OT: The Agony of First Time Home Buying

Over the last few months, I have started to come to grips with the need to finally buy a home. This seems to be a pretty normal activity, but after post-college travails that often caused me to be transient, I have never been very comfortable with the idea of buying a home. And the expense, especially when property taxes and insurance factor in, has been intimidating, especially for someone like me that, despite working for the same company for over a decade, is terrified of looking for work.

Rising rental prices in DC drove me to start the process of taking action, but I feel woefully unprepared. I have tried for the last couple of months to determine what factors are most critical in a home. I am perhaps most flexible about the space itself. I need an office, good phone signal, and strong reliable wifi. I want a interior space for my fishing gear and storage. I prefer a great room with kitchen, dining, and living space attached, with offices and bedrooms adjoining. And, I'd prefer it to be close to turnkey, not because I want new, but because home improvement projects are horrifying to me.

Location has been much more difficult. Richmond appeals to me for some big reasons. It cuts travel to my parents home by an hour. My younger brother and only first cousin that I stay in touch with both live in the area. There are great restaurants. It is equally close to the Outer Banks and the Blue Ridge.

Most importantly, my predecessor in my job position worked remotely from Mechanicsville, so I know I will be approved to budget travel costs for business travel from Richmond.

Roanoke, Yorktown, Charlotte, Raleigh, and even a return back to Abingdon has been discussed. Susie has been great and supportive. She cares more about getting what she wants out of the property more than the location.

So, why do I start the thread? Well, I feel a bit compelled. This is a great community, and I know that there are good folks here who can share experiences and perhaps that will ease my anxiety. I have no clue where to begin. How far in advance should I start exploring financing options? What is the feedback on good and bad areas to consider in each of these areas? I have a million questions, and unlike football, fishing, and general minutia, I have a hard time even knowing what to ask, much less articulating it well.

Okay- there it is. Feel free to react and talk me down.

Thanks
French

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A huge factor in this is ease of business travel. Annually, I usually take 25-30 business trips. The factor of extra connections has weighed heavily with almost all these options (besides Charlotte and Raleigh, neither of which I am particularly warm to... I am a damned Virginian.) I know nothing about flying in and out of Roanoke and Richmond.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I fly in/out of Roanoke all the time. It's a good enough little airport and passengers typically outnumber TSA about 3:1. In 8 years I've waited in line more than 3 minutes maybe twice. I've also flown out of Richmond a few times. They've got a pretty convenient parking shuttle, which is nice (I've never parked at Roanoke, but they do have the advantage of the parking lot being *right there*). The biggest issue with both of them is that they're a little pricier than DC (add about $100 or so) and you won't find any direct flights further than Chicago. I fly to the west coast a few times a year and recently I've been at the mercy of various storms delaying/missing connections. For Roanoke, you'll be flying United, American or Delta. Richmond might have more options but I think I've only flown Delta out of there.

Yes flying out of Richmond you will inevitably connect in Atlanta, Charlotte, Philly, Chicago, etc. depending on airline.
Charlotte has a lower cost of living than Richmond (we've owned homes in both) along with direct flights to anywhere, and great amenities of a large city such as pro football, basketball, and triple A baseball, along with a thriving downtown area, packaged in a medium sized city.

flying out of roanoke and richmond isnt bad at all, i wouldnt let that decide your house, in fact i prefer those 2 to dc any day of the week

Taylor, looking desperately throws it deep..HAS A MAN OPEN DANNY COALE WITH A CATCH ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE FIVE!!!!....hes still open

Flying out of Richmond guarantees connections but it's as stress free of an airport as you'll ever find. Even during holiday season, you'll get through security in < 10 minutes, have no crowds to deal with, and due to lack of crazy crowds people working there are rather pleasant in my experiences.

Coming at this from a business traveler/points nerd perspective, but who do you typically fly with/who do you have status with? I only fly Delta, so if I were to move to the DC area, I'd want to position myself to fly out Regan more often than not. If I were flying United, I'd fly out of their hub in Dullus.

Are you considering switching loyalties if you go to a different airport? Personally, I think that Delta has the best status perks of any airline, but United redemptions are a lot cheaper than Skymiles.

Twitter me

Don't have a much experience with Roanoke or Richmond but I fly a ton for work out of a small airport (Greenville, SC) Flying out of a smaller airport really ain't that bad. Once you get past the downside of having to connect, there is a lot of upside. The biggest being you get to escape the cluster f*** of a large airport. Easier parking, shorter security lines, Shorter lines If you need to check a bag and much shorter waits for checked bags.

The 3 big airlines all let you qualify for status based on the number of segments you fly. If your company gives you some leeway on choosing your airfares, you can probably get mid to high level status on airline if you can focus most of your bookings onto one carrier. The flying experience gets a lot better with status, especially if you get high enough to start getting upgraded to first class regularly. A bigger seat + free booze can actually make the trip enjoyable.

Leg for GSP, I also fly out of there most often.

I fly in and out of Roanoke at least twice a month, and as long as you fly Delta, it's a great experience. I've already hit Platinum for the year to put the travel in perspective.

In my opinion, Atlanta is a much better hub than anything American/United has to offer. I'll regularly book with less than 45 minutes for a connection, and still have plenty of time. I have coworkers that connect through Charlotte or Philly on similar trips as me, and they usually end up delayed or driving home.

Atlanta is fantastic. I've successfully made some very short connections because of the efficiency of their little metro to the different terminals.

+1 for Atlanta airport.

Twitter me

I thought that Roanoke airport is on the verge of becoming an intl???

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

I am a Virginian turned Carolinian, and I enjoy Raleigh significantly better than Richmond and DC. The housing market is as tough as any here, but pricing is probably much better than Virginia.

RDU airport is right in between Raleigh and Durham, so you'll never be further than 25-30 minutes from there.

Make sure you find a house that has the things that are almost impossible to change like location, property size and layout, the size and number of rooms and don't sweat the finishes (countertops, floors, etc.) those can be changed. Good bones is more crucial, anything that looks like suspicious structural, electrical, or plumbing, hell even HVAC, are always big red flags for me. Outdoor projects are a whole lot easier than indoor, so be flexible there. Also too many first time home buyers get too picky about little things and will pass up something that would work really well for them and spend far too long looking. GET AN INSPECTION and be there when they do it, ask questions if you think they should look into something more than they did or don't know what they are checking.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

A good home inspector is key. Preferably, one who is independent of your real estate broker. Some brokers have people they work with and sometimes, some unscrupulous people influence the home inspector. The home inspector works for you, not the gosh darn real estate broker!

Go Hokies!

^^^^THIS^^^^. Is my number one home buying advice. Do not take your realtor's recommendation. Find your own and offer to pay more for a thorough inspection and as many followup questions you can muster in the days after the inspection.

"Don't go to, go through"

During inspection, make sure to request pictures of crawl space, roof, and attic to be able to ask for further inspection. Don't be afraid to get a structural engineer, and check for things like uneven or sloping floors. Also, get the wastewater outlet pipe checked during inspection; you don't want to find out the hard way that it's collapsing. Also, get a four bedroom if possible as it will sell quicker when it's your time to
sell. And make sure no immediate neighbors are growing bamboo. That shit's invasive as hell and you be outside every week cutting it down

I'll add one more piece of advice on the home inspector: Accompany him or her on the inspection. This way you can see for yourself what issues they find and you can ask lots of questions. For a first timer especially, this is a prime opportunity to learn something about the nuts & bolts and guts of a house as well as what kind of problems to look for and how to spot them.

“You got one guy going boom, one guy going whack, and one guy not getting in the endzone.”
― John Madden (describing VT's offense?)

I'm a home inspector and can confirm, the clients that come along with me get a lot more out of their inspection than ones that don't because questions occur on the spot that don't come to mind at the end of the appointment.

I cover everything that I can but I don't know what particular information is really important to you or your spouse.

I'm on house #3 now and I've tried to join the inspector every time (buying and selling). It's been an extremely valuable experience. However, I've noticed that every time but once, the inspector seemed a little irritated to have me tagging along. I offered to pay a little extra since my presence would undoubtedly slow down the process. They all declined the offer, but still seemed to not want me there. One inspector even told my realtor that he wouldn't allow me to tag along. (I did not hire that one.) As an inspector yourself, is this typical in your profession? Do you guys generally dislike having your clients along for the ride, or have I just found all the grumpy ones?

“You got one guy going boom, one guy going whack, and one guy not getting in the endzone.”
― John Madden (describing VT's offense?)

Some inspectors definitely need to get over themselves. There are a lot of guys that seem to think the client should fall to their knees and praise the inspector for showing up. I don't mind a client walking with me, just hang back a bit to let me do what I need to and I'm happy. You're absolutely right to not hire the guy that revised to let you follow him around YOUR future house. Screw that guy.

Agree on the home inspection. I don't know how to tell a good from a bad inspector, so get 2 if you need. I have a friend that used an acquaintance and they are pretty well screwed now with some structure challenges.

Avoid the first time home buyer program if you can. I was able to put down less but they add a mortgage insurance to it that adds an unpleasant amount of cost to your mortgage (can be waived after a few years)

A smart person told me, "don't buy the nicest house on the street, buy the worst house in the nicest neighborhood." You can always upgrade later.

Home buying is alright, but sometimes it sucks when you gotta replace a roof, plumbing, etc.

A smart person told me, "don't buy the nicest house on the street, buy the worst house in the nicest neighborhood." You can always upgrade later.

Ditto this advice.

Somewhat related, if do any major work on the house know what materials/finishes are typical in your neighborhood. Dropping in high end finishes, even if you can afford them may not yield the best ROI.

I would disagree with this advice, unless you are planning on selling your home in near future (2-3 years.) Its your living space, make as nice as you want it. A house is not an investment it is a place to live where you can build up equity.

The Myrtle Beach area. Hear me out, cheap housing and cost of living, fishing galore and direct quick connections to Charlotte where you can fly to anywhere in the world.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Indeed. I live in virginia beach and have some clients in Myrtle. I envy how little they have to spend for such a comfortable lifestyle, in a coastal area with palm trees and BBQ nonetheless.

