House Hunting = EPIC STRESS

Posted By on January 27, 2009

So remember when I said that I was planning on buying a condo this year in the near future? Yeah, about that.

After I mentioned it on here, my friend Jessica, who is a lurker (Hi Jess!), sent me her realtor’s info so I could get started on the whole process. My lease isn’t up until the end of May, so I have some time to make sure I find exactly what I want. I figured that I would ease into the whole thing so that I could fully wrap my mind around the whole fact that I am becoming a GROWN UP.

Boy, was I wrong!

I called my realtor on Friday. And in a matter of minutes, I had listings in my inbox and an appointment to meet with her on Tuesday to start looking at properties. Talk about jumping right in!

The only thing I had to do was get pre-approved so that I wasn’t wasting my time and my realtor’s time looking at properties that I couldn’t afford. I did some calculations and I had an idea of what number I would get approved for. I know what I can afford per month and I factored it all in, including taxes and assessments, etc. and it was plenty to buy a nice place in the city.

Clearly math was never my best subject. (I did get a 5 on the AP Calculus test in high school, though.) I was pre-approved for WAY less that I was thinking. Like so much less I wasn’t convinced that I would be able to afford ANYTHING besides a cardboard box on the river. Which was fine as long as it had a washer and dryer in unit.

So then I proceeded to freak the fuck out. Because I’m hating my apartment these days. I’m hating how old it is and falling apart and that I have to go OUTSIDE in the WINTER to do laundry. I moved pretty much once a year when I lived in California, so being in my current place for 3 1/2 years is just too long. Especially when I can’t control the heat in the winter! Plus, I got really excited about the idea of my own place.

I have a wee bit of a tendency to overreact at times. When something bad like that happens, it ain’t glass half empty, it’s glass empty and stomped on and SHATTERED INTO A MILLION PIECES. I work very hard at trying to be a positive person and always looking for that silver lining. But sometimes, it is hard to do.

But I always get there. Once I lose my shit, I calm down and fill the glass right back up. Usually with some sort of alcoholic beverage. And I think positively because I know everything happens for a reason.

So I emailed my rock star realtor and told her the situation. I apologized profusely for thinking that I’m richer in my head than on paper. And was glad that this all happened before we went to look at any places. I hate wasting people’s time and wasting my own.

She emailed me new listings in my price range. And I even liked quite a few of them. So we’re tentatively scheduled to go out looking on Thursday, depending on the appointments she can get set.

The more I think about it, I’m happy for the lenders being strict and not forcing me beyond my means. My new limit is totally doable. And it means that I will have extra money in my pocket each month and won’t have to eat Ramen and drink Natural Light. It means that I may not live in the ideal neighborhood, but that means I won’t be paying out the nose in taxes. It means that I’ll actually have money to decorate and make this new place my own.

And that, my friends, is a hell of a silver lining. A silver lining WITH a washer and dryer.

About the author

Kristabella, who also answers to “Hey! Drunk Girl!”, is a reformed band geek with an amazing ability to drink most people under the table. You can read her inane ramblings here, where she talks about her exciting life as a spinster with two cats and a fascination for Bacon.


41 Responses to “House Hunting = EPIC STRESS”

  1. The first time Pete and I bought a house, our lender told us we could afford WAY more than we felt comfortable with. At the time, Pete was working for Fannie Mae (yes, the imploding mortgage company), so he had run the numbers himself and knew what was realistic. So we stuck with our own conservative estimate and didn’t buy a house that was too much for us.

    The second time we bought a house, our mortgage guy (this time, a good friend), told us that officially we could afford [insert number], but that he felt we should stick with [insert lower number]. We agreed and never once felt uncomfortable with our mortgage.

    So what I’m trying to say in a long-winded way is that going with the lower number is a good thing and, as you said, will keep you within your budget.

    Jen on the Edges last blog post..Practice makes perfect

  2. Sheri says:

    Congrats on starting the process!!!

