Previously, on New Latitude:
After having moved from upstate New York to Tucson, Arizona seventeen years ago in search of a decent climate and better job, I’d come to a realization. I’d had my fill of blue skies. I was sick of sunsets that bathed the mountains in rosy hues each night. I hated wearing sandals in January. Authentic tacos were the worst. And all those darned hummingbirds! I longed for upstate New York, where the winters are brutal, the summers are humid and mosquito-filled, and there’s only one hummingbird – the ruby-throated – to identify, if it ever shows up at all.
No wait … none of that’s true, except for the first sentence. Rewind!
What I really meant to say was this: I’ve loved living in Tucson, but the pandemic had called a sudden halt to my regular flights back home to New York State to see my family. Who knew when I could travel there again? Call me loco, but I decided to relocate – to Rochester, where I’d be within a day’s drive of my entire immediate family. Sure, winters would be less than wonderful, but I could at least gaze upon my family’s frozen faces in person, instead of on a computer screen. Besides, the lease on my apartment was coming up for renewal. It was time for a new direction, so I took my first baby step: “Zillow-surfing.”
And now for Episode 2: Do’s and Don’ts (of buying a house)
Zillow-surfing brought me up close and personal with hundreds of houses, without ever having to set foot in them. I got to see the good, the bad, the ugly, and in some cases, the dirty laundry. Through Zillow-surfing, I made some major decisions, like:
— rent vs. buy
— 1 bath vs. 2
— ¼ acre vs. 10 acres and a barn
— fenced yard backing up to private woods vs. unrestricted view of the auto body shop next door.
Once I’d narrowed my choices down, I started to get excited. But the more excited I became, the more impulsively I acted. I guess I got carried away and ignored common sense.
If you, too, are considering buying a home, here’s some unsolicited advice:
- DON’T rule out renting an apartment before buying a house you’ve seen only on the internet. Photoshop can give houses an instant makeover that’s even more amazing than the ones you’ve seen on Fixer Upper.
- DON’T cancel your Disney Channel and Hulu Plus subscriptions in the hopes these sacrifices will enable you to afford a house above your means. You’ll soon come to regret your decision, especially if you haven’t seen enough of “Cuomo Prime Time” or “Hamilton” yet.
- DON’T fool yourself into believing you’re a skilled negotiator. You’ll just be disappointed in yourself.
- DON’T buy a house in a “hot market” city, especially if it happens to be during a “seller’s market.”
- DON’T waive an engineering inspection.
- DON’T commit to making up the difference between the purchase price and the bank appraisal.
- DON’T mail a sizable deposit to the seller without confirming you’ve written the check on the correct bank account — the one with sufficient funds — and not the other one, the one with only $33 in it.
- DON’T buy a house in the winter and plan on leaving the house vacant until spring. Pipes in vacant homes have been known to freeze and burst.
- DON’T buy a house during a pandemic without knowing when a vaccine will be available. You’ll want protection while driving cross-country, and I’m not talking about a bodyguard (although that would be nice).
- DON’T buy an 8-foot couch and two recliners immediately before deciding to move.
By the way, I’m guilty of all of the above.
Oh, and DON’T hire a moving van without shopping around. Luckily, I HAVE been shopping around, and the estimates differ wildly — as in a low of $2,800, and a high of — don’t laugh — $14,000. That’s not a typo! “Two Men and a Truck” wanted to charge $12,000 to $14,000 to move a two-bedroom apartment. That must be some classy moving truck they have. And speaking of trucks, did they think I just fell off a turnip truck?
On the plus side, interest rates are low right now, so I took the plunge. I bid on a house, and my offer was accepted. And don’t worry, I think I got a sweet deal, an engineer looked at the house before I bid on it, the bank waived their appraisal, the check eventually cleared, and I’m hoping the vaccine will become available soon … for everyone’s sake.
Yes, moving is going to be a pain, and yet I feel good about my decision. Sometimes you just have to take a chance and DO some of the DON’Ts.
Tune in again next time for the next exciting episode of New Latitude, in which I’ll reveal the outcome of my mortgage application! (It’s still a mystery to me.)