We moved from Ohio and our costs dropped dramatically, yet people from here complain every day about how expensive it is to live here and all the people from Jersey and NY complain they don't have city services.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

I have bought homes in Texas, New York and Virginia. My advice, for what's its worth:
1. Pay for a home inspection. It is worth every penny. It will either expose major problems, or at least show you some defecencies in the property.
2. Location. As the old adage goes, when possible, buy the smallest house on the street. Not only will it help the perception of your home, but will generally drive its value up.
3. School districts may not matter to you, but will matter to whomever buys your home from you later. I have a friend in NY that pays $40K annually in property taxes just to be in a particular school district.
4. Older homes have character, but usually need more work. Are you handy? Do you have the time to tackle odd jobs as they reveal themselves? Plumbing, electrical, wood work, none of this is super complicated, but can be very time consuming. I spent 4 straight nights skim-coating the walls of my NY home (kitchen) because of old, terrible wall paper. Older homes will need updating. Time = money.
5. Newer homes are generally more efficient and have more open living spaces, but have a higher demand and have a bigger sticker price.
6. When looking at the price, focus on price per square foot. No matter where you buy, comparable homes in the market can give you leverage in negotiations if a particular property is priced out of whack.
7. Bigger lots are less common in new homes, more common in older. If you have time to mow, landscape and tend to the great outdoors, more power to you. Otherwise you'll have to hire a gardener, or opt for less acreage. How do you want to spend your Saturdays? Mowing, or watching football?
8. Make sure the home isn't in a flood zone. You'll need additional hazard insurance if so. I've walked away from two homes, both on a river, due to flood plains.
9. Negotiate. Everyone has flexibility. Sale price, closing costs, that nice pool table or laundry set, use your angles to get the best deal.
10. Be wary of homes that have been rentals. Even though the owner may have done their best to maintain the property, truth be told, renters can destroy a place pretty quickly. I have had my best luck in buying homes from the homeowners themselves.

There is so much more to consider, but these are my most immediate suggestions.

If it ain't orange, it better be maroon...and if it ain't maroon, it better be soon!

Well said, I bought my second and current house at the age of 30 and I agree with everything you said. I am not sure where everyone lives, but right now is a seller's market here. The low interest rates have everyone trying to get into a house on the cheap and the sellers have raised prices and are much more stubborn in the negotiating process because almost every decent place has multiple offers. The price/sq ft is a great tip for pricing.
In addition to your point about school zones, if your are not planning on staying 10+ years, buying a house that will be easier to sell can be better than buying one that fits current needs. So a 3 bd, 2 ba that works for the family of 4 is easier than moving a 2 bd, 1.5 ba starter home.

I ended up in an old house (turning 96 this year) mostly as a result of location and have been working like a dog the whole first year. It didn't help that I have had to make up ground since the last homeowner let the place go since his divorce in 2013/2014. I consider myself handy, but it does become a grind. I try to knock out bigger steps on the weekend and leave smaller steps for the weekdays so as to not kill the whole weekend working.

I doubt the materials in newer homes. The finishes look nice, but everything is contractor bulk and intended to keep the builder's profit margin high, the homeowner will be replacing every 10 years unless they pony up for the better materials. This extends to lumber and other materials. The manufacturing has improved to the point where the materials can be made to consistently meet the minimum code in order to keep cost down, very little room for wear and tear or other issues. Anymore the labor of the job is higher than materials, so buying and installing the better material should be more prevalent than it is.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

I have been through several homes, and agree with your agreement, and the rest as well, but I would put a qualifier on the newer homes. Check the builder. If it is a large scale building corporation, like Centex, the quality control is spotty. They can build and sell a neighborhood and be gone before issues arise. There are still local builders, who live in the community and build 5-10 houses a year, who have earned a good reputation. Newer is not always bad, but don't assume it's better without asking who built it.

Sometimes we live no particular way but our own

Good point in the flood insurance. That can be several thousand per year. I'd also recommend getting title insurance (a few hundred at closing) and a survey (also a few hundred, depending on lot size)

^^^^ This 1000 times! I have had an unfortunate situation where I have had to work with my title attorney regarding an old lien that was "removed" prior to closing - just to magically show up again 1.5 years later. A good realtor should strongly advise title insurance, but it is worth noting just in case.

Most banks will require the title search and current survey in order to make a loan. I used to survey, and we ran into several problems that stemmed from folks doing things based on word of mouth, anecdotal, or just plain wrong assumptions about where the property lines actually are. Problems can be as simple as moving a swing set or some plantings, or as serious as having your well not on your property, having to move or remove garages or other outbuildings, or even re-doing an expensive fencing project. Inches matter, and people take their property lines very seriously. While surveys in long established neighborhoods tend to be fairly easily done, and surveys can be expensive in any area, you'll not be wasting your money to be certain what's yours and what's not. Rural properties can be complicated and surveys more expensive, but it doesn't sound like that's your style. My last home was built in 1866, and all that that implies. 15 acres is tough to keep from going back to the Indians, also. If you don't want to always be behind in maintenance and upkeep, avoid like the plague.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

Check out the northern suburbs of Charlotte, NC on Lake Norman. My brother moved there from Arlington about 4 years ago and has never looked back. There are a wide variety of communities and price points available. Everything from a cozy college town called Davidson (on the east side of the lake) to the less developed but up and coming Denver (on the west side of the lake). CLT is a decent sized airport so travel should not a be a problem. The Charlotte chapter of the alumni association seems pretty active as well.

Things to pay attention to in any buy:

  • Home Age. This matters mostly because of electrical, hvac, plumbing and insulation.
  • Lot details. Who is around you. How is it zoned. You'd really hate your great wooded view to become a view of condo parking lot. Where does water flow around your property. If water sources are not nearby how high is the water table. If the water table is high how well prepared is the property to deal with water. Does it have appropriate subterranean drainage and a sump pump?
  • School zoning. In my country in MD people pay almost a $200K premium depending on which schools the homes are zoned into. That $200K premium goes up in smoke on a rezone. That hurts.
  • Water and sewer. I prefer city but there are many who swear by wells and septic systems. If you do go with well and septic there are more considerations to make including water softening and filtration.
  • Mortgage types, rates and ownership. I learned a lot about the mortgage market after the sub prime crisis. Make sure you are aware of who services the mortgage and who owns the mortgage. A lot of times they are not the same company and that really matters in hard times. Some services would just as soon foreclose on you and let the owner lose the money than offer any assistance.
  • FHA loans. Depending on your purchase price you may qualify for a FHA loan which has many advantages for first time home buyers.

Was that too much or not useful?

I stay in Charlotte...they are really building up the northside now..

Cannot stress the water table questions enough. A couple friends bought a house in Richmond and almost immediately noticed a bunch of flooding. Ran into their realtor when we were out on the town a few months later, and my friend is going on about how great the guy is. Guy proceeds to tell them their house is flooding because of how high the water table is and they'll need to buy several pumps, but it probably won't ever fully fix the problem. Please note this is months *after* they've bought the house. My fiance and I couldn't believe they weren't royally pissed at the guy, because that's something I'd like to know about well before I buy a house, but they just kept going on about how much they loved him.

TL;DR: Ask about the damn water table

So many good comments on this thread, when it comes to what to watch for with first time home buying, that I won't chime in there (as to not repeat many points) except yes to an independent home inspector (we didn't, ugh) yes to importance of school zones for resale or kiddos, definitely pre-approve sooner than later, as houses go very fast, and definitely try and negotiate for things other than price. On our counter offer to their counter, we asked for everything from their riding mower to furniture, to art still hanging on the walls... which I think caught them off guard with being able to value it, and helped us negotiate price lower, ultimately. Didn't get the mower, though.

French, I think we all know the obvious answer, if you are looking for the greatest place on earth to live. Blacksburg. But as that doesn't seem to be making your top list, thought I could add some insight on the northern suburbs of Charlotte, as a recent transplant/first time homebuyer myself. Richmond sounds like a great fit for your needs, but hey, we'd love to have y'all here.

My wife, young son, and I recently moved to the Lake Norman area after 10 years in Los Angeles, and we love it. I was born and raised in southern VA (went to the same high school that the Edmunds bros attended), so I totally understand the desire to stay in the Commonwealth... After doing a ton of research leading up to our cross country move-- looking at Atlanta, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Richmond, DC, Charleston for a couple of years... here are a few reasons we landed on Charlotte (specifically the Lake Norman area).

Growth and Opportunity. This is happening in many of the cities above, but Charlotte is absolutely booming right now, and it seems to still be in the early stages. From an entertainment/food perspective, it may not be the LA metro area, but there are lots of things going on for all ages, etc. As mentioned, Charlotte Alumni chapter is pretty active, and there are a ton of us Hokie fans down here. And barring other unforeseen events, ACC title game in our backyard every year. There are also some amazing pie holes here, including Pike's and the Charlotte Pie Authority.
Pace of life. Busy nightlife, bars, shows, events, etc.? no problem. I can get to Uptown Charlotte in 20-30 min, depending on traffic. But day to day living, I prefer a quieter and slower pace, and there is plenty of that around Lake Norman. I can't speak on the fishing here, and you seem to gravitate to the ocean for that, but plenty of fresh water options in the area, including the lakes.
Location, location, location. 2 1/2 hrs from my doorstep to Lane Stadium. That's all that should matter and should have been my only point. I can also be in the mountains in a couple of hours or on the beach in a little over 3 hours. I can also get to the airport in about 20-25 min and they have direct flights to LA, so it makes a lot of sense for me. If you are needing to drive to DC on a regular basis, then that's definitely a deal breaker, as it's well over 6 hours. Also, not sure where your family lives, but that may be a deal breaker as well. My wife's family is in Johnson City (3 hrs) and my family is in Danville (2+ hrs) so it worked perfectly for us. The weather here is also pretty mild and enjoyable for 9-10 months out of the year.
The people. There are great people everywhere... And maybe we've just had good luck, but we've found a strong culture here of down-to-earth people who take pride in, and celebrate all the amenities of a big city. Most people here seem very positive and optimistic about the area, and have a genuine love for the Charlotte area, and I've never lived in a bigger city where that is the norm. There is a good amount of diversity and culture as well as sports fans here, which always keep conversations fresh.
Lake Norman. We chose this area specifically in Charlotte because housing prices were a bit cheaper (but rising year after year) and everything is growing outwards. So, from an investment standpoint, I feel very confident in the amount of house/land you can buy vs. it's percentage growth in 10-15 years. Where as, some of the more popular spots in Charlotte proper, I think have already gotten ahead of that curve. A couple of notes, if you guys decide to put this area on your list... I personally wouldn't look any further north than Davidson. I loved the idea of living in Mooresville, (and is home to Carolina Pie Company) but 77S is a nightmare going by the lake into Charlotte during many hours of the day. My take on the lake towns... Davidson=old money, quaint awesome town, Cornelius = new money, thriving and a bit more upscale, Denver = super country/rural with lots of early growth happening, and Huntersville = a good blend of all the above. Ultimately, commuting into Uptown everyday, I wanted to be on the most southern part of the lake, so we chose Huntersville. Great schools and proximity to 77S, 485 beltway. Living on the lake was a bit out of our price range, but that's the hope in a few years. Until then, we are 5 minutes from a public lake access point and can rent a boat whenever we want.