    Now, I’m not single, so don’t throw a shoe at me when I suggest this, but ever think of moving to the burbs???

    I do know what you mean about the whole mortgage thing. We knew what we could afford and the number our lender came up with was way higher. I don’t even want to think about what a mortage that high would cost. Stick to your guns. Have fun looking!!!!!

    Sheris last blog post..Questions from Kim

  3. Jen says:

    I hear you! My husband and I are house hunting and it really, truly is epic stress. We were pre-approved for an amount that I think is way over what we can both realistically afford, so I’m sticking to looking at houses well below that range. My husband has more…champagne taste. Anyhoodles, best of luck in your search!

  4. witchypoo says:

    Hooray for your own washer and dryer!
    If space is an issue, there are wonderfully compact models for single people.

    witchypoos last blog post..Leftovers

  5. Alex says:

    At least you don’t have to worry about selling your existing place first! That adds to all the stress!!!!

    Good luck and it’s definitely better to live below your means in the long!!

  6. ali says:

    we are going to go through this soon, too. and i’m so terrified that i’m so much richer in my head than on paper.

    alis last blog post..when the cat’s away…

  7. Ugh, it is stressful, isn’t it? This humanities major had many a sleepless night trying to do the math on this type of question.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself, though. Realtors are used to changing price expectations, and it is their job to adjust accordingly.

    Legallyblondemels last blog post..21 Questions

  8. christina says:

    I felt your pain! We bought our condo last year and it was a flurry process. One day we were talking about it the next we were signing pages of paper and given a set of keys.

    It is hard to be very honest with yourself and look at your finances. But Chicago has some awesome incentives for first time buyers so be sure to look into that.

    And the day we moved in, I hugged my washer and dryer.

    Let me know if you have any questions. I had a number of freak out moments during the process.

  9. Vanessa says:

    The washer and dryer is the best part! I remember looking at condos in Seattle and the numbers the lenders approved me for vs. what I felt comfortable paying each month were quite different. In the end, I decided to save a little more money before making the leap and it’s worked out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

    Vanessas last blog post..What I’m Doing Today

  10. Lori says:

    So no AZ, huh? That’s okay, I’ll come visit you and your new condo.

  11. Good luck! Neighborhood matters when it comes to preapproval. We were preapproved for an astronomical amount – way more than what we could afford – in NYC, but half that in the ‘burbs of NYC. The reason was because the ‘burbs were considered declining in value, but NYC real estate never goes down (much). (Tell me about it!)

    Hug your washer and dryer for me. I need one terribly!

    Anonymous New Yorks last blog post..Dirty

  12. Giggle Pixie says:

    Sounds like a win-win to me. Have fun looking at those listings!!

    Giggle Pixies last blog post..The Best Home Security I Can…Afford

  13. Melissa says:

    I think the banks have got to rein things in a bit and it sounds like they are…good news. I know when we went for our mortgage it was something like 33% of your income would go to your house…yikes! If you are without an income for any length of time, talk about being screwed.

    There are a lot of great incentives for buyers right now, be sure to ask your realtor to find out more about them.

    And yippee for you! Your buying a house!! That is so awesome you adult you!!

    Melissas last blog post..When The Shark Bites….

  14. Amber says:

    Buying a property remains one of the most mind-boggling things I’ve ever done. I still actually don’t know how we managed. But hey, getting to look inside other people’s houses is all kinds of fun – enjoy!

    Ambers last blog post..“Blinglish” – the type of English used in blog comments

  15. Angella says:

    SO excited for you. It is stressful, yes, but AWESOME.

    Angellas last blog post..Grace In Small Things – Dos

  16. TUWABVB says:

    I’m proud of you for being comfortable with the lower number. And know this – realtors (an interesting species which I married into) LOVE the fact that you are buying within your means. They are pissed at the whole mortgage industry right now for ruining it for everyone. And trust me, they would rather shop within a defined budget and find the right place, rather than spend weeks on looking at places and have you balk at the last minute. You are totally doing this right. I’m so excited for you!

