Thursday, September 1, 2011
Bucket List # 67: Buy a House
It is truly the worst kept secret, but as of late this afternoon, I'm officially a homeowner and checked Bucket List Item #67 off my list. I bought a condo in Lake Bluff.
In so many ways buying this condo is the fulfillment of a very long-held dream.
When I lived in DC in my 20s (yes, that would be the 1990s), friends of mine were buying places, but it took about 5 years of renting before I finally felt "old enough" and started thinking of buying the condo I was living in in 1999. When I rented it, the owner told me he would give me right of first refusal, but then went back on that in early 2000 and sold it without even telling me it was on the market until I received notice I had 60 days to leave because it had been sold. I moved to Chicago shortly after that and for a variety of reasons, couldn't entertain the thought of purchasing my own home.
Fast forward 11 years.
It was only 2 1/2 months ago that I actually started to seriously imagine owning a home.
I was looking at rental units online and found one in my LFC girlfriend Wini's building. Chatting with my LFC friend Derek about it, he suggested I look at buying because of how low housing prices and interest rates were. I hadn't even thought about buying because it didn't occur to me that I could. Suddenly, my heart was atwitter with the idea of owning my own home. I got pre-approved with ease and Derek referred me to the most incredible real estate agent ever.
Shelley Goddard of Coldwell Banker in Lake Forest made the entire first-time buying experience fun, easy-to-understand, and pretty painless. She was a tough negotiator who enabled me to purchase my new home for 75% of the current asking price (70% of the original asking price that had only just been reduced when I stumbled upon the condo) by backing up our offers with thorough research and comps. Once we had a contract, Shelley's advocacy work on my behalf continued as she helped navigate the difficult waters of securing the condo documents with a non-responsive seller's agent and attorney. Even sitting at the closing today, Shelley was advocating on my behalf when the seller failed to fix all of the items in the inspection report because he "didn't know they were there" (even though his attorney agreed to fix them in writing). When I got cold feet, she talked me through, it to make sure I was making the decision that was best for me. All along the way, Shelley had my best interest as her primary focus and motivation. Part of what makes Shelley great is that she only works by referral, will never represent both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction (which is legal in Illinois, but really only in the agent's best interest), and only works with a small number of clients at a time. Shelley's 32 year history of living and working in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff also gave me an advantage. I honestly can't imagine buying or selling a home with anyone else.
Shelley then referred me to mortgage broker Bob Degen of Fifth Third Bank in Lake Forest who also worked tirelessly to get me an unbelievable mortgage rate and make the mortgage process as simple as it could be, even with a few snafus due to a change in my down payment funding less than 24 hours before closing. True to his word, Bob enabled my deal to close in 30 days, which is unheard of. He even came to the closing today. Rates have dropped again and if you are thinking about buying a home or want to refinance your current home, call Bob and tell him I referred you. He's the only mortgage broker I will ever deal with.
My attorney, Kathleen Rodriguez, a girlfriend of mine in Arlington Heights, got me through a very difficult attorney review and inspection period, which honestly didn't end until we were sitting at the closing table. She talked me off the ledge more than once and held my hand through the closing process as I developed carpel tunnel syndrome from signing my name 792 times. I had been very confused about how all the credits worked and even through this morning, I was very nervous, but Kathleen explained it all so I could understand it easily. And she fought a good fight with the seller's attorney today when it turned out they didn't fix a safety issue in the inspection. Kathleen was worth her fees many times over. She doesn't have a website, but if you need a real estate attorney, let me know and I'll give you her information.
Another Forester girlfriend, Kara, couldn't stop raving about the movers she hired for her recent move and referred me to LFC alum Derrick Spencer of Aaron Brothers Moving. Derrick and his company are officially moving me next week.
Finally, after the closing today, I met my original Forester Friend Tim State, his boyfriend Michael Norpell, and Wini at the condo to help pick out the color Michael is going to paint my bedroom. Michael is an interior designer, so he really knows his stuff and is going to help me make my condo elegant and classy. Even though I had fallen in love with Silver Peony about 18 months ago on Forester girlfriend and interior designer, Barrie Spang's blog, The Designing Life (scroll all the way down on the home page and see the picture called "Master Bedroom"), we ended up choosing Lavender Ice, a color Tim and Michael have in their home.
Lest you have any doubt, buying, moving into and decorating my first home would not be possible without my Forester Family and their connections.
I can't wait to get moved in and settled. And more than that, I can't wait to host my first dinner party. Then it will truly feel like home.