Good luck in the decision. I'd suggest taking a weekend trip to each of your top 3 places, and look through the lens of living there, to help weigh out the pros and cons. Charlotte wasn't our initial first choice, but after visiting our top places, it became obvious for us.

Lastly, the house two doors down from us just went on the market, so if you're interested in Hokie football BBQs this fall in Huntersville, jump on it.

Great write up!

Thanks for the information! I will be moving to Charlotte when I return from Japan in October so all the information helps. I've lived in Richmond, Blacksburg, and Roanoke just about all my life so I'm looking forward to being apart of a bigger city. So much to do there and now I just need to find a house. Definitely saving this thread for the future!

Awesome timing! Right in the middle of football season, after we have taken down Clemson at Lane. Here is a link to the Charlotte Alumni chapter: https://charlottehokies.com/

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions about areas, housing, bbq spots etc. I had a couple of fellow Hokies already living here help me navigate it as my family made the move, and it definitely made the transition much smoother. Good luck!

Thats right, I'll be watching as much football as I can while I'm here and try and go to a game before the season ends. Ultimate goal is to go to the ACCCG when we make it again next year. Probably the biggest reason I'm looking forward to being in Charlotte. I'll let you know if I have any questions as it gets closer. Thanks in advance for the help!

This is a great writeup!! When people ask me how do I like living in Charlotte, I tell them, "I love Charlotte, but I don't like NC." Charlotte is a great city and belongs in VA(without the taxes) of Course..agreed that North Charlotte is prob the best place to go..Even Concord or Harrisburg. Harrisburg gives you a nice "small town feel" while still being relatively close to Uptown Charlotte. I would compare Harrisburg to the size of Radford or Chatham. It's growing very quickly though. Didn't know so many "Southside Virginians" lived in Charlotte, while I have noticed an increase in VT paraphernalia down here. Kyle Bailey is now on WFNZ from 10-2 as well..so there may be something to this VT2NC thing...or "VT2CLT"..

Agree with this. I live in north Charlotte (halfway between Northlake Mall and UNC Charlotte) and think Charlotte is a great city. Huntersville and Harrisburg are nice too. I decided to move from northern VA to NC in 2005 and I'm glad I picked Charlotte.

I'm in that area as well..Where do Charlotte hokies watch games on Saturdays? I know the VT Alumni association (I'm a Radford alum) usually has things at Blackfinn but is there anywhere else? Thanks!

  • Here in Maryland, homes of a certain age run the risk of lead paint and asbestos, so I would tend to stay away from older homes built before the 1980s. At least that is the rule of thumb here in Maryland, the dates may be different in Virginia
  • About finances, I would highly recommend that you eliminate all credit card debt and car loans at least a year before you are ready to buy a home. Also, get pre-approved by your bank or credit union when shopping for a home. The buyer will know you are serious about buying a property with that pre-approval in hand.
  • When estimating how much of a monthly mortgage payment you and your wife can afford, shoot for about 30% of your combined pre-tax monthly income. This will allow you and your wife to actually enjoy life as opposed to feeling like almost all your money is going to the mortgage. I've heard some more aggressive people say 35%, and this is what my wife and I did back in 2011. The first two years were very hard on our budget.
  • To help you pay off your future home as soon as possible, always budget for an extra monthly home payment throughout the year. This should knock off about seven years of the life of a 30 year loan assuming you start the extra payment at the start of the loan.
  • Sounds kinda obvious, but once you buy a home, fumigate it and then have the house cleaned. Also, check to see if the house is built near any ant colonies within 30 feet of the house. Every year, after heavy rains, we find ants inside the house and if they get inside the walls, they will eat any wet wooded structures, like studs. Joy.

Go Hokies!

Even 30% was to high for me. My Mortgage on a 170k home is 1/12th my income. I like leeway.

It is a natural gift I posess to create friction in sensitive situations.

Great financial advice here. Even better if you can pull of the 15 year loan while keeping the payment at or below the 30% pre-tax monthly income line. There are online mortgage calculators that let you play with interest rates and loan lengths and the difference in interest payments are staggering.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

Quick note on that second to last point: make darn sure when you make that extra payment that you're paying it towards the principal, not just an additional payment (which by default whoever is taking your payment will try to just make it an interest payment). Might be a pain but it's well worth the trouble to get ahead on the principal.

Also designate extra into escrow each month. Insurance and taxes always go up and all of a sudden the mortgage company will tell you theres been a shortfall the last 6 months and now you have to increase payments to not only cover the higher rates but the shortfall as well. Throwing a couple hundred extra a year in there helps to avoid this.

My wife takes the kids and leaves the house while I watch my Hokie games.........nuff said

speaking of home owning, now that I am back in one, are your Hokie color asiatic lilies going to be ready for a split soon?

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

So.....i have some bad news about that......i had a major die back happen to my bunch this spring when they came up....went from a couple dozen good plants down to 5. I think the older ones just hit the end of their life cycle. Will let u know if they rebound next year.

My wife takes the kids and leaves the house while I watch my Hokie games.........nuff said

Dang, I have a great prominent spot for some asiatic lilies. I will just plop some annuals in its spot next year and hold out hope for a bumper crop.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

I'd actually caution that the strategy of putting extra cash toward your mortgage (even toward the principal, which of course is the only way to do that) isn't necessarily the best way to go currently. With interest rates as low as they are, sinking cash into your house, where it's pretty difficult to get to, might not be worth it when you can potentially make more money by investing it.

For example, if your rate is 4% (ours is less than 3.5%, and while we have good credit we're not exactly Rockefellers here, so those rates are definitely possible), you essentially "earn" 4% on your cash when you "invest" it in paying off your mortgage early. If you instead take that same money and invest it in your preferred method, what will you make there? 7%? More? That extra 3+% is real money that you've made, especially over the long-term. I think this holds especially true now that we're looking at rates going up consistently for the first time in a long time. You'll theoretically be able to earn better interest in low-risk investments, even as your mortgage stays locked in at a nice low rate. And on top of that, your investments are likely to be at least a little more liquid than your home equity.

This is all speaking from a strictly financial perspective, of course. The subjective part is also important... what makes you feel good about what you're doing with your money? How disciplined are you with it? That stuff matters too, sometimes more than the objective part.

Anyway, we're getting more into investment talk with this rather than first-time home buying, so I'll let it go. My advice on the home search is to take your time, figure out what couple of things are really important to you guys, and then pursue those things. You're going to have to sacrifice on something along the way, just make sure it's not one of your top 3 or whatever. Enjoy the search, too! It's terrifying, but also a lot of fun to work through.

I am with you on the low mortgage versus investment. But there is also something in having the debt paid off...

When in doubt do both, pay off a little ahead, and invest some.

Definitely! There's no wrong answer here... both options are exponentially better than spending it on hookers and blow. Long-term anyway.

"That move was slicker than a peeled onion in a bowl of snot." -Mike Burnop

Agreed also the tax savings of the mortgage interest deduction

I have a really good expert Real estate agent but in the DC metro Area

Hokies, Local Soccer, AFC Ajax, Ravens

I am currently looking to buy a home in Raleigh (moving back home I grew up in Durham). Raleigh and Durham are amazing, you get most of the entertainment of the DC area for a lot less money. The homes are still very affordable, 2.5 hours from Tech, 4 hours from DC, 2-4 hours from the beach, 3-4 hours from the mountains. I highly recomend the area if you are thinking of it.

I second this. I just bought a house in Raleigh less than 10 minutes from the airport (I was actually at the Notre Dame game when I heard my offer was accepted). The airport's surrounding area is very nice, unlike many other cities. Raleigh is a great city with a lot to do and it very centrally located, as mentioned above.

I'm a Virginian turned Tennesseeian.... No state income tax.. Property and houses are way cheaper in these rural areas. Signed for my house 2 weeks ago. It was a pain in the ass. I live right next to I-81 near Bristol. If Tennessee was to adopt a state income tax... I would move back to Vegas.

It is a natural gift I posess to create friction in sensitive situations.

I'm on my third purchased home home in Charlotte now and I love it. The reason I'm on my third home is because of the appreciation of property values here. I haven't really wanted to move, but 2-3 years in, the value of the home has been too good not to cash in on.

CLT is growing like crazy and has something for everyone. We're surrounded by water, mountains, and great outdoor space (everyone always comments about how beautiful all of the trees in Charlotte are). My favorite parts of living here: major airport, close proximity to Bburg, close proximity to other ACC schools (in the ~9 years I've been here, I've been to 4-5 games a year, at least), great restaurants and things to do, and it's generally just a nice place to live.

Good luck!

Charlotte is surrounded by water???

You will see this game, this upset and this sign next on ESPN Sportscenter. Virginia Tech 31 Miami 7

I am pretty sure you can travel in any direction and *eventually* get to water.

I don't have a lot of advice but I have a cautionary tale.

Last year I left a job in Blacksburg for one in Lynchburg. My wife was pregnant with our third child and our oldest was about to start kindergarten. So we were looking for move-in ready in a decent school district. We are both handy, but every place we looked at required significant work and with a new kid coming we didn't see that happening. The wife also didn't want to move someplace temporarily so we could do a more thorough job of house hunting so we made a list of four or five places to look at based on zillow views and then found a realtor based on my recruiter's recommendation.

Of the places we looked at, only one was move on ready. It had been a foreclosure that was vacant for 9 years, but the guy who had bought it had poured $60K into updating it. New 30 year roof, new laminate floors, new plumbing, new furnace, new water heater (after our inspector noticed it was old and leaky), new kitchen appliances (less fridge). And it was fairly convenient to 460 so I'd have a ten minute commute without traffic. Throw in a great deck on the back of the house, a large attached two car garage, and an old horse stable as an outbuilding and we were sold.