    TUWABVBs last blog post..HDTV Can Bring You Closer, and Push You Farther Away

  17. regan says:

    Now is such the time to buy too. Prices are dropping and in the future, when you go to sell, you’ll be able to make money, unlike those of us that bought in the bubble and are going to lose a crapload of money selling.

    Yay for you!

  18. jen says:

    Good for you for doing the grown-up thing! I’m still living under the delusion that at any moment I could pack up and move across the country.

    I’ve now been in Annapolis for 14 years, in a total of three different places. Just who do I think I’m kidding.

  19. Jessica says:

    Kristabella — Please do not take offense at what I’m about to say as just being totally unsolicited advice on a decision you’ve already made…. BUT:

    Have you thought about continuing to rent? The rental market in Chicago is EXCELLENT right now because of all the condos that people can’t sell. (There was a recent trib article about this.) And although your realtor is probably telling you differently (it’s in their interest to), there is no evidence that the Chicago housing market has bottomed out. Prices are still falling. Buying now could be a big mistake.

    See, for example:

    I don’t think you should feel like buying is the grown-up thing. It’s grown up to make wise financial decisions and I really think buying might not be one!

    Please forgive if this is really annoying — I just would hate to see you end like a few of my friends who bought a year ago and are now underwater to the tune of 15%…..

  20. UGH! We decided (after my dad yelled at us for burning our cash on rent) to start looking for a house. Thanks to HGTV’s PROPERTY VIRGINS, I was armed with all kinds of questions for our realtor, who’s all great, let’s move in tomorrow!

    I felt bad for saying, well we meant in JUNE, but he gets his commish anyhow so he can’t be too upset.

    thecoconutdiariess last blog post..The Post Where I Bum You Out

  21. Scarlet says:

    you’re such a groan* up!

    *I know.

  22. Darcey says:

    I know you and I have already discussed this… but you know what’s best for you based on your finances. The market is a good one to buy in, especially in certain areas of the city where they either didn’t skyrocket as much as other areas, or were the first to fall (when people realized the area wasn’t as gentrified as they were trying to market them as).

    The market is nowhere NEAR where it was a year ago — a year ago, houses were still being bought and sold at prices that would be laughed at today – especially considering the market didn’t start to really slow down until mid to late summer. So don’t worry about being “underwater to the tune of 15%.”

  23. gorillabuns says:

    i’m also prettier, funnier and skinnier in my head than on paper or in reality. i won’t even go into the financial aspects of my reality…

    Good luck in your pursuit!

  24. jen says:

    It will happen, and you probably overestimated what you can afford to pay back every month. It’s exciting and scary though.

    jens last blog post..First baby tooth gone

  25. slynnro says:

    I’ve talked to people frankly about what we make, and they always come back at me with what I consider to be an astronomical figure that they think we can get approved for. It scares me. So I rent.

    slynnros last blog post..It’s Everyone’s Lucky Day!

  26. metalia says:

    Purchasing your own place is one of the most stressful experiences ever, but I tell you, you will be SO HAPPY afterwards. Good luck to you with the search!

    metalias last blog post..Because I didn’t seem weird ENOUGH.

  27. SIlver lining indeed, so happy for you!

    Sensibly Sassys last blog post..Four Eyes

  28. It’s definitely a good thing that they didn’t approve you for a bigger loan than you can handle- that’s how the country got into this housing mess in the first place. That said, I’m super glad your realtor found you a bunch of listings that you liked! And good luck with your search!

    nancypearlwannabes last blog post..Testing… Testing…

  29. Jessica says:

    Also just a general comment… just because you can get approved for a certain number doesn’t mean its wise to ultimately buy a property for that amount. Slynnro’s comment is well taken — if it doesn’t feel right, there’s a good chance it isn’t. (And of course, even if you get approved for a certain amount, that’s based on current income. It’s scary in this economy where people’s salaries are falling…)

    OK I admit to being a doomer. Just ignore me. I scare myself more than anyone else…

  30. slynnro says:

    For the sake of clarity, I’m not advocating Kristin not buy an apartment. I’m simply saying that I personally am not at a point where I feel like I can make a really good decision about what we can afford. Sounds like Kristin CAN, so good for her! I can’t wait to see it this summer at BlogHer!!!

    slynnros last blog post..It’s Everyone’s Lucky Day!

