Three weeks ago today, I got another one of those “Stop renting! Buy a house!” brochures in my apartment mailbox. I had already put in my 60-day moveout notice with the apartment complex and I had to be out by the end of the month. Looking for an apartment made my skin crawl. I knew I wanted to stop renting but I had a pile of reasons to put off the purchase of a home.
- No cash for a down payment
- Credit score below average
- No knowledge of the market
- No idea where to start
That brochure gave me a place to start. It wasn’t a great place (a builder’s website) but it got me interested and it gave me some hope.
What I did next was to start looking for a Realtor. There are way too many real estate agents in the world and I have known way too many flaky ones to expect to find a good agent at random. I looked at the online Realtor directory for Austin and it didn’t set any of them apart. I needed help.
Working on WordPress.com, I had seen a lot of real estate blogs built for SEO purposes, so I never expected a real estate blog to be of any help and I didn’t want to search for “best real estate agent in Austin” on Google.
Instead, I turned to the real estate forums on Craigslist. Somebody had posted a link and disclaimed affiliation. It looked like a WordPress permalink. I clicked. I read. I agreed. I emailed. I had found my best real estate agent in Austin and he was a real estate blogger.
What made my agent stick out from the crowd was not the fact that his blog was powered by WordPress. His articles were a showcase for his attitudes and opinions, his professional strengths, and general intelligence. These are things you can’t learn from a Realtor.com profile page or a recommendation from a third party. They must be demonstrated. It’s not as good as meeting in person, but a blog is better than any other online system for feeling these things out.
I knew I wasn’t buying my dream home. I didn’t even want a house that I wanted. I wanted a house that would pay off. This was to be my first “portfolio” property and the fact that I would occupy the house was incidental. The point was to make a good investment. Thus I wanted an agent who could help me find a good investment and not try to find a home to match my personal tastes. I had had found an team of Realtors who are also investors. They own a handful of rental properties and they have a lot of experience with property management.
So I got a pre-approval letter from a lender and we went out for a few hours over two days and looked at houses. I picked a house on the second day and we started the race to close. I set the target date for the 28th, which was exactly three weeks from the day I got the brochure and two days before I had to vacate my apartment.
The entire process went off without any major hitches. I chose a house listed at about 90% of my pre-approval amount and made an offer. The seller countered and then accepted my second offer. My parents generously kicked in the 3% down payment on my FHA loan. We closed the deal on the 26th, giving me two extra days to move and a whole lot less to worry about this weekend. I called the utilities and except for a day without internet, the transition has gone quite smoothly. The moving company was able to schedule an appointment within two days of my call and they performed brilliantly.
I want to thank everyone who helped make this transaction happen in under three weeks:
Having a blogging Realtor may not be for everyone. It was definitely for me. Just after I wrote this article, I checked Steve’s blog and found a shorter version of my story. I wish him and his wife continued success.