The kicker was that it was $125/sq ft and significantly more than other larger options even in the same school district. The realtor assures us that that happens when a house is so completely renovated.

So we bought it (woohoo first time home owners!!). Our realtor was pretty passive through the whole experience and, aside from commenting on the home inspection report, basically made us feel like we were getting a deal.

Less than a month in, I'd had to redo the plumbing in all the sinks because it was just thrown together and half the connections were shite. We now have water damage in both bathroom vanities. Then the laminate floors started to buckle in the hallway because the jackasses who installed them didn't allow clearance and jammed them against the wall. In other places, they nailed down pieces because they wanted to use sections that had already had the lip cut off. There was buckling around this as well. I ended up pulling up the whole hallway and replacing it one weekend while my 8 months pregnant wife drove the kids around town trying to keep them occupied.
Oh and that barn? Termite ridden with a roof that leaks like a sieve. It's gonna cost a couple thousand (that I don't have) just to replace the roof.

Also, it turns out the convenient road we live on is also a convenient access to 460 for everyone and their mothers. Constant traffic and the occasional drag race in front of our house.

The worst part is the house is too small for us now that the baby has come along. We really need another bedroom and there is zero space for an addition due to the layout. We found a different realtor and he's been great. He came and looked at our house and pointed out things we could improve to try to sell it, but basically said we overpaid by about $15K and even though our value has shot up, we'd still lose some money on the sale unless we lucked into another sucker (like us). So he's told us our best bet is to sit tight and build equity, make repairs/improvements, and let the value rise some more. Even so, he's still been willing to take us to see houses so he can build a profile of what we like/need so he can keep an eye out for something suitable. Btw, if you are interested in the Lynchburg area, use Josh Redmond as a realtor. The guy is really good about keeping an eye on the market and knows of a lot of places that aren't on the market yet, so you can get in early. He's also had to renovate a lot of his rental properties so he has a good idea of what little things could be big things.

TL;DR - the rose colored glasses are real. Find a realtor that will smack some sense into you rather than one that will just enable a bad choice, take her commission, and move on.

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I'll be looking for something in the Lynchburg area very soon. Thanks for sharing.

"How the ass pocket will be used, I do not know. Alls I know is, the ass pocket will be used."
- The BoD

Yep, Josh is a good guy. We have a few friends who recommended him to us and he has a reputation for trying to treat both sides fairly. One friend mentioned that they might want to sell in the near future and soon after he had a client looking for exactly what they would be offering. He approached my friend and said "if you want to sell, I have a buyer lined up and as far as I can tell, he'll love your house." That's how I want to sell our house, when the time comes: no stress.

btw, the whole "only a sucker would buy your house for what you want to sell for right now" were my words, not his.

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I wouldn't care if they were his words. I appreciate no BS honesty. I will definitely look him up when the time comes.

"How the ass pocket will be used, I do not know. Alls I know is, the ass pocket will be used."
- The BoD

For those of you in the NRV, Jeremy Hart did the same for me recently, as he knew I might be looking to list soon. Fiance decided to pursue a PhD at VT though, so I'm not leaving yet. Nice to know he's got my house in mind though when people come looking for a nice property in Shawsville.

VT Class of '12 (MSE), MVBone, Go Hokies!

That sounds EXTREMELY familiar to the street I just sold my house on in the Lynchburg area.........

well at least I know I didn't buy from you, since we didn't meet til that hillcats game a while back.

Out of curiosity, which street?

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

Bumgarner, and I'm about 99% sure your house is 2 houses up from the one I just sold...

dammit archon. Are you telling me I was watching away games by all of last season and a fellow TKPer was two houses down?

Glad you were able to sell. Did you get your asking price?

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

It's too small of a world! You're welcome to come check out the new place in Amherst if you want (if we ever close, which is a LONG story...I can tell you which Title/Settlement company NOT to use).

I didn't get asking, but I did get more than I paid for the place, so, overall I'm happy (I'm actually sad to be leaving that house though, shenanigans in the neighborhood aside, I really did like it there).

You should have taken the flag from me and put it up like the bat signal.

I would like to make a comment in regards to the realtor suggestions for sale prices. My last realtor (the top seller in the city) told me to list our house below our original purchase price because he thought we had overpaid for our house as well. We did not pour a ton of money into it besides a really nice fridge, taking out a wall, and a couple of small cosmetic things. I went against his wishes because I thought he was crazy and listed it over $10k more than what we paid 2 years before. Turned out I was right, and I we sold the house in 2 weeks after the first offer fell through and the second offer came in at sale price. Moral of the story (and this doesn't apply to your realtor specifically) sometimes the best listed realtors are just realtors that talk their sellers down in order to get their commissions quicker and move on to the next one. That's what I am convinced our realtor was doing.

Sheesh what a dick move.

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

Short and sweet... Roanoke is cheap! The airport is regional, but has decent connections. The secret to traveling is a short (1.5 hour) drive to Greensboro for flights! Traffic isn't bad (except for stoplights on 419).

Deschutes Brewery and Ballast Point are(or will be) icing on the cake. Fishing at SML... and the coast isn't too bad of a drive.

Does pizza count as pie?!

If you are looking to avoid home improvement projects, you may want to find a new construction home. You can pick the color floors, cabinets, etc. Get in early, the price will rise on homes in new neighborhoods after the first phases are done, going up every six months to a year.
Yes have a home inspection done even if brand new, generally the builder has a 1 year bumper to bumper warranty on everything but you need a home inspection near the end of the first year to find the things that are unnoticeable to the untrained eye. If an existing home have the inspection done prior to closing and can have any problems fixed as part of the sale. An appraisal and a termite inspection are required by lenders but not a general home inspection which is more thorough and will find problems with the home that would otherwise be missed.
The more brick on the home, the less maintenance. Same for vinyl. Fiber cement/hardyplank will require future painting every 15 years.

Most above are giving advice based on location, but I'll give you a few that helped me get my first home (even though we weren't the highest offer).

- Get pre-approved well in advance, not after you find a house you want to put an offer on. It will help. Also, don't let the amount you are pre-approved for factor in on what your budget is. Because those banks are fucking crazy.

- First time home-buyers have a huge advantage that they don't need to sell their home first. Allows you to be flexible with closing time. When asked when you want to close, say whenever the seller wants to. This single-handedly (along with a nice letter from my Realtor, had the seller turn away an additional 12k just to take our offer).

Sounds like you want to be in the near Richmond area from the post. Williamsburg has some of the best schools in the state if that is important to you. New Kent and Charles City are dirt cheap compared to the surrounding areas. Eastern Henrico is cheaper than Western Henrico if schools aren't as important, but you have to more carefully pick your area (crime) in Eastern Henrico. Zions Crossroads is another option if you want to get into an area where home values are bound to increase.

If you are considering moving to a place where you haven't lived before and aren't that familiar with, you might consider renting for a year in the area to really figure out where the best locations are and things to be aware of.

ummmmm, we all know where you should live ...

Without reading everyone else's comments, here's my two cents.

I love Richmond. I lived in Abingdon for 2 years after graduating from Tech, and I really like what Richmond has to offer. Enough "big city" events without the traffic. Plus good access to DC, the mountains and the beach.

I just got married and my wife and I are closing on a house tomorrow in the Oregon Hill neighborhood near the river. If you get farther outside the city (I prefer West End or Midlothian to Mechanicsville, although they are both farther from the airport. And probably avoid Short Pump) your money goes a lot farther than anywhere in NOVA.

As for buying a home, I am happy to connect you to a realtor down here. She can learn your criteria and put you on an email list to get notified when a match becomes available before it is shown on Zillow or Realtor.com. We had no idea what we were doing and she helped us through the process. I would advise to talk to a lender before starting to look. Cap Center has been ours and its worked out great so far. But again, we don't close until tomorrow.

I have flown out of Richmond a dozen or so times and never waited more than 10 minutes for security. Flew out last Friday and made it from the economy parking lot and through security in under 30 minutes. That may be a little faster than average, but its rarely much worse.

The food and the beer and the culture are all great in RVA. Our list of places we want to eat at never seems to get shorter. If you like craft beer, I don't think any city is making better beers right now. And there is always a festival, farmer's market, or outdoor activities on the James to keep you busy.

Hope that helps. Best of luck!

I used to live at 417 South Pine in Oregon Hill. That is quite the interesting neighborhood.

You will see this game, this upset and this sign next on ESPN Sportscenter. Virginia Tech 31 Miami 7

We're down on the southern tip, but we walk the streets a lot. Interesting is the right word.

make a list of what you want, weight those wants ... then compare how each spot fits those needs. both of you do it. think about, discuss, talk out differences, reassess.

i'll say this charlotte would be high on my list of seriously considering if i were looking to move. standard of living, great schools, nice weather, not too big, not too small, convenient to other places, cities, vacation spots, friends, family, etc.

My wife and I moved to Richmond from Arlington due to the affordability of housing and a couple of other big factors. We plan on buying in West Henrico county within the next 9 months. General advice about buying and living in the Richmond area or suggestions on where else in the area we should buy would be appreciated, otherwise:

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

The wife and I live across broad from Mission BBQ. It's an older neighborhood but we love it. We are 10 minutes away from Short Pump and downtown. Like I told French, I can certainly get you in touch with a real estate agent who knows the Richmond market and has been working in it for many years.

That would be fantastic actually. We're planning on getting started in a couple of months since we can't break our lease until October, but we wanted to find a realtor before then. You can get a hold of me at jgbaker100 {at} gmail.com.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

West Henrico has the best/most affluent schools. I personally would avoid being too close to Short Pump unless you have good interstate access. But that is coming from someone who loves living in the city. Houses tend to get nicer (and pricier) the closer you get to UR.

I would also say that there is not much inventory in Richmond lately, so be prepared to move quickly when you find something you like. Two houses on our street sold in under two weeks recently. You can move a little slower outside the city limits though.

West Henrico has the best/most affluent schools.

Ding ding ding. Schools in Richmond are an obvious non-starter and we don't want to fork out for private. We're trying to stay south of 64 and away from Short Pump since we're both heavily in favor of older construction. Would like to be closer to Tuckahoe but it'll be slim pickings. We do have a good down payment, so that'll help a little.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Chesterfield County has many very good schools as well if you are looking to be south of the river.