  31. Kimberly says:

    So, so stressful. I know all too well how crazy it can be to buy and or sell – esp in this f’ing market. I wish you the best of luck and lots of wine. xo

  32. jennster says:

    dude. i forgot to tell you that once you express interest to a realtor, THEY WILL NOT LEAVE ALONE and they will not wait. they don’t understand the concept of not ready.. and not wanting to look yet. lol

    be happy that they didn’t tell you that you could afford MORE than you could…

    jennsters last blog post..let’s pretend you won the lottery

  33. Phil says:

    DO NOT EVER DRINK NATURAL LIGHT!!!! If you need something good to drink, we can make arrangements for me to get some of my famous Dodd Brewing Company Legacy Ale to you.



    Phils last blog post..Lets keep this random things thing going

  34. Kate says:

    I’m a lurker, I read your posts and love them, but never comment, but you got me this time. I am there too… you know to do an FHA loan you have to put 3 1/2 percent down. Now I’m getting pre-approved, but I don’t have the down payment. I like that the lenders are being conservative and not loaning to just anyone, but I have a good credit score, I’m reliable, can’t a girl get a down payment assistance program back? The best part of the whole process is looking though. My realtor and I make up stories about the people who live at each house when we look at them. i know we have issues, but have fun! I would kill for a garage, so I know the lust you must feel for a washer/dryer. Just enjoy it and make sure you can still have fun after buying a place.

  35. Kerri Anne says:

    (My little sister got a 5 on the AP Calculus test in high school! Math geniuses, the both of you.)

    I think all silver linings should come with washers and dryers.

    Kerri Annes last blog post..Weekend Update, Unbroken Social Scene Edition

  36. Kristie says:

    Way to see the positive. In the end, no matter what you paid for your house it’s still your house and that’s something to be mighty excited about.

    Kristies last blog post..Wouldn’t you know it

  37. Josie says:

    I went lower end of what I could afford when I bought for the exact reason you stated – money in my pocket at the end of the month and not having to live off Kraft Dinner.

    You make your place a home, not the area its in.

    Good luck!!

    Josies last blog post..25 random things about WB by WB

  38. Jennie says:

    Yeah, finding affordable housing in the city is no small task. I’m sure you’ll find something wonderful, though! What neighborhoods are you thinkng of?

    BTW, I love you line “But I always get there. Once I lose my shit, I calm down and fill the glass right back up.” I’m totally the same way.

  39. Rhi says:

    I got preapproved for WAY more than I was comfortable with – and when I was looking it was SO tempting not to look at the places that the bank thought I could afford (Hello Pearl District!)

    Rhis last blog post..Friday Bullets: Nothing Special Edition

  40. Sara says:

    See, I love househunting. I’m currently in my second that we’ve bought (the husband is military).

    Owning is fantastic. You can put nails in the walls and even paint if you want.

    Make sure to price things like painting and carpet and cabinets when you look at houses. Sometimes you can get a good deal on a house because it has terrible carpet that you can replace after you move in.

    Saras last blog post..Old John is dead, survived by the sink and urinal

  41. Kalle says:

    My Hubby and I just went through this exact same thing! We were approved for a number so low that we got a second opinion and were approved without a hassle for a whole lot more. We have now bought our first house (pending home inspection tomorrow) and it is way more affordable than what we were first looking at. We too lucked out with RockStar Realtor

    Kalles last blog post..Not Me Monday