Yesterday, we officially bought a house.
We weren't really looking. The idea of purchasing a property had been floating around in our heads for a while, but we figured since we weren't residents we wouldn't be able to get a mortgage. So we never really looked. But we did keep our eyes open, because once we were ready to buy we wanted to have a pretty good understanding of where the market was at. And that's how we found our house.
Early in May, we decided to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon biking around between open homes in the area we wanted to eventually buy in. We went to one well over our price range and wandered about, looking for earthquake damage and talking about how the owners had finished the rooms. It was a cute house, nicely finished, but too much for a first house and too finished for our desires.
Then we stumbled across the second house. Following open home signs down roads to a treed-in drive up a wee slope. We parked our bikes beside the retaining wall and walked around back to the door. It was a 1930's wooden villa on a little hill surrounded by trees and shrubs and a little pond. Up some stone steps we came to the deck and french doors into a spacious dinning room and kitchen. The Realtor was there to answer questions and gather our info. We wandered through the kitchen and into the rest of the house. Not a huge house, but lovely with all it's period features (like lead windows and beautiful wooden detailing). A large master bedroom, a sunny sun room, huge living area, nice second bedroom and a well maintained bathroom. Outside, tucked into the back corner under a rose covered arbor was a stainless steel bathtub, ready to be filled and enjoyed. We stayed the full hour asking the Realtor about the house and how exactly one would go about buying one. He passed on the name of his mortgage broker and we were off. My head filled with images of where I would put what and when we could get everything in.
The next day, we called the mortgage broker and were surprised to hear that despite our non-residency status it was possible to get a mortgage, it was just a wee bit more difficult. The wheels were set in motion and soon things were happening. Things I wasn't even aware of, but a week later we were promised a mortgage. I called the Realtor that night and told him we wanted to make an offer.
The next two days were stressful as we put in our offer, almost lost to another bidder (who pulled out last minute) and in the end, were accepted.
Then the real fun began. Lots and lots of contracts, paperwork and forms. Over the last few weeks, we have organized insurance (a bit difficult here these days, what with our earthquakes and all), contacted the lawyer, got a building inspection done and even chosen the mortgage. It has been rather crazy. And now, all we need to do to finish up is find someone to take over our rental flat (we have no desire to be paying both a mortgage and rent).
Overall, I have been thoroughly amazed at how easy the whole process has been. I know it is their respective jobs to know what they're doing and help us through, but the efficiency and openness all our respective 'people' (realtor, mortgage broker and lawyer) have provided us has been eye opening. With my only previous experience in real estate being through the television screen, I have learned a great deal from this. Mostly, that it is a lot easier than I thought to buy a house (though I fully admit, the wonderful house almost falling into our laps did take a lot of the stress of looking out of it).
Now, we must patiently wait and pack. Soon, I will be able to sit curled up in front of my very own fireplace in my very own living room and knit (or sew or read or whatever I want to do, heck, I could even paint the walls a funny colour, or take them down. . . . .
PS I'l have pictures soon!