"Facyson is a baller."
-CFB

To second hokiebuzz, I lived in Chesterfield County from 3rd to 12th grade. The schools can be just as good down there. I know on Zillow, my high school, Monacan, is rated a 5/10, but it was a good, safe school IMO and got me where I needed to be while still being diverse. And there is some older construction (older being 60's and 70's) down there if you look hard enough.

We live in Short Pump, less than 1 mile from the mall. But our neighborhood is quiet, has mature trees, and very little through traffic. Yes, the traffic on a 2 mile stretch of Broad Street can get a little hectic from time to time, but we really spend very little of our time in it. We have 13 grocery stores within 5 minutes, every restaurant or shopping convenience you could want, and schools that have consistently been tops in the state for 20 years.

If you are looking for older neighborhoods with character, the Tuckahoe area is definitely the right choice. But the good neighborhoods are highly sought after and move fast. Best of luck and let me know if there is any West End/Short Pump insight I can provide!

My wife and I are currently selling our house up in NOVA and looking to relocate in the SML area. We are at the other end of the job spectrum than you are meaning I am retired and my wife will be retiring next year, so we have been down this road a few times. The advice you are getting on this blog is all outstanding. Here is a little tool I use to try to take some of the emotions out of the process. Create a spreadsheet with all the factors that you and your wife feel you need in your house. Then rate each of those factors separately and see where you and your wife are at with each house. It will be plain as day where each of your priorities lie. A few obvious factors are, price, location square, footage, future expansion, commutes, school district. Good luck.

French,

My wife and I just bought our first home in Richmond last October. I had all the same questions and concerns as you. My advice is simple, figure out where you want to be and hire a real estate agent familiar with that area as soon as possible. Your agent will recommend a financing company that can walk you through everything on that side. What's nice is that when you buy a house, you're not really paying your agent for their services, they're getting a commission so there's no reason not to get someone who knows the market.

My only other advice is that you shouldn't start actively going to houses to look at them until you are ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. The market, at least in Richmond, is very competitive and good houses go within a weekend.

If Richmond is where you ultimately decide to end up, I would be happy to get you in touch with our agent. She is a family friend and has been selling homes in Richmond for decades.

Best of luck! I know it's intimidating but there are plenty of people to help get you through it.

First of all, wherever you end up, good luck in your search!

I can speak about Roanoke and Charlotte. We lived in Roanoke for 12 years, then moved to Mooresville (northernmost suburb, on Lake Norman) 2.5 years ago.

Roanoke pros: Mountains, 45 min from VT, milder summer weather, small-city vibe, reasonable real estate prices, good schools in the county (not city), Blue Ridge Parkway/Hiking/etc

Roanoke cons: not much new home construction for homes under $400K, which can inflate pricing depending on the range you're looking for, smaller city so there aren't as many conveniences/retail options, regional airport (unless you're going to DC, ATL or NYC you will have to connect)

Charlotte pros: major airport (nonstop nearly anywhere on American Air), affordable real estate in the burbs, especially northern burbs, good schools in the suburbs, big-city conveniences, Lake Norman or Lake Wylie recreation, easy drive to NC/SC beaches, very good food/beer scene, mild winters

Charlotte cons: TRAFFIC, overall congestion (the metro area is growing faster than the infrastructure can evolve), limited mass transit options for such a large city, hotter summers, no mountains

feel free to reach out @VTMikeO on twitter if you need specific stuff. I know realtors in both markets that I trust.

Just bought my first house in Abingdon! I am beyond glad to be done with the house search.

A friend of mine pointed out something to me while the wife and I were looking that turned out to be pretty true. "There's price, location, and the house itself. Pick two."

Tooks us 6 months to find something. We bought a bit of a neglected fixer-upper to afford the neighborhood and location. I'm pretty handy so hopefully, in the end, it'll be worth it but it's a lot of work in the meantime.

The one thing I'll suggest - don't max your budget if you don't have to. Find a house that meets your needs, but allows a little room to grow into. Just because you can afford a 3k sq foot house doesn't mean you reasonably need or want that kind of house.

My wife and I found something that fits our needs. We can handle our mortgage comfortably each month while pouring money into retirement and savings as well as being able to travel pretty much whenever we want. I have too many friends who are house poor, that live month to month because they went for a house they were qualified for, but couldn't afford. Don't be those people.

But the most important thing I would recommend from the buying phase is to make sure you fully trust your inspector. Not that I at all regret my purchase, but there have been more than a couple things that have popped up over the last couple years that should have been caught during inspection but wasn't, and as a first time homebuyer, we didn't know what we were doing enough to realize it.

Oh, and if you see a popcorn ceiling and you want that removed, do it before you move in. Thank me later.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

But the most important thing I would recommend from the buying phase is to make sure you fully trust your inspector. Not that I at all regret my purchase, but there have been more than a couple things that have popped up over the last couple years that should have been caught during inspection but wasn't, and as a first time homebuyer, we didn't know what we were doing enough to realize it.

Yep. My house is circa 1901, so I don't know how much I really expected to slip through the cracks, but I do wish I had maybe even hired a second inspector just for good measure.

VT Class of '12 (MSE), MVBone, Go Hokies!

I find that inspectors catch the obvious stuff, but nothing substitutes for your own careful inspection.

Inspectors generally get recommended (and hired) for NOT stopping housing sales, but they are trained and licensed.

What you're most interested in are "show stoppers" that indicate that you shouldn't buy the house.

This is true. My inspector here missed the dysfunctional washing machine, the bearing going bad on the water pump, and a few other small, but semi-important things. He was licensed and is popular locally, just didn't do all the things I thought he should have. To his credit, though, when I wrote and followed up with a phone call listing the things he missed, he didn't apologize, and explained why he thought those things escaped his attention, but in the end, he did the right thing and refunded our inspection cost. That made him ok with me, but wary if I ever have to do that again. Like Vtkey said, you should do your own careful inspection as well.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

"Trained" is a generous term with some I have seen, maybe board game trained.

Home inspectors and boat inspectors have got to be the easiest jobs ever to get credentials and make a lot of money.

Most definitely pick one you trust. Looking back on my inspector and the report he gave me, that guy did pointed out absolutely nothing that I didn't notice myself and he missed many more things. He came recommended as well.

You will see this game, this upset and this sign next on ESPN Sportscenter. Virginia Tech 31 Miami 7

Most inspectors are recommended by realtors, and realtors tend to recommend inspectors who don't screw up their sales.

Go figure.

Whatever you do check out Cap Center for your mortgage. We refinanced a few years ago and they made is so easy with a wonderful rate. Top shelf service.

Where is Lawson?!

Hi French! I think the posts above have provided some great advice. Most of my thoughts below are redundant, but think are worth reiterating. My husband and I just bought our first home this past October, so here is my two cents...

1. Get a home inspection! It will let you know about any major issues with the house. Even if the inspector finds no major issues it will give you an idea of any items in the home you may need to monitor or plan to have updated/replaced in the first few years.

2. Try not to stress about the cosmetic features of the house (i.e. paint, wallpaper, counter tops, etc.). Those can all be replaced or changed if they don't suit your personal style. Focus on making sure the big ticket items such as the roof, windows, HVAC, plumbing, and foundation are in good condition. These are the areas that are the most expensive to fix or update.

3. Get pre-approved for a loan as early as possible and shop around to ensure you're getting the best interest rate. Not sure where you will end up buying at, but if it's in a market that is in high demand then homes will go to contract pretty quickly. Most the homes my husband and I looked at in the DMV area went to contract in less than a week of being on the market. Waiting to get pre-approved for the loan AFTER you find the house you want will just slow down the process. Getting pre-approved will also also help you in determining how much you can/want to spend on the home.

4. Before you actually start visiting open houses or scheduling appointments to see specific homes, I would spend some time on sites like Redfin or Zillow. My husband and I used the sites to discuss what features/styles we wanted in our home. We also used it to get an idea of the selling prices for homes in a particular neighborhood or area. It helped us get a feel for if a home was overpriced.

5. Get a good realtor; one who will be engaged with you throughout the entire process. They should not rush or push you into buying a new home if you aren't ready.

Good luck! It is a daunting process, but worth it in the end. Just trust your gut and don't rush through it. It's a big decision! So take your time and ask questions!

My two cents... Some of these have been said before, some I didn't see.

1) Get pre-approved for a mortgage. I would generally recommend a thirty year fixed rate. You can pay ahead against the principal and cut down the time but that also generally gives you a low rate if something happens. The pre-approval will also give you an idea of what the mortgage companies think you can afford. It might change what you are looking for.

2) Save, save, save. Unless you can put down at least 15%-20%, most companies are going to try and hit you with mortgage insurance. If you can't save the down payment to avoid it, make sure that you can cancel the damn mortgage insurance when you reach 20% equity in the house.

3) Decide what you want. Do you want a house or a condo? Condo is likely going to more turnkey than a house and will have less exterior maintenance requirements.

4) House or Condo, look at the HOA fees and what they cover. If you are a looking at a house, try to find one without a HOA. Some of them can be draconian in nature and you can find yourself stuck looking for neighborhood approval before you paint anything or even limiting what shrubs/trees you can plant.

5) Location, Location, Location. That is nature of the game. Look at school's in the area for kids and ease of commutes.

6) Get a house inspection.

7) Don't be afraid of an older home years old. They will have settled all they are going to, some might be updated with new fixtures, etc. Most were built far better than the homes going up to day. If you can find out what the heating, electrical costs have been.

8) Don't fall in love during this process. Keep an good eye out for your needs versus wants. Buy within budget.

9) If you can buy the worst house in a nice neighborhood, never buy the best house in an okay neighborhood.

But at the same time, don't be scared of a HOA. Sometimes they do more good to protect the home values in the neighborhood than the annoyance caused by having one. Yes, getting pre-approved for a paint job might be a PITA, but at the same time, nothing can begin to wreck property values than a home that sticks out like a sore thumb for the wrong reasons. Growing up, our HOA went bankrupt about a decade after everyone moved in, and within 5 years there were some completely god-awful paintjobs that actually did hurt the value of the surrounding homes. A good HOA will also help prevent the winding side streets from becoming 1-lane roads due the amount of cars that are permanently parked due to the driveways not having room and the majority of homes becoming multi-occupancy rentals.

