I’ll start at the most obvious point – the beginning; my first rookie mistake.
The year was 2005. The house-buying fever entered our home via our TV – HGTV to be precise. I swooned whenever I saw TV shows like Double Agents, House Hunters, and Trading Spaces. Through my television set, I’d give unsolicited advice to home owners that consisted of correct houses for their families, what paint colors were bad, and even whether or not their relationships would stand the test of time. I even bought a book. It advised me that the best time to buy a house was now (or back then, to be precise). Property values were skyrocketing. It was time.
So, we transferred to what we thought would be our final duty station – Annapolis, Maryland. As soon as we got there, we spoke to a real estate agent that a friend recommended. We didn’t like her, so we fired her (the book told me that you should like your agent). We then found agents (a husband and wife team) that we did like.
1. Our first mistake: We set a VERY low budget – one that did not measure up to our wish list – not for Maryland, at least.
Our agents took us to a couple of lovely trailer homes and tract homes, too. The first house (trailer) we saw featured two commodes in one bathroom. The owner (who happened to be present at the time – a big no-no according to the book) grudgingly told us that he would remove one of them if we really wanted him to. We ran away from that place and upped our budget.
2. Our second mistake: we did not research the neighborhoods we wanted to live in.
We drove all over Anne Arundel County to look at places. Some places were too rich for us and others were a bit too run down for us. Finally, we settled on a couple of areas that we thought we could afford.
3. Our third mistake: we relied on our realtors to find us a home.
We waited days to receive new listings. Finally, we took the bull by the horns and researched MLS (the Multiple Listing Source) ourselves. We drove to the neighborhoods where the houses were before approaching our realtors (which is how we found our house).
4. Our fourth mistake: We did not get a VA loan.
Like fools, we listened to our realtors and the broker (the mistake that follows this one) when they told us that buyers prefer conventional loans.