)

I'm not sure if things work differently in California (quite possibly - I believe there are regional house-selling conventions), but in MA, our buyer's agent was very clear that you have to be careful about who was the source of finding you the house. So if you go to an open house and sign in without listing an agent, then the selling agent / whoever is there that day could demand the entire commission versus splitting it with your buyer's agent. Granted, that depends on whether you hire a buyer's agent who works on split commission versus flat fee (which may be a regional thing).

So if you go to look at a house with one agent, I'm not sure you could then turn around and say that you'd like another person to be your agent (a representative paid out of pocket would probably be okay). Or at least, I don't think we could do that here. Basically, be careful and check with people in your area before you go looking at more places, so that you know how it works. :)

The standard we had when we bought our house was that the agent fee (6%, 4%, whatever) ended up getting split in half between the seller's agent and the buyer's agent. That part got written into the paperwork, but it was pretty standard for this area.

I am a huge supporter of having an exclusive buyer's agent (someone who only represents buyers, and thus has no conflict of interest from listing properties), and can share more information if desired, although again I'm not sure how much transfers between the coasts.

Good luck! Looking at houses is very exciting and quite complex, especially the first time.

you have to be careful about who was the source of finding you the house

Hm, yes, this is a useful warning. We definitely need to make sure we don't accidentally trip into owing someone money without realizing it.

(Need to send agent-we-met clarifying e-mail, because she either thinks we're further ahead than we are or really really wants us to be further ahead than we are, which I find a little worrying.)

I know other people will say this or have already, but don't don't don't use the same agent for buying as is selling them.

Please, don't. They could be wonderful people, but they do NOT represent you in this, they represent their agency. You want an agent who is going to be all about helping you through it, and give you warning signs if there are things to worry about.

We (and many of our friends) used Angele Price of Coldwell Banker. She does all of Santa Clara county, and she will really bend over backwards to help you out. To give you an idea, we first met her on Mother's Day. She's a mother. She was out with her family, she finished up her brunch and met us at the property we were looking at with a friend. She also cautioned us away from a couple of properties, sometimes on price, sometimes on work that she could see would need to be done ($30K new roof). Her husband is a contracter, they've flipped a few houses together on the side, she knows what things cost to repair, that kind of thing. http://www.angeleprice.com/

Good luck on the home front! Keep an open mind, you might see more than one you fall in love with.

Thanks for the recommendation! We certainly want to talk to a few agents before we decide who's best to work with.

We have not fallen in love with this particular house. It is merely an existence proof that the sort of thing we want and the sort of price we want do in fact coincide. We will look at lots and lots of other parts of the overlap too.

Really, everyone above has said everything that I would have said. Find a good agent you like - our real estate agent made finding a house a much less stressful situation, and she totally took care of a few snags that came up when the mortgage underwriters weren't communicating well with me.

Good luck!

I sent details via email, but I'd definitely say not to bother with local brokers. Get an anonymous mortgage quote on Zillow.

Ooh, hey, that was easy. Hm, these are good rates. Still want to check with USAA, 'cos they're special, but that's a nice crop of quotes. (We'll have to call USAA tomorrow -- our parameters are for some reason outside what their website will automatically provide a quote for.)

I love hurtling! Also love the "we;" the notes were helpful. Good luck! I'd love to read about the process.

There's an outbreak of house buying on my flist. johnpalmer is considering, too.

Edited at 2009-08-18 05:56 am (UTC)

johnpalmer is considering, too.

Yeah, I saw that! I am tracking comments on that post so I get the benefit of his advice-givers, too. :)

I've only ever done this in Canada and I barely remember the process, so I'm no help at all, but yay!

"In case we all die in a tragic housing accident."

More likely than you might think, judging by some of the houses we saw while househopping.

You specified four different "we"s, yet you still managed to not specify who would be living in said house. :-)

(I've had trouble with "we" in my job, where sometimes it means my company, sometimes it means a community I'm a member of (which might be a competitor's community), sometimes it means all the browser vendors, sometimes it means people I identify with in the standards community — I recall once saying one sentence with three instances of "we/us" that were all different, and then thinking "well that might need clarification". :-/ )

You specified four different "we"s, yet you still managed to not specify who would be living in said house.

That would be we number 4, the three of us that already live together.

We[somewhat amorphous] have come to the conclusion that we[all 5] don't actually want to live in the same house, although next door would be nice. So we[TAC] are not worrying about it. In some years when the rest of us are looking for a house, they[BS] can take proximity to ours as an additional factor to consider.

Hm, I rather like the initial notation. It's fairly efficient.

I recall once saying one sentence with three instances of "we/us" that were all different, and then thinking "well that might need clarification".

I know that exact feeling.

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