Just KNOW your HOA and know what the limits are. Know what you're allowed to do, so when the 'doesn't have anything better to do than be the neighborhood NIMBY' goes whining because that person doesn't like x or y, that you're completely covered.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

I have mixed feelings on HOA. It really is a double-edged sword, and if you can find a great property in a good neighborhood or with reliable long-term privacy, I'd recommend avoiding HOA.

That said, a good HOA will be a big help in keeping the lid on bad neighbors.

Just an example: If you have neighbors who leave their dogs outside barking for hours on end, your legal remedies will generally take a minimum of months and often require the help of other neighbors to make the same complaints or at least participate in affirming your own complaints. It took me 3 months to go through the initial steps of a legal remedy at my last house, and the only thing the ultimately fixed it was when the neighborhood gave the HOA teeth instead of just sending letters. This was with a strict noise ordinance, and with the Sheriff deputies and Animal Control people directly witnessing the problem and speaking directly to the owners. They could give "warnings", but the actual process that would trigger any legal penalty was tortuous.

A good HOA will have the ability to issue fines to the offending neighbor, which can much more quickly correct the problem. It's amazing how much a dog's barking will bother their owner when they start getting 50 dollar fines every time they leave them out for hours on end.

Also, an HOA will often call and bug people who are doing stupid stuff so that you don't have to. Sometimes before you even know there's a problem.

It may be that HOAs are hit or miss, but in my experience they've been more helpful than not.

Yeah...we live in an older neighborhood with no HOA. It's nice to not feel like I have to keep my yard A+ all the time, frankly I don't need or want a landscaping award, I just don't want it to look crappy, but it also means we have neighbors who can get away with mowing once every other month and letting their houses go to crap. I guess it depends on what you want.

Re. pre-approval, here's a tip to anyone looking to buy more than 6 months from now:

If you have a so-so (or worse) credit rating, you can get a nice boost by going to your bank and taking out a short-term loan.

Years ago, I did this with a really crappy credit rating. Asked for a 1k loan, and they told me I was a bad risk for that. So I secured it by putting 1k into a C.D. with them, they gave me the loan, I made the payments on time for 12 months and it cost me under 30 bucks in interest as I recall to get a nice boost to my rating.

Of course, the key to good credit is always paying your debts on time, and keeping a healthy debt to debt-limit ratio. I recommend using credit cards a lot (especially if they pay rewards), but paying the balance in full every month. I do not recommend this if someone isn't religious about their budget though. You must NOT CARRY A BALANCE unless in a true emergency.

APR will flat get after you.

Pro-Tip, set up your e-banking with your credit card issuer and set up automatic payments to pay the minimum payment at the very least. Fees will flat get after you too. Another tip inRe fees: Don't be afraid to call the bank if you have a late payment. Generally if you are in good standing, fees will be waived once or twice a year. But only if you ask.

Sadly, it does NOT help your credit rating to not use credit cards, or never take on any debt, which is what led me to the idea of the short-term loan in the first place so many years ago.

Listen to this man!

My parents hammered home a point to me long ago that credit cards were evil, and in kind, I pretty much did all my banking through a debit card or checks until I was in my late 20s. My wife was in a similar boat, where even though she had a credit card, with her name on it, the account was in her mother's name, so she didn't get any built up credit over time for it. She didn't know this until we went to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Long story short, we couldn't use any of her income to get approval, and the only saving grace on my end was that one of my previous apartment complexes actually put a line of credit on me while I was living there, so I actually built up enough credit there to qualify me for a mortgage.

Now, we do all of our banking through 3 credit cards that we make sure we pay off in full every month. There shouldn't be any problems the next time we go to buy a house.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

If it's already been mentioned, I apologize for repeating, but construction quality is the biggest thing, IMO, that you just can't fix with cosmetics.

Home ownership requires maintenance. All those things that you paid your landlord for are now on you. Regardless of whether you are a DIY'er or you contract out, level floors and ceilings and square corners will save you countless hours and dollars. And also increase the likelihood that the "finished" maintenance or improvement
looks better and stays finished properly.

My current home was built in '89. My home inspector after crawling through the attic and sub-floor spaces said "everything they could do right, they did do right", which made the prospect of taking on the remodels ourselves much easier to swallow.

Our first house, built around the same time, was a nightmare for DIY. Built in a cookie-cutter devlopment, there wasn't a level surface or square corner to be found.

Once you find a house with good bones, I'd say the next biggest ROI is going to be things like upgraded bathrooms and kitchens. Those are generally the highest cost things, and it's great if the previous owner has done that already.

Bottom line: Even though newer often looks nicer, don't be distracted by shiny new counters and fixtures. All those are easy and relatively inexpensive to replace with exactly what you (erm... that is, Susie) want.

A nice bonus is if you can find a home with some unfinished basement square footage that you could turn into some nice semi-finished space for workshop/man cave. I say semi- because finished sq. footage is generally a big part of your property taxes. We live in close to 5000 sq feet, but the tax is on about 2800 sq feet.

As far as location goes, while I love where I live (Kingsport Tn), flying out of Tri-Cities airport can be frustrating. It's a very small regional, with AA service to Charlotte, and Delta service to Atlanta. When I travel on business and have to fly, I find it's generally an extra 3 hours of travel time minimum compared to flying out of a bigger regional like ROA or GSP (Greenville SC), which has direct connections to more hub airports.

My rule of thumb these days is if I can drive it in 9 hours or less, I'll do that in my old-ass paid off car instead and bank the mileage check towards the next vehicle, which, if you are planning a family, is likely in your future as well.

Very good points. One thing to seriously consider... If Raleigh really is on your list, french, note that RDU is a fantastic airport to get you almost anywhere you want in the country nonstop. We have daily non-stop flights to San Fran, LA, Seattle, Vegas, Denver, and then pretty much everywhere major East of Chicago. We also have daily non-stop flights to Toronto, San Jose, London, and Paris, with rumors that Amsterdam, Beijing, or Tokyo could be next, with a 20 year plan that could add upwards of 20 more gates and what they hope to be 3 or 4 more intercontinental flights.

Which, for a regional airport that is primarily Origination and Destination is a pretty good deal.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

Lots of good advice on this thread, but I'm confused on why you are leaving the DC area and buying right away.

When moving to a new area, I like to rent a house the first year and scope out the area instead of signing up for such a big investment. A local move in a year can be a pain, but by that time you've already paired your items down from the previous move so its not so bad.
You've got the added benefit of re-renting for another yr+, if it seems like a good deal (vs buying locally) plus the time to talk to local builders without having to make any commitments.

"When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -Ray Kroc

no idea about location but buying property in general:

1. Get an independent inspector. Preferably a friend or friend of friend. Have them do an inspection without the agent and then a follow-up with the agent. Be present at both. Pro-tips: Go under the house with the inspector and into the rafters. Under the house, look for the duct work, the foundation to stud construction, any pests or marking of past infiltration of pests. In the rafters, again the ducts, pests, insulation (how old, what type, how thick, what brand (look up brand and model to check its price), what is its thermal rating, etc), look for signs of leaks or previous water/weather damage. Go on the roof. Check for loose tile or shingles. Check all wet walls for damage.
2. Never.... EVER.... live in a flood plain. EVER. I don't give a damn how perfect that house is. Just don't do it. this is the first qualifier, if you tell your agent not to show you any in flood zones and they still show you one "just in case", find a new agent.
3. Spend your money on your kitchen and bathroom. both of these are hard to piecemeal over time, unlike a bedroom or living room.
4. If doing larger scale remodel check your state rebate programs that have to do with energy, water and other conservation issues. I am not sure about VA but in other locations you can spend a little money to qualify for things that will lower your property tax significantly.
5. Consider vapor barriers if location unduly moist, or crawl space is "wet".
6. Investment vs Family Home: if you see this as an investment you want to make money on consider the following: Location, school district, don't buy the best home on the block, look for one that can stretch your dollar (more upside to minimal renovation), and crime statistics in area. If it's an investment, plan your exit time now. If you say "we'll see what the market does" then it is not an investment property. Your planned exit is on a set ROI that you want. When you hit that mark, sell.

I live in Midlothian and my wife and I moved into our first home in 2011. We knew we planned on having kids, so schools, extra rooms, and bathrooms were important. Also important was the amount of traffic in front of your house (really important if you want to have kids). Found a wonderful realtor who had decades of experience in the construction industry on top of decades of experience as a realtor in the area, so she could easily see lots of stuff "beneath the surface" that weren't readily available.

Lots of good advice so far, so forgive me if I repeat someone else's suggestions:

