Buying a house at 22

/ April 5, 2017

Well after the last post, you’ve learned quite a bit about my transition years from punk kid to being on the verge of being an “adult.” Now it’s time to fast forward and get into probably the most proud moment of my life(at the time). Still one of my biggest accomplishments to date and all it took was a few hundreds signatures and a LOT of time and money.

It only took me about 6 months of working at my current job to start to get the itch to venture out on my own and away from the folks’ house to carve my own path in the world. Also, to be able to play drums at 2AM or eat cake for breakfast without fear! I had already bought myself a reliable car before getting the job at the plant and I was throwing pretty much every dime I made there trying to get it paid off as fast as possible. I hate owing anyone money and even to this day refuse to ask for help with almost anything until I have thoroughly tried and failed miserably. It’s just a weird sense of fierce independence that I am fairly certain I got passed down to me by my mom.  If there was ever a problem in my life, I would try everything I could do to fix it myself before going to someone for help.  But the one thing that I never had a problem talking about(especially with my parents) was money. It was a subject I grew to love early on and one that would serve me well through the entire process of stretching my legs outside of mom’s house.

So my journey continued as I started researching the housing market, how you go about renting an apartment, how you go about buying a home, and most of all: how much everything is going to cost. I have always been very aware of what I could afford. Sometimes to the point of over exaggerating my current bills in order to prevent me from taking on new ones. But here I was, 21 years old and researching one of the most expensive things anyone will ever buy in their lifetime: a house. It was about that time that a passing of a somewhat distant relative would offer me the chance at a test run of that life on my own. When he passed his son(my uncle) lived 4 hours away and was left a house he had no idea what to do with. It was outdated, needed some sprucing up, but at the end of the day was all but paid off. The only real bills were for the homeowner’s association, general utilities, and taxes. So it was the perfect opportunity for me to be able to pay for all of that while he decided what his next move was.

Fast forward almost a year and a half. The rent had gone up at the year mark and I started to make rent payments month to month and the realization came that I was basically throwing money away fixing up and paying to live in a place that I didn’t have my name on. I don’t treat that time or money as a waste mentally though. It allowed me to prove to myself that I had what it takes to budget, to save, and to basically survive on my own terms. It was a massive confidence booster. Living there for all that time also let me progress at work and get my money up before stepping out into an unstable housing market with my head held high and my bank accounts padded sufficiently.

So now to the meat and potatoes of this story. I was 21 when I started house shopping. My mom referred me to her mortgage broker and I took her advice and sat down with him prior to even starting to think about going out with a realtor or even so much as tick boxes on listing websites. I HIGHLY suggest anyone reading this find someone that you can trust to cut the shit and really give you the facts about where you are financially, career, credit, and life wise. 99% of mortgage companies are there to sell you a mortgage. Find someone that is there to help you take this massive step with your well being at the forefront of their mind, not the commission from the sale. This is seriously important.  Too many people are sold on a lifestyle they have no real way of affording and will take the pre-qualification they get from a website as the gospel. Example: when i put all my financials into my broker’s calculator they told me that I pre-qualified for a loan up to $240,000. And that is true. If I didn’t eat, pay for internet, cable, cars, or any luxuries, then I could probably afford that mortgage. But the difference between most companies selling mortgages and my broker, but he ran the numbers and then sat me down across the desk from him and said “yeah you qualify for X but X will leave you broke as fuck. If I were a 21 year old making the money you are making, with no spouse or kids, I would shoot for something way under that number so you have the space you need to fix things, or buy the new car, or even start settling down and growing a family.” I took that to heart. And followed that advice to a T. And I don’t regret that for a second.

So I had the budgeting worked out, talked to the broker who set me straight on my price range, and now it was time to start shopping for my home. For the better part of 20 years I have lived in the same county in southern Maryland. It is a place I enjoy living and I had no intentions of leaving it. It’s relatively quiet where I am and full of privacy. And it’s less than an hour away from Washington, D.C. or Baltimore for any type of excitement. I almost feel bad for my real estate agent during this process though. She must have led me on 100 house tours through some of the most run down, sometimes abandoned, houses in the area. I was shooting for houses that had been foreclosed on or were close to it so I could potentially get more for my money. Also, I am a bit of DIYer and had absolutely no apprehension about buying a dump and renovating it the way I wanted it to be. I saw everything from houses with tarps draped across the smashed roof, to the houses that would gag a dung beetle. One house was clearly being inhabited by seemingly dozens of feral cats and I actually told her to stay outside and I went in with a respirator on because the ammonia smell was burning our eyes from the front porch. Ahh the good ol days of house hunting. If you are like me, you will enjoy every house you walk into. It was a learning experience for me. I saw the things that I could do, I saw the pros and cons of different styles of houses, and I truly learned what the recession of 2008 had done to people that were spread too thin on houses they had no way of affording.

It didn’t take long for me to find a house that had the list of things I wanted. It was a split foyer house on about an acre with an attached 1.5 car garage.  The downstairs was mid-reno and was just framed out but not finished whatsoever and it was basically just a blank canvas. It was listed at $220k and obviously above what I wanted to spend but the guy who owned it was about to have to foreclose due to being laid off and I saw an opportunity to possibly make a purchase for a bit less. I put an short-sale(don’t ever deal with this BS, believe me) offer in for the house at $200k and I waited. And. Waited. And. Waited. It took almost 2 months for the bank to respond to offer whatsoever and by that time the guy that owned the house had gotten back on his feet and renegotiated his mortgage with the bank. 2 months waited and not shopping around while the banks pulled the rug out from underneath me. I didn’t waiver though. I jumped right back on the horse and kept hauling ass. I put offers on 2 more houses after that one that both fell through. Mostly because I was low-balling all of these banks on foreclosed houses thinking they’d rather be rid of the house then have the debt of them on the books. Lesson here: banks will make money regardless of how much debt they have. Period. But I will save you the details on those offers as this could go on forever.

I had accounts set up on every single real estate listing site that offered alerts and I set up my areas of interest and the price range I was looking for and then one day the stars aligned and I got a notification. The house was a bank foreclosure within the neighborhood that I grew up in. In fact, it was less than a mile from where I had already lived for 15 years growing up. I had to see it as soon as possible so I called my agent and instead of waiting for her to get there I drove over to the house and convinced her to give me the combo to the realtor lock so I could run inside. My mom actually came with me to take a look. I pull into the driveway(which wrapped around the back of the house. Weird but cool.) and opened the door to see newly painted cabinets, walls, ceilings, and new flooring throughout. It wasn’t top grade stuff but it was new and in good shape. I was a 22 year old single man. Finishes didn’t matter to me haha. This house wasn’t that old, had new stuff throughout, and most importantly was listed at only $185k. It was one of, if not the cheapest houses that I had looked at. But it was also one of the most complete houses I had looked at. It is only ~1150 sq.ft. but the lot is level and clear, there was a huge shed out back, and I was only 1 person so I figured I didn’t need a ton of living space, because I didn’t even own enough furniture to fill this tiny house up.

I was sold. The moment I walked into the house I was sold. I called my realtor and literally signed an offer contract that afternoon. Once I had seen the house and the condition it was in, I knew it would go fast. The first time homebuyer market around me is huge and cheaper places don’t show up often so I had to act fast. And since I fell in love with the house I had to put my best foot forward. So not only did I put in an offer. I offered full list price. It didn’t take the bank but a few days to call my agent to tell me: “You got the house!”

That is the most amazing, scary, happy, relieving thing I had ever heard. My first place. My first mortgage. But it is mine. The feeling of pride and joy I had was impossible to measure. It is still hard to put into words how it makes you feel to own your own home. But I wouldn’t trade the process or the experiences I had learning by doing for anything. I had a blast the entire time. Even when the banks were giving me shit and wasting my time! Hope you enjoyed this story! If you have any questions be sure to comment below! Thanks for reading.