When homeowners meet, there’s an instant connection and unspoken understanding. Though they may not have had the same experience, there’s a mutual respect for overcoming the obstacles that come with buying a home.
No one understands the challenges one faces when buying a home more than Shweta, a software engineer at Microsoft. When Shweta looks back at her journey, she thinks about what she could have done differently.
We talked to Shweta to hear all about her rollercoaster experience. How did she finally win her house after multiple failed attempts? Is she happy with her home now? Read on to hear how the story ends.
Why did you decide to buy a house?
I moved to Seattle in 2016, but in 2017 I realized I was spending too much money on rent. I also wanted a long-term investment I could put my money into, rather than letting it collect in my bank account.
What were you looking for in a house?
I initially didn’t have any criteria. I was everywhere at first – Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland. I tell my friends now that you should have a certain baseline. I wanted something between a good investment and a house I would enjoy living in. I decided I wanted a townhouse that was built after 1990, with 2 bedrooms so I could rent one room out.
What was the process like for you?
In January and February of 2019, I was vigorously looking at open houses every weekend. I started putting in offers with contingencies and no escalation just to learn the bidding process. Then I started putting in offers on houses I really liked without contingencies and with escalation. We put in 5 bids and lost each time. Someone won this house by bidding before the review date; I didn't know you could do this! (Note: Review dates are arbitrary dates meant to garner multiple offers at once.) So for the house I finally won, the review date was on Monday and we submitted our offer on Saturday with a Sunday expiration date. I don’t think I would have won if I hadn’t bid earlier. Even then, I had to compete against another person. Since both our offers escalated to $600,000, I went up to $610,000 and won the house.
What challenges did you face?
I met an agent that told me she could write an offer for this particular house I saw. I had been working with another agent, Mitch, and he said "sure, go ahead and use her". When I asked her about this contract in the paperwork I had to sign, she said "it's nothing, it's just a formality". I signed the papers, didn't get the house, and went back to my original agent Mitch. A month later, she said "I heard you're working with another agent. I'm going to sue you because you're under contract". The paper I signed contracted me to work with her for 6 months. It was the worst month of my life. If she had just told me what the contract meant, I would have been fine with it. Mitch kept me calm and told me she had no basis to sue, but it was still very stressful for me.
Are you happy with your house?
I'm happy with it now, but the first 7 months were really difficult. I was used to living in apartments and having a lot of people around, so it took some time getting used to living in a more residential area. I found a roommate so it's fun now and the rent helps with the mortgage. Since I put 10% down and did the other 10% from my credit line from the bank, all the money I was making was going towards the mortgage in the beginning. Once I covered that other 10%, the mortgage became really affordable. My mom would tell me the first year after buying a house is hard no matter what. She was the one who gave me a big push to buy a house.
Are you happy with your decision to buy?
I am now, but 8 months after I bought, prices were dropping so much that people were bidding lower than the list price. I bought in March of 2018 and felt like I bought at the peak of the market. I feel a lot better now because the prices have skyrocketed again.
What do you like and dislike about the area around your house?
I live a half mile from Redmond Town Center. I like that it’s quiet and I don’t constantly hear cars or firetrucks, but it isn’t so remote that I’d be scared walking at night. It’s close to my work (Microsoft) and close to Seattle. I knew that commuting would be draining for me. There's a bus stop on 520 that takes you to Seattle in 20 minutes. What I don’t like is the traffic near me. It takes me longer to drive to Bellevue than to take the bus to Seattle. My house is at the very end of 520 so in rush hour, all the cars just get collected there. You don't see the traffic when you're visiting on the weekends.
Did you ever try to look up information online?
I tried to do research online but couldn't find anything on neighborhoods or home buying. You can find houses that sold and what they're worth now, but they're just numbers. There’s some neighborhood information like bus lines and schools in the area, but nothing from people who actually live there. It would have been nice to hear from someone nearby that 520 gets really congested. There's a lot of information that should exist online.
What advice would you give someone?
I tell my friends, the first thing you should do is talk to five banks for quotes. Banks do negotiate a small percentage. You should also experiment with agents. Find an agent you really click with, who will be there for you emotionally as well. My agent Mitch kept me calm when I kept losing houses and reminded me there would be others.
Purchase date: March 2018
List Price: $560,000
Offer price: $600,000
Sold price: $610,000
Financing: 7/1 ARM (First Tech), 10% down
Closing: 20 days
Earnest money: $20,000
Contingencies (Financing, Title, Seller Disclosure): none
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