1. As others have said, get pre-approved and have them breakdown what your monthly payment would actually be with different options. Online mortgage calculators on some sites like Zillow are garbage and will have you thinking your monthly payment is way lower than it actually will be.
2. Fixed-rate mortgage. Do not even consider a variable or adjustable rate mortgage. If someone is trying to pressure you into a variable rate, walk away.
3. Make a list of what you really "need", what you really "want", and things that would be "nice-to-have". Then prioritize them. Make a spreadsheet and take a checklist with you when you look at houses. It will make it so much easier to compare instead of trying to remember everything.
4. Take lots of notes and lots of pictures (inside, outside, and neighborhood) when looking at homes. Again, easier to compare houses when you have notes and pictures.
5. Go to home advisor and research things like foundation repairs, roof repairs, etc to get an idea of how much certain big ticket fixes can cost in an area, but also note how many were done in that area in the last few years. This goes double for foundation repairs.
6. Related to the foundation, bring a ball bearing or marble or other small ball with you. Put it in the middle of the floor and see what it does. If you consider living in Chesterfield County (VA), we looked at a lot of houses in the Woodlake and Brandermill areas. I lost count of how many had slanted floors, cracked walls, and other easily identifiable symptoms of foundation issues. The area is known for sandy soil, so there is a period of when a lot houses were being built, but it took a few years for the issue to rear it's ugly head. They eventually figured out how to build the houses to account for sink/swell, but there are quite a few that still need to be fixed. Again, having a good realtor is key. Ours would let us walk through the house and then tell us the issues that we missed and any potential problems that she identified.
7. If the house has a deck, check if it is attached to the house or floating. Different areas have different codes on this, but if it is attached, check to see if it is nice and level. The house and the deck will not always settle at the same rate or in the same way. Saw quite a few houses were the house hadn't sunk, but the deck had so it was sloped. Another indication that you may have foundation issue or will have to repair/replace the deck. Decks are expen$ive!
8. If you like a house, drive by at 5-6pm so you can see if "that house on the quiet street" is actually "that house on the main thoroughfare that everyone uses driving to and from work". Checking it at night is also good to see how well the streets are lit. Are there lots of streetlights, but are they all nicely lit or are a lot of them are out or broken? It will also show you if your potential neighbors have a good amount of security lights to keep everything safe, of if they work for a security light company and are using their home as a showroom. There is a happy medium of well lit and secure that is in the middle of pitch black and surface of the sun.
9. Drive around the neighborhood both during the day and also at night. Do you see a lot of older people going for walks during the day (most likely retirees)? Do you see a lot of people jogging at night? Probably a good indication that it is a quiet, safe neighborhood. Is there a really sketchy house a few doors down with lots of cars thumping bass in the driveway and a bunch of youths comparing their aftermarket exhausts? You will learn a lot about a neighborhood or house by driving around at different times of day.
10. Regarding HOAs, there are pros and cons. We chose to go with a house in a neighborhood without an HOA because while renting I would get the Chesterfield Observer and saw quite a few issues that arose due to conflicts between HOAs and homeowners. One that sticks out involved the HOA saying everyone had to purchase the same exact mailbox and post. The style was approved by the HOA and everyone had to pay out of their own pocket to have them replaced. Quite a few people told the HOA to go f**k themselves. It literally exploded into a drawn out court battle about what rights the homeowners had vs what the HOA could and could not do. It was a mess. So if you like a house in a neighborhood that requires an HOA, do some internet research and to see if they are reasonable and homeowner friendly or if they are a bunch of Nazi busy-bodies and control freaks that want to impose their will on everyone else. We simply chose to avoid an HOA due to the extra cost.
11. Do your neighbors take care of their yards? Is there lots of trash and/or garbage piled up? If your neighbors house and yard are pretty unkempt it will hurt your potential property value, but will also lead to you having to deal with lots of insects/pests that will move to your house for less competition.
12. Lastly, the perfect house is not out there, but you should easily be able to find the perfect house for you and your families needs. Do not get discouraged if you do not find what you want quickly.

Anyway, sorry that I rambled way longer than I expected. Happy house hunting.

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
-Ron Swanson

"11-0, bro"
-Hunter Carpenter (probably)

One other thing to consider regarding the roof on a home. The more angles, sections, planes, etc. the greater the potential for leaks and the more it will cost to repair. Most of your newer homes have lots of angles and planes to their roofs to look fancier, but these can lead to big headaches in the long run.

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
-Ron Swanson

"11-0, bro"
-Hunter Carpenter (probably)

And adds to the cost of the home usually without giving you any more usable square footage.

Holy crap, what an overwhelming response! Thank you. I will take some time to process and start asking questions.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I think many of us remember what a PITA the first home purchase is, and how terrifying it can be.

Good luck!

Just be aware of how your wrong opinions of cheese can reflect negatively to potential lenders.

"How the ass pocket will be used, I do not know. Alls I know is, the ass pocket will be used."
- The BoD

I just bought my first house about a month and a half ago and at first I had a lot of your thoughts/worries. The process can seem drawn out but with a good real estate agent, then it will/should be a easy process.

First thing I would say before worrying about the other stuff is just get pre-approved first so you know what you can afford.

Bleeding burnt orange and chicago maroon

French,
Good luck with the search. Most everyone here had given very sound advice about the hunt so I'm not really going to add anything else on that topic. I will give you a couple of ideas that we used when negotiating in a sellers market.

  • I can't emphasize enough everyone else's advice about pre-approval and understanding your budget to help identify neighborhoods.
  • In a seller's market don't assume the highest offer wins
  • Understand the additional financial impacts that are part of closing costs, these can be used as negotiation tools to improve the overall financial health of your offer. Something as simple as a larger earnest money deposit can really influence seller. We doubled the earnest money on our offer and that helped us seal the deal.
  • Understand the timing of the house on the market and how that can influence your negotiating position. Is this a listing that your realtor is showing you before it becomes open to everyone or has it been out there for a while and might be overpriced (A good realtor will talk about this with you). We saw the house that we ended up buying the day before they held an open house and we were able to get our offer in the hand of the seller before the open house. They still help the open house and ended up with multiple offers but came back to us because of the strength of our finances and the higher earnest money deposit.

Good Luck!

Run to Win. Pass To Score

When you're ready to buy, DO get a pre-approval from somewhere. Doesn't mean you have to get a loan from that bank, but it's an indication to the seller (and their agent) that you can complete the deal, and you can make your offer with confidence.

After you make an accepted offer, DO shop around for your mortgage. Compare a minimum of three. Don't need to do this in advance, as rates change. Also, when you apply for a loan, your credit takes a small ding.

Regarding the house, what you should be concerned about is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. I've had good luck with picking a couple of neighborhoods and waiting for a house that I liked in those neighborhoods to become available. By the time the right house came along, I knew their worth better than the realtors. Property appraiser sites and market sites like Zillow tell you what all the houses in that neighborhood sold for. It also gives you some time to experience the neighborhood you'll be investing in at different times of day, or even different times of the year.

Like with most things, the more homework you do, the higher the odds of success. If you spend just a little time on it, you're ahead of a lot of buyers.

Don't think of a house as an investment. Think of a house as a place to live, and get the one you want to live in, for a price you're willing to pay to live there. Everything else will fall into place.

One last thing. If you find a house that's well-maintained, it's worth a little bit bigger offer.

oh and the Zillow Zestimate is bullcrap.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

Cosign. It was off (low) by about 30-40% in our case. The "estimate" part of that invented word should be changed to "hand-waving guess."

Having just finished our first home purchase, and having been in the same boat as French not too long ago, I cannot offer a lot of sage advice like others have, but will echo a few points:

1. Deal with a realtor that actually cares about what you want.

2. Get that pre-approval from someone you feel comfortable working with. I solicited three quotes, and all of them varied by a little bit. The lender we went with was awesome, and the representative helped walk me through everything in the pre-approval process, even running numbers on a few houses we were thinking of (based on ballpark estimates of what we could afford, before we went looking at places). That way, I could see how the numbers changed - taxes, insurance, closing costs, mortgage payment, etc. That de-mystified a lot of what was going on for me and made me confident in choosing them for our loan.

There's some great advice on here. I don't think I saw this but if someone else said it I'll reiterate it. Don't fall in love with a house until you have the keys. It's hard to do but you have to think rationally and logically instead of emotionally when you are putting in an offer and dealing with the subsequent negotiation and then again during the process that follows after your offer is accepted. You can't be afraid to walk away if it turns out to be a lemon or if the price gets too high. Also, if you don't like and/or trust the realtor you are working with, fire them and hire another. We spent WAY too much time working with 2 different realtors that were sub-par before finally finding someone who actually listened and worked his ass off for us. Lastly, be observant and go with your gut. For instance, if the house you like has a bunch of family pictures and has an older couple selling it, writing a note to the seller talking about how your want to raise your family there can go a long way. Noticing little details can help you when it comes to putting an offer together that the seller will accept. Oh, and if there is something you want that is in the house it doesn't hurt to ask for it to convey.

"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior" Stephen M.R. Covey

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” David Wilson

I didn't read all the posts so this may be repeat advice but even if it is it bears repeating. Know what you are comfortable spending before you go to get financing. Know how much you have to put down and know what you are comfortable with for a monthly payment. My wife and I have bought three houses. Every time we have known exactly what we can afford, every time the banks we worked with tried to tell us they wanted to lend us more. There was one loan officer who turned it into an argument to the point where I asked her how she slept at night and walked out of her office. The realtor we have worked with has always respected our boundaries and shown us properties in the range we express interest in but I can imagine that you might have to draw a hard line there too if the realtor isn't doing his job well.

It is kind of common sense but do your homework, know your prices and stick to your guns. It is easier said than done.

Definitely agree. A general rule of thumb that I have always used is that the mortgage should be no more than 25% of my monthly income. I saw 35% above, but I will admit I am also very conservative.

And make sure you include whatever escrow payment you have to make (or taxes and insurance if you are not escrowing them) and any HOA fees that you might have.

You should pay no attention to whatever you may see on HGTV. NONE. What you see there bears little resemblance to reality. I keep telling my wife this and she still expects me to gut the bathroom and remodel it in an hour.

Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in bad humor.

If you go by HGTV, expect that every time you open a wall you will find some horrible previously undetected problem.

you mean like:

or this one which usually applies to first time home buyers

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

I always liked this one:

Husband - "I'm an office manager"
Wife - "I'm a dentist"
"Our budget is $250K because we like to live within our means"

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I think I've posted it on this site before so I'm not going to regurgitate it again, but the John Mulaney bit on HGTV/Real Estate Agents is top notch. As is everything else he does.

VT Class of '12 (MSE), MVBone, Go Hokies!

If there's a dentist involved, I'm never surprised by the budget. They probably also only work four days a week.

Here are some other fun ones I ran across in an article:

HUSBAND: I'm a freelance hamster trainer
WIFE: And I tune harmonicas part-time
HUSBAND: Our budget is $950K
— Valerie (@ValeeGrrl) April 19, 2017

---------------------------------

HIM: I'm a hat critic for a blog.
HER: I found a cigar box containing 2 gold coins.
HIM: Our budget is $1.4m
— Jeremy Gibbens (@afterglide) April 20, 2017

---------------------------------

Husband: I give slide whistle lessons.
Wife: I'm a stay-at-home astronaut.
BUDGET: $1.6M
— Andy McDonald (@iamandymcdonald) April 20, 2017

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-internet-is-perplexed-about-the-budgets-on-house-hunters_us_58f8e2c5e4b00fa7de1206e6

House Hunters is the completely fake show according to reports. They have already selected the house and just look at two friends houses in addition.

A buddy of mine posted this the other day... Got a kick out of it.

On the next House Hunters....
Husband: I make hammocks out of sweet potato skins
Wife: ... And I'm a stay at home train conductor
Budget: $975k

Our must haves are open concept bathrooms and a 30 foot waterfall. He likes a mid century Victorian and she is looking for a fall out shelter with lots of natural light.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

lol

If it means his wife has to give up something, he probably won't get that.

I've noticed a trend where the wife wants to spend 25% more, and the husband usually decides that whatever feature she wants is more important than solvency. Of course that part mirrors what happens in real life.

