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07.18.2005

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keys to the house buying your first home by Anh-Minh Le | 1 2 3 4 
continued from page 2

the great house hunt
When we were planning our wedding, Jon and I relied heavily on personal recommendations. And it was no different when it came time to buying a house. We were lucky enough to hook up with a pair of excellent real estate agents, the same people my sister had used when she bought a house the previous year.

As our real estate agents began showing us houses, we quickly learned the importance of keeping an open mind. I remember walking towards a house and hearing another couple say, "Honey, I think we just need to lower our standards." Sadly, we found this to be true. When we started looking, we realized that we might have to make some compromises. Maybe we couldn't have two bathrooms AND a two-car garage. Maybe the house wouldn't be in move-in condition. While you may not want to sacrifice some things (good location, good school system), as a first-time buyer, you may need to be flexible about some of your home's features.

making an offer
Our real estate agents not only showed us house after house, but they were invaluable in helping us put together an offer once we found a house we liked. They ran comparables to see how much houses had been selling for in our desired neighborhood in the past few months. They gave us a guideline for what a realistic offer would be.

In the Bay Area, it has become common practice to open a house for a weekend or two, and then set a date on which all offers must be submitted by a certain time. (None of that accepting/rejecting offers as they come in.) So we met with our agents on a Monday afternoon to write up our offer. We signed and initialed dozens of pages in the contract, which covered all of the details of the sale. It was a fine line between offering enough to get the house, but not feeling like we overbid on the place.

Jon had read through the disclosure packet for our house, so we knew we were bidding on a house that needed a ton of work. We didn't need a separate inspection done (although this is a common practice) because the sellers had had a fairly thorough one completed. An inspection helps you determine what contingency clauses, if any, to include in your offer. Contingencies can be big (the offer might be contingent on the would-be buyers selling their own home first) or small (which appliances will stay with the house). If your offer includes "no contingencies," that means you're on the hook for anything that's wrong with the house.

With your offer, you'll also include a closing date. We went with a 30-day close, which we thought was typical. It gave us enough time to get our act together and take possession of the new place, but also didn't draw out the process for the sellers (who probably wanted their money as quickly as possible).

mosey along folks...

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