Monday, August 20, 2012
The big news of the past week is that we're first-time homeowners!!! We closed on our new home in Canton, MI this past Friday. It was a long time coming and it comes with quite a story. Right now I only have the outside picture for you, but inside pictures will follow when we have all of our belongings in one place for the first time around the beginning of October.
We started looking at houses in March 2011, when we flew up for Andy's work conference. We always knew that coming back to Michigan was what we wanted and even while in Germany, Andy only applied to jobs that were at the US headquarters in Farmington Hills, MI (where we'd lived before). While up for the conference, we had a weekend to ourselves, so we started driving around houses that were in our price range in the area we liked.
Since that time, we've kept a close eye on the real estate listings and of course there were many houses we liked that sold. Our main focus was the Plymouth/Canton area (about 20 min south of where we'd lived before) because the school district was ranked very highly and we'd only heard good things.
By the time we got home from Germany (one month sooner than expected), we had a few we really liked in the area and Andy was already in contact with a mortgage broker to obtain pre-approval (a necessity to have a realtor work with you) and had snagged a realtor. We were so geared up that when Andy left for Michigan to work (only four days after our return), that very day he looked at one of the houses we'd liked online. Turned out to be a nice house, but in a mixed area where it would be hard to sell, so we moved on.
A week later, I went by myself up to Michigan (leaving Brady behind with my parents) to do a serious house hunting mission with Andy. We'd created quite a list and had branched out to several other areas that also had decent school districts, although we still preferred Plymouth/Canton. The night I drove in, we went through dozens of house listings the realtor had provided and threw out most of them for one reason or another. We ended up only picking three that we wanted to see in person. The housing market in Michigan must have picked up right before we got home because houses were getting snapped up in a matter of days after being listed. One of those three homes sold the day before we were supposed to look at it, so we were down to just two houses, and quite freaked out.
We met with the realtor and looked at those two houses, but neither met with our standards. We weren't in any rush because Andy was living with a roommate without a signed lease and I was staying with my parents. It wasn't ideal to be apart, but it was the best choice for us at the time. The realtor started pushing houses that were cheaper and in lower Canton. I was apprehensive about this because lower Canton is not in the same school district. To put it in comparison, Plymouth/Canton is ranked 50th in the entire state and Van Buren (lower Canton) is 392nd. It was a huge step down when education is very important to me as a teacher. We agreed to look at a few of the houses before I went home anyway, just to get some perspective. Lower Canton is over 30 minutes away from Andy's work, and although the houses were nice, I knew that I'd get stuck in the house more just because I was much further from everything. It quickly got scratched off the list of possibilities.
By the time I drove home that Sunday, we were beyond frustrated and a little desperate. Andy would continue to see a few houses here and there with the realtor since things were getting sold so quickly. My next trip up was scheduled for two weekends later. In those two weeks, we kept searching the listings and watching all the good houses get sold before we even got the chance to see them. I was starting to freak out and starting to come up with a contingency plan to get Brady and I myself up to Michigan more permanently by the start of fall, since the possibility of getting a house anytime soon was looking so bleak.
Finally, it was time for me to head back up to Michigan, this time with Brady in tow, because he hadn't seen Andy in three weeks. The night I drove in, we met with the realtor and looked at two houses (neither in the district we wanted). One of them was acceptable and if we didn't find anything else, we'd figured that we'd have to settle. Saturday afternoon we were set to meet with the realtor again and look at quite a few houses. That morning, something (or someone) made Andy take one more look at the house listings again. He found one right at the top of our price range that seemed almost too good to be true from the pictures. It had just been listed that morning. He immediately called the realtor to have us see it while we were out. She said she'd put it at the end if we had time since we had a lot of houses to see.
That afternoon, we went out with our realtor and looked at a whole bunch of houses. We liked the first one we saw. It was a little on the older side, but had an updated kitchen and great living space (most of the newer homes we'd seen only had family and dining rooms, and were missing a living room, which I didn't like). We liked the other houses we saw too, but not as much as the first. All of the houses we saw that day were in the Plymouth/Canton school district, so we were very happy to have some real prospects where we wanted to be. Our realtor took the time to drive us through the area and point out all the family-friendly features.
Finally it was time to look at that last house. We were driving down the street looking for a for-sale sign, and we couldn't miss the house. There were literally cars parked for a block. Andy took one look and said, "Might as well keep driving." He pretty much figured with so much interest and competition on the first day it was listed would lead to a bidding war. It was already pushing the top of our price range, so we really couldn't afford to go any higher.
We had to wait our turn to get into the house. When we did, it was everything the pictures suggested and more. Beautiful two-story foyer, stainless steel appliances in the updated kitchen, a family room, diving room, AND a living room all done in beautiful colors, a finished basement, a patio with a wooded private backyard, and four bedrooms upstairs (they had two girls, so we have to undo the secondary bedrooms). Our realtor asked us what we thought and of course we loved it, but didn't think we could get it with how much interest there was. She suggested putting in an offer that afternoon (because it wouldn't last until tomorrow) at the asking price and seeing what happens.
We went to her office and signed the offer that was set to expire at 9AM the following morning. That meant they either accepted or rejected the offer within the next 15 hours. We went home and I really figured we wouldn't get it. We had dinner and put Brady to bed. We were watching TV when the realtor texted Andy asking if it was too late to call. He said it was fine and we both held our breaths waiting for the call. She called and said that there were five offers on the house, including ours. In my head, I figured that was way too many for us to have a shot and we might as well start thinking about putting in an offer on the first house we saw that day. She said that all the offers were of similar price, and that the owners chose us because their realtor knew our realtor and we had a good lending agent as well. We couldn't believe our ears! We got the house that was too good to be true! I can't remember the last time my heart was racing so fast.
In our offer, it set the closing date as August 17 (we placed the offer on July 14), and gave the owners two weeks to vacate after the closing date (while they paid us rent to be in OUR house). In the month before closing, Andy went through all the steps with the inspection (there was a high radon reading in the basement, but the owners paid to have a system up in to remove it) and setting up the mortgage. We couldn't have picked a better time to buy a house, as the mortgage rate bottomed out at 3.375% and is now back up to almost 4%. Andy signed the papers last Friday and the owners had already left! That means Brady and I can move in next week instead of waiting until the end of September. Andy was at the house this weekend painting some rooms and is already setting up the arrangements to have our things brought from storage in South Carolina. We also have things in storage in PA, that we've had since we moved, so those things will have to come later. It contains almost all our wedding gifts and so much more, so it'll be great to see the things we haven't seen in over two years!
We are so excited about our new house, even Brady. He doesn't remember being in the house since it was over a month ago, but every time I show him a picture of the front of the house, he jumps up and down, screaming, "Daddy's house!" I can't wait for him to realize it's his house too ;) We have plenty of room, so all friends and family have an open invitation to come visit us. Just call and see if we'll be in town and we'll be more than happy to have you!
The most incredible part about all of this is that we went from being in Germany to owning a home in less than two months. Neither of us in our wildest dreams would have thought we could have gotten our dream home so quickly. Of course, it may not be forever as we know we may have to move again for Andy's job, but at least we can enjoy it for as long as we have it.