Outside of the ridiculous job to budget ratio the show constantly has, the one thing that cracks me up the most is the amount of people who go into a home and focus primarily on the wall colors on why they can't buy it.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

I know, I really should come up with some way to change wall colors. I might have to call it paint.

Well, at least they know their limitations.

I feel ya. My wife and I just became homeowners for the very 1st time in a 3 story end unit.

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

If you're still looking at location I've lived in the Ashland area all my life just outside Richmond wonderful small town price wise it's better than the city. another good are is the elmont area nice and quiet compared to richmond and you're a short drive from downtown and shortpump

Directions from Blacksburg to whoville, go north till you smell it then go east until you step in it

FYI, from a seller's perspective:

I just accepted an offer on my first house. We moved 5+ years ago, but the market then was just too poor to sell in. So we rented and it turned into a 40k difference in value.

We have been listed for 8 days and had two offers come in within a few hours of each other.

Losing offer: 166k (1k over ask) but we had to pay up to 5k in closing costs (probably would have been a min of 4k) and it was a USDA loan (0 % down).
Winning offer: 160k, no closing costs, we purchase a $600 home warranty for them, and they have a traditional loan, and a close date 3 weeks sooner.

The reason the 2nd offer won was primarily because they were financing with 10% down through a regular bank.

The zero% loans come with all sorts of hurdles and potential pitfalls that we just didn't want to risk. Things like, they wouldn't get the loan if the house didn't appraise for the offer price (In my realtor's judgement, that was a real possibility based on area sales); or the USDA loan funds drying up while paperwork is being processed (it's a first come-first served sort of deal, and when the annual budget dries up, it is over).

I felt the risk was acceptable, but the wife is particularly stressed over having a second property, and while I may have been willing to play the game a bit longer and force some more bidding, in the end we are taking a nice chunk of cash to do this quickly. She and the realtor were a little anxious as we got listed probably 6 weeks later than we would have liked due to repairs taking longer than expected. So while playing the game a bit might have gotten us another 5k, it might also have bitten us in the butt.

Beats the hell out of the torture of trying to sell in a bad market and trying to rationalize with ourselves what we could accept. Now daddy gets a new TV, and mama gets...well, she hasn't told me yet, but I'm sure it'll cost at least as much as the TV.

Now daddy gets a new TV and a membership to TKPC...

FTFY

French:
All of the above posts offer great advice & ways to avoid pitfalls for the 1st time homeowner. I only have a couple of things to add that I didn't see above:
1st: my brother-in-law told me once a long time ago that if you can find 85% of what you want in a already built home, it saves the ass pain of going through new construction.
2nd: if you can, research the tax records on the home you want to buy. Knowing the assessed value might give you some leverage especially if the county/locality has recently gone through a refi and the taxes have come down.

Finally, I wish you well in your search. I grew up in Bedford, know Roanoke/Lynchburg/SML very well, and I have flown in and out of Richmond, Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, and Myrtle Beach. We now own property in SE NC near Oak Island, and as much as I love VA, I'm just glad to eventually be moving back below the Mason Dixon line. Everyone above has given great advice. Find a place to be happy...being miserable in a city or home you hate isn't worth peace of mind. Keep your rod tip up and line taut!

I greatly appreciate all of this, and it is a ton to process. I have different factors pulling me in different ways. I have been in an 1100 square foot condo for 5 years and have lived in Northern Virginia for 12 years. Prior, I lived my entire life in Abingdon except for a year in Johnson City, TN and a year in Farmville, VA.

Unlike lots of folks that live in NOVA, I don't hate it, although I have moments where I just can't understand the behavior of folks (I am sure that isn't a local phenomenon, but the volume of people make it a more common occurrence.) I just struggle with the monthly expense where I can have a more comfortable space for less money.

Here is a question- if I know of a hard deadline (like a lease ending), how far in advance should getting approved for financing start? We have been working on eliminating credit card debt and building up some savings, but have not focused on financing.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I was able to get pre-approval from three lenders within 2-3 days of initiating the process. Our lease ends 7/31, I started the pre-approval process in mid-April, we made an offer on a home 5/1 and were accepted the same day, and we closed 6/15. It's a (strong) seller's market right now and things can (and do) move fast.

I don't know who you think you are! You can't have lived in NOVA and Abingdon and not hate one of the 2, they're polar opposites. Then again you don't like cheese... You must be a robot, that explains it all.

You can generally get pre-approved pretty quick for a loan, assuming you have enough credit history to qualify for one. I want to say I got my approval number within a couple days of applying for it.

And if you have a deadline, you can absolutely use that to your advantage. With my own experience, we got our house because I was in an apt where my lease was coming up right around the time we were looking to move, and we were able to speed up the time between acceptance and closing to 45 days when everyone else needed 60. I believe the seller left some money on the table to take our offer because of the sped up timeline.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

I've owned 4 homes, built new each time (Herald Harbor, MD; Clear Lake, TX; Orange Park, FL; and St Augustine, FL) so I'm not the one to listen to re: older homes. You'd probably love that corridor between Annapolis and Baltimore...easy access to BWI or whatever it might be called these days. You'd probably love Houston, too.

I will tell you what I've told both of my mid-20's kids...don't buy unless you plan to stay for a few years. If you do plan to stay, make sure its a place you want to live. And if you think you might have a job change, live somewhere that you can get another job.

You are in the medical field IIRC, so good sized city might not be a bad deal. I know Jax is beyond your home range but it has a great medical community and an incredibly easy access airport. Real estate is reasonable and no state income tax...yet.

Anyway, back on track. Given your attachment to coastal fishing I don't know why you'd live anywhere you couldn't get up on a Sat morning, go saltwater fishing and be home for dinner; which deletes Charlotte, Raleigh, Atlanta, SWVA.

On buying, use common sense, do your homework, and you'll be fine. Do check the flood zones...yourself. If it's close, don't buy. Give yourself a cushion. 100 year floods happen every 25-50 years. I'm 62 and I've been in/around several. Most places have a good, publicly accessible data bases on elevation, storm surge, etc.

If anyone is looking for a home in Poquoson, my cousin just listed his house. He put a ton of work into remodeling it and it looks great. Definitely worth a look.

"How the ass pocket will be used, I do not know. Alls I know is, the ass pocket will be used."
- The BoD

Hire a great realtor that is willing to educate you about the process and all of the potential opportunities and pitfalls. Not someone that just views you as another transaction.

I am a realtor in NC (Triad area, specifically) that focuses on a deep understanding of my client's needs and developing personal relationships that go beyond the current transaction. Almost more of a "real estate adviser", that provides education and advice on all things real estate. If you or anyone else on here needs any real estate advice, I'd be more than happy to help my fellow Hokies!

Can I ask which realty company you work for? Just curious if I've run into you or not.

Berkshire Hathaway. Check out www.thedashrealestate.com for contact info.

Do you play golf by chance? I'm always looking for fellow Hokies to play with here in the Triad.

Some random thoughts-
I used to fly a lot to 2nd tier airports (ATL-podunk) and they're a pain especially in the summer when thunderstorms screw up everything and flights often get canceled. I've driven from ROA to RIC to catch a flight back to ATL so there's something to be said for living near a hub.
Ask who the internet providers are in an area and if there's fiber to the house or you can get it. Verify this with the provider, RE agents often just guess on this stuff.
Check the type of cable wiring in the house, ideally you want quad shield RG 6. Prewired ethernet is also a nice to have, have the inspector look behind the cover to see if the phone wiring is Cat or just telco and how it's terminated. Don't worry about Wifi yet, we'll get you through that before you move in.
If you're buying in a hot market with multiple other offers, ask you agent about using an escalation clause, Essentially you can trump other offers by some amount up to a limit.
Change the locks the day you move in.

I'd recommend focusing on a location and price before worrying about the house. NOVA, Charlotte, Roanoke, Abington, Richmond all offer things and lack in areas. Do you want to slow down or live in the hustle and bustle? Fishing or night life? Schools important? Doesn't sound like commute really is but airport is. You will likely be able to find a nice house in your price range wherever you settle. Good neighborhoods, bad neighborhoods everywhere. Where you settle is more important I think.

I've lived in Roanoke for most of my life. It's slow and I've seen plenty of the world. I tell myself that I'd move back to a bigger area but I don't know if I'd be happy with that in the end. Great place to raise kids, good fishing, great beer. It's more for the laid back type though.

Dare I say, Charlottesville is a great place too ... other than that University. Id live in Richmond or Raleigh before I'd live in Charlotte though.

I agree on Charlottesville being a great place to live. And as long as we continue to own LOLUVA, you won't get grief from any sniveling wahoos that can't be easily dismissed with the question, "And what was the score of the football game last year?"

Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in bad humor.

Real estate has really gotten high price close in to Charlottesville though.

The best advice I can give you French, in addition to all the great stuff here, is carefully consider how much improvement you want to do on what you end up purchasing. I just bought a 970 sq. ft. condo thinking I would paint the whole thing, nbd. Im a month in and I'm still not done. I've probably spent 15 hours on trim alone. TRIM! It always takes WAY more time than you think to do improvements, even when you think you're being generous about the potential time commitment

That team sure did suck last night. They just plain sucked! I've seen teams suck before, but they were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.

I've probably spent 15 hours on trim alone. TRIM!

Ugh... Yes. And even worse my wife and I went from stained to painted trim and the living room had wood paneling wainscoting.... Bonding primer probably cut our total time by half and it still took forever.

"Some days you’re a horse and some days you’re a horse’s ass. I’ve been a horse’s ass for a little while." - Roy Halladay

When painting trim, I use oil paint, always have always will. It takes forever to dry...

I have one more recommendation. Don't buy near a milk plant. Think paper plant but doesn't knock you over instantly. My wife and I noticed this bizarre sewage like smell around our neighborhood on our nightly walks but had never noticed the smell during the day. We started thinking that maybe someone's septic tank (our neighborhood is a mix of septic/well and city) had an issue but, again, couldn't reconcile that with why we only smelled it at night. We were about to pose the question on our neighborhood message when my wife got an alert from said message board addressing the smell and the efforts being made to control it.

Hey French, a friend shared this on FB. I thought of you. You could leave for fishing trips out your back door.

"How the ass pocket will be used, I do not know. Alls I know is, the ass pocket will be used